Thursday, October 9, 2014

Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: A Parent's Guide

Last week we were invited by Disney to check out “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day”, their new family film staring Steve Carell and Jennifer Garner.  



Alexander is sick and tired of being the non-perfect member of his perfect family.  Dad is a baby-and-me-going, birthday-party-planning, stay-at-home-super-dad aka “Fommy” (Father Mommy as coined by his yoga instructor).  Mom is a hot shot at book publisher, his older brother is handsome and popular, and his older sister is the angelic voiced star of the school play.  His baby brother is an adorable and because of his age,  needs (and gets) a lot of attention.

The main conflict comes when a popular boy at  Alexander’s school announces that he is throwing a huge birthday party the same day Alexander had planned his.  Not only is Alexander’s crush planning on attending the rival’s party, so is Alexander’s best friend!  Feeling jealous and sad, Alexander makes a wish on his birthday candle that his “perfect” family would understand what it’s like to have a day as bad as one of his.

And WHAT a bad day each of them has!  As a parent I really, really laughed at the challenges Alexander’s Dad felt having to drag the baby to a job interview at a way younger-skewing video game company.  Alexander’s mom has to commute across town on a bicycle in high heels to prevent a disastrous book reading with a mis-printed children’s book.

His siblings don’t fare much better.   His sister, trying to soothe a flu before opening night, drinks a bit too much cough syrup and performs Peter Pan while inebriated.  His brother suffers a misunderstanding with his girlfriend and then fails his driver’s exam in the most spectacular fashion possible.

So, should you bring your 5 year old to see “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Day”?

I brought Super-Dad and seven year old Kitty along.  Kit had a hard time waiting for the punchlines.  It all just seemed very extreme and mildly upsetting to her, she was just a bit too young to really enjoy the schadenfreude inherent in a comedy of errors.   There were definitely moments where she laughed, but they weren't as frequent as SD and I.  Some of the themes were a bit too more mature for her as well.  Certainly nothing too objectionable, just a little “old” for her. There was a bit of cyberbullying, some rough language “crap, idiot”, and the young teen sister accidentally gets drunk on cough syrup.

Younger kids may not get some of the more subtle aspects of the movie messages; like how members of the family can have trouble seeing and empathizing with the problems others are having. While Alexander is convinced his family lives perfect lives, in reality they all have their own “No Good” worries.   Dad is worried about finding a job, while mom is worried that a new opportunity at work will leave her even less time for her family.  Big Brother Anthony is struggling to placate a status-hungry girlfriend.  Sister Emily has a lot of pressure on her from her school’s Drama Director.  Everyone is so caught up in their own issues it’s hard for them to see that each of their family members are having their own problems.  Bigger kids hopefully will understand that the message here is that NO ONE has a perfect day.  The resolution of the film actually comes when the family is able to come together to handle their “Terrible, Horrible, Very Bad, No Good Day” as a team.

14 year old Nate, was having his own “terrible, no good day” on a mandated tent camping trip with school.  It’s a shame, too.  I think that this movie is perfectly suited for his age.  While there is nothing too objectionable for younger kids, I think kids 10 - 14 and their parents will get the most enjoyment from this adorable flick.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Seattle Geeks: See the Premiere of Star Wars Rebels on the Big Screen

Courtesy: Disney XD
On October 3rd, Disney Channel will be premiering Star Wars Rebels. (After that premiere the series will run on Disney XD starting on October 13th) Star Wars Rebels is a new animated series that takes place between the events of Episode III and Episode IV.  Here's the synopsis:

A Long Time Ago, In A Galaxy Far, Far Away....
Against the might of the Galactic Empire, an unlikely band of heroes emerges to renew the fight for freedom. Witness the epic debut of the riveting animated series Star Wars Rebels, in this one-hour movie event – showing on the big screen one time only!
The story unfolds during a dark time when the evil Empire is tightening its grip of power on the galaxy. Imperial forces have occupied a remote planet and are ruining the lives of its people. The motley but clever crew of the starship Ghost -- cowboy Jedi Kanan, ace pilot Hera, street-smart teenager Ezra, the "muscle" Zeb, explosives expert Sabine, and cantankerous old astromech droid Chopper -- is among a select few who are brave enough to stand against the Empire. Together, they will face threatening new villains, encounter colorful adversaries, embark on thrilling adventures and become heroes with the power to ignite a rebellion.
Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xg5YN3LAGw4

If you'd like to check out the one hour series premiere Star Wars Rebels: Spark of the Rebellion before it hits the small screen, you can see it on the big screen in Downtown Seattle on September 27th.  Prior to the screening there will be Star Wars themed events including face painting, a costume contest and balloon animals (Balloon Wampas maybe?).  Bring your Star Wars loving family and have a good time!

To register for tickets you just need to go to: http://www.seeitfirst.net/pin/167614.
Event Code: 167614

I'll be there, and would love to have you join me!

For those of you not in the Seattle area, you can learn more about the series here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Five ADHD friendly tips for getting out of the house on time with everything you need.

Everyone in the ParentingGeeekly household has been diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. We've never known any other way, and we're all in in together, so it's really not a big deal.  What it does mean is getting out the door and to school/work every morning is an....adventure.
I was inspired to write about some of the tricks we use after a particularly disorganized morning last week.  If you are a naturally organized person these tips are probably going to seem pretty basic and pedantic.  If, however, you struggle with ADD, ADHD or just are generally more disorganized you may find these helpful.  The most important part of any new plan or routine is following it!  There are many nights when I get tired and don't bother to lay stuff out the night before, and I *always* pay the price the next morning!

Original Photo by DangApricot. Used and modified under a Creative Commons license.

The first three days of school were great.  We were out the door early, everything we needed in hand.  Pick up was just as smooth.  Lunch bags and snack containers came home in backpacks and were washed right away once they made it home.  Then came Monday, school day four, the day we found our normal.  The one clean pair of jeans I had ready for Kitty were "too baggy".  She couldn't find her other "Star Shoe" (her current favorites, mint green Chuck Taylors), she didn't want to wear her black glasses, she wanted to wear her blue glasses....   We made it out the door in time, though she was noshing on a granola bar in the car as we hadn't had time for an actual breakfast.  We got about a half mile down the road when Nate declared "We need to go back, I forgot my book".  We live in the city. It took us fifteen minutes to turn around and get back to the house, but we did it!  We even made it to school on time! Victory!  My moment of of triumph was interrupted by Kit's shrill whine "Moooooooom, I forgot my baaackpaaaaack!  I don't want to buy cafeteeeeeeria luuunch!"  I dropped the kids off, made the 15 minute drive back to our house and brought Kit her backpack.  As I was driving back I vowed to implement systems (or reinstate systems we had used in the past)  to avoid this problem in the future.  Here is what I came up with:

Set out everything the night before:  It is one of he most tried and true pieces of organizational advice we hear, but that's because it works. If  you only pick one piece of advice to follow, follow this one. On school days one through three we set everything out the night before.  I picked out Kitty's outfit and she approved it or we made changes.  It's better to know "I hate that shirt, it itches" when you can still do something about it.  Had I taken a moment to do that the night before Awful Day Four (as it shall now be known) we could have thrown a load of her clothes into the washer, and pitched the too baggy jeans into the donation bag.  I suggest doing this at a reasonably early hour, so that you have time to make necessary adjustments (laundry, small repairs, locating missing socks, etc.). Don't think that just because your little one isn't so little that they don't need this step.  We were almost late this morning because Nate couldn't locate his belt.   We also get as much lunch and snack packed up and into the fridge as possible the night before. Sometimes it's 9:30 PM, and I have just finished cooking dinner, cleaning up after dinner and doing other chores.  I'm tired and the last thing I want to do is pack lunches.  It sucks.  But doing it in a rush 15 minutes before you need to leave sucks more.  If it can be done the night before, do it the night before.

The Count:  This is a good one for people and kids who usually bring the same things out the door with them, and is Super Dad's preferred method.  He always has four things with him: his wallet, his phone, his work badge, and his keys.  He knows he needs at minimum  those four things every day. As he leaves the house the morning he counts.  It's makes the "List" a little less to think about, works great for people who have ADHD or anyone who gets overwhelmed easily.  This is essentially what Nathan does too (Jacket, binder, phone, laptop) but we encounter an issue when something out of the ordinary like the book enters the picture.  That's when setting your stuff out the night before helps.

"Where am I going? What do I need? Do I have it?" A friend of mine (thanks, Shelly!) made this reccomendation after I posted the story of Awful Day Four on my Facebook page.  She got the idea from a professor who made her family answer those three questions every time they left the house. Shelly adopted it into her own routine and says it really works.  Conscientiously asking those questions takes you out of auto-pilot mode and makes you really think about what it is you need for the task at hand. Shelly wants to craft a sign to hang by her door.  I love this idea, and would add a chalkboard or whiteboard to help remind about those only-need-once items like Nate's book.  That leads me to:

Write it down where you can see it :  When Nate kept forgetting his laptop last year (a big part of his accommodated learning plan) his principal printed a label that said "laptop" to put above our doorknob.  This tiny little thing helped him immensely. I used to have a note, written on my mirror in eyeliner that said "Take your thyroid pill!".  After awhile your brain (especially an ADD brain) will tune out those messages, but hopefully by the time that happens you have trained yourself to make those part of your routine.

Post-Its!  I swear these are an ADD brain's best friend.  Nate has a pad stuck to the front of his assignment book, Sometimes assignments are given out too quickly or he's too overwhelmed to find the appropriate space in the planner.  He can take these notes and transcribe them into the proper spot when things are little quieter.  If he remembers during the day that he needs something for tomorrow he can jot it down and then stick it on the door when he gets home.  If I know I need one of those need-it-once items, I put a Post-it on the door to remind me.  I do the same on the bathroom mirror if I have a medication that I need to take temporarily, like antibiotics.  Yesterday I called the doctor's office and they were closed. A Post-it on my phone reminded me to call this morning.  I'll put a Post-it on the door right now to remind myself that I need to bring some insurance paperwork with me to that appointment.

This isn't perfect, there is bound to be an Awful Day Thirty Three in our future.  Even if we weren't dealing with Attention Deficit Disorder, we would forget things.  But by implementing these relatively simple routines (and following them, that's the important part, and the part we struggle with!).  We are way ahead of our "normal" game.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Parenting Geekly's PAX Prime 2014 wrap up.


Our PAX experience was a bit abbreviated this year.  We missed out on our chance to purchase tickets (they were sold out within 25 minutes!) and due to the break I took from blogging, I didn't even bother applying for a press badge this time.

We did wind up getting two badges for Sunday and two for Monday. Super Dad and Nate went on Sunday (when the gaming floor remained open until midnight), and SD and I did Monday (when the whole thing closed up at 7, way closer to my bedtime). Due to a raging headache, I didn't even make to the convention center until about one in the afternoon.  So it was kind of a PAX Fail this year.  I buzzed around the expo halls and tried to take in as much as possible, and so now I present to you:

Parenting Geekly's very brief PAX Prime 2014 Wrap Up:

Highlights for the kiddos:

Cartoon Network Studios has the Adventure Time Game Wizard coming out in time for the holidays. Cartoon Network has partnered with Pixel Press and this game will be based on the same technology as Pixel Press Floors, a game in which you design a platformer by drawing it. This could be a really cool licensing partnership that helps introduce kids to game design principles. I'm excited to check this one out with the kids once it's available.

On Monday I played Shadowrun: Crossfire , a cooperative deck building game from Catalyst Games.  As with many modern tabletop games, there was a bit of a learning curve, but it was fun and I *loved* the cooperative aspect.  It reminded me  of Upper Deck Legendary: A Marvel Deck Building Game , where the players are essentially playing against the board.  We sometimes play the Shadowrun RPG, so it was fun to see that world in a tabletop environment.  This one is probably well suited for teens and up.

Nathan had a lot of fun playing a BattleTech expansion called Alpha Strike.  It was a quicker, faster
to get started version of the main game.  Combat is simplified and it was a great introduction to the popular miniatures game for a young teenager.

Super Smash Bros. comes out for the 3DS in early October and for the WiiU during the holiday season.  Nate spent a lot of time in the console gaming room playing older versions of Super Smash Bros. for the N64 and the Gamecube.  This was one the big highlights of his PAX experience.


Sega was pushing their new Sonic BOOM series, which will feature the speedy hedgehog and his friends in a television show and in games for Nintendo.  I am long time Sonic fan, and giddily ran up to have my picture taken with him. He doesn't seem as impressed as I was.


While the line to demo the game was too crazy long for me to wait in, we are pretty excited about Borderlands the Pre-Sequel.  I even got up close and personal with Handsome Jack. Definitely not for the little kids, but the Borderlands franchise is one of Nate's favorites. We also picked up some cool Civilization merch while at the 2K booth.

We spent a lot of time, as we do each year, in the retro arcade.  They have lots of pinball and retro arcade games, all free to play.  It's great fun for the adults and it's a great place to take kids who are bored of the expo hall. Thanks to Ground Kontrol, one of our favorite spots in Portland, for hosting!

I've been hearing a lot about Habitat recently.  From the game's Steam Page:
"Habitat is a successfully funded Kickstarter game from indie developer 4gency. It is a real-time, physics-driven orbital strategy game where you build, fly, and fight with the unique space stations that you create out of space debris orbiting earth. In its simplest terms it is a strategic space survival game."

Our friends who have played have raved about it and reviews are all pretty positive.  What really got me interested though, was 4gency founder Charles Cox's incredible enthusiasm.  For me, this is what PAX is all about.  I really enjoy learning about new games from Indie game developers.  I plan on purchasing a copy of Habitat this weekend, you can expect a full review soon.

*Amazon links are affiliate links, which means that if you buy from that link I make a few cents (literally cents, but every little bit helps!).  All other links are just there so you can check out some of the things I saw.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I gave up on work/life balance.

Hi there!  Long time no see!

Two years ago I was offered an amazing position at my kids' school.  "Oh," I thought naively, "nineteen hours a week?  To spend with my precious little snowflakes? And I get paid?  Well, for 19 hours a week, surely I can still manage a home and run my blog! I'll take it!".

Original Photo by Michael Jastremski.  Modified and used under Creative Commons License. 

The job was choice.  Sure, the hours were long and it was stressful, but it wasn't hard.   I developed amazing relationships with the teachers, with school administration, and with parents I probably wouldn't have interacted with otherwise. I was in the know! I got to see my kids every day. I had a shabby little office where I could keep extra gloves, hoodies, school supplies and snacks for them.  Nate would sometimes grab an extra chocolate milk and stick it on my desk if he knew I would be working through my lunch, that's adorable!  It was an amazing two years.

I suck at saying no. I was working almost double the 19 hours the job required; my laundry was never done, there were always dishes in the sink.  I stopped updating the blog, something I considered a passion.  I needed to find balance. Balance for me meant walking away from my job. I am really fortunate in that we were not dependent on my (small) paycheck, and so I decided to refocus on household management and Parenting Geekly.

I will be posting here almost daily once again.  I will once again bring you news, reviews, opinions and commentary on all topics Parenting Geekly.

Thank you to everyone who has continued to read the blog, who has nagged me about posting more or who has shared part of your geekly life with me!  If you want to get in touch you can email me at sharon@parentinggeekly, you can follow me on facebook here, and on Twitter here.

Excelsior!

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Parents' Guide: Can I take my kids to X-Men: Days of Future Past


Hey there!  This is going to be a quick summary, as I've already had a few email requests for my opinion on the age-appropriateness of this one and I want to bang it out in case anyone is considering going this weekend.

As usual, I had no qualms about taking my own kids.  Thirteen year old Nate and seven year old Kitty really enjoyed it, though there were some moments that were a bit hard for Kitty.

Here were the moments that stood out to me being a tad harsh for sensitive kiddos or stricter parents:

  • A totally unnecessary (but not totally unwelcome :) ) shot of Wolverine totally nude from the back .
  • An instance of the word "shit' and "fuck", but only minor swearing "damn" and "hell" besides that.
  • Autopsy photos of some deformed and stitched up mutants (Kitty looked away from the screen).
  • References to drug use.
  • A character who is a "good guy" but steals and shows a general lack of regard for police.
  • Lots of violence, including a mutant exploding and one getting his face burned off.
In addition, I am always worried that time-travel plots are confusing for kids.  I asked Kitty to summarize the plot in the video posted below (no real spoilers) and she seemed to get it, though as usual, she had a hard time following the many characters inherent in these ensemble action movies.

 Here are some of the things we talked about after the movie:
  • Do you think you could really change the past?
  • Why was Mystique so intent on carrying out her plan?
  • Why do you think people wanted to kill the mutants?
  • How did people with differences come together to work towards a common goal?
So my verdict? This one earns its PG-13 rating.  Even my seven year old had some hard moments.  13 year old Nate did just fine, and I would imagine most kids over 11 would be okay.  Really sensitive kids and younger kids might want to skip this one or at least wait until it can be viewed at home.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Costume Ideas for Women (and girls!) Without Sexy in the Title

This is just a drive-by posting, but I had to point you all to www.takebackhalloween.com, a site devoted to DIY costumes for women.  They focus on strong women characters from history and folklore, and none of the costumes require sewing.   Here is their "Last Minute" page for you slackers who still need a costume.
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