Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thantsgiving

Happy Thanksgiving

Today and every day I am thankful for the support you have shown Parenting Geekly. When I started this blog (on a whim after talking to a dad in a comic shop) I had no idea that I would find such a great community of like-minded parents. I have enjoyed sharing with you the ups and downs of parenting Nate and Kitty, sharing the geeky products I find, and hearing about all of the cool things you and your awesome families are doing. So from my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Parenting Geekly's Holiday Extravaganza: T-Mobile's Phone Shopping Guide

Parenting Geekly's Holiday Extravaganza: T-Mobile's Phone Shopping Guide

Does your teen/tween have a cell phone on their wish list this year? Does the thought of trying to buy a smart phone send you into a panic attack? Post sponsors T-Mobile are here to help. Here are a list of their tips:

Tips for buying and giving a mobile device this holiday season
A smartphone or tablet is a gift with a personal touch that can help people stay connected long after the holiday season.
Shopping for one doesn’t have to be stressful or complicated. Selecting the right device is simply a matter of knowing how to decipher the person’s mobile style, asking the right questions and talking to the experts! T-Mobile has a wide array of 4G smartphones and tablets this holiday season – so there’s something for every type of user. Below are some tips and suggestions to help make your holiday shopping even easier.
Here are some key questions to arm yourself with before your purchase and make sure to review with any sales associate:
  • What does my rate plan cover?
  • What kind of speeds/data am I getting?
  • How much will my monthly payments be and/or other charges?
  • What’s the exchange/return policy?
  • Is my/my recipient’s home and workplace covered by your network?
  • What are roaming charges?
  • What are your warranty/insurance policies?
Helpful Tips:
Below are some tips to keep in mind whether you are purchasing a device as a gift or for yourself:
  • Switching to a new phone doesn’t mean you will lose the information on your old phone. T-Mobile retail associates can use a phone-synching device to seamlessly and effortlessly move your contacts, pictures, calendar appointments, etc. over to the new phone so it is set up and ready to go! 
  • If you make calls to people outside the country, consider getting a prepaid plan to control your costs. T-Mobile offers a variety of international prepaid plans that offer great deals for people in the U.S. who want to stay in touch with people abroad.  
  • Do you want to know which data plan is best for your communication needs? T-Mobile offers a data calculator to help you figure out the plan you need based on your daily usage, check it out at http://www.t-mobile.com/Tools/MBCalculator.aspx 
  • Giving a child their first cell phone, especially a smartphone, can be a big decision for a parent. T-Mobile offers safety and control applications that empower families to keep each other safe and responsible by encouraging individual behaviors that benefit the whole family, and the flexibility to let parents maintain control on their terms, such as: 
    • DriveSmart™ Plus – Distracted driving is dangerous, especially with new drivers. DriveSmart manages distractions by silencing incoming notifications, sending callers to voicemail and auto responding to incoming text messages. With DriveSmart Plus, you get automatic driving detection, parental controls and notification of cell phone activity while driving, providing additional peace of mind 
    • FamilyWhere™ – If you’ve ever wondered where your kids are, this feature is for you. It allows parents to track the location of any phone on their family plan. You can even schedule alerts as a reminder to check where your kids are during the day and view up to 7 days of location history.
  • Not having strong coverage at places where you spend a lot of time can be very frustrating. Wireless carriers can help you avoid that situation by running a personal coverage check to see the strength of the network at your home, workplace, school, etc. 
  • Smartphones have become so advanced they can often serve multiple purposes. Several of T-Mobile’s smartphones have premium digital camera features offering consumers a viable alternative to their digital point-and-shoot cameras. They can also work as mobile hotspots, mobile music players and GPS navigators. Think about what devices you use most and consider a smartphone that can eliminate the need to carry multiple electronics
Don’t Try To Go It Alone – Talk To The Experts
T-Mobile associates are experts at finding the right devices to best fit the needs of every type of customer. All you need to do is
go into a retail store, explain the type of person you are looking to buy a gift for and how they would use their device and you’ll
be able to walk out with the perfect gift that will help the recipient stay connected.

Giveaway Time! 
But wait! T-Mobile wants to make it EVEN EASIER to give your loved one an awesome smartphone! They are offering one Parenting Geekly reader their choice of either a T-Mobile myTouch or myTouch Q. Both of these phones run on T-Mobile's 4G Network. They are both especially great for someone making the jump in the world of smartphones. They have an intutive Android based operating systems, and tons of features. For more information on the phones check out the myTouch Qhere and the myTouch here.
For your chance to win, you have to “like” Tmobile on Facebook and leave a comment below telling us which phone you'd like and who you'd give it to! (Please be aware that you have to go under the Rafflecopter entry form and actually leave a comment. Don't just click “I did this” and skip leaving the comment...you can't win if you don't follow the rules!).  You can earn an extra entry by following T-Mobile on Twitter and/or tweeting this giveaway on Twitter.

{This contest has ended}
This advertorial  is sponsored by T-Mobile.  Parenting Geekly was compensated to run this post.

Teen girl makes video game history

Lexi Peters, a 14 year old girl in the Buffalo, NY is a big fan of EA's NHL video games.  Complaining to her dad that she couldn't play as a female character, he jokingly told her to write a letter. 

She wrote a letter to the CEO of EA Sports (way to aim high, Lexi!) who responded that it was an NHL licensed game and that it wasn't going to happen.  Shortly after that, though, Lexi received another letter saying that they had changed their minds and would include a female player in NHL 12....and she would look like Lexi who plays hockey in real life as well as in the virtual rink.

Congratulations to Lexi, who proves that one kid can make a difference.  Also a big thanks to EA and the NHL who realized that even though there are no women in the real NHL, the video game world is where many a kid lives out their aspirations.


via @GeekGirlCon and @melhowrad  To read more check out NBC 2 Buffalo's write up.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

He's not heavy...


Those of you who follow me on Twitter, or know me in real life know that we have been dealing with a few situations at Nate's school that have been causing our whole family a lot of stress. I don't want to go into too much detail in such a public forum, but to preface this story I will say that the issues deal with both a lack of respect for Nate's 504 (Students with Disabilities Act) plan and two situations that have threatened his safety.

Clearly as his parents SD and I are pretty mad. We have spent the last two weeks going to doctor's appointments, doing research, writing time lines, attending numerous school meetings, talking to psychologists and State Education representatives. But the most important thing we've done through all of this is telling Nate that we have his back.

Listening to Nate tell these people “I don't feel safe in school, they (the adults) treat me like a bother, like I'm garbage”, it would be easy to just get angry. It would be easy to tell off he school administration and enroll him in private school. As in most cases, what's easy isn't what's right.

SD and I have had to sit down and talk about our goals in this. Do we want policy rewritten? Do we want to involve the police? Do we want to pursue civil action? Our conversations always come back to: We want to make sure our son feels safe. As much as a part of us wants to stick it to the man, that isn't the goal here. Being an advocate for our child means that we have to keep his needs at the foreground at all times.

There are a few things I want him to learn from this experience:
  • You can fight an unjust system.
  • The adults in charge aren't always right.
  • That his rights are no less important because he is a child.
  • That he has a right to feel safe at school.
  • That knowledge is power. You have no idea how many times in the past week I had to tell school district officials what their own policies were.
  • That sometimes the people in charge are manipulative and will go to great lengths to have things work in their favor. Some people will also work extraordinarily hard to be lazy.
  • That surrounding yourself with a good support system is an important part of a happy life. If we hadn't already had a network of amazing physicians, psychologists and knowledgeable friends and family we would have had to go through this alone. As it is now when I don't know how to proceed, I have a whole notebook filled with people I can call.
  • Most importantly he should learn that when it seems that no one else cares about him his dad and I always will.

Being a parent is the hardest thing I've ever done.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Squinkies Giveaway

I'm still giving away my loot from the awesome Activision Games for Girls Summit!  Today, I have a few items from the adorable and popular Squinkies franchise.   This package includes Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize for the Nintendo DS and a pack of Squinkies toys.

The prize, courtesy of Activison.


From Activision:
GAME OVERVIEW
In Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize, players will explore the recently opened Adventure
Mall Surprize. As young gamers control their squishy, squashy character, they learn to
navigate the mall in a quest to invite the other lovable Squinkies to a fantastic Squinkies party.
Along the way, you get to collect magic coins which, when deposited in the Gumball
Playhouse, unlock secret playable characters. There are literally hundreds of Squinkies to
meet and greet, so get bouncing!
Features:
  • Unique Setting: The Adventure Mall environment is entirely new for the game and exploring the amazing environment is just plain fun!
  • Hundreds of Squinkies: There are 600 Squinkies in the game, some that are playable characters and others you simply add to your collection. The 40 available playable characters also have 10 “rare” and un-lockable friends that must be purchased with the Magic Coins found around the mall.
  • Unique Environments: Four distinct play areas, each with four stages of thematic backgrounds keeps the game feeling consistently fresh and distinct. Specific locales include: Aquarium, Food Court, Wedding Castle and Amusement Park.
  • Included Squinkies Toy: Each purchase of the game will include an exclusive, limited release and ultra-rare 3-piece Squinkies playset!
This game was a bit more reading heavy than Lalaloopsy.  Kit enjoyed playing it but needed guidance at almost every step.  This would be a great game to play together.  If that's not your sup of tea, if you save the DS for those "Mommy needs to go the bathroom ALONE" moments, save this one for kids who are literate.  If your child enjoys Squinkies, or enjoys collecting games such as Pokemon, this one is sure to be a hit.

I am trying something new and managing this giveaway with Rafflecopter software, which seems like it's going to make my life and your entry a whole lot easier while still letting me do all of those obnoxious blog giveaway things like asking you to follow me on Twitter.   Enter using the form below (make sure you also actually leave a comment in the comment section!).  A winner will be chosen on Monday, November 21, and I will post the winner in an update on this page.

The Hunger Games Trailer and a LEGO movie?

If you were excited to see the teaser trailer for The Hunger Games that debuted at the MTV Movie Award a few months back, you are going to go nuts for the first "real" trailer, which was debuted last night.  I loved the books, I'm so excited for this movie, and the trailer does not disappoint.


Also, MSNBC.com is reporting that a LEGO movie is in the works.  There isn't much detail available other than it's the same production team as "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" and that they have been spending a lot of time at LEGO's Denmark headquarters for research.  I'd love a job where you go to LEGO HQ for research!

What do you think of the Hunger Games trailer?  How about a LEGO movie?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lalaloopsy Giveaway

Congratulations to Amber who was entry #7 and won the Lalaloopsy prize pack!

I recently attended Activision's Games for Girls Summit.  The content was super interesting and engaging, but the best part was the swag bag. It was Suh-weet, loaded with all of the games we tried and some other licensed goodies. I'm feeling generous, and want to help my dear readers with their Holiday shopping, so I've decided to give it away!  I've split the swag into coordinating packs in order to give as many of you a chance to win as possible. Most have a DS Game and a related toy.  The Wappy Puppy, which is awesome, will be the grand finale giveaway!

The first prize pack I'm giving away is a pair of items from the super popular Lalaloopsy franchise.  For those not in the know, Lalaloopsy is a series of large dolls and small figures from MGA Entertainment.  The dolls are a modern twist on rag dolls, they're pretty cute, although Nate has called their button eyes "creepy" and "Coraline-esque".  The gimmick is that the dolls magically came to life, and have the traits that go along with the special fabric they were constructed after (the one made out of baker's apron is a baker, and the one made out of astronaut's flight suit is a scientist).

Activision has taken the popular property and created a game that Kitty sure seemed to love.  I was initally worried that her inability to read would really hinder her ability to play.  Thanks to the intuitive game play, she was able to navigate the game on her own for over twenty minutes.
Thanks to intuitive game play, Kitty was able to figure out that there was a lost pet that she had to find for her friend, even without the ability to read.

From Activision:
GAME OVERVIEW
The whimsical and magical world of Lalaloopsy has been brought to life on the Nintendo DS. As the
new girl in town, you start by selecting your very own playable Lalaloopsy friend. Reunite all the
familiar Lalaloopsy dolls with their lost pets to build incredible friendships and unlock exciting crafting
activities. Special surprises and cool collectibles make it a unique and exciting experience. There is so
much to do and so much fun to be had, it’s time to get sewing!
Features:
  • Play with Your Favorite Lalaloopsy Dolls: All 12 dolls are available to play with including: Mittens Fluff ‘N’ Stuff, Blossom Flowerpot, Bea Spells a Lot and many more!
  • Colorful and Whimsical World: The handcrafted feel and bright palette is preserved in the game. Every doll’s environment and items will feel familiar to all Lalaloopsy fans.
  • Build Lasting Friendships: Help the dolls find and care for their pets to unlock their specific craft mini-game; giving the finished crafts as gifts unlocks even more accessories!
  • Create Cute Crafts!: Twelve doll specific craft activities are made uniquely personal with various customizations and themes. 
  • Rewards A’Plenty: Frequent rewards, accompanied by distinctive animations, sounds and content, coupled with delightful hidden collectibles, make the game engaging and exciting.
  • Added Bonus: Included with each game purchase is a limited release Mini Lalaloopsy™ doll.


This prize pack includes a copy of the Lalaloopsy game for Nintendo DS, which includes a Mini Lalaloopsy and an additional Mini Lalaloopsy. Mini Lalaloopsy's box has a  hole in the back (thanks to Kitty who couldn't keep her hands off of it) but is otherwise sealed and fine).  These items were given to me by Activision during their Games for Girls Summit.

The fabulous giveaway!  Thanks, Activision!

To enter to win this item, leave a comment telling me who you'd give this set to below.
To gain an additional (optional) entry follow @ParentingGeekly on Twitter (if you're not already!) AND send the following tweet:  "Win a Lalaloopsy Nintendo gift pack from @ParentingGeekly : http://parentinggeekly.blogspot.com/2011/11/lalaloopsy-giveaway.html" Leave an additional comment here that you followed/tweeted.

I'll post the randomly selected winner in an update on this post on Thursday, November 17.  Good luck!

Activision Games for Girls Summit and Giveaway!

Today I attended that Activision Games for Girls Summit.  It was a great chance to talk about games for families in a positive way.  The event was geared for the typical Mommy Blogger's audience, and so I seemed to be one of the few in the audience who was not surprised by findings that girls (and kids in general) who game with their parents experience a bevy of psychological and physical benefits.  People are finally getting what we geeks have known all along, video games aren't going to screw your kid up.

While geek culture has gone "mainstream" it seems that a lot of  parents haven't followed suit.  The moms in attendance talked a lot about restricting screen time, about not letting their kids play any non-kid games, and some seemed generally concerned about letting their kids play any video games at all.  At one point I asked Nicole Armstrong, the Director of Marketing at Activison to speak to current attitudes on advertisitng to women.  I brought up Battlefield 3's horribly allienting "99 Problems" ad campaign, and praised her for Activision's inclusive Call of Duty "Gimme Shelter" ad.  I had to stop to explain the games, the ads, and even the songs.  This was definitely not a room of gamer moms.

Jenny from Jenny on the Spot, Nicole Armstong - Director of Marketing for Activision and Suzanne Kantra - Editor in Chief of Techlicious.com
I was really excited to see industry juggernaut Activision identifying young female gamers as a priority demographic.  During the Summit we were able to try out six of the most recently released games that were developed with young girls in mind.

They were:
Lalaloopsy
Zoobles
Wappy Dog
ZhuZhu Babies
Moshi Monsters: Moshling Zoo
Squinkies 2: Adventure Mall Surprize!


The most impressive of the games was Wappy Dog.  It comes with a robotic dog that responds to commands through the DS.  It's freakin' adorable, I want one for myself! It was definitely the biggest hit with all ages in the group.

To help celebrate the launch of these games, Activision sent each attendee home with a bag full 'o awesome.  Over the next few weeks I will be giving away several gift packs, which are just in time for the gift-giving holidays!  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Burning down the house

My phone rang tonight while I was making dinner.  I didn't recognize the number, so I let it go to voicemail, but minutes later I heard Super Dad's phone ring.  Here's what I heard:
"Hello?  Yes, this is Nate's dad."  And then a looooooong silence.
"Okay, I'll talk to him about that, I know he's been on the receiving end of that and he didn't like it."
More silence.
"We'll talk about it with him.  Have a nice night."
Uh oh.

So I'm thinking that my kid has called a kid a name or excluded them from something.  Super Dad explained that it was much more dire: Nate has burned down someone's house.  In Minecraft.

We had a talk with Nathan and he confessed to the virtual arson, telling us he did it in retaliation when the kids (brothers) blew up a chest containing his valuables.  We discussed the golden rule, how revenge is never a good answer (c'mon kid, we *just* finished watching Moby Dick didn't you learn anything?) and how I never wanted to hear from another (overbearing) mother about how he destroyed something in Minecraft...on a private server run by a family friend, which Nate invited them to play on.

All was said and done until SD told me that the mom had told him that she planned on contacting the school about "this behavior".    WHAT?

I called the lady back and she told me "oh, I just spoke with your husband". 
"Oh, I'm aware" I said "I just want to follow up."

I explained to her that he had done it retaliation.  She insisted that her kids would never do that (for the record I hate when parents say 'My kid would never..."). Clearly my kid was Minecraft Satan running around and burning down the creations children had toiled over.   She told me that her precious snowflakes had been working on this particular creation for months (funny, since they've only had access to the server for a few weeks) and they were devastated.

I assured her that we had spoken with Nate about not retaliating.  That if someone were to destroy his things in the future that he would ignore it.  I also explained that they were playing on a PvP server, and sometimes people - often not Nate - would break things.

I then delicately asked "So...my husband mentioned that you were going to speak to the school about this.  I was wondering what you were hoping that would accomplish?"  She said that she wanted the school to talk to the "kids who were doing this" (my kid) about being kind and not destroying things the other kids (her kids) had worked so hard to make.  I told her that I really didn't think that the school could do anything about what happens in a video game.  She explained that before they came to this school they never had a problem with people destroying the kids' Minecraft stuff, and that because "some kids" at this school thought that kind of behavior was funny the teacher should talk to "those kids" who were doing the damage. I offered that I thought the way that we were handling it - parent to parent - was the appropriate way to handle an issue, and that ideally the kids would work it out themselves.  I assured her that if there were to be another issue like this that she could call me at any time and I would speak to Nate and give him appropriate consequences if required.   I don't think she's going to call the school.

The last time I had to call a parent was when his kid inappropriately touched my kid.  A slight that happened in videogame - as long as it didn't involve bullying - falls firmly into my "work it out yourself" policy.   What do you think?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Funny Book Friday: A Parent's Guide to Cura Te Ipsum Volume 1

Disclaimer:  I've been sick with the flu for almost two weeks. Just keep in mind that I'm kinda high on cold medicine while I write this....

Cura Te Ipsum
Written by: Neal Bailey
Illustrated by: Dexter Wee
To Buy: www.CharlieEverett.com

Cura Te Ipsum was my favorite find of Geek Girl Con.  The con was winding down and we were finally taking a few moments to check out the expo hall in detail.  Author Neal Bailey was sitting at his table and a mock prop from the book caught Nate's eye. Since I was standing there awkwardly,  I asked him what the book was all about.  He summarized the plot and when he was done Nate politely asked "What age do you recommend this for?"  and I knew that his interest had been piqued.

Cura Te Ipsum is the story of Charlie Everett.  From The Cura Te Ipsum website:
Charlie Everett is much like any other Charlie, the everyman. In most universes, Charlie Everett gets sick of his life (where he’s most often a guidance counselor who tells other people how to live their lives, while not knowing how to live his own). After a certain point, he’s fired, and he goes home and sticks a pistol in his mouth and blows his brains out. Charlie Prime, our hero, is stopped by another character, Leo, who introduces him to the concept of the multiverse, and tells him that there’s a whole team of Charlies, Cura Te Ipsum, fighting to stop him from committing suicide across time and space.
Charlie is our hero. He is brave, sad, and after he meets the Dark Everett, steadfastly committed to keeping himself and other versions of himself alive, to end the threat.

Nate is in his angsty tween phase, and I think the idea of sad, suicidal Charlie being saved by confident, alterna-Charlie (Leo) was appealing to him.  He’s also really into alternate universe stories at the moment (he loves Marvel's Noir series, for example).   Neal's answer to the age appropriateness question was "It's dark and has swearing and violence; but all in context.  You know your kid and what they can handle".  

The book is indeed dark and violent.  Nate handled it just fine for the most part, but one of the more violent scenes in the book did seem to stick with him. If your kid is emotionally mature enough to handle a dark storyline about suicide, the book is worthwhile read.

I think this is a fantastic book, and Nate agrees.  He cannot wait to get his hands on Volume 2, and neither can I.  The writing is snappy without being trite and the art, even without the aid of a colorist, is beautiful.  (The lack of color in the book actually has the benefit  of taming some of the violence; blown off heads just aren't quite as gross without color).  The story gets off to a nice quick start, pulling the reader into the story right off the bat.  The main antagonist is introduced with enough exposition to intrigue the reader, while leaving enough unanswered questions to keep you wanting more.

The idea of alterna-yous searching you out to tell you it's going to be okay and invite you to be part of a inter-universe super squad is fresh and unique and is sure to appeal to many.  Cura Te Ipsum explores the human will to survive, the struggle to pull yourself up from darkness and find a purpose.  So many of us have felt as bad as Charlie at one time or another, this book will resonate with that part of you.   

Parent's Guide:
Age Appropriateness: It's a pretty dark subject matter, and there's a good amount of swearing and violence, though it's all in context. This one is definitely one to read with and/or before readers younger than 16. Nate really enjoyed it, but it was a bit disturbing to him.  I don't think it's anything worse than what's sometimes on TV.

Things to look out for: Suicide, swearing, violent images including a background image of someone eating a corpse.

Talking Points:Why does Charlie want to commit suicide.  Why do you think the other Charlies want to save him?  Why do you think that Dark Everett wants to stop them?  Why does the group use the phrase "Cura Te Ipsum" and how does Dark Everett use the same phrase, even though he has an opposite objective?  What would you say to Charlie?  What do you think alternate versions of you would be like?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You win some, you lose some.

A few days ago Kitty overheard me talking about the masquerade taking place at this weekend's Geek Girl Con.  After peppering me with questions about what a masquerade was, she asked if she could "finally" dress as Buffy.  After two years of steering her in a more child-friendly Halloween costume direction, I conceded that if there was a group of people who were going to appreciate (instead of being appalled at) a preschooler dressed as a teenage vampire slayer it would be the Masquerade Audience at Geek Girl Con. 

The costume was simple to put together, a "mini" skirt, and a hooded sweater vest from her closet were a good age-appropriate approximation of what Buffy would frequently fight the vamps in.  I bought her a pair of shiny black boots that we will paint and repurpose for Halloween and a cheap costume cross.  We made a stake from floral foam and paper mache.  Kitty practiced her staking and kicking and off we went.

As soon as we got to the con I knew there would be stiff competition in the kids' category.  We ran into an absolutely adorable young Dr. Horrible with his sister dressed in a sweet interpretation of Captain Hammer.  The caliber of costumes of the kids in line with us was AMAZING.  Their mom-made costumes were intricate and awesome.  The kids spent time backstage playing with their accessories and having a great time.

When the show started  moms started reminding their kids about their "moves" and we all cheered loudly for each child.  Every single one of them rocked the stage, making their costumed personas come to life.  It was adorable.

Then it was time to announce the winners.  We had told Kitty that we were proud of her, that she did great, and that she needed to cheer loudly for whichever of her new friends won, even if it wasn't her.  Then it happened...it *wasn't* her, and she totally freaked the eff out.  She was crying, loudly.  At first it was kinda sad and adorable, a little mini Buffy crying onto her patent boots, stake in hand.   It was understandable.  At four years old losing is hard.  Then as it went on it quickly became not cute.   We explained to her that it was okay, that not everyone could win, that she should be happy for the girl who won, whose costume she had admired backstage.  She was still sobbing, whining that "I wanted a prize".  At that point the response from me was "You didn't win so you don't get a prize. Take a breath and pull yourself together, you need to be a gracious loser".


It was like this, except not as cute.

As people filtered out of the auditorium and we sat there, holding tear-stained Kitty, people offered their congratulations and compliments.  But more than one of them said the same thing: "ALL the kids should get prizes".  I appreciate the sentiment, I do.  It's hard to see little ones upset about something they were excited about (a tiny Princess Leia, the only other contestant as young as Kitty was also crying over her loss) but what do our kids learn if they always win?   I'd rather Kit experience losing and have her meltdown over the disappointment of her first big loss now when it's developmentally appropriate.  If we let all the kids win, victory is meaningless.  And frankly, the kid who won had a better costume and put on an awesome stage show, she deserved the win.

As parents we work so hard to teach our kids to be fair, be kind and be polite.  Losing is a fantastic opportunity to reinforce those lessons.  It's really, really hard to be a gracious loser, but it's a skill we all must learn. Making every kid a winner isn't a great way to prepare kids for real life. Most adults will experience more "losses" than "wins". No one wants to see a grown woman sobbing because she couldn't find jeans in her size on sale or an executive throwing a fit because she didn't land a deal (though that actually does happen...).

We went home, we had celebratory banana splits, and when someone later that night asked her about her experience she said  "I had fun, and I jumped around, but I didn't win." without even a hint of sadness.  She got over losing, just like we all learn to.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Memoriam: Steve Jobs


Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Apple Inc.

I remember the first time I sat down in front of a computer that wasn't in my school computer lab.  I sat there, perplexed as I looked desperately for the Apple key.

I was part of the first generation of school children to have a computer lab in our school. Thanks to the generosity (and marketing genius) of Jobs/Apple, many kids in the mid-eighties grew up learning how to compute using an Apple computer. My father was an IBM  programmer at the time, but the lack of affordable home computer options meant that his oldest daughter would do her first word processing, Print Shopping and ascii art (and later layout the high-school newspaper) on the competition's equipment.

I'm not a big Apple fan today - I tend to lean more towards open source options - but Job's affect on technology development isn't lost on me.

I hope his family is able to find a small comfort in the fact that Jobs' innovations are part of most Americans'  daily lives.  He made a huge mark in this world and will live on in a way that few of us ever will.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Funny Book Friday: A Parent's Guide to Teen Titans #1

Welcome to my new column!  In Funny Book Friday I'll review a comic (either a single issue or a trade) and post my thoughts, including a Parent's Guide with possibly objectionable material listed - things that I may or may have not found to be inappropriate, but feel that some parents may want to be aware of.  And because I think that comic books are FANTASTIC for kids and their parents to read together I'll a include list of questions you and your kids can discuss together.  Have a Family Comic Book Club and have everyone read the same book over the course of a week and then talk about it over dinner, it'll be fun!

Teen Titans #1
Written by: Scott Lobdell 
Drawn by: Brett Booth.
Published Monthly by DC Comics

For my first Funny Book Friday I wanted to read something that was totallly new to me, but still appropriate for at least a teenaged reader and so I figured I'd go for something in DC's New 52.   My pals at Arcane Comics recommended and provided me a copy of Teen Titans #1.

I'm not a big DC reader, I wanted to use their recent reboot to discover some of the books my readers, friends and colleagues have been talking about for years.  Outside of the gorgeous All-Star Superman and mind-blowing Red Son, I am pretty clueless about most of the characters and goings on in the DC universe. You all may know what the deal with Tim Drake and Kid Flash are, but I've only ever heard of them in passing.  I'm truly coming at these reintroduced characters with very little knowledge about them, and experiencing them the way only a first time reader could.

This book is clearly a first issue.  Most of the content is character introduction and exposition.  You know how when you go back to watch the pilot of an established TV show and it's weird because characters that have become more nuanced over 5 seasons seem like characitures of themselves?  I'm hoping that this book goes in this direction.  There's a lot of potential for the characters and plot they introduced but right now it's a lot of exposition and introductions.  I expect the next few issues to follow in that vein as the rest of the Teen Titans team is introduced.  The writing is snappy enough to show promise, and the mysteries introduced piqued my interest. I could definitely see kids getting into this,especially as a first foray into the more complex characters and story telling that can be found in more mature comics.  I'm sure those already familiar with Teen Titans have a better idea about where this is going than a brand new reader like me, but from a first time reader's perspective it was clear enough to not confuse me, but mysterious enough that I left the first issue eager to find out what happens next.

Parent's Guide: 
Age Appropriateness: This book is rated Teen. Besides the use of a single mild curse word and some flagrant disregard for authority it's pretty mild.  I'd let Nate (age 11) read this one with a bit of guidenance.
Things to look out for: One mention of the word "ass" as in "That kid is acting like an ass" (not a direct quote, but in that same context), a teen driving what is implied to be a stolen car, a teen disregarding a firefighter's instructions, a teen blowing up his apartment to escape a villain.
Talking Points: Why does Kid Flash behave the way he does?  What is he trying to accomplish?  What do you think Red Robin's goal is?  How does Cassie feel about her powers and why do you think she feels that way? What did you think of the ending? What do you think will happen next?



Have a suggestion for a book for Funny Book Friday?  Leave it in the comments or email me at sharon(at)ParentingGeekly.com

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Can you make it on $9 an hour?

Urban Ministries of Durham has put out "Spent" a game that simulates the decisions that the underemployed in America have to make every day.


Playing the simulation with Nate was enlightening.  He constantly chose the options like "Take the money out of your kid's birthday card" and  "Miss the kid's school play because you were offered a side job".  I asked him to really think about how that would make him feel and he said "I'd be mad, but at least I'd have food."  As a mother, I made the opposite desicions, sacrficing the money almost every time it would somehow affect my child.

We were able to talk about what it meant to be "underemployed" and some of the myriad of reasons why someone with a child would have to take a minimum wage job.  This was a fantastic way to teach Nate about the sacrifices people have to make everyday. 

Try your hand at Spent here.

Did you succeed? Did your kids try it?  How were their answers different than yours?  Share in the comments!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Jet City Comic Show Today!


I'll be at Jet City Comic Show today. Jet City was developed as a breath of fresh air for those who are looking for a smaller, one day comic and pop culture convention.

The show runs from 10am-6pm today at the Seattle Center.  I'll be helping out at the Arcane Comics and More booth off and on and kicking around the convention for the rest of the show. Tickets can be had for $8 at the door, and kids under 10 are free!  See you there!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

New Muppet Parody Trailer

Everyone kinda figured that once the "real" trailer for the new Muppet Movie came out we had seen the end of the parody videos.  I'm super happy to report that the filmmakers/promoters weren't quite done with these hilarious clips.  The latest pokes a bit of fun of the trailer for "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" and the film promoting process in general.



Here's the original trailer in case you have been living under a rock missed it:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Practical night light option form Think Geek

Think Geek sent an email today announcing the launch of 30+ new items!  The one that caught my eye was this rad Moon Clock.  The moon is cool, clocks are cool...so as far as I'm concerned this product is already  full of win, but it gets even better.  The clock glows in the dark!  I'm not usually a huge fan of glow in the dark items, I think most of them are pretty tacky, but this one is an exception.  First of all, the real moon actually glows (granted, it's because of the sun's reflection and not because of photo-sensitive paint or whatever makes this clock glow, but whatever), secondly I am sooooo tired of going into my kids' room and seeing the harsh glare of the LED nightlight.   I'm ordering this clock hoping that it's gentle glowing, which lasts about 2 hours, is enough to soothe the kids, and save my eyesight/power bill.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Buffy Season Nine Guest Blog at Dark Horse

I've been very excited about a guest post that I was approached to write, but didn't want to say anything until it was all said, done and published.  On Friday Dark Horse Comics ran my Buffy Season 9 guest post!   You should head over there and check it out.

On a related note (go read the post!): here is Kitty's first day of pre-K picture:

DnD for Little Girls (and Boys!)

After playing Pathfinder at PAX with Nate, I'm the in the middle of writing a post about why Role Playing with your kids is a great idea.  Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels this way, and this is just too good to wait on.  The full post is still coming but in the meantime I had to share this with you:


Artist James Stowe has created a series of character sheets inspired by playing Dungeons and Dragons with his 8 year old son.   There are six male characters, and taking input from his fans, there are now six female characters as well!  While these are designed for kids, these easy to read sheets seem like they would be fantastic for any novice player. And how cute would they look framed in a geeky kid's bedroom? 

Do you play Dungeons and Dragons (or Pathfinder, or Shadowrun, or any other RPGs) with your kids?

Stowe is offering the PDF downloads for free, but if you like them please consider donating at Stowe's Paypal Donation Page!

Thanks to The Geeky Hostess for the heads-up on this!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Halo Swag Giveaway: Winners!

Drumroll please....

To pick the winners I used Random.org and had it pick a number between 1 and 37 (the total number of comments).  Random.org picked comment #1 from Shelly and #7 from DigitalPlague.  So if you are Shelly or DigitalPlague please send me an email to sharon(at)parentinggeekly.com with your name and address and I'll do my best to send those out ASAP.

Thanks to everyone for your great comments!  Some were really touching, and they really show how something that a lot of the world considers frivolous is such an important part of our lives for so many different reasons.

This was such a popular giveaway I may be able to find some other Halo Fest swag around here to give away, so stay tuned!


Don't forget that Parenting Geekly is up for Best Parenting Blog in Western Washington.  You can vote here: http://best.king5.com/parenting-geekly/biz/630549

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's an honor just to be nominated...

Click here to vote!
...but how cool would it be to win?!?!  Parenting Geekly is up for King 5's Best of Western Washington in the Parenting Blog Category!  If you feel like we're deserving of the title please head over to http://best.king5.com/parenting-geekly/biz/630549 and vote.  You can log in using your Facebook or Twitter account and you can vote once a day.  You don't have to be local an d if we win the added publicity will help us bring you even cooler content!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

PAX Swag Giveaway: Halo Fest Microfigure

I've finally come out of my PAX-induced haze and I'm ready to give you guys some of the cool stuff I got at the convention!

First up are two Mega-Blocks Halofest micro figures. If you have a kid who is into Halo, chances are you are already familiar with these tiny guys. They are "blind" collectibles, meaning that you don't know exactly what you're getting until you open it. Some of the figures are rare while others are more common. This is like kid crack. The collectible nature, the association with Halo, and the ability to use them in the related Halo building sets has made them extremely popular with Nate and his friends.

This year PAX had an entire expo hall devoted to Halo. The game is celebrating its tenth anniversary and Halofest was setup to celebrate it. There were panels, demos and giveaways, all Halo related. Mega Blocks had a huge presence at Halofest, and their giveaways were some of the most coveted at all of PAX. On top of giving away the micro figures, each morning they gave away a limited edition Halofest vehicle building set. There is no way I'm prying that out of Nate's hands for a giveaway, but I did manage to score a couple of my own micro figures to give away!

I have a Halo CE UNSC Spartan and a Halo CE Convenant Elite to give away. These are limited edition Halofest versions of the figures and each comes with a Halofest brick to set it on. They're pretty cool.

To enter the giveaway leave a comment in the space below telling me why you or your kids love Halo or Megablocks. I will choose two winners at random on September 8th at noon Pacific Time, each will receive one of the micro figures.

For an additional entry follow @ParentingGeekly on Twitter and tweet a link to this blog post. Leave a separate comment here telling me you tweeted!

Contest is open to residents of the US only, sorry!

Monday, August 29, 2011

First look at The Hunger Games film!

During last night's MTV Video Music Awards Jennifer Lawrence, who is starring in The Hunger Games as Katniss, introduced the first teaser trailer. It's very, very short, but gives a nice taste of what we are in store for.

Get More: 2011 VMA, Music


I'm SUPER excited for this film! What do you think?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

PAX Party!

Sorry for the drive by post, I've been super busy at PAX and working on a secret guest post project, but I wanted to remind you that on Sunday morning The Geeky Hostess and I will be hosting a mini-party at PAX! Join us in the main lobby of the convention center for treats, coffee and juice for the kids! This part of the Convention Center is public, so even if you aren't joining the festivities at PAX, you could come say hi!

More info here: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=247475091952472

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Check out this Portal Fan Film

This is pretty awesome.  Someone needs to sign this guy to a deal to develop a full length Portal movie.




How would make a Portal movie? Would it be dark and gritty like this, would it be funny?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Parenting Magazine and Sesame Workshop team up to bring us "Sesame Corner"

This post has everything I love: Sesame Street, free stuff, and homeschooling / education materials.  ,  The folks over at Parenting Magazine have a bunch of printable coloring pages and worksheets available on their website. While I just found out this about this via a tweet from @Parenting, they have been offering a new themed pack about once a month since March of 2008!  Your child can learn about Thanksgiving, Recycling, Back to School, Colors, Animals and more with these printable sets.  My only complaint is that the process of clicking and and downloading each page simultaneously is a bit tedious, but again, it's a great free resource!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Seattle Area Geeks: Can't make it PAX? There's other video game fun to be had

Didn't get tickets to PAX?  Decided to stay home with the littler kids? No fear, there is still gaming fun to be had in the greater Seattle area PAX weekend, and BONUS! It's free (even food, I've been told!).

DigiPen Institute of Technology -the super cool video game college - in Redmond is hosting it's second "DigiPen Day" on Saturday, August 27.

From their website:

You are invited to celebrate DigiPen Day with us on Saturday, August 27, from noon to 3:00 p.m. at DigiPen's Redmond campus! This event marks the one-year anniversary of the ribbon-cutting ceremony of DigiPen's current facilities, where Mayor John Marchione officially declared it "DigiPen Day" in the city of Redmond. This year, we will open our doors to the public once again and invite everyone in the community to play, create, and explore the worlds of gaming and art with us!
The event will include:
  • Video games created by our students
  • Life drawing sessions taught by our instructors
  • Robotic race cars
  • Free food from our Bits & Bytes CafĂ©
  • Fun prizes
  • And much more!
DigiPen's campus is located at 9931 Willows Road NE in Redmond, WA. We hope you and your family can join us for this wonderful event! Please RSVP and direct any questions to Steph Caron, DigiPen's Admissions outreach manager, at scaron[at]digipen[dot]edu.

You don't have to miss out on sampling what the brightest up and coming game designers have created even if you are headed to PAX.  DigiPen students will be demo-ing their creations there as well. Make sure to check the hard-working students out and offer your constructive criticism.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Parent's Guide to Surviving PAX Prime with Kids


PAX Prime is a mere two weeks away and if you are thinking of bringing your little ones, I wanted to give you some time to prepare.  

First of all, let me be clear:  PAX Isn’t for kids.   That’s not to say that you can’t or shouldn’t bring your kids, but it’s best to start out knowing that this isn’t necessarily a kid friendly environment.  There is a lot of swearing, a lot of adult video content and a fair amount of people who will not be happy to see your precious little snowflake.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, my kids love PAX.  It’s every gamer kids dream come true, with demos, swag and gaming everywhere.  There is a ton of stuff to see and do, and if you go prepared, your whole family will have a great time.
I’ve compiled the following tips based on our experiences bringing our children (currently aged 4 and 11) to PAX prime for the past 4 years.

Leave the kids over 2 and under 6 at home.  I know this isn’t ideal, but I really think it’s the best advice I can give.  Nate is 11 and will be just fine, but we’ve arranged for Grandma to take Kitty for PAX weekend this year. We brought Kit when she was a baby and again when she was a year and a half and it was fine. I carried her in an Ergo carrier and she slept when she needed to.  I brought her when she was two and a half and it was not fine.  She was simultaneously bored and over stimulated.  They don’t allow strollers on the main floor and she was too big to stick in a baby carrier for longer than 30 minutes at a time.We were all miserable  Kit and I stayed home last year because I couldn't fathom chasing a three year old around the convention. 
Stay Healthy. Two years ago our entire family got very, very ill right after PAX.  It was 2009, the year of the Great PAX Plague, and we had all contracted the Swine Flu.  Cons are germy places. Bring Hand sanitizer and use it often.  I’m not the biggest fan of hand sanitizer (and would recommend you use an alcohol based one as opposed to Triclosan), but cons are one place where they are appropriate.  I have recommended Bath and Body Works hand sanitizers before, and my friend The Geeky Hostess just reminded me that they make little rubber sanitizer holsters that you can loop onto your belt loop, purse, swag bag or baby carrier.  Let your kid pick their own scent, give them a little bottle of their own and make sure they use it often.  Remind them that it hasn’t worked until it has dried.   Bring disinfectant wipes.  Wipe the controllers, the keyboards, the mice, the tables, etc.  Most importantly: wash your hands as often as possible.  You need to wash them with warm water and keep the soap on your hands for as long as it takes to sing “Happy Birthday”.  Use a paper towel to turn off the faucet and open the door, there was a recent study that found that one third of men – and only slightly  less women – don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom.  Then they use their dirty hands to open the door, ewww!

Stay fed and hydrated.  Food is available in the convention center, and at restaurants around it, but the choices aren’t great and the waits are long, not good when you have a cranky, hypoglycemic kid.  We brought Fruit roll-ups, trail mix, pre-packaged apple slices and cheese sticks in a little insulated bag. Be conscientious, eat in designated areas and bring foods that aren’t messy. Give each person in your party their own water bottle.  You’ll be on your feet all day and it’s easy to get dehydrated.  Refill your bottles often and drink up!

Bring a baby carrier.  If you have a kid little enough to tote around in a sling, Moby, Ergo or backpack carrier bring it.  Strollers are not allowed on the  floor of the main exhibition hall and toting a little one around in a carrier frees up your hands.  

Bring a Camera.  There are tons of photo ops to be had, and tons of costumes from both the game companies and cosplayers, and there are tons of cool promotional displays to pose in front of.

Find the kids’ games.  The kid specific games may not be as plentiful as the adult-oriented stuff, but they are out there.  Two years ago the kids played a baby care simulator  and learned a Marvel-themed card game, Kitty rolled a giant D20 and won a prize, and both kids loved previewing a TMNT Wii game.  A lot of these games haven’t been released yet and the game creators are usually thrilled to get input from real children.

Take a lot of breaks.  The kids will tire faster than you do.  Sometimes being a good parent means that we have to pull ourselves away from all the fun and just go sit.  If you are staying at a hotel nearby, go back to your room for a nap.  Leave the convention center and go sit in the surrounding park.  If you have a three day pass, go home early.  You don’t have to stay every hour all three days with a cranky kid.  Most years the kids only go for one day because it’s just too much, and one day is PLENTY for them.

Skip the panels.  While they’re interesting to you, your kid will probably be bored and cranky.  I’m a big proponent of NOT putting kids in situations that are bound to lead to what will appear to the average non-breeder as “misbehavior”.  Making your kid wait in a long line just so they can sit still and be quiet is a formula for disaster.  

Tag-team.  If you are planning on bringing your kids the best thing I can tell you to bring is another able-bodied adult.  If you can switch off on child care duties you will have a better chance of getting to see a panel you really want to check out something more mature in nature.

Make it easy to be found. Stick a business card in your kid’s pocket, or consider getting some Safety Tats.  Either option makes it easy for your kid to contact you if you get separated.  Staff members will be wearing distinctive T-shirts, make sure your kids know what they look like in case they need to find help. One of my readers (thanks, Gina C.) suggested via the Parenting Geekly Facebookpage that parents wear a distinctive color to make it easier to find you in a sea of black T-shirts.

Be prepared to spend.  There is plenty to buy including games, prereleases, shirts and toys and most kids will ask for at least something.  I suggest setting a spending limit before you leave home.

Bring a Backpack (or a tote if you have a backpack carrier) and have the kids carry one too.  There is a lot of swag to be had, and if you don’t give the kids a way to carry their own, you’ll be carrying two times the amount of junk around.

Most importantly, have fun!  This is a great opportunity for your kids to see what the gaming community is all about.  Like I said before, even during our more “challenging” years we have had a ton of fun, and the kids look forward to it.   Now to break the news that she’s not going to Kitty…
If you have any tips to add please share in the comments!


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