January 12, 2016

My Family is Bad-A$$, So is Yours!

Last week, I got to talk to my son's class about my paternal Grandmother, Noreen J. (Komen) Irwin.  The week's topic in Language Arts was "The Women of Space".  My Gramma Irwin was a woman WAAAAAY ahead of her time.  She was born October of 1921 and more or less grew-up in Michigan.  In her young adult years, she was a barrel racer.  This is where you ride on a horse, most popularly a quarter horse, which I believe is a shade smaller than your average horse, figure 8 style around 2-4 barrels.  You're doing this for speed & agility.  This event is traditionally female only, but a few guys have done this as well.  Eventually, she worked in a machinist factory making artillery items for the American Soldiers during WWII.  She eventually married *cough*afewtimes*cough* and had 3 children; Dorrence, Doug, and Jack.  Now, keep in mind, when my dad was a kid in the 1960's, my grandmother was working as an engineer for NASA & Boeing.  Yes; THE NASA where American Astronauts come from & THE Boeing that makes Airplanes.  She wasn't a secretary, she didn't type dictation, she was an engineer.  She worked a STEM career during the time when the sexual revolution was just starting to make some pretty bold stances.  My Gramma Irwin was an utter and total BADASS!  She could just have easily been one of the first, if not THE first woman in space...but wasn't.  This, about a woman who also almost was an Olympic swimmer.  I'm still not clear as to why she decided not to participate in the Olympics, but she could have.  Lastly, but not at all the least, she was a breast cancer survivor...TWICE!  She even had a small melanoma carcinoma (cancerous skin tumor) on her nose once!  Thank GAWD it was benign!  I think the only reason more people don't hear about this woman in history books was probably because aside of ALL of these HUGE accomplishments, she was a VERY humble woman.  I'm not saying she was demure.  Shoot, she probably smoked that word in her morning cigarette.  She just honestly thought none of it was as big of deal as everyone (appropriately) thought it was!  To her, all of this was life.  To her, she was just a single mom doing what she could for her family and herself because she could.  As far as her daughter goes...she also grew-up to be an amazing woman.  An Architect (also a STEM job, like her mother).  Unlike her mother, my Aunt Dorrance (us family call her Alia) knows she's a bad-ass.  She gets to brag.  Even her daughter (My cousin Lucienne/Lulu) is bad-ass!  She's a University Professor (last I heard)!  My sister?  She works in a Veterinary Clinic.  Before that, she worked at our local Humane Society in Benton County.  She helped animals find their forever homes, took animals to get spayed & neutered, she even fostered a few animals.  My little sister is a bad-ass!

I honestly can go on and nerd over how cool my family is.  Heck, this is just my Dad's side of the family...JUST THE WOMEN!  So why am I choosing now to nerd out over them?  Because after giving that brief lecture to a bunch of 1st Graders about my Gramma, I just realized that I never really thought to ask Gramma Irwin about herself when I was a kid.  She was just never one to talk about herself or her life, unless she's talking about all the shenanigans she did as a kid with her brother Gary, or talking about Michigan with my dad and Aunt Alia.  As a kid, I didn't know enough so I never thought to ask.  To me, she was my Dad's Mom who smoked a lot and drank beer.  She wasn't an alcoholic, she mostly drank socially...as far as I knew.  I was so used to seeing my Maternal Grandmother and Maternal family that her habits and quirks make me a little turned off by her.  I wish I knew then how amazing she was as I know now.  She earned her right to chain smoke and drink.

Aside from gushing over my family and dwelling in the coulda, shoulda, woulda, I am here to make a point.  My family is cool.  I had to stop, think, and really evaluate what makes my family members awesome.  As a kid, I wish my dad went on more benders over talking about how cool his mom was.  Knowing all of this now as an adult, I can now fully gush to my own son over how bad-ass his blood-line is! 
...and if you look, evaluate, and think on it, you will also find that your family, as well, is really worthy of a good nerding out session!

I want to propose to you a challenge.  That's right.  A challenge.  I know those of you in the internets love to do challenges.  This one isn't about bringing awareness to a problem that can be better solved with REAL monies than people trying to gain instant noteriety through 5 second idiot and/or dangerious challenges that actually acheive diddly.  I'm saying I'm challenging you to actually see the good in people.  People you know.  People related to you by blood.  I do acknowledge that a lot of you have family members, usually parents, who you feel have no real value to your life because of bad life choices they made or because they gave you up, or treated you as nothing more than a burden.  I want to challenge you to look into their stories.  Look at their life starting from childhood and what they survived long enough to create you. 

But this challenge isn't just for those of you who had toxic family members.  There are some of you who had really boring and uneventful childhoods.  Your parents gave you the standard cookie-cutter childhood and they had really average jobs, or your mom stayed at home to raise the kids.  If they are still alive, ask them what all odd jobs, events, or things they did.  Ask them what drove them to make certain choices.  Challenge their reason if you don't like their answers.  Understand that they are bad-ass in their own way because maybe something in their lives (aside from you) made them super stars in your eyes.

Then there are those like me.  You have one or both parents in the ground.  Maybe you have a half-sibling who was adopted.  Maybe you were adopted.  What about your step parents if you have them?  What makes them bad-ass?  Dig around!  Tell us about one or two people in your family who are complete and utter bad asses in your eyes and tell us one great reason why this is!  Share in the comment box below or on the Facebook Page this gets posted on.  My hope is that this will change the way you see the person described.  I double challenge you to tell us about a person in your family you wouldn't otherwise give a second thought about.  I only ask that you don't choose family who abused, raped, or caused you physical harm.  I'm not wanting anyone to relive the bad.  I'm challenging you to see the amazing in those who you just don't put too much though into.

January 1, 2016

The Process of Grieving as Demonstrated by Captain Usopp

*Spoilers only if you haven't reached Water 7/Frankie's story arc*

This blog post was months in the making.  It's on a subject near and dear to my heart:  The Grieving Process.  I know it's an odd thing to have an interest in, but when I was at Job Corp at the age of 21 to get my NA-C (Nursing Assistant Certification), we touched on The Grieving Process and why it is important to human health.  I understood the steps enough:  Anger, Denial, Barganing, Depression, and Acceptance.  I also understood that they came in no particular order.  Even Acceptance could be the first thing you feel, but rarely.  It wasn't until I lost my own mother in a car accident 3 years later that I fully understood WHAT it is to grieve and how much it really does matter to do it correctly and to reach each stage to be able to come full circle and move on.  Also, as I will have Usopp demonstrate, that Grieving isn't just for the death of a loved one.  Grieving IS also an important process for any major loss such as the loss of an important or deep relationship, death or loss of a pet, the termination of work, a massive change in your circumstances (like losing a job or home), and even, losing a beloved object:

In Usopp's case, The "Going Merry".

ANGER:  For Usopp, and for most, Anger is often the first step in the grieving process.  Usopp's anger started when Luffy had a Ship Wright inspect "Merry" so that they can have her properly fixed once and for all.  When the Ship Wright returned, he declared Merry was beyond repair and didn't have much time left before she would just fall apart completely.  Luffy made the hard call (and if you saw this and thought this didn't hurt him to call it, you haven't watched enough One Piece) to purchase a new ship.  Fast Forward past some events, Luffy finally has a chance to break the news to Usopp.  Usopp put in a LOT of hours on this girl to keep her afloat, even though he has no prior experience in ship carpentry plus his very dear friend Kaiya was the one who gave the Straw Hat crew the ship back when it was just Luffy, Zoro, Nami, & Usopp (who had just joined at that point).  So of course, Usopp lashes out at Luffy.  He yells at Luffy and accuses him of not giving a damn about Merry like she was nothing more than just a mode of transportation.  Of course, we and the characters all knew this to not be true, but again, this is grief talking.  Usopp knew in his heart the girl was done for, but he didn't want to hear it.  Regardless, I think everyone who is a fan of this anime can agree on this point; The crew all loved Merry as more than just a home and ship, but Usopp loved her most, but just a small nudge more than Luffy.

BARGAINING:  At the end of Usopp's rant to Luffy, he challenged Luffy to a duel.  If Usopp won, he keeps the Merry;  if Luffy won, he can do as he will with her.  Eitherway, Usopp wanted out of the crew. 

I do want to take this moment to say this:  When you undergo a traumatic event, it is advised by every professional to not make major decisions without taking time to think on it.  Usopp suddenly deciding to end his ties with his best friends is one of those things.  Never start or end a relationship immediately after a trauma.

Here is a video of how this fight went down.  If you ask me, this was my favorite battle to date if only because of the raw emotions involved and the cunning of Usopp vs. the Brute Strength of Luffy.

This video is 10 minutes long, but worth the watch.  If you decide just to watch enough to get the point though, that's fine too.

DEPRESSION:  After the fight, Usopp lays hurting, healing, and sad upon Merry.  Chopper left him a 1st Aid kit but is not allowed to look after Usopp (as so ordered and wisely done so by Zoro) so that he can tend to his (Usopp's) own wounds.  At this point, everyone has taken all of their belongings and Usopp is by himself to stew in his feelings.  He is feeling insanely sad and hurt (emotionally this time) because now his ship is at it's last moments, he feels abandoned (though he brought that upon himself), and as far as he's concerned, life just can't get any lower.  This, itself is short-lived because when Frankie approaches Usopp and offers him a place to work, Usopp moves seemlessly into...

DENIAL:  Usopp's denial is in the form of the attempt to repair Merry.  Frankie and his girls watch Usopp do his best at fixing an irrepairable ship.  Frankie understands what's wrong and saw it with his own eyes.  He explains why the ship can't be helped but in the end, he doesn't push it.  While Usopp works on Merry, he eventually confides with Frankie about The Going Merry and the adventures he went on with the other Straw Hats, all the repairs he's made resulting from various battles and events, and even admits that he knows he can't fix Merry!  Now, this doesn't mean he has hit acceptance yet.  It's one thing to know you're wrong, but acceptance is a full mind and body agreement.  Mentally, Usopp is still not there yet.

***Grief Interlude***

Now, Grief is also a tricky mistress because if I've already stated it before, everyone grieves differently.  But grief is also not as quick, nor do you just hit one stage and move on to the next.  It is 100% possible to revisit stages.  That itself is a tricky business because when you revisit stages of grief, or are stuck in one mode of grieving, your chances of never being able to get out of grief, or even letting go and moving on become harder to do.  Usopp himself eventually does revisit a few stages when come the story arc at where he becomes Snipper King/Soge King.

Where is "Sniper Island" you ask?  It's in your heart.
Quick list of when Usopp revisits grief:

Anger: The Merry was released by a total jerk and was presumed demolished/lost at sea.  This, of course, brings Usopp back to anger.
Denial/Bargaining:  He refuses to help save Robin because he renounced his place with the Straw Hat crew, so instead he dons a mask & cape and busts out a new weapon.  He pretends to be a "Super Hero" named Sniper King/Soge King and uses this new persona to justify it.  Denial in the sense of denying his place as a worthy friend, bargaining by saying to himself "I can't do this as me, but if I can be someone else, then I can assist without guilt."
Depression:  They Lose Robin again.  He feels partly to blame.

***interlude over***

ACCEPTANCE:  Toward the end of this story arc with Water 7, The Merry does show back up and saves the crew one last time.  When they get back to Water 7, she falls apart.  Usopp knew her time was over and has now finally been able to process all of his feelings and is ready to let go.  They send the girl off with a Viking Style funeral by setting her ablaze at sea.  Usopp (as Sniper/Soge King) watches on with tears behind the mask.  It was a bitter sweet moment, but his grief process is complete.  Well, almost.  

As the crew is leaving Water 7 (with their new ship, The Thousand Sunny, and new Crew Mate, Frankie), they leave in haste.  Prior to leaving, the crew did make one important decision regarding Usopp:  If Usopp decides to swallow his pride and appologize, he can rejoin the Straw Hat crew.  It was last second, but Usopp did finally hit his second moment of acceptance and yells to the crew an appology.  Luckily, they all were keeping an ear out for him and Luffy stretched his rubber arm the furthest he can get it to take Usopp by the hand and pull him on board.

If you or your child(ren) have ever experienced tragedy or trauma in your life, remember going into this new year that grief isn't just for the death of loved ones.  Grief is for any major event change in your life that affects you directly.  I, myself, have had to grieve quite a few times in my life.  The loss of my mom, the loss of our home, I've even had to dissolve a marriage (not this marriage, my prior marriage before Matt).  It's a healthy and necessary part of life that keeps us from becoming permanently depressed, over stressed, and able to move on and continue living.  The biggest lesson of all, when you finally reach acceptance with your whole mind, body, and soul, it doesn't mean that you have finally forgotten.  If anything, never forget what you lost.  It's those memories that keep those people, events, and items precious forever.

December 7, 2015

Knerd Mom Recommends: Kiddo Holiday Gifts Edition 2015

Merry Festivus everyone!  I would say Happy Holidays, but anymore, even that is offensive.  At least with Festivus, you stand an "unadorned pole" and air your grievances in which afterward, you perform feats of strength.  No offending because you have already aired your issues with others so by this point, everyone should be cool...

...or, at least standing around awkwardly.

Either way, gifts are usually exchanged no matter what you celebrate so let's just get straight to the list of my favorite gifts this year for the younglings!

 Video Game:  This year's game I highly recommend is Nintendo's "Splatoon" for Wii U.  I apologize if you fought hard for last year's PS4 & Xbox One consoles, but Nintendo got a one-up on you just on this game alone.  Well, this one and Mario Maker, but if you ask me, the later is over rated.

Splatoon was a well thought out game that was worth the time hidden from the masses just on development alone.  Especially during a time in our lives where the attention to gun violence is at an explosive high!  This game is refreshing in the fact that it's a 1st/3rd person shooter that doesn't use bullets or realistic guns & projectiles in combat.  Instead, they use Super Soakers & Nerf style guns & weaponry using colorful ink/paint as the ammo!  The characters themselves are great in the fact that even though they are separated into Male & Female "Squidlings", they still actually maintain a gender neutrality.  For example, you know how in most games, female outfits are skimpy while male outfits are over bulky?  Here, you're picking through T-shirts, Pants, Shoes, and Head gear that is totally feasible.  Well, for the most part.  If you get the Blue Boy Amiibo (sold seperately), you can unlock Samurai armor while the Orange Girl Amiibo unlocks a School Uniform (a modest while fashionable one, I will go on to say). 
     The game play is simple, though a little confusing if you don't like the tilt controller camera function, which you can turn off and replace with joy stick functionality instead.  There is Team vs. Team play, but no chat or voice function.  This was on purpose.  The creators of Splatoon made this game to fit everyone, not just adults, but not just children, either.  For the sake of good clean gaming, speech and chat shouldn't happen.  We've all seen videos and rants about Gamers talking down others, making sexist, racist, and other negative remarks, and yes, even excessive swearing.  By getting rid of this function, they hope people will have more fun playing with everyone while the kids are not exposed to horrible, creepy others.  I couldn't be happier.

Books:  I admit, I'm at least a year behind on this recommendation, but seriously...read these books.  It's called "The Guardians of Childhood" series, though they aren't really marketed as that.  These books are the source material for the awesome CGI animated movie "Rise of the Guardians." 

If you've seen both these movies, then you've wanted to read the 50 shades of this. 
The books themselves are the origin stories of the guardians.  First is Nicholas St. North (Santa Clause).  I've read this one all the way through once to my boy and now re-reading it again.  "North" is a Russian Bandit who had it in him one day to reach the small village of "Santoff Claussen"...you read that right.  Pitch Black, whom we know as "The Boogeyman", has escaped from his underground prison and is out to wreak havoc on the children.  Through discussions with Ombric, Katherine, and other battles to be had, Nicholas will eventually become the jolly man in red.
     I urge you to at least get this one book for your kids and read it to them, or to yourself, no judgement.  If you are not hooked, I'm sorry.  If so, you then go on to E. Aster Bunnymund (Easter Bunny), then Toothiana (Tooth Fairy), and Sandy the Sandman.  As an added bonus, the author, William Joyce, also made 2 picture book stories about the origin of The Man in the Moon & Jack Frost.
     Fun facts:  If you think the art style is familiar, then it is probably because you have seen the movie "Robots" with the voice talents of Ewan McGreggor & the late, and always great Robin Williams.  William Joyce was the Art Director for that movie, as is the Illustrator for the original story the Disney movie "Meet the Robinsons" was inspired from.  Still not awesome enough, let me introduce to you another famous literary character you may have seen in passing in the children's section of your local library & book store:

Movie:  If it's one thing I'm rarely a fan of, it's sequels.  This one, is one of few rare exceptions.  Hotel Transylvania 2.  If you haven't seen the first movie, it's about a vampire (Dracula) trying to accept that his daughter (Mavis) has finally grown-up.  She falls in-love with a human (Johnny) who accidentally happens upon the highly protected and reclusive Monster Hotel.  **intentional & obvious spoiler** we open the 2nd movie with Mavis & Johnny getting married.  The two become pregnant which results in their cute little boy, Dennis (Denisovitch, as Papa Dracula calls him). 
     Dracula wants very badly for little "Denisovitch" to come into his "Vampire Fangs" to prove that his almost 5 year old grandson is a vampire and not a full-blooded human.  Dracula and Johnny both finally convince Mavis that she and Johnny need a vacation away from their little guy and leave for the week/end (can't remember which).  The movie goes into all the schemes and ploys "The Drac Pack" get into to make the kiddo go vamp. 
     This movie was just as good, if not BETTER than the first movie.  I will tell you now, the ending may or may not go the way you may anticipate, but you will speculate through-out and regardless your feelings, I at least felt the ending was completely satisfying.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but you don't need to have seen the first movie to enjoy this one, but it helps in understanding how special the relationship between Dracula/Mavis-Mavis/Johnny is.  Even if you don't do monsters or scary stuff, the movies are more cartoony than creepy/horrifying.  Let me put it this way, if you ever loved Samurai Jack,  Star Wars: Clone Wars, The Power Puff Girls, or Dexter's Lab, then there is no reason not to love Hotel Transylvania.  Why?  Because all of them are associated with the same Producer: Genndy Tartakovsky. 

Electronics:  In this age of YouTube and people/kids all over wanting to make videos of anything and everything, I'm going to recommend digital video cameras.  There are all sorts of kids cameras that are designed simply and durably for kids constantly on the go.  Now, I don't have one for my boy, but thinking about it, I might get him one for his birthday next year only because I personally feel 7 is a little young for video making, but my husband may have different ideas.  Aside from that, here is a great suggestion I found on Amazon... Vtech Kidizoom Action Camera.  I've read the comments and details on this camera (which I urge you to do for all my suggestions), and honestly, this specific camera is like a GoPro for kids!!  It can mount on Bikes, Skateboards, Hats (maybe), it's water resistant from the looks of it, and it looks fairly rugged just upon examination of the photo!  The customer ratings are all pretty good from the looks of it and the camera does come in a small array of different colors. 
**warning** talk to your kids and review their videos & pics before posting any of them in the internet.  ALWAYS review anything your children want to put out on the internet before they decide to upload it.  In this time of technology and social media, I and many others cannot stress enough the importance of talking to your children about internet safety and keeping a constant monitor on your children's internet habits and screen time.

Misc.:     If you have kiddos who love to craft, try going onto sites like Deviant Art or Cube Craft and print off a couple of sheets of Paper Craft Characters!  I, myself, have folded the likes of Appa from Avatar: The Last Air bender, as well as Jack Skellington, Darth Vader, Kirby, and even a Creeper.  I do recommend you invest in some 100# Cover Stock paper, which you can find in the office supplies section of Walmart, Fred Meyers, Office Depot, or anywhere that sells office goods.  You will need good sharp scissors or a craft knife to cut out characters so I don't really suggest this idea to younger children who's fine motor skills are that sophisticated yet, but this activity is HELLA fun for Middle School kids on up.  I would actually compare this to building plastic models in respect to concentration, building, and reading directions, if your particular character comes with them. 
     If you are frugal with your printer ink, or don't even own a printer (again, no judgement), there are books out there that have perforated paper-craft pages you can pop-out and fold from there.  The book will tell you if glue/tape is needed or not.
     You also don't need a kid if you are ever interested in doing this craft for yourself.  Like I said, I've made quite a few already, though most for my son, and I find this to be as relaxing and meditative as Grown-Up coloring is.  That being a post for another time.

So that is my list for this year.  If you have suggestions or want to share with us what you are getting/have gotten your kiddos for "Festivus", feel free to share!!  Well, granted your kid isn't reading behind your shoulder or is on Facebook reading your posts/comments.  If you don't feel safe sharing that, then share with us your Holiday traditions and which Fall/Winter Holidays you celebrate!  Have a great and safe December, everyone!

October 27, 2015

Disney: Empowering Girls by Ignoring the Boys

WARNING:  I try to be fairly gender neutral when it comes to raising my son or children in general, but this has been kind of bugging me for a while now and needed to be said.  This will (hopefully) be the most gender biased post I ever make.  Don't judge.

Of these Disney men (and insert the gentlemen from Frozen, won't make an ounce of difference), how many were actually the star of their respective movies.  Don't forget to include Pinocchio, Robin Hood, and The Jungle Book.  When you get right down to it, there are only 8 or so male characters out of ALL of the Disney movies in which the Main Character/Protagonist was a male.  Pixar doesn't count.

There is a lot of hub-bub about how the entertainment industry is shunning, shaming, and degrading women.  As a woman myself, I get it.  Now that I'm in my 30's, it does kind of resonate with me that actresses in their 30's are getting snubbed for "Wife" or Romantic roles to actors who are still going strong in their 40's, 50's, and even 60's!  Keep in mind, Maggie Gillenhal had raised a HUGE and SCATHING point when she was recently snubbed for a role in a movie because she was too "old" to play the role of a wife to a 40-50ish year old man.  She, herself is in her late 30's.  I'm 34 (as of the time this was written) and the thought of being married to a man 40 or older creeps me the heck out! 

Having said this, and if it wasn't for the point that I am the proud owner of a boy, I have noticed that Disney has very much the opposite problem.  Now, we all have our favorite Disney movie and there are very few I don't like, I do want to say this:  Why are there so many Disney Princesses headlining and stealing the show of their respective movies, but when it comes to the boys/princes, they are either severely overshadowed, or cast as someone kind of douchey?  Seriously, think about it...

Aladdin:  The movie was based on HIS STORY, but he's a criminal, lies to get his way in the door, and is rewarded for it in the end (because, you know.  He learned from it.)

Peter Pan:  The movie is about him but he's a little jerk to pirates, doesn't care for the safety of the kids he just up and took with him, and...well, read the story.

Pinocchio:  He ran away from home but when he reunites with his dad Jonah Style, it's like Pinocchio never did anything wrong.

 And then there are the movies that have come out since the 1990's when Ariel came onto the scene and pretty much made it a precedent that all  Disney Movies be more about the princesses than anything.  Seriously, we're at the point now where we're asking "So what's the next Disney Princess going to be like this time?"  "What is she going to look like?"  "Which princess fairy tale will they use?"  These are things that are now starting to bother me now that I have a son.

It's great that all these princesses coming out are showing how strong girls can be and that they can do anything they put their minds to, but it's coming at the cost of boys and how they see themselves.  Yeah, I know Pixar (Disney's sister company) is filling in the boy gap for them, but it's not the same.  I feel like Disney needs to start evening-out this ratio of Heroines to Heroes when it comes to main characters.  Yes, the money is in the little girl demographic, with the sale of dolls, clothing, and other merchandise to drive insane even the most patient of parents, but what is there Disney is doing for boys?  Sure, Olaf is cute-ish.  But you can just slap a picture of Cristof on a shirt for boys and say "Here!  Bet you'll feel cool in this!"  It just doesn't work like that.  We all know "Frozen" by heart and it's permanently branded as a chick flick for young girls.  I dare you to make manly a set of "Tangled" underwear for boys and see how many parents of sons will apt to purchase them. 

Our boys are in a huge dire need for age appropriate role-modles, real and fictional.  If ever we want to correct "rape-culture", gender-inequality, and male entitlement, we need to start creating more male role-modles to relflect this desire and need for young gentlemen again.  I want my boy to open doors for girls, say "Ladies First", and never hit a female of any type.  I want him to know his please and thank-yous, compliment a lady with dignity and tact, and above all, value women as himself.  I say all this with quite a bit of certainty that my son is straight, especially since he has stated quite firmly what ladies he's seen on TV that he loves and wants to marry.  Like seriously.  It's sometimes heart breaking the feels he expresses.  He also likes them with a bit of meat on them.  Never thought that would be a preference for him.  But makes this big momma kinda proud *wink*

So Disney, until you can start giving us some proper Disney Princes again, my money is going to start going to Dream Works.  Lord knows Shrek was more of a Prince & Gentlemen as an Ogre than Flynn, Hans, Aladdin, or any of the rest ever were to their Princesses. 

and a better Dad, to boot.

October 18, 2015

Knerd Mom Recommends: "Buddha" by Osamu Tezuka

This past summer, I came across this manga epic [extremely loosely] based on the life of Siddhartha Buddha. It is written/drawn by the Stan Lee of Manga, Osamu Tezuka.  Osamu Tezuka created the first modern manga which we have come to know as "Astro Boy" back in 1952.  More than 10 years later, this will also beget the first modern Anime based on the same comic.  Tezuka sensei also came out with other classic Manga (some turned anime) such as "Black Jack", "Unico", and "Kimba the White Lion" among others.  So for him to come out with a biography, nee, mythological epic about the life and times of one of the single greatest Religious Founders of all of Earth's History, you know this will probably be worth the read.

The manga starts not with the birth of Siddhartha (Buddha's birth name), but with a parable about an old starving dying man and 3 animals; a fox, a bear, and a rabbit.  The old man was wise but had nothing to eat or drink for a long time.  The Fox and Bear begat gifts for the old man.  The Rabbit couldn't find anything so in the end threw himself into the old man's fire as a means to offer himself to this human as nourishment so that he will not die.  This parable itself will, in later volumes, come back in a pivotal way.  From here, we are introduced to some characters who set the tone for the era in which Siddhartha is eventually born into.  The type of society is one based on extreme segregation of classes or "Castes".  In English, they are in order of most "Important": Priests, Nobility, Military, Slaves, and "Pariahs" (which pretty much means your so low on the food chain, domestic animals are treated with more dignity). 

It's not until closer to the end of the 1st Graphic Novel that Siddhartha is finally born into the world, but what I learned was that he was born a crown prince over a land, not the usual story of growing up poor then ascending the ranks, although you will see some instances of this through-out the story.  Siddhartha's Queen Mother died shortly after his birth.  He, himself being born a few weeks premature, he had a few health issues.  Because of this, his King Father kept him secluded into his (the prince's) own harem, thinking it would make him happy.  As the young prince grew and eventually married (at a very young age), he discovers that life outside of the palace walls is dismal.  He discovers first hand how The Caste System really works and is appalled at how inhumane humans can treat other humans just because they were born under the wrong social group.  This will trigger Young Prince Siddhartha to do something completely outside of his own social norms.

After a stint of solitary (yet extreme) meditation as a form of protest, he decides to leave his kingdom, Father, Wife, and even new-born son in the middle of the night to become a monk so he can seek enlightenment.  During the next few decades, Siddhartha will come across a whole motley crew of people to whom he befriends, helps out, teaches, and even be taught by.  There are instances where he performs miracles through meditation and teaching in which beget and shape the future concept of what will ultimately become Buddhism.  By the time Siddhartha is approximately 30-40 years old, he will reach enlightenment and will finally be granted the name "Buddha" which means "The Enlightened One". 

Now, if you think this book is based on historical fact, you might be in for a small let-down.  You will see early on that even though this details the journey of a once living person, this is still very much a comic.  You can see it in the comedic styling, modern day humor and props being used, and of course the fact that no one really even can say for sure what Buddha's life really was even like, let alone a written record of really anything he did in his life.  For all we know, Buddha could have just been a really wise old man who just knew what was up.  But for what accuracy lacks, story telling does make-up for like chicken soup on a sick and rainy day.  It's easy to get drawn into this legend.  There are side stories galore but each one is important to the larger picture.  Like a fine wine, these mini-legends in between get better with age and when it all converges in the end, you will be left feeling satisfied with your care.

haaaiiry BABY!  Hairy baybeeeee...
This is a long read, but it is a worthy one.  I found this series at my local library's Manga/Comic section, but if you have the funds, you can purchase this series on Amazon (or get one by one), or if you're a cheapskate like me, you can find just as easily on your favorite scanlation site/app to read there.

I highly recommend this manga to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mythology, Asian Culture, or anyone just curious about what Buddhism really is and who the man behind it possibly was like.  However, I DO NOT recommend this manga to children middle-school age or younger.  I say this because there is a LOT of nudity, especially of Topless women and nude children (especially nude boys).  Having said that, there isn't a LOT of sexuality, but I'm also not saying there isn't at all.  The nudity, I'm assuming from the context in which it was used, is cultural for the period/era so if I do recommend teens reading this manga, I only recommend it for very mature teenagers who understand the distinction between what constitutes what sexualization is and what is just culture.  There is also war time violence and segregational violence, but it isn't gory due to the manga's basic cartoon style.

I hope I have inspired you to check-out this series.  This story had me intrigued from the first few pages and I hope it will draw you in too.  Again, this is not historically accurate BY ANY MEANS, but just the insight behind it will make you want to look more into what Buddhism is really about.

September 16, 2015

Knerd Mom Recommends: Kiddo Friendly YouTube Channels!

If you are a Nerd Parent with Nerd Children, I'm sure your kids are well versed in You Tube!  I know for us, You Tube was our son's currency for potty training.  Mostly to the tune of "If you have an accident watching your videos, then you are grounded from the computer for the rest of the day!"  Yes, this makes for a case of 1st World Problems and proves that I allow my son WAY too much screen time, but seriously, I'm not the only parental geek who lets their kid game  like it was their after school job.  Just saying.  Don't boycott me.

Regardless of your personal parenting style, one of our biggest concerns with child screen time is not as much the quantity of screen time as much as it's the quality.  We are all aware of our own childhoods in the 80's, and 90's  where parents were all about the war against violent cartoons and the very few children with no common sense whatsoever ruining cartoons for the rest of us who actually understand how gravity actually works.

You mean...gravity really is a thing?!

Now that we are in the era of digital technology ruling every aspect of our waking lives, the new "idiot box" comes in the form of computers, tablets, and smart phones.  Children can find all sorts of videos of their liking ranging every interest on the internet.  But one site is the Holy Grail of videos and even allows users to create their own channels!  This site has even created celebrities that are known internet and world wide.  This site, of course, is You Tube.  Sadly, ANYONE can make their own You Tube channel and the FCC has little control of the content.  There are only a handful of rules that users must abide by when posting, but none of them are designed to keep content safe for EVERYONE, just safe from complete human indecency (like porn, snuff films, animal cruelty...save for how to butcher chickens and rabbits for meat.  No kidding.  Look it up...wait...don't if you can't handle it.)  Having said that, there are a few great channels that our budding nerdlings would enjoy, as well as full-grown Nerds.  These channels have little (very little) to no bad language, no iffy content, and yet all the fun we had watching our favorite Saturday Morning shows as kids.  I present to you...


1.)  Nerdy Nummies:  If you're willing to forgive the rare (really rare) episode or two where she makes a grown-up drink or two, Rosanna Pansino is such a charming host to watch.  She makes wonderful treats from Unikitty Snicker Pops to Deadpool Cupcakes to even (I'm so sorry to have to mention this...) a "Chilled Monkey Brain" cake, reminiscent of "Indiana Jones & The Temple of Doom!  There is hardly any franchise she hasn't made a yummy treat of in this channel.  She has even had the occasional special guests on the show including my next item on my list...

2.)  GOOD MYTHICAL MORNING:  Rhett & Link are life long best friends from North Carolina who started their own You Tube morning show along with a laundry list of their own original comedy music videos!  They are as funny as they are clean (meaning no bad language, sexuality, drug references, or even violence).  Their show, which they post almost daily, is full of segments, humor, and outrageous dares that you would SWEAR they had to have lost a bet to someone for them to do half the stuff they get themselves into for the sake of entertainment.  For me, my favorite episodes are the ones where they let their own kids get involved in, like this episode where they let their kids UNLOAD NERF GUNS ON THEM!

Although, my 7 year-old would say his favorite episodes are the "Will it...______".  This is where they pick a food theme, for example "Will is Donut?" and then take the most disgusting (yet apparently okay to ingest?) items like condiments, sardines, SAWDUST and turn them into said food theme...THEN EAT IT!  *shudder*  Link often can't last a whole one of those episodes without retching, but those are the moments Luke laugh's the hardest at so....whatever.

3.)  Zack Scott Games:  Now, if you're anyone like me, you get your kicks off of watching another You Tuber named Markiplier.  Us grown-ups get a kick out of his gaming style, outbursts, and some of the freaky, funny games he plays.  Unfortunately, he has a mouth on him that is just not safe for little ears, nor are the games he plays very good for the under 14 crowd.  This is where Zack Scott takes up the age gap.  Zack Scott's game play videos are very clean of language as well are all of his games rated no higher than Everyone 10+.  It's this You Tuber who my son gets all of his latest game play info and news of new games that are out to play!  It's because of Zack Scott games that we got our son games like Skylanders Swap Force, Kirby's Epic Yarn, and the most popular new exclusive release from Nintendo (at the time of this post), Splatoon!

Warning:  In the videos where he plays group mode with voice/video, you will hear a few more choice words sort of not suitable for young ears, but it's not SATURATED with it like most of these other gaming channels, nor are the word choices as bad as they could be...but I would still recommend you watch one before letting your child watch just to make sure YOU'RE okay with it.

4.)  Stampy Longhead:  This pleasantly voiced British fellow is more famously known for his whimsical Minecraft videos, featuring his own created characters and a motley crew of his friends who voice chat along side him in their own created scenes & levels.  Sometimes they create stories of their own invention, sometimes they play actual levels, and sometimes they play against each other.  But all in all, they are fun.  This, in itself is like a Saturday Morning Cartoon.  I highly Recommend him for everyone who enjoys their cartoons pixelated!

5.)  Grav3yardgirl:  Though she she mostly does make-up and hair tutorials, you don't have to be interested in either to love Bunny's videos!  This girl is full of catch phrases like "Saaaassy, so saaaaassy!" or even "Sippy Sippy...(pause for dramatic drinkage of iced sweet tea)...AH!".  She also does demos of "As Seen on TV" products of varying types like Kangaroo Shoes, The Wubble Bubble, and even the Soda Stream!  She also demos clothing from various sources, popular & "innovative" make-ups, and the occasional video of whatever because SHE'S BUNNY!  There are also the few videos where she'll include her always significant other, Dogman.  So try out a few of her videos and watch her have fun.  Here's a fun one you might enjoy...

Do you have a favorite Nerdy You Tube channel you recommend for the whole family?  Comment below or on the Facebook post via Space Cadets & Dreamers group page where I am now exclusively posting my blog aside from here on Blogger!  I would love to watch some of your choices!

August 31, 2015

How to Home School your Geek-in-Training

Yes, this is Legit.
Get this book here
Today we started our first day of Home School.  I may not haven't spoken much on the issue lately, but it has been an interesting process getting here.  We are going through an online Public School group called K12.  Through here, we enrolled with WAVA (WAshington Virtual Acadamy).

 Here is what I expected with Online Public School:  Daily instruction online.  Video interactions with his Virtual Classroom similar that to a video chat-room (but kid friendly, you pervs).  I expected 1 book in each subject along with a few learning tools and items to go along with lessons.

After today,  here is what it really is...

About 3 books in each subject (Math, Language arts, Science, Art, History, Phonics)
A TON of books, tools, and project materials that you have NO IDEA what to do with until that particular lesson happens.
A daily laundry list books, papers, reading, and print-outs to bust out for the next day's lesson.
A finding out as you start the lesson other materials you needed that you need to print out, pronto
Keeping a running list of things you need to purchase for school you never had to think about getting before when your kid was going to IRL public school
Little to no time to fit in "Get laundry done at the laundromat" when you live in cheap-ass apartments.

All this on day one.

So yeah, I'm feeling a tad overwhelmed by all this.  Hopefully in the next week or so, I can finally fall into a groove.  I did discover, however, that when it comes to paper assignments (non-computer based) it's not like you have to scan them or mail them back to the program itself...like a correspondence course.  With math, I cheated.  I took a page from one of the Star Wars Workbooks I got him, and switched his assigned paper assignments with a matching assignment with that.  This one had Count Dooku.  My kid was ALL SORTS of okay with this.

Remember Younglings, for each question  you get wrong,
you will need to deflect a zap from the target ball thingy.

As a matter of fact, I would like to take a second and HIGHLY RECOMMEND these work books!  If you have a kid who is a HUGE fan of the franchise, these work books are AWESOME!  They come in a variety of subjects and feature pretty much all the recognizable characters from the movies.  They coincide with the Common Crap...er...Core standards and make for a great supplement for Home School!  I got Luke's books via Amazon (see above link under Pic), but you can also find the whole run of books available in-person at Barnes & Nobel.

So anyway, I'm exhausted and I haven't even got prep done for tomorrow's lesson.  Here's hoping tomorrow goes MUCH smoother.  Especially since Tomorrow is kid's science lesson, and he's REALLY taken a shine with science!