March 29, 2016

The Most Important Presidential Election in Decades

I'm taking this moment to break away from my usual Knerdery to talk to you (be you a parent who frequents my blog, someone just passing by, or even a person who has just turned 18 or will be 18 before the last chance you can have to register to vote in the US) about why this is the MOST CRITICAL TIME FOR YOU TO STRENGTHEN THE MASSES AND CHOOSE THE NEXT PERSON TO LEAD OUR COUNTRY INTO WHAT WAS AND CAN BE A GREAT COUNTRY AGAIN, OR INTO FURTHER CHAOS AND ULTIMATELY A DICTATORSHIP LEAD BY CEOS AND COMMERCIALISM!

At the time I write this, it is March 29th, 2016.  There are 3 main contenders for President of the United Stats of America:  Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, and Donald Trump.  The first two are vying for the Democratic Nod.  Trump pretty much has the Republican side on lock down at this point. 

Why is this such an important election year/cycle?  Let me break this down.  16 years ago, George W. Bush took office and within the year, he had already bootched it.  The Twin Towers in New York City fell due to a terrorist attack from a now infamous sect called "Al Qaeda".  Instead of sending troops to find the main figure head and take out the sect, GWB decided the whole Middle East was the enemy and sent everyone from every branch of the military over to pretty much commit the name of democracy of course...oh, then he had them search for the Al Qaeda leader.  This drove our country into economic turmoil because GW decided to allocate the majority of US funding into this useless war, while the stock market, coincidentally (not really) took one of the hugest nose dives since it's beginnings in the early 1900's.  House prices plummeted, mortgages went up, people were loosing jobs, and people who never thought they would ever see homelessness, well, saw homelessness.

Here's how this happened and why so quickly:  When companies lose money, they have to let people go to make-up the difference.  Those people then have to make up their own difference by finding other employment, often less paying, just to attempt to stay afloat.  Because those people are now without money, they are no longer spending as much money at stores or other businesses.  Again, the businesses are losing even more money, so again must make more cut-backs, thus more people lose jobs, obtain less paying jobs, then making it EXTREMELY difficult for those who could only obtain low-level jobs to find any work at all.  Those people then must go onto public assistance, which is now worn thin from the influx of newly poverty leveled people seeking housing, medical, and food help.  Families are now going homeless.  A new surge of children are going into Foster Care, but not enough families are qualified, or make enough money to take in these children. 

In the end, The US was put into a recession all because the President felt he needed to retaliate on an entire country with all the resources he assumed we had.  So many men and women joined the military not because they wanted to defend our country and loved ones, but because it was the only choice they had in an attempt to support their families.  Even then, soldiers make just enough to support a family...just enough.

So at the end of 2008, Barack Obama was voted into office.  He became our first Black President.  Shoot, he became our first non-completely-white president.  I make this distinction because Obama is bi-racial.  His mother is white, his father is black, and he more or less grew-up in Hawaii.  I digress.  Sad to say, one of the first actions he took, was to "bail-out"the banks with a lump sum of money in hopes that they would pass those funds onto the people.  Sadly, his trust was mislaid.  The people resounded with a huge "WELL DOY!!"  Political Cartoonists don't draw bankers as fat pigs for nothing. 

Having said this, Obama has had a HELL of a time trying to put things right in our country, but sadly, with Global Warming and so many terrorist tragedies, including the formation of a new terrorist cell called "ISIS"...which has admitted to forming because of the actions taken by GWB, these last 8 years has put our country into a very delicate yet importantly critical state.  We are finally seeing equality for the LGBT community, Marijuana is finally being seen as a beneficial drug and cash crop (from Hemp & Cannabis), and the people are finally coming to realize that Capitalism was a bad idea for this country.  Mostly because Big Corporations became too greedy and decided that the best way to cut spending was to outsource the creation of materials and merchandise to poor economic countries such as Mexico, China, and India, to name the most popular sites.  Even Walmart, which it's founder, Sam Walton started with beautiful intentions and with families in mind, went the way of Corporate Greed the second he passed away.  His own family didn't even stick to his ideals post mortem.  Because of this, recovery for the USA has been slow and at times, even regressive.

So now it's 2016.  We are in dire need of a leader who can take us out of this quagmire of too low paying jobs, corporate greed, and constant drain of resources to countries who caused their own destruction.  Here is the Break-Down of the 3 main candidates and what each is presenting to the people:

Donald Trump:  I'm just going to say it, he is the personification of what's wrong in this country.  He IS a CEO and is part of the much hated 1%.  He has made Millions, if not Billions on both failed and successful enterprises.  The man had his own "Reality" television show and "owns" the Miss USA pageant.  He has openly, and unashamedly stated that when elected president, he will erect a (better) wall blocking Mexico from the US and deport ANYONE in this country who is here illegally (or what ever he feels illegal means because I have a feeling "Visas" don't count to him).  He has also implied that he will make segregation legal again, but he just might let "the gays" keep their rights.  Sorta.  Regardless, he is the voice of Capitalism and, in my opinion, on the side of Chaotic Evil.  He wants America to burn so he can create it in his image.

Hillary Clinton:  She is still not 100% clear on her motives for this country, but a lot of people have NO LOVE for her because of the scandal involving sensitive e-mails and government secrets that she failed to keep.  Regardless, though she is democratic (erring a touch more toward the liberal), she's kind of in the middle as far as where she's going with things.  She agrees with Bernie Sanders on some points as far as the fact that our Country needs help.  As for everything else, she's flip flopped so much that I have no idea what policies she's for or against.  Probably not the best idea for president, but I'd rather her than Trump at this point.

Bernie Sanders:  This man is VEHEMENTLY fighting for Joe Everyman.  He has stuck to a main an central issue his whole run and it is simply this:  We need to get 1% out of politics and law-making, and give the people back what it deserves; their right to live out of poverty.  He has recognized that "The American Dream" has turned into a damn nightmare.  It's time for America to wake-up and set things right.  He feels the federal minimum wage needs to reflect the times of all this inflation and get the people back to livable minimum wages.  The Super Rich have been given WAY too many free things and increases into their own pockets while the majority of Americans are working way harder for their scratch yet receiving less for the effort.  This needs to stop.  Bernie wants to make our country more socialist than capitalist, but the word "Socialism" scares some folks because of countries who did it wrong (Russia & China specifically).  He's not wanting to make this country into a Dictatorship, he just wants this country to be great again.

 I understand my views are biased right now, but people should want to do proper research during election times so do yours.  Open a tab and search each name.  Learn about their causes properly and see who you would want in the White House.  I will post more about Media vs. The 2016 Election on my Knerd Mom: NSFK blog later.  But now, my kid needs the computer so he can do his Speech Therapy session.


March 7, 2016

Knerd Mom Recommends: Fortunately, The Milk...

Click Here if you want to read this great story to your kids!
Tonight, I just finished this GREAT story by one of Nerdom's greatest Authors/Comic Writers, Neil Gaiman.  It is called "Fortunately, The Milk..." 

It is about a Dad who goes walks to the neighborhood market to get milk for his children, is gone for what seems like forever, and comes back with this EPIC tale of his trip home!

I'm sure you're thinking, "That's it?  Dude comes up with an elaborate excuse as to what took him so long to get home?  Lame."  This is when I counter with "NEIL.  GAIMAN!"  Let me put this book into another perspective.  Would your rather read a news article about the local St. Patric's Day Parade, or read a news article about the local St. Patric's Day Parade written by J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame, if you've been living in the game Jumanji for the past 20 years)?  This book is all about the details, I tell you what.

I came by this book last week when I was looking for a copy of "Winnie the Pooh" for my son to read for his upcoming book report.  Sadly yet oddly enough, the book seller didn't have WtP, but what I did find was This book nestled between it's siblings of the same author "Coraline" & "The Graveyard Book" (both also hella wicked and for a later recommendation).

Aside from who wrote the book, here are more legitimate reasons why I recommend this book:

First, unlike Gaiman's usually macabe & dark writing style, "Fortunately" is the COMPLETE opposite.  It's bright, highly imaginative, and the story doesn't stay in the same place very long.  If anything, this is a great story for intermediate readers looking for a first novel to dive into.  It holds the interest of kids who usually don't have a long attention span to begin with. 

Secondly, THERE ARE NO CHAPTERS!  Very much like the longer and more boring "Old Man and the Sea" (sorry Hemingway), with no clear division  of chapters, it compels the reader to keep going.  There are breaks between some sections where the kids stop the dad to ask questions or make comments, but not in a clear way to indicate a change in subject.  This isn't to say the story is a total run on of mashed ideas.  Far from it.  If anything, those moments sober you into remembering that this is Dad making this elaborate reason as to what took him so long to come home from the store with the milk.

Last, this story is the story about a story.  I'll let you process as to what that means for a second...


The story, is ultimately told in the 1st perspective of the son.  He starts us by telling us how the morning is progressing.  Mom leaves for work, the sister and son want cereal, and Dad sits to his cup of tea but there is no milk for cereal or tea.  When the Dad leaves and ultimately returns, the son then tells about what his dad says to them as to why he was gone.  From there, you are reading the brunt of the book in the perspective of the dad, save for the breaks where the son tells about the questions he and his sister ask about this grand tale/nee, excuse their dad is giving them and so on until the end of the story/book.

I know I'm not divulging a lot about what the dad tells the kids because frankly, THAT'S WHAT MAKES THE BOOK FUN!  I don't want to ruin the adventure for any of you.  Just trust your gut, me, and the fact that it's Neil "The Literary Tim Burton" Gaiman that this is a very worthy read.  Click the link below the picture up top to order a cheap copy for yourself or hit your local book seller.  It's a great read and perfect for everyone.  The subject matter in this book is great for every age so feel free to read this to even your youngest of little ones.

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 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 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" 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.