Coming to Terms With The Aesthetic Brain

The Aesthetic Brain by Anjan Chatterjee. Photo credit: Oxford University Press.

While men across cultures prefer women with “some baby-like features,” they also look for high cheekbones and narrow jaws in their partners, because while youth equates with health, too much youth could indicate that a mother lacks the necessary maturity to adequately care for a child.

Saying “Neigh” to Equestria Girls

GoldieBlox toy at Maker Faire 2012. Photo credit: Andrea Schwalm.

Which is all to say that, despite GeekMom Kelly’s charming review of the recent release My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, I am going to suggest that parents steer clear of this franchise. In a country where women are increasingly primary wage earners for their families, I say: Give girls the skills they need to get stable, lucrative jobs. America, put that Equestria Girl back on its pink shelf! Instead, I offer this short selection of fun, empowering, alternative gifts for little girls.

Coney Island Mermaid Parade 2013

Photo credit: Andrea Schwalm

Despite damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, a successful Kickstarter campaign ensure the Coney Island Mermaid Parade would go on. Check out the photos from last weekend!

Book Expo Highlights


I came home from Book Expo, the publishing industry’s annual trade show, with a suitcase full of books–including a raft of personally-inscribed future bestsellers from Anne Burrell, Kate DiCamillo, Neil Gaiman, and Jon Scieszka.

Game of Tropes


This past weekend, my 14-year-old woke up deciding to create a new Dungeons & Dragons-inspired board game. Over cereal he printed out an image of a map, divided the map’s islands and waterways into territories with a black pencil, and populated each region with indigenous people and creatures. After this, he scripted out a list of quests and adventures based on what he’d laid out. By lunch he was meticulously rendering on paper the dozens of wyverns, warriors, royals, and adventurers that would inhabit this game.

Merm-Aid Kickstarter Aims to Save Mermaid Parade

Mer-guy. Photo credit: Andrea Schwalm

For years now, Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade has functioned as my own personal Rumspringa. For the rest of each year I might have seemed like nothing more than a mom, a homeschooler, a cub scout leader, a Sunday school teacher, an advocate–let’s face it, not the stuff of myth and legend. But one day each June, miles from the “Mom…Mom…Mom…” of home, I got to revel along with 750,000 like-minded, beach-bound souls at the largest, friendliest art parade in the country. Heaven.

Gravity is Gripping!

Gravity still. Photo credit: Warner Brothers.

Me to Firstborn Son: Um. You need to sit next to me. Immediately. Him (sitting next to me immediately): I sense this is important. Me: I need to show you the trailer for the new Cuaron movie: Gravity. Him: Cuaron? The director of Children of Men as well as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban? Two of my top-ten favorite movies of all time?

IEPs, CSEs, and My Twice-Exceptional Kid

Moderation is overrated. Photo by Andrea Schwalm.

I realized when I got off the phone with the school psychologist recently that we’re heading into my older son’s last CSE (committee on special education) meeting. Yes, sure: there will be some sort of transition meeting next year where we set up the IEP (individualized education plan) that he will bring to community college after he graduates. Additionally, mid-year, we will speak with someone

Bully, the Movie


Not long after my children returned to public school after two-and-a-half years of homeschooling, it started. At this point, my older son was in 8th grade and so gym meant changing in a locker room with the other kids in his class. A couple of his peers developed a habit of coming up behind my son while he was changing, cupping his chest, and informing

Health and Fitness Week at GeekMom


  It is ironic that I am the one writing the introduction to GeekMom’s “Health and Fitness Week,” because with all of the things that I can claim legitimate geek cred for, “health geek” is not one of them. I regularly indulge my salt and chocolate cravings, often drink half a carafe of coffee before heading off to one of my two sedentary part-time jobs,

Holding Kate Bush in my Arms Again

Fact: Relationships are challenging. Particularly when one of you is made of snow. Before Florence Welch and Tori Amos, before Bjork and Madonna, there was Kate Bush. Not that this is a contest. But Bush, a 2002 Ivor Novello Award recipient who has landed an album on the United Kingdom’s “Top 5” charts  in each of the last five decades, did help to open the

Fed Up With Food: The Case of the BIG COOKIE


A couple of years ago our local elementary school principal invited a nutritionist from a nearby university to come speak at our monthly PTA meeting. The speaker showed the video embedded above, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention map that graphed obesity rates in the United States from 1985 to the present. It is a sobering 30 seconds. Throughout the US, obesity rates currently

Spending Time With Walter Wick


Back in our preschool years of parenting, my family spent a great deal of time with Walter Wick’s books. To be truthful, we spent a great deal of time with a great many books–almost universally those that created anthropomorphized-machine worlds filled with earnest steam engines, recalcitrant backhoes, or steam shovels of derring-do.  Mr. Wick’s I Spy School Days picture-find book was a particular favorite, though.

Lori Dorn, The TSA, and the Five Stages of Grief


I don’t fly very often–in fact, I think that I’ve been on three flights in the past 10 years. The last flight was a family trip to Orlando out of JFK in New York–and I can still recall how humorless our airport experience was. “This doesn’t feel like the start of a family vacation,” I muttered to my husband as we waited in a stalled,

10 Takeaway Lessons From Maker Faire New York


Last weekend the kids, husband, and I attended the 2nd annual Maker Faire New York at the New York Hall of Science in Corona, Queens. We were all blown away by the experience–I spent the weekend happily geeking out: touching stuff, pushing buttons, exclaiming repeatedly to anyone who would listen This is what our SCHOOLS should look like! (Well..I said that in between meeting tons

Book Review: Nerd Do Well


Recently, in the back seat of my car, my older son and his best friend were thinking seriously about their futures: Friend: So when we grow up, which bar in town will be our hang out? Son: That Irish pub on Main Street–it’s the most like The Winchester. That way we’ll be set in case we have a zombie apocalypse. [Ruminative moment of silent head-bobbing-while-gazing-out-into-the-distance

Does Legislation Guarantee our Children Online Safety?

SB242 is currently making its way through the California legislature and according to “Under the proposal, social networking sites would have to allow users to establish their privacy settings–like who could view their profile and what information would be public to everyone on the Internet–when they register to join the site, instead of after they join. Sites would also have to set defaults to

The Post Title I’ve Always Dreamed of Writing: I Was Interviewed by NPR!


  Friday morning my Greg-Mortenson-Controversy post went live on GeekMom. As per usual, I tweeted and Facebooked this news to my potential readership–which, in my mind, consists of eight friends from college, one amazingly hip and precocious sixteen-year-old, and a bunch of people who would actually prefer to hear how Kari Byron is doing. My marketing responsibilities behind me for the day, I then moved

Geek Ethics: Is it Important That Greg Mortenson Lied?


Watch the 60 Minutes coverage here. Last Saturday, over a meal of chapati, daal, korma, and basmati rice that we’d come together to prepare, the youth group that I mentor sat down to discuss Greg Mortenson’s “Young Reader’s Edition” of Three Cups of Tea.  The book chronicles the events that ultimately lead Mortenson to create the Central Asia Institute, a 501C3 not-for-profit that raises money

Against the Odds: Inspiring Books to Share with Geek Kids


By the time my older son was four months old, he would sit on my lap, point at images he enjoyed, and help turn the pages of  the board books we’d read together. At this age he was a stormy, intensely-observant little person already passionately opposed to doctor’s offices, food stores, malls, elevators, escalators, cribs, playpens, sitting still, quiet, music, bright lights, nail clippers, solitude,

Citizen Science Projects


It’s a dark and blurry but if you look closely you can see that this is a picture of my younger son holding a flashlight while my older son tags a horseshoe crab. The boys were participants two years ago in Sacred Heart University’s Project Limulus, an annual horseshoe-crab census that has used volunteer-generated numbers to try and solve an emerging environmental mystery: “Where are

Ladies, Can We Talk (About Wikipedia)?

I had two stories about gender and social media cross my computer recently. The first was The New York Times article “Define Gender Gap? Look Up Wikipedia’s Contributor List” which explained that while Wikipedia–the  free, online encyclopedia “that anyone can edit”–is a top-ten internet destination with more than 3.5 million articles in English alone…less than 15% of the people volunteering to create and edit Wikipedia

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life


I cannot think of Karen Armstrong without then mentally reciting the opening to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: And then, on Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small café in Rickmansworth suddenly realized