In Defense of Santa Claus

I’m a Christmas geek. I won’t listen to the music or put up decorations until the first day of Advent or the first of December (whichever comes first), but it haunts my subconscious all year long, popping up in dreams and doodles in the middle of May or the heat of August.

To me, it is more than a holiday. It’s even more than a holy day. It is mythic and universal and deeper than either the shopping malls or my Catholic religion can make it. I want to share it with everyone, whatever their own beliefs or traditions or financial status: Christmas is about hope! It’s about humanity gathering together to keep each other warm as they cheer on the arrival of the sun! It’s about light coming to burn away darkness, both literally and figuratively! It speaks to the deepest longings of our souls.

I say you can celebrate or not celebrate this time of year however much or little you want to, in whatever way you like, as long as you’re happy and you’re not purposely making anyone else unhappy (there are of course people who won’t be happy no matter what you do: they don’t count). And yet I still get up in arms about people who do it wrong.

Continue reading In Defense of Santa Claus

Ways to Encourage Your Space Geek Child

If you asked my daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up for the first few years of her life, she would have said she wanted to “sew the material,” which was her way of saying she wanted to make clothes and be a crafter like her mom.

Around the age of 4, that began to change. I don’t remember exactly what happened that got her interested in space, but it’s an obsession that started strong and continued to build as we bought her lots of books about space and, eventually, a small telescope.

Now if you ask her she’ll say she wants to be an astronomer during the day and a mom at night.

That sounds good to us, so we’re trying to do all we can to encourage her love of space, and these ideas might help anyone trying to encourage a geeky passion in their kids. Continue reading Ways to Encourage Your Space Geek Child

Holiday Sanity Guide

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. With shopping and baking and lots of work making with kids screaming near! It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Except when it’s not. When everyone is rushing trying to do ten million different things in order to savor the season, it’s easy to feel like an over-baked cookie: burnt out and totally wasted. They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. This more or less defines my holiday season.

Every year, we over book, over work, and over everything. So this year, I’m going to work harder on keeping myself sane. In the interest of that, I’ve come up with a Holiday Sanity Guide.

Continue reading Holiday Sanity Guide

54,600 Un-Birthday Wishes for Alice in Wonderland

November 26th, 2015, marked the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The origin of the Alice stories were conceived by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Oxford mathematics don, whom the world knows as Lewis Carroll.

In 1862, Dodgson constructed the basis of the Alice stories while on a boating trip with the daughters of Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte, Alice, and Edith. Henry Liddell’s middle daughter, Alice, requested Dodgson write the Alice stories down.

In 1864 Dodgson presented Alice Liddell with a handwritten, self-illustrated manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground on November 26th.

ALICE’S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND Illustration by Sir John Tenniel.

“It was all very well to say ‘Drink me,’ but the wise little Alice was not going to do that in a hurry. ‘No, I’ll look first,’ she said, ‘and see whether it’s marked poison or not’; for she had read several nice little stories about children who had got burnt, and eaten up by wild beasts, and other unpleasant things, all because they would not remember the simple rules their friends had taught them: such as, that a red-hot poker will burn you if you hold it too long; and that, if you cut your finger very deeply with a knife, it usually bleeds; and she had never forgotten that, if you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

(Alice’s Adventures…  20-21)

Continue reading 54,600 Un-Birthday Wishes for Alice in Wonderland

Why I Owe My Successes to Anxiety

“Generalized Anxiety Disorder with Obsessive Compulsive Tendencies is great for work but not so great for life.” –Dr. LaFrennier

Two years ago, I walked through the door of my psychiatrist’s office, sat on the familiar couch, stared at the familiar rug, and answered the familiar questions. Bear was getting ready to start his pre-school 4’s class and already I was getting anxious about how life would change when he started Kindergarten in a year. Being kept awake at night worrying about not being around him as much in a year meant that my anxiety was kicking into a ridiculous overdrive, and I needed medication again. Fair enough. I’ve never been one to hate being on meds, they make me a better me.

When the doctor asked me about work, I said that things were going well. I was consulting and teaching. I was working through audits fairly quickly. Working with my dad was great in that it brought us closer together, but our working styles were very different. I was highly organized while my dad was not. My dad’s lack of consistent planning, something that had plagued our working relationship for nine years at that point, was nothing new.

That’s when Dr. LaFrennier told me that GAD with OCD tendencies was great for work but not for life. I laughed, but this hit home.

Continue reading Why I Owe My Successes to Anxiety

‘Art of the Brick: DC Comics’ (plus Giveaway)

There are only a handful of themes which truly stand the test of time. The kind of things shared between generations; dancing across language barriers; appreciated by any child, anywhere, anytime. Lego is definitely one. DC characters are absolutely there. Art is certainly there.

And then whoa! You have someone like Nathan Sawaya combining all three?!? Welcome to the Art of the Brick: DC Comics. Prepare to be joyfully stunned.

Also below is our giveaway but one big caveat: it’s for Australia residents only.

Continue reading ‘Art of the Brick: DC Comics’ (plus Giveaway)

Lessons From a First-Time Mini Maker Faire Exhibitor

The excitement in our household was barely containable. Anticipation, joy, and dreams of what could be all radiated from the two geeks who live with me.

What caused such enthusiasm, you ask? Was it Christmas? Someone’s birthday? An anniversary, perhaps? The new Star Wars movie?

No, my friends. It was the announcement that Barnes & Noble, in partnership with Make Magazine, was going to be hosting a Mini Maker Faire at every single store location in the U.S. Continue reading Lessons From a First-Time Mini Maker Faire Exhibitor

Why I Let My Kids Play Fantasy Sports

First, there were Pokemon cards strewn all over the carpet. Then came Magic. These days, their game of choice is fantasy football. I’ve set up accounts for each of them online (I am aware of the age limit of the site, and am responsible for—and have access to—each of their accounts). For the second year in a row, my three sons are in two fantasy football leagues—one with their friends, and one with extended family.

So now, well into the season, I have to ask myself (as I do with every parenting decision) whether I made the right choice. Whether kids participating in fantasy sports is a good thing or if I’m being too indulgent. Because frankly, if I have to listen to another conversation about how many points so-and-so got, or whether player A for player B would be a fair trade, I will go bald from yanking my hair out, one painful chunk at a time.

Continue reading Why I Let My Kids Play Fantasy Sports

What Beer Should You Pair With Turkey?

After writing my post Everything You Need to be a Craft Beer Geek – Except the Beard, I was inundated with questions concerning the foods that were best to try with these new found libations. Okay, maybe not inundated, exactly. But at least three people were curious. So even if you were not one of the three, perhaps you too would like something a little different with your Thanksgiving meal.

Why Beer?

Traditionally when someone starts discussing pairings, we think of wine. That is, after all, the standard go-to beverage for the sit-down meal. However, with the rise of the mixologist, cocktails have been working to carve out a place at the table, and right next to them should be a glass of beer from your favorite craft brewer. And with good reason.

While wine making is a true art in the hands of the right master, the basic process is simple. Wine comes from grapes. While sometimes yeast may be added, it isn’t always needed as grapes are naturally fermenting. Red wine ferments with the skins intact, hence the color, and white with just the juice. While there are many variations on this, and, of course, some wines are then aged, the basic taste is the grapes. A good sommelier will be able to tell you the flavors of the earth from which the grapes originated. These flavors work to create the pairings. Continue reading What Beer Should You Pair With Turkey?

To the Parents of High School Seniors

Dear Parents of High School Seniors,

You don’t know me. In about nine months, your child will walk into a classroom on a college campus. Most likely, I, or someone just like me, will be standing in front of your wide-eyed, excited child explaining what a syllabus is.

Unless your child isn’t excited. Unless your child doesn’t want to be in college. Unless your child is feeling societal and parental pressure to make the most expensive mistake of his/her life.

Are you listening to your child? Are you really? Continue reading To the Parents of High School Seniors

Should Parents Sign Those Sports Media Permission Waivers?

It was time to sign up my kid for futsal, so I followed the link in the email from the team manager to sign him up. Only, in addition to digitally signing a waiver recognizing the health risks and holding the organization free from blame, I was also expected to sign a media release waiver:

“I, the parent/guardian of the above named Registrant, in consideration for accepting the Registrant for their Futsal programs and activities (collectively the “Programs”) hereby grants to [The Organization] and its member clubs and organizations, the right and permission, free from approval, review or cost, to photograph, record or otherwise capture the Registrants likeness in participating in the Programs for use in media, now or hereafter known, including, but not limited to pictures and video, to copyright the same in its own name, and which may be included in whole or in part for commercial or promotional use”

A quick perusal of the organization’s website shows that they pretty much just show group pictures of winning teams, maybe a couple action shots of groups, and that the likelihood of my child being singled out for ridicule or being the subject of a “what not to do” article is low.

But that’s not the point, is it?

I’m talking about digital images of my child that will live on to perpetuity and granting the rights to that picture to someone else forever. In whatever way they choose. Without my approval or review.

Do I sign?

Continue reading Should Parents Sign Those Sports Media Permission Waivers?

The Hard Data on Ice Skating Injuries Says: Wear a Helmet!

My small California town just opened a new ice skating rink, so my Facebook feed as been filled with friends and their families discovering their new ice skating talents. But what I noticed is that there are very few kids and practically no adults skating with helmets on. As the rest of the country heads into their winter months, I thought a PSA on winter sports safety might be timely.

Those of us who grew up ice skating probably never wore helmets back in the day, so it’s still a strange concept to some of us. We see ice skating in the Olympics (no helmets!) and in movies like Frozen (no helmets!) and we get it in our minds that ice skating with a helmet would make us look pretty dorky.

But I’m here to remind you that ice skating is a sport, and it’s performed on a very unforgiving material in small proximity to a bunch of inexperienced strangers strapped to two giant knives. This isn’t the movies, folks. When people fall down in real life, it’s not always cute. It often results in gashes, concussions, and broken bones. Continue reading The Hard Data on Ice Skating Injuries Says: Wear a Helmet!

A Healthcare Headache

I am extremely grateful for the many, many years we have had of employer-provided healthcare. We decided to look at the Pennsylvania healthcare exchange and find a plan that works for our family of 6 should we need to purchase our own coverage.

But I found myself staring blankly at the screen, trying to figure out which plan would provide for us without bankrupting us. Continue reading A Healthcare Headache

To the Doctor of the Fat Geek

Dear New Doctor,

You probably don’t remember me. I mean, I’m kind of obvious with my tattoos and brightly dyed red and purple hair. I don’t look like the other patients around here. I mean, I’m a geek who wore a comic book t-shirt and Iron Man kids’ slip-on shoes to your office.

But, you’re busy. So, I totally get that one person might not stand out.

Oh, yeah, and I’m fat.

Continue reading To the Doctor of the Fat Geek

Cardboard STEM: 25 Ideas for All Those BOXES

There’s no escaping the cold, hard truth: Children love to play with cardboard boxes.

As parents, we’ve all experienced this cardboard-fueled phenomenon. It’s almost become an old adage: He played with the box more than the gift.

With the holidays on the horizon, there will be oodles of boxes to contend with especially if, like myself, you prefer to do your holiday shopping online in your jammies. And, as the holidays draw near, the to-do list increases. There are gifts to buy, presents to wrap, gatherings to organize. If your home is anything like ours, it can be tricky to get all the things done with children underfoot. Unless, of course, you have a plan.

And have I got a plan this year! This plan is sure to keep your children engaged and learning and provide you with some uninterrupted time to tackle that mounting must-do list. This plan requires your kids to get creative and to think outside of that proverbial box… while playing with all those cardboard boxes that are strewn about your home just waiting to be recycled. Continue reading Cardboard STEM: 25 Ideas for All Those BOXES

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 3): Tabletop Review

If you are new to the PAX Phenomenon, you could easily mistake it for a big computer game nerd hub. But no matter how many flashy-lights and big badda-booms you saw, almost everybody there spent some time recharging with cards, miniatures, or boards.

And it was good.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 3): Tabletop Review

In Defense of Silver Age Lois Lane

I love Lois Lane. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. When I was little I’d go with my dad to the drug store and he’d buy the Sunday paper for himself and a Superman’s Girlfriend, Lois Lane comic for me.

When I had my kids I thought I could share my comics and my favorite character. Well. The joke was on me. They were not interested beyond the animated and live action.

The young adult novel Lois Lane: Fallout by Gwenda Bond was an unexpected meeting point.

My daughter read Fallout and said to me “About that Lois Lane book?” I braced myself to hear what would break my heart. Then? “I loved it.” I can’t even tell you how excited I was. However, I remained outwardly calm as we talked about the book and the character in general. Continue reading In Defense of Silver Age Lois Lane

Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

In our house, we limit screen time, maybe an hour a day. For the first two years, we capped TV watching at an hour a week.

We also tend away from the licensed products.

You know the ones I am talking about, the Elsa socks, Batman toothbrushes, or Elmo dolls. So imagine my husband’s surprise when I announced we were giving our two-year-old nephew Spider-Man for Christmas.

It all started with a sentence:

“I’m going to lose!”

Continue reading Why I Gave My Nephew Spider-Man

Comikaze Expo Panel: Pop Culture and Parenting 2015

Comikaze Expo took place over Halloween weekend. Partnering with comic legend Stan Lee himself and Elvira Mistress of the Dark, Comikaze is the only pop-culture convention owned and operated by true pop-culture icons.

After spending time researching both local and national conventions in the United States, Regina Carpinelli, the co-founder and CCO of Comikaze Entertainment Inc., and the rest of the Comikaze team have crafted an event that will thrill and excite even the most casual comic fan.

It is the fourth year that we attending as a family. This is also the second year of being a part of the Pop Culture and Parenting panel hosted by the Geekling and Parental Units. Kendra Moras, who submitted and championed our group took on the nuts and bolts of creating this year’s experience and led with enthusiasm and charm. I, too, had the pleasure of being involved with the behind the scenes selections of the parenting panel. Helping chose the members and questions. Gathering giveaways and even recruiting my husband, Mark Cronan, to step in as the moderator. Continue reading Comikaze Expo Panel: Pop Culture and Parenting 2015

Haiku Night

Poet I am not
Yet I can count to seven
Here is a haiku

Tuesday night, hubby
away at a conference
Just the boys and me

As we ate dinner
We followed the basic form
of Counting Haiku

The challenge was made
And we took turns reciting
Poems we made up

“Haikus are poems
First they have five syllables
Then seven then five”

Soon the meal was done
I wish I could remember
all the things they said

“I suck at haikus
I cannot count syllables
And I can’t count”

As silliness grew
The poems got outlandish

“I count to ten—one
two three four five six seven
eight nine ten—what’s next?”

“I love O.S.U.
O.S.U. is number one
O.S.U. is great”

This one came today
A whole week after the fact
Monster created

These are not the best
But we were in the moment
Didn’t write it down

What I won’t forget
Is how much fun we all had
Making up haikus

Try it for yourself
Pick whatever poem form
Share in the comments

How I Failed (and My Child Succeeded) at the The Hair Wars

For most of my life, my hair was manageable even though I wasn’t particularly adept at doing it. I’d hear people talking about “Jewish hair,” and I didn’t get what the big deal was. Yes, my hair was thick, but it was wavy—I could let it curl or brush it to a reasonable level of straight. Easy as pie. Easier, even.

Then I had a baby. When she turned one, we thought she was growing her first curl. “How cute!” we told each other. And while we were right, we were woefully unprepared. Continue reading How I Failed (and My Child Succeeded) at the The Hair Wars

Is Grocery Shopping Making You Sick?

Quick Quiz:

  1. Do you use reusable grocery bags?
  2. If so, do you wash them regularly?

I’m going to put on my psychic turban and predict your answers were “yes” and “no.” And you wouldn’t be alone. I ran my own unscientific survey and found 94% of my friends have reusable bags, and while 38% of my friends wash them occasionally, 57% have never washed them. Not once. Ever.

Worse yet, my friends are over-achievers. According to a 2011 study published in Food Protection Trends, 97% of the users they studied have never washed their bags.

That study goes on to say that 75% of their respondents don’t dedicate separate bags for vegetables and meat. In my informal poll, the number was higher with 94% of my friends using bags randomly. I admit, I’m one of them.

What's been in your bags? Photo copyright: Janine Lamontagne
What’s been in your bags?
Photo copyright: Janine Lamontagne

But why does that matter, you ask? Continue reading Is Grocery Shopping Making You Sick?

Accio Literatia! Information Literacy and the Illustrated Harry Potter

Several years ago, I swooned with pride over a series of student blogs discussing the story ownership through the active process of reading compared to the passive process of movie watching.

My teacher’s heart swelled ten sizes as the group of first-year students debated the difference between reading Lord of the Rings and watching the movies because one student complained that comic book movies were never as good as the books.

Watching the group of engineering first-year students debate how imagining the written word leads to ownership of literature, I smugly sat back thinking that they had learned an important lesson.

Earlier this week, we started reading the new illustrated Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone with our son.

I began questioning the viability of reading an illustrated book. Continue reading Accio Literatia! Information Literacy and the Illustrated Harry Potter

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

PAX – where Gamers go to Loot.

Walk the exhibition hall and the first thing thrown at you is every big name in the video game industry, and more. The hype is about new and upcoming games; the atmosphere is about promoting the most unreal gaming experience.

In between all the glitz and glory are the indie developers, stealing all the tweets. Part 2 of my PAX review is aimed squarely at the video games: the games planning to conquer the world… and the ones I predict will succeed.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 2): Indie Video Games Steal the Show

Combating Geek Prejudice… But Not the Way You Think

“Mom, I know I need to wait for Dad to help me with my math homework.”

“Mom, you’d never be able to build this Lego set.”

“Mom, you’ve never coded anything?!”

All of these are things my amazing 10-year-old future engineer has said to me.

She really doesn’t mean to hurt my feelings. She’s just calling it like she sees it. Her dad, her idol, is an engineer. They design stuff, build stuff, talk deeply about science-y stuff, and code stuff. My day job is in marketing and I don’t do any of that stuff. 

And frankly, I haven’t done myself any favors, talking about how confusing her math algorithms are to me (this is not a Common Core post, but it’s true fact that I do not recognize how to do long division anymore), how I’m “not into” building things, how I’ve never been interested in coding.

But it does hurt my feelings when she writes me off because the things I know are different from the things she and her dad know.

And most of the time, they’re not as relevant or valuable to her, because the things that are relevant and valuable to her fall very reliably into STEM and sometimes STEAM. There’s no “H” in there for humanities, which is where my particular strengths lie (I tried, but SHTEAM just didn’t work).
Continue reading Combating Geek Prejudice… But Not the Way You Think

PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

If the “geek shall inherit the Earth” then PAX is where they divvy up the loot.

As an expo, it is a huge opportunity to try new games, find new talent, and “mingle with your people.” Trust me—I have plenty of new finds to +1 your geek status.

But as a social hub? It’s a whole other level.

Continue reading PAX Australia 2015 (Part 1): The Geek Social Hub

50 Ways to Fight Nature Deficit Disorder This Fall and Winter

You can’t go very far these days without hearing about Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), but have you heard of Nature-Deficit Disorder?

In his best-selling book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit DisorderRichard Louv explores research linking children’s health and well-being to direct exposure to nature.

The reality is, nowadays, our children are better able to identify jungle and zoo animals than the animals that reside in their own backyard.

In this age of screens, our nation’s children are not getting out there and this has a direct impact on their health and happiness. And, lest you think nature only benefits children, Louv shares the benefits for adults in his book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting with Life in a Virtual Age.

After reading Louv’s books, you won’t want to come inside. Louv uses research to show the many benefits of time spent in nature, including: Continue reading 50 Ways to Fight Nature Deficit Disorder This Fall and Winter

‘Supergirl 1.2’ Stronger Together–Friends Good, Government Bad

When we last saw our heroine, having just emerged from the Superhero closet, she declared Earth doesn’t have just one hero anymore. Now it has me. Now it has Supergirl.”

As I watched tonight’s episode, I again felt that the dialogue was heavy handed and, unfortunately, there wasn’t much that really excited me.  My questions from last week remain: will Supergirl be the hero, and feminist, we want her to be? Or is she really just a girl in a red cape?

So, keep your tray tables in the locked upright position and buckle up as we fly through Supergirl’s second episode “Stronger Together”.  

Spoilers ahead friends. You’ve been warned!

Merely a week has gone by since the world was introduced to Supergirl. Just in case we forgot whose show we were watching, Supergirl bashes us over the head by saying, “When people see that red cape they expect to see a certain someone. Someone they know. This isn’t his story, it’s mine.”  Yeah, we got it.

We join her as she’s being put through a battery of tests by the Department of Extranormal Operations (DEO), courtesy of the cranky Director Henshaw. But things are going well and she’s clearly having fun as she expertly dodges missiles. She can even break the sound barrier! Continue reading ‘Supergirl 1.2’ Stronger Together–Friends Good, Government Bad

The Dreaded G-Word: When Your Child is Asynchronous

I remember that morning as if it had happened yesterday. We were just leaving the restaurant, where we had enjoyed a leisurely breakfast with friends. I had met these women when we’d had our first babies, at a mothers’ group sponsored by the hospital where we had delivered. Those first babies were now 5-years-old and each had at least one younger sibling.

We held the door for one another and shuffled our tribe carefully out of the restaurant and into the parking lot. The kids were busy fooling around, and their laughter filled the air until one voice shouted above the rest. I knew that voice very well: It was my 5-year-old son, Leo.

“Hey! GUYS!! LOOK!! LOOK!!!! Doesn’t that latticework remind you of a portcullis? It’s SO BEAUTIFUL!” Leo shouted. He was jumping up and down, bursting with excitement, pointing toward the restaurant’s garden.

His friends paused for a moment, looked in the general vicinity of where he was pointing for a second or two, and then carried on with their play. I, too, looked at the trellis and then I grabbed my phone and Googled portcullis. Continue reading The Dreaded G-Word: When Your Child is Asynchronous

GeekMom Secret Origins: Samantha Fisher’s Journey Started With The Doctor

I’ve been asked many times through the years how I became the big ole nerd that I am. It has been asked in many ways by many types of people and I choose to believe it is always asked out of jealousy of my awesomeness. I mean, how could anyone not want to be just like me, right? I usually laugh, make a joke, or will reply with my standard response of, “It just happened over time, there was no one thing or event.”

Over the last few days, as I prepared to join this wondrous team known as GeekMom, I’ve been actively thinking about this topic. No easy task for a busy gal with ADHD and a to-do list that would make a lesser person weep, but perhaps highly overdue. Why did I become a geek? Most people I know can attribute their geekiness to someone in their family who is also a geek. They picked up their love of this or their fascination with that by observing loved ones in their passionate undertakings. Alas, there is no one in my immediate family who has the same predilections as I.

How did this happen? I’m going to tell you my story. You tell me yours.  Continue reading GeekMom Secret Origins: Samantha Fisher’s Journey Started With The Doctor