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

‘Oddly Normal’: Not So Odd, Not So Normal, Just Perfect

In September 2014, a quirky, beautifully drawn, thoroughly enjoyable, all ages book, Oddly Normal, appeared as if by magic in our pull box.

Our local shop owner, knowing that I’m always seeking out things for my son, had popped it in the box. Thanking her, as I normally do, I skimmed the comic and nodded “Sure!” Since her taste is almost inevitably spot on for my style, I took it home smooshed in the middle of my large pile of comics.

Once I opened the book at home, I was enchanted. Oddly is every normal kid who feels a bit quirky and out of place. Half witch and half human, her adventures begin as, in the typical ten-year-old child way, she wishes her parents away. Unfortunately, she doesn’t realize that she was born with the magic to make that possible.

Her great-aunt whisks her away to Fignation, the birthplace of her mother, beginning a new life in a new middle school with new kids.

Continue reading ‘Oddly Normal’: Not So Odd, Not So Normal, Just Perfect

NYCC Guide for Parents of Younger Kids

Three years of New York Comic Con visits. Three years of trial and error. Three years of family additions to NYCC. How do you negotiate that kind of insanity? Why yes, after explaining all the new additions, there is a guide to “How To Keep From Losing Your Child or Your Sanity.”

Let me first convince you as to why you want to take the littles. Then, learn from my experience as to how to make it fun.

“It’s 2012, New York Comic Con time!”

As post after post would travel through my feed showing me pictures of amazing cosplay, panels that seemed to be once in a lifetime experiences, and limited edition items or free swag that seemed incredible, my sitting-at-home-on-the-couch-with-a-baby self moped.

It’s too crowded, too expensive, too loud, too overwhelming to do with a child, I thought. Then, in 2013, back in those Jurassic days of being able to buy a Sunday ticket a month in advance, we decided to drive down for the day. One bright Sunday morning, we packed the two adults and one four-year-old into the car, expecting an epic adventure. The adventure was epic, complete with New York City parking ticket.

However, in 2013, even the kids’ day family friendly events were few and far between. Overwhelmed, we focused on the the main exhibition floor and on The Block. In a nutshell, we shopped. A lot. Last year, there seemed to be a few more family events. However, finding a place to bring an overwhelmed kid proved difficult. Again, shopping, shopping, and more free swag. Continue reading NYCC Guide for Parents of Younger Kids

‘My Little Pony Friendship is Magic’ – ‘Cutie Mark Quests’

MLP Cutie Mark Quests \ Image courtesy of Hasbro Studios
MLP Cutie Mark Quests \ Image courtesy of Hasbro Studios

I’ve enjoyed My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic since my son first introduced it to me. Each episode is filled with something fun that makes 20 minutes pass by fast. One of the things I enjoy is how subtle the writers make the lesson being taught. There’s no “lesson learned” speech at the end of the episode (well, not since Twilight stopped writing letters to Princess Celestia) and kids still get the point.

In Cutie Mark Quests, they take us back to five episodes about finding yourself and trusting your friends.

Image: Hasbro Studios

One of those episodes is the two-part episode, The Return of Harmony where the Mane 6 face off against the king of chaos, Discord. In 40 minutes of animated bliss, you watch as Twilight Sparkle and her friends put their studies on friendship to the test in an attempt to stop Discord from turning all of Equestria upside down (literally).

Another two-part episode follows the Mane 6 as they journey to a town where everyone is a blank flank (i.e., no cutie mark). While visiting, Twilight and her friends teach the townspeople that their cutie marks are a part of who they are and being unique isn’t something to fear, but instead something to be celebrated.

Not everything is about the Mane 6 though, and that’s where the Cutie Mark Crusaders come in.

In Showstoppers, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo, and Sweetie Belle continue their journey to get their cutie marks, and, as usual, they are going around their manes to get to their hooves. When the school talent show comes up, they all want to have a piece of the spotlight. It was a 20-minute train wreck, and, in the end, each of them learned a lesson in sticking with what they already enjoy instead of forcing new skills on themselves.

My son and I are happy that we are able to add Cutie Mark Quests alongside our other My Little Pony DVDs including: Equestria Girls, Canterlot Wedding, and Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks.

Cutie Mark Quests arrives in stores on June 30th. 

Disclaimer: GeekMom received a review copy.

Power Up and Read with he Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge Powered by Energizer

Image: Scholastic

When I was a kid, my favorite part about summer was the fact that I could read as much as I wanted, for however long I wanted. There wasn’t homework, or assigned reading. I could go into the library, grab as many titles as I could carry, and read from dusk until dawn. I’m pretty sure that some days I did. Our sponsors at Scholastic certainly get that kind of kid—but they get other kids, too.

Now I’ve got kids, two of them. One is almost nine, and he’s reading at a near college level. But reading isn’t his thing. He can do it, and do it fast, but unless he sees the benefit, he’s not about to give in to his fiction-obsessed mother. The other one is quickly learning the magic of libraries and stories, but has yet to do any reading on her own. She just turned three, she’s got time.

Image: Energizer
Image: Energizer

Anyway, I’ve been thrilled with the Scholastic and Energizer “Power Up and Read” program for the summer, running from May 4th – September 4th, 2015. With their approach, both kids are reading toward their goals—for our son, a good mix of nonfiction and fiction, and for our daughter books with lots of pictures and easy words. The best part of the Scholastic Summer Reading Challenge is that I can download sheets (and certificates) all along the way. And as they log hours, they can earn virtual rewards, enter sweepstakes, and even play games. That’s definitely up their alley.

What’s particularly nice, too, is that you can match your kid with book suggestions. And, there’s a fun component with the INSTANT WIN Games—you and your kids could win a trip to NYC, or lots of lovely books.

Our goals are simple: Make reading fun. Some days that’s harder than others. But with all the tools from Scholastic, I’m convinced it will be a blast for all involved.

Check out their tips and resources below, including a great Harry Potter book party!

Resources from Scholastic Parents:

More about the program:

Scholastic is a GeekMom sponsor.

Happy World Read Aloud Day!

Photograph: Talento Tec – Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City (Creative Commons License)

My son and I have fought beside Peter in the Battle of Narnia. We’ve experienced the wonder of walking through the wall of Platform 9 3/4 on our way to Hogwarts. We’ve saved Prydain multiple times, and melted the Wicked Witch of the West. And we did it all from the comfort of our own couch.

My son is almost 13 years old, and every single night since he was old enough to focus his eyes, we’ve read out loud together. Every night, without fail, whether we are traveling or sick, or it’s late. It’s our time to regroup from the day, to escape for a while, to snuggle on the couch, and just share a bit of time with one another.

I have to admit, I was a little surprised to find out, when he was about 10 or so, that we were one of the only families who did this with a kid over about 7. It had never even occurred to us to stop (I think my son would cry mutiny if we did).

Today is World Read Aloud Day. If you click on the link, you’ll find a lot of information about reading to your kids and a link to a free story book.  Reading to your kids, whether young or older, is simple and doesn’t take a lot of time. Plus, according to Scholastic’s Kids and Family Reading Report: 5th Edition, 8 out of every 10 kids from ages 6-17 say that they love being read aloud to and want their parents to do it more.

Most parents read aloud to their kids before the age of 6, mostly to develop literacy and a love of reading. After that though, the percentage tapers off dramatically, even though the benefits are the same. I would argue, in fact, that reading together becomes even more important as kids get older. There are so many other things competing for their attention. What better way to show them both the importance of reading and spending time together as a family than having some story time together. In fact, the top reason cited in Scholastic’s study for kids wanting to read together with their parents is because it gives them a special time together.

So, what if you stopped reading to your child, but now want to start back up? What if you want some more bonding time with your moody teen? Well, it’s not always easy to start new habits. Start off by letting your kid choose what he or she wants to read. It can be anything. A novel, a comic book, a book about science. Most of the kids surveyed said they would like to read something of their choice or something funny. Don’t get frustrated if your kid doesn’t join you right away. Read to your partner, or your pet. But encourage your child to stay in the same room. For example, after dinner, set a family time where no one is allowed to hide out in their room. Everyone can do something in the living room as long as it doesn’t disrupt the reading (like, no television). Again, this might not be easy with some kids. Teens are mysterious and complicated creatures. They want to spend time with their families but they want to do it on their terms and they can feel embarrassed about taking the first steps to getting closer to their families. The want independence, but don’t want to break too far away. Give them lots of space and choice in the matter. Let them pick the book out, and don’t make them read to you unless they want to. Just read out loud to them so they feel welcome and comfortable, and eventually they might want to read to you.

What if you feel like you aren’t good at reading out loud? Just do it. You’ll get better the more you practice, and no one is grading you on your performance. It’s a fun bonding time for everyone. You’ll make mistakes. Your kids will let you know when you missed a word. It’s OK. Just laugh at the mistakes, compliment your kid on being such a good reader that he caught a missing word, and enjoy your family time together.

Happy reading, everyone!

We Are All The Bad Mother

Recipe Rifle © Esther Walker
Recipe Rifle © Esther Walker

“I am a bad mother.”

It’s a thought that has gone through all of our heads at least once. Maybe you’re thinking it as you watch your child start their third consecutive episode of Peppa Pig, or as they stuff McDonald’s fries into their mouth sitting in their car seat, or (like me yesterday) as you watch them write out a note of apology to their teacher for being cheeky in class. It’s like a basic rule of parenting: Self-doubt and self-flagellation come with the territory. Everyone else always seems to be handling it all so much better than we are. Your sister’s children eat all their vegetables without complaint, your neighbor’s little girl is already taking her Grade Two piano at age three, another mom in the playground just proudly told you that her son is already on the second book band when yours hasn’t even been put on the first. How do all these women have it so together when you don’t? In the era of picture-perfect Pinterest parenting, the feelings of inadequacy come easily.

That’s why I’ve been subscribed to Esther Walker’s blog Recipe Rifle for the last few years. Esther is a writer and a journalist who I discovered through her husband, restaurant critic Giles Coran, whose show The Supersizers… was a favorite of mine. She’s also slightly neurotic and frequently anxious, which I think makes her my parenting soulmate or something. On her blog, Esther shares recipes along with stories about her life raising her two children Kitty (aged three) and Sam (aged one). The difference between her blog and many others is that she doesn’t hold back. About anything. With Esther you get the whole truth. It’s often uncomfortable, sometimes shocking, frequently gross, and always liberally sprinkled with the kind of language I wouldn’t dare repeat to my mother. When new posts appear in my inbox it’s like reading an email from your best friend. The honesty is more than just refreshing; sometimes it’s saved my sanity from simply knowing that at I’m not the only mother who has ever had these terrible thoughts toward my own family. Recipe Rifle got me through the toddler years—I just wish Esther would have had Kitty a bit earlier so she could have been there for the baby months too.

The Bad Mother © HarperCollins
The Bad Mother © HarperCollins

The Bad Mother is Esther’s second book (The Bad Cook came out in 2013) but this time the content is exclusively about being a mother with no recipes to be found. In it she covers almost every aspect of parenting: sleeping, eating, routines, holidays, sickness, poo. Now that I’m past the diaper phase I’d forgotten just how much the last five years of my life revolved around poo. This book reminded me and made me extra thankful that it’s all over. The whole thing reads like an extended, slightly categorized version of her blog posts, right down to the choice language (even one of the chapter titles could make a nun blush). She compares foreign holidays with very small children to being like a spy: “Having completed your training in your own country, you are then sent on a terrifying mission to a hot place, where you must complete your tasks in a totally unfamiliar environment.” I couldn’t comment myself—I wasn’t brave enough to take more than a weekend trip with my son until he had turned five.

The Bad Mother is not intended as a guide to raising children. In fact there are times where Esther points out that she got things entirely wrong and also that the things she relied on wholly for her family (such as strict routines from birth) might be totally wrong for you. Rather it is a personal story about being a mother, being hard on yourself, and realizing that you’re not a bad mother at all. That every choice is personal, that we are all doing our best and trying to make the right choices for our family. If someone else choose to call those choices “lazy” or “selfish” then, as Esther would probably say, “**** ‘em.”

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

How Voyager Got Me Through It All

voyager becca
Image By Rebecca Angel

The only time I stood up to my bullying stepfather was about Star Trek: The Next Generation. The show was on and I walked to the kitchen for ice cream. Returning, I went for the remote, but my stepfather took it first and changed the channel.

I told him that I was watching Star Trek. He replied something snarky like, “You snooze, you loose, kid.”

There were many ways this man held dominance over our lives, and being annoying about the TV was a small one. My usual response would have been to shrug and walk to my room to read a fantasy novel because I really hate fighting. But something snapped.

“I. WAS. WATCHING. STAR TREK!!!!” I screamed.

There was silence for a few seconds. My stepfather didn’t say a word, he just put the remote down and walked out of the room. I sobbed into my ice cream and watched the rest of my show alone.

Only a few short years later, I was a teen mother with a beautiful daughter. I had dropped out of college to take care of her, with my boyfriend going to school and working to take care of us. It being winter in Syracuse, New York, I was trapped in a tiny apartment with the baby. My (real) father came to visit and noticed we had no TV reception. With two different Star Trek series going on at the time, this was not acceptable. He started sending me video tapes with episodes of Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

Oh, how they got me through it.

Although DSN is great, Voyager captured my heart like nothing else. I wanted to be a crew member under Captain Janeway! She would know I was strong, capable, and intelligent—words that our culture does not tag onto teen mothers. The Doctor made me laugh. Chakotay made me swoon. The plots made me think.

Once the warm weather set in, our little family moved to Albany so my (now) husband could attend graduate school. We had TV reception. No matter what was happening in his lab, my man knew that Wednesday nights were Voyager nights. His job was to keep the kid (soon to be kids) out of the living room while mommy watched her show. If there was mint-chip ice cream brought home that day, happiness would increase. And sometimes, sometimes, the children would go to bed easily and I might even get a foot rub while watching my intrepid crew in space. Sci-fi fan heaven.

Being a parent is hard. Being a wife is hard. Being a young woman in this culture is really hard. Voyager showed me week after week that using your brain, working as a team, and caring for the people around you were the way to solve all problems. While lost in space trying to get home, no one on that ship cared what each other’s pasts were. They were only concerned about everyone doing their job to the best of their ability. I took that to heart.

As a child my role model was Sara Crew who taught me to have self-respect no matter how people treat you.

As an adult, I needed a new role model, and I found her in Captain Janeway. Thank you to the creators, writers, directors, actors, and everyone else involved in Voyager. You got me through it all.

Get Muddy with Daddy Pig’s Puddle Jump

A screenshot of the opening page of Daddy Pig’s Puddle Jump.
© Entertainment One

As every Peppa Pig fan knows, there’s nothing better than jumping in muddy puddles. However, if muddy puddles are in short supply, the new Daddy Pig’s Puddle Jump app is certainly a good substitute.

Daddy Pig is the world champion muddy puddle jumper, but Peppa and George are going to try to beat him. Dressed in their stuntman costumes, with an Evel Knievel-esque red, white, and blue color scheme and star motif, the pigs compete across a range of courses to see who can become the muddiest. There are 15 courses to unlock, which gently become more challenging. With both a one-person and two-player option and the ability to play as Peppa, George, or Daddy Pig, this app is certainly has lots of appeal for Peppa fans.

My 4-year-old daughter adores Peppa Pig, so could hardly contain her excitement when I started the app. It’s bright and colorful and very easy for a young child to navigate independently. The controls are very simple: Just touch the screen anywhere to make the character jump. My daughter was rather hesitant at first, worried about doing something wrong. However, the game is organized so that if you don’t manage to press the screen at the right time to make your character jump and clear a hedge or land on a trampoline, it doesn’t matter. The levels very gently become longer and more challenging, so it never becomes too difficult. I particularly like how encouraging the characters are to each other, saying “Well done” after the races.

Daddy Pig clears an obstacle. © Entertainment One

The weakest part of the app for me is the two-player option. I thought that this might involve racing against each other, but it only runs the race twice, once with each character, comparing their muddy splat ratings at the end. I’d like to see something slightly more competitive, where both characters can race at the same time. Also, it would have been nice if the characters could perform more than jumps, such as being able to slide down the muddy hills. Because of this, it won’t hold the attention of older children or those used to more sophisticated games.

This is a lovely app for young children who will find the animations and voiceovers funny. I don’t think it will have the replay value for older children but it’s great for the three to five-year-old age bracket. It’s good to know that there are no in-app purchases or adverts too, making it very family friendly. However, the price of $1.99/£1.49 is a little bit steep; I think it would be better value at 99c/69p. Daddy Pig’s Puddle Jump by Entertainment One is available now from

GeekMom received this item for review purposes.

Mobile Phone Diagnoses Worm Infections

Scientists use an iPhone to diagnose intestinal worms.
Via Morguefile

And you thought your iPhone was only good for playing Angry Birds. In Tanzania, scientists recently used a mobile phone equipped with a makeshift microscope to diagnose intestinal parasites. It’s still a work in progress – in one test, accuracy didn’t quite reach 70%, shy of the 80% desired for a diagnostic tool – but the idea has potential. The method is significantly cheaper than using a conventional microscope, not to mention more portable.

Want to know how you can help cure the neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) that infect more than a billion people worldwide? This compelling video from End7 features Tom Felton (Draco Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) and shows just how easy it is.

Juggling And Balancing On The Tightrope


We all know them. The moms who seem to be always doing. Whether they are balancing a chequebook in one hand whilst nursing a babe in the same arm, simultaneously talking on the telephone with the other hand to schedule a playdate for the other sibling, all the while going through the grocery list in their mind. Or the mom who is busy jumping from soccer practice to dance classes to Parent Advisory Committee meetings whilst preparing the agenda for tomorrow’s big meeting. We look at them and think, “Dear FSM, woman! How do you find the time for it all!?” I have a confession to make. I am one of those women. I’ll admit, I often find that I’m asking myself the exact same question.

I’m new here. I suppose that is pretty obvious. Let me give you a very brief snapshot into all that I do. First, I’m a mom of two wonderful boys. My oldest will be sixteen in September. My youngest will be twelve on April 16. I would describe my oldest as a nerd and I would describe my youngest as a geek/gamer. Our home consists of a 24 hour nerdfest.

My educational background is in Psychology. I had planned to eventually get my PhD, specializing in abnormal psychology of children and adolescence, but then life threw me a huge curve-ball which goes by the name of Lupus, causing me to have a hysterectomy at 29 and a full-blown left-sided stroke at 30. I had to build my career doing things that I could do from home.

Roughly three years ago, a job opportunity crossed my eyes. I saw an advert for internet radio personalities. The job was remote with no previous experience necessary. Having acted and danced on stage for many years and with a passion for entertaining, I knew I would be perfect for the job. Despite the fear that my application would never see another person’s eyes, I applied. Within five hours of sending my application, I received an interview request. The rest is, as they say, history. But what is this history?

Shortly after being hired as an on-air personality, I was promoted to programming director. Eventually, I would also hold the title of assistant general manager. Among my various radio shows, I began a radio show known as the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show. After she launched, I had the awesome opportunity to interview Wil Wheaton, Bad Astronomer Phil Plait PhD, Shane Nickerson (MTV executive producer), Jonathan Coulton, Runic Games and musician Mike Lombardo. I had a personal blog on Blogspot, however my radio show became so popular that I had to launch my Geeky Pleasures website and a separate personal blog. Eventually, I had to step away from my position at that radio station. However, my Geeky Pleasures website and personal blog continued on.

I had it in my mind that running a website that requires updating at least three times a day, Monday – Friday, plus a personal blog, plus raising two children on my own, was not enough to keep me busy. So I launched the Lupus Awareness Virtual Art Gallery. Because of my work to raise lupus awareness, I was asked to interview Patrizia Hernandez, the lead actress in Love Simple, and John Casey, producer of Love Simple. I was later asked if I would write for The Lupus Magazine and I accepted.

But still in my mind, I was not busy enough. I would later be asked to contribute to Star Wars vs Star Trek and NerdsInBabeland. Still not enough to do, I volunteered my time as the layout and design editor of The Vaccine Times. One would think that would be enough, right? Wrong. Late last year, I was asked to help build another internet radio station and I agreed. That radio station would become The Force 925, where all my old radio shows, including the Geeky Pleasures Radio Show and frequent co-host of a political talk-show, would find a new home.

Since launching at the beginning of his year, I’ve had the opportunity to interview: musician Jeff MacDougall; Paul and Storm; GeekDad and musician John Anealio; Len Peralta of GeekAWeek fame; Lauren Crace and Sylvester McCoy; and New York Times best selling author Steve Hockensmith. Scheduled to appear in the coming weeks are 101010 Productions and Richard Hatch of The Apollo Awards, plus Maurissa Tancharoen-Whedon. You’d think that would be enough, but here I am at GeekMom.

In my spare time, I do a lot of crafting and creating in more ways than I think I can currently list. I also found time to write two books whilst doing all of the above.

It is no wonder that many, including myself, ask me how do I manage it all, whilst raising two boys on my own and dealing with a disease that likes to attempt to royally kick my behind. I think the easy and lazy answer is to say: It is just like having children. The more that you have, they tend to keep each other busy and occupied. It is nothing for me to be updating one website while I have the dashboard of another open, editing and updating them simultaneously. Plus with Twitter, it is easy to find material as most of my content inspiration comes from there. However, a great deal of it comes down to planning, organizational skills and scheduling. The first four hours of my day are busy spent receiving press releases, deciding what I’ll post, making a list of updates which need to be made to other sites and taking a break whenever my body demands it. I also remember to take a lot of time to breathe. Many of us forget to do that.

If I did not have the luxury to work from home, none of this would be possible. Once my posts are scheduled on any given day, then I am free to fart around for the rest of it, surfing the internet for inspiration, chatting with my tweeps, interviewing new personalities for the station and training them, doing my radio shows, thinking about the articles I will write for projects that I am not personally responsible to maintain, nerding out with my children whilst they are busy playing WoW, watching Doctor Who, or asking me some question about astrophysics and what would happen if they jimmied open the microwave in such a fashion that it is fooled into thinking it is closed and turning it on. It also helps that the Geeky Pleasures website and the radio station are the only things that must be done daily. The Vaccine Times is a quarterly print publication, NiB and SWvsST is when I have time, The Lupus Magazine is once a month, health and life willing. Writing here is also casual for the time being.

In the end it is a careful juggling act whilst balancing and walking a tightrope. The smallest misstep and I drop my balls. Thankfully, they are picked up easily enough and the world will not end if I have to stop for a day or two or ten. However, being an extreme overachiever, it is difficult to stop.

If you think I’m busy, I know many other moms who do far more than I. Maybe we are all a wee bit insane in some way. Perhaps this comes with the territory when one is a geek, especially if one is creative.

So let me ask you, how do you mange to juggle family and career? What are some of your tips?

Sex Ed Books for Kids: Our Picks

Book covers L to R: Candlewick, Newmarket, Chronicle, Crown, Candlewick. Mashup: Kate Miller

You may remember GeekMom’s rollicking sex ed day a couple of weeks ago. Andrea and I posted our respective views on talking to kids about sex, which is way more openly than the average mom, judging from the comments. (Here is Andrea’s post, and mine.)

Several commenters on those posts asked for or suggested good sex ed books for kids, so we decided to follow up with some book reviews.

Here are our recommendations. Please buy one or two and leave them lying around the house, preferably in the bathroom. If all goes according to plan, they will disappear.


It’s So Amazing! by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley

Reviewed by Jenny Williams

It’s So Amazing is an excellent book for young kids to teach them about things such as where babies come from, eggs and sperm, boy parts and girl parts, what sex and love are all about, and what happens during pregnancy and birth. In the section on love, it talks about all kinds of love, including the love you feel for a pet, a friend, a parent, or a partner. It puts the same value on heterosexual and homosexual relationships. It also covers topics such as multiple births, genetics, adoption, what kinds of touches are okay and not okay, and a little bit about sexually transmitted diseases. It is aimed at kids age 7 and up, but it can also be used for younger curious kids. The book is very heavy on tasteful drawings, which show what is going on without revealing too much. While this book does include some information on what happens to girls and boys during puberty, that isn’t its main subject matter, so once your kids get to be 9 or 10, another book would be a good idea, perhaps the book that follows this one by the same authors, It’s Perfectly Normal.


It’s Perfectly Normal by Robie Harris and Michael Emberley

Reviewed by Kate Miller

This book is perfect for kids age 10+. I know it’s perfect because when I handed it to my 10-year-old son, he flipped through it and said with disgust, “Jeez, Mom, is this just a book of cartoon pictures of naked people?” He then proceeded to never put it down. As a follow-on to It’s So Amazing, above, this book takes the same subject matter and advances it in complexity and frankness for its older audience. It still uses the same open, colorful, fun illustrations and authoritative yet friendly tone. A cartoon bird and bee go through the book with the reader, getting just as engrossed — or grossed out — as a young reader might. This gives the reader a couple of fun friends throughout. This book will present to your kids all the topics that might make you squeamish:  sex, contraception, diseases, homosexuality, abortion, pubertal changes, masturbation, you name it. This  edition also has new information on HPV, infertility treatments and using the internet safely. As a reproductive health professional myself, and as a mom on the northern-European model of talking openly with kids about sex, I endorse this book with all my heart and mind. Get it!



On Your Mark, Get Set, Grow! by Lynda Madaras

Reviewed by Allison Clark

I’m of the “be frank” school of sex-ed, meaning whenever my 10-year-old son asks a question, I don’t mince words, I just tell him the truth before I have a chance to get embarrassed about it. (This often has the effect of grossing him out, but I’m OK with that.) Lynda Madaras’ book for boys 8 and up takes a similarly frank approach. It’s not about sex, but rather boys’ changing bodies and what they can expect from puberty. It covers the things moms might blanch at, from morning wood to concerns about boys’ adequacy “down there.” It also tackles b.o., acne, hair growth and other puberty concerns, all in the same no-nonsense tone you’d expect from a health educator with 25 years of experience. As this book would mortify my son, possibly fatally, if I read it with him, I just put it in a prominent place in his room so he could refer to it any time. Upon first read, I was totally shocked at the, um, “street language” some of the Q&A sections use, but I’m glad this book exists. He’s going to hear all of this stuff from other boys, so he might as well have accurate information.



Mommy Laid an Egg by Babette Cole

Reviewed by Judy Berna

If you’re a bit bored by the run of mill, ordinary facts of life, it might do you some good to check out a book called Mommy Laid An Egg by Babette Cole. Be forewarned, you definitely need to preview this book before you share it with young children (it was banned in some libraries, just so ya know). The story starts with a mom and dad doing their best to explain where babies come from. They come up with some pretty wild stories, including delivery by dinosaur and finding them under stones.

Their children laugh at their attempts and then, in turn, describe the real facts of life to their parents. And things get pretty graphic. Even for stick figures. As far as the mechanics go, let’s just say stick figures are capable of being pretty x-rated. On one page the boy is pointing out a simplistic drawing of male parts, with an arrow leading to the page where the girl is pointing out the female versions. Along the line between them are the words “this fits in here.” Just the facts, ma’am. The next page is the one that might catch you by surprise. In the same simple stick drawings we see “creative ways mommies and daddies can fit together,” including a few that I’d never thought of.

If you’re really open with your kids about how it all works, this book might just be for you. Because it’s all explained “by kids,” I’m sure kids will relate to it in a meaningful way. Just be sure you’re ready for the volume of information they might take away from this book and the suspicious way they may glance at you when you try to get them to go to bed early.



Everything You Never Wanted Your Kids to Know About Sex by Justin Richardson and Mark Schuster

Reviewed by Andrea Schwalm

Andrea put up her review on GeekMom a while back; you can read it here.

Cub Scouts: Wonderful or Whack?

boy-scout-image-31So my kid joined the Cub Scouts. He loves it. His pack is filled with friends from school, and the pack leader, dad to one of the kids, is warm, personable, and willing to play British Bulldog with a gang of screaming ten-year-olds. It’s good.

But, oy vey. The Cub Scouts? Really? What about that whole homophobia and intolerance thing over at Boy Scouts of America (BSA)? I’m just sayin’.

Luckily the local pack subscribes to none of that, and since my son has a scorching good time there with his friends, we acquiesced. My beef is with the national office.

So my son needs to memorize the Boy Scout Law, which is:

“A scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent.”

Let’s call that TLHFCKOCTBCR for short.

This morning we chanted it in the car on the way to school to help him memorize. Boy did it get under my skin, and not just because we repeated it 3,578 times. (First of all, having kids line up and chant qualities in unison baffles me. Is that really how children become TLHFCKOCTBCR? But I digress.) It seems like BSA wants to give the kids some qualities to aspire to, some touchstones that will help them grow into men. (And by “men” they appear to mean people who can do quaint masculine things, like starting a fire and whittling wood. But again I digress.)

TLHFCKOCTBCR got under my skin because of the qualities it lists. “Kind” is good, and I suppose kindness is important to stress to young boys who are going about in quasi-military uniforms chanting things at each other. I can more or less get behind “trustworthy” and “helpful” too.

But the other TLHFCKOCTBCR qualities are whack:

Just Not a Good Idea: Brave

I suppose “brave” could be okay, but among excitable boys it is also very close to something like, “Let’s skateboard off a skyscraper.” I’m out.

Oh, the Irony: Thrifty

Nobody escapes the Boy Scout supply store without an arm-and-leg’s worth of “required” items. Any genuinely thrifty scout would immediately quit to protest the price-gouging.

Get Out of My Personality, Dude: Friendly and Cheerful

These two kill me. What if the kid is introverted? Or serious-minded? I guess we’d have to vote those losers off the island. Also, have we learned nothing about mental health? Nothing makes a depressive kid more depressed than shoveling a steaming pile of “friendly and cheerful” on his head.

The Bronx Cheer Goes to: Loyal, Courteous, Obedient

These qualities scream, “I AGREE TO BE UNDER STRICT SOCIAL CONTROL.” Who the hell wants to be “obedient” as a general principle, without an understanding of who you’re obedient to and why? Nazi Youth were obedient, for pete’s sake. “Loyal” and “courteous” are just different sides of that same coin. It pains me to hear these three coming out of my kid’s mouth, especially for the sake of an organization with more than a few whiffs of pedophilia in its history.

Worst of the Worst: Clean and Reverent

These two are heartbreaking. They were the basis of the Supreme Court case a few years back that allowed the Boy Scouts to openly discriminate. Technically, gay kids can’t be scout leaders because they aren’t “clean,” and nonreligious kids can’t because they aren’t “reverent.” (Again, I stress that our local pack includes a kid with two moms and two dads, as well as my son from our openly atheist family. Nobody gives a rat’s ass, amen.)

So, enough with tearing down TLHFCKOCTBCR. I want to prepare for the day when BSA calls and begs me to rewrite the Boy Scout Law for them. Here’s my official redraft:

“A scout is kind, inquisitive, creative, open-minded, resilient, resourceful, confident, collaborative, globally aware, honest, helpful, and just.”

I guess that would be KICORRCCGHHJ. These are the qualities I think a boy should aspire to as he grows into a man. Or a girl into a woman for that matter. Or a transgendered child into a… oh, you get the point.

Anybody want to offer another draft? Or defend TLHFCKOCTBCR?

GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #3: Small Kids

HolidayLogoIIRegardless of what holidays you celebrate, the end-of-year festivities are right around the corner. If you choose to purchase gifts online, you need to order then in advance to allow for shipping time, backorders, and comparison shopping. We at GeekMom are here to help you with ideas for anyone on your gift list, from babies to grownups. We’ll be running a series of half a dozen or so posts, sorted by category or age group, with suggested gifts this holiday season. Many of our writers have contributed to our series of gift guides, so the ideas run the gamut from popular bestsellers to more obscure, interesting gifts with which you may not be familiar. Chances are there will be something that appeals to you. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below.

This week’s guide will appeal to those with very small ones at home, infants and preschoolers. Some of the products may appeal to older kids, too, but next week’s guide is more aimed at them. Also check out the gift guides that have already run, Week #1: Books and Week #2: Games.

Little Pim
Want to teach your baby or preschooler Spanish, French, Mandarin Chinese, or one of several other languages? The Little Pim language videos are fun, and they teach basic language vocabulary. The speaking on the videos are only in the chosen language, so your children are immersed in the sounds of that language for the entire video. Put out by Julia Pimsleur Levine, daughter of Dr. Paul Pimsleur, these videos will engage your children and teach them language basics.

Kidz Gear Headphones For Kids
This product is for any parent who lets their kids use the computer to browse kid-friendly websites. Most of the time, those websites make music, show videos, or have sound effects. This can get old after a while, or distracting if you’re trying to have a conversation in the same room. Regular, adult-sized headphones don’t ever stay on the kids’ heads. Enter Kidz Gear Headphones For Kids. They are kid-sized, and have a volume control where the maximum sound level is lower than normal. These headphones also come in a wireless model.

Scholastic Storybook Treasures
My kids grew up on Weston Woods’ animated versions of classic picture books. (In fact, these word-for-word adaptations have been around so long I remember watching them as “film strips” in kindergarten.) As a child, Weston Woods introduced me to great stories like “Make Way for Ducklings” long before I was able to read. As a parent I loved being able to share my old favorites with my kids, and discovering new ones too. Today Weston Woods films are available as Scholastic Storybook Treasures, and they’re better than ever. Their DVD sets give you the option of Read-Along captioning, and many include behind-the-scenes interviews with favorite authors. I’m looking forward to checking out “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs…And More Animal Adventures!” featuring Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith’s wild take on the traditional tale. And collections like “The Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics” contain enough stories to keep your family occupied for a year. If you’re like me, you’ll enjoy sitting down and watching them along with your kids!

The Bilibo: Funny Name, Awesome Invention
The Bilibo came up as a suggestion for my baby registry in 2009. After watching the video, I can understand why it has won so many awards. This is an awesome imagination toy. The Bilibo can be sat on, sat in, pulled, pushed, spun, loaded with treasures, worn as a turtle shell, and so much more. This cool toy will be one of the things Santa puts under the tree this year.

Natural Maple Bell Rattle
This heirloom-quality toy is made of sustainably harvested American maple and designed to last. It’s treated with a safe, plant-based finish because the makers know babies put everything in their mouths. A metal bell floats in the center of this classic toy. Recommended for ages newborn to 2 years. $9.95

Wonderfully Mismatched Socks
Give up on the silly idea that socks come in pairs. These rambunctiously colorful and cozy socks are perfect for the whole family. They’re made of 80% recycled cotton and come in a full range of sizes. A group of five coordinating socks for babies are called Socktinis $18.95. For older kids they come in sets of three—two to wear and one spare $18.95. And they’re available for adults too $17.95.

E-Racer by Hape Toys
This is one of those Made in China toys you won’t have to worry about.  E-racers are eco-friendly toys constructed of bamboo shoots.  You can actually see where it used to be bamboo, a touch of eco-friendly paints was added and POOF! You have a really nifty car that didn’t hurt the environment to produce. Also available are the E-Plane and the E-Offroader; they are ultra-chic and kids actually like them.

Deglingos Baby Blankie
These adorable animals are great for babies, starting from when they’re first able to grab. They’re super soft, and each one is loaded with different textures and bits to grab on to. What’s even better is that it’s not the usual nursery animal line-up. Deglingos include Molos the Lobster, Pikos the Hedgehog, Ratos the Rat, and BigBos the Wolf.

Food Face plate
Yes! Play with your food on this hilarious Food Face ceramic plate. How about pasta hair and some tomato lips? Or a syrup beard with mini-waffle curls? Asparagus mustache? The possibilities are only limited by your imagination and the food on your plate.

Stay tuned next week for our fourth gift guide!

Enhanced by Zemanta

GeekMom Holiday Gift Guide #1: Books

Regardless of what holidays you celebrate, the end-of-year festivities are right around the corner. If you choose to purchase gifts online, you need to order then in advance to allow for shipping time, backorders, and comparison shopping. We at GeekMom are here to help you with ideas for anyone on your gift list, from babies to grownups. We’ll be running a series of half a dozen or so posts, sorted by category or age group, with suggested gifts this holiday season. Many of our writers have contributed to our series of gift guides, so the ideas run the gamut from popular bestsellers to more obscure, interesting gifts with which you may not be familiar. Chances are there will be something that appeals to you. Feel free to add your own recommendations in the comments below.

In this, the first post of the first series of GeekMom holiday gift guides, we start out with books. Books are a gift that can appeal to anyone: babies, toddlers, young children, older children, and of course adults. Books are always a great holiday gift!

Geek Dad by Ken Denmead
Written by our own publisher, Ken Denmead, Geek Dad is filled with geeky projects that you can do with your children. Some are fast and simple, some are more complicated. From binary clocks to aerial photography, this book will fill your quality time with the kids with useful and fun activities.

Image: Houghton Mifflin

Pocketful of Posies and Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects by Salley Mavor
Combining traditional nursery rhymes and breathtaking felt and stitching, Pocketful of Posies is a special way to share well-known and also much more obscure nursery rhymes with your kids. You can even take turns reading the poems with kids old enough to read. By the same author and artist, Felt Wee Folk: Enchanting Projects teaches you how to make your own felt and stitching projects.

Image: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Sneaky Uses Books by Cy Tymony
Sneaky Science Tricks, The Sneaky Book for Boys and The Sneaky Book for Girls are books filled with fun and often scientific projects for kids, or for parents and kids to do together. There is plenty of overlap between books, but each one is tailored to a specific audience. Sneaky Science Tricks teaches scientific principles to do cool tricks and activities. The Sneaky Book for Boys focuses more on boys’ natural tendency to want to be sneaky, detailing science projects and teaching about animals and how to be resourceful. The Sneaky Book for Girls also covers scientific principles, but additionally includes projects such as crafts, magic, and spy stuff. Author Cy Tymony has written many other Sneaky books as well.

Image: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Built to Last (and other books by David Macaulay)
Remember the Pyramid, Cathedral, and Castle books? They’ve been around for years and have inspired many students and teachers to learn about history and start their own building projects. Now David Macaulay has combined Castle, Cathedral, and the newer Mosque, totally redoing them for this well-packaged release. Learn how they built these magnificent structures through fictional stories based on the time periods. While you’re at it, check out David Macaulay’s many other books, such as Mill, City, The New Way Things Work, and The Way We Work.

Image: W. W. Norton & Company

Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman! (Adventures of a Curious Character) by Richard Feynman
A timeless classic, this autobiographical look into a fascinating physicist’s life is accessible to scientists and non-scientists alike. You’ll learn, you’ll laugh, and you’ll appreciate a kind of work that most of us don’t do on a daily basis. But most of all, Richard Feynman is an interesting and intriguing personality. This series of anecdotes from Feynman’s life is worth a read and a re-read. Then share your copy with other family members and friends, and discussion will ensue.

Photo: National Geographic

National Geographic Atlas of the World
Newly updated, this most recent version of the National Geographic Atlas of the World is a gorgeous, useful, and clear representation of Earth on paper. It also includes many pages on the cultural and political geography of our planet, and even includes maps of the deep sea floor, the moon, Mars, the solar system, and even the galaxy. An essential reference for every home.

Image: Yale University Press

A Little History of the World by E. H. Gombrich
This gem of a book is perfect for introducing your children to the history of the world. Its narrative thread takes you from before ancient history up until World War II, and was written specifically for children. Each chapter deals with a different part of history or part of the world, and tells the story in an engaging way that is both accessible to your children and not condescending. It was originally written in 1935 by Austrian-born Gombrich, who spent much of his life in the United Kingdom. He updated the book before his death in 2001. There are many references to days gone by and it is very UK-centric, but it’s such a delightful find for teaching your kids about the history of the western world. The gorgeous woodcuts that accompany each chapter add to your enjoyment. This is a book that you will want to read aloud to your children, since it is as much for the grown-ups who read it as for the children who listen.

Photo: Abrams Books

I Lego N.Y. by Christoph Niemann
For the Lego brick lover in the family who needs to get something beyond just boxes of new bricks this year, a good pick might be a clever book called I Lego N.Y., by Christoph Niemann. While living in Berlin, Mr. Niemann longed for his beloved New York City and began building small, clever vignettes from his son’s Lego bricks. The book has the expected, like the Empire State Building, but also the ordinary, like a man standing on a subway platform. Some scenes cleverly use only a small handful of bricks. An inspiring book for any Lego creator, big or small.

Image: Nathan Sawaya

The Art of the Brick by Nathan Sawaya
When the little (or big!) Lego geek in your family has built every building, spaceship, and robot imaginable, maybe it’s time to branch out. There is no better place to get inspiration than Nathan Sawaya, the world famous Lego brick sculptor. He’s created a book overflowing with pictures of his most amazing projects. It’s called The Art Of The Brick: The Pictorial, and it does not disappoint. From page one to page 68, this book is packed with inspiring pictures. Broken down into categories, like portraits, novelty pieces, large sculptures and museum works, Mr. Sawaya pairs his pictures with fascinating factoids about how some of his pieces came to be. It’s a must have for any serious Lego lover.

Photo: Cartwheel Books

Star Wars ABC by Scholastic
Do you need a gift idea for a new GeekMom or GeekDad who loves all things Star Wars? Or maybe a certain geek baby you know has an empty spot on her bookcase that would welcome a board book called Star Wars ABC. The pictures are fun, scenes taken straight from the movies, and each letter mimics something related to the picture (the E for Ewok is fuzzy). Big brothers and sisters might even volunteer to read this fun book to the little ones in the house.

Photo: Workman Publishing

Star Wars: A Scanimation Book: 12 Iconic Scenes from a Galaxy Far, Far Away.. by Rufus Butler Seder
If you love Star Wars, you might also love Star Wars: A Scanimation Book: 12 Iconic Scenes from a Galaxy Far, Far Away.. where scenes from the movie come to life when the book is turned from side to side. Another pick that big kids just might love as much as the toddlers.

Photo: Judy Berna

Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the Lego Minifigure by Nevin Martel
If you have a Lego fan on your list you have to see this amazing book, called Standing Small: A Celebration of 30 Years of the Lego Minifigure, by Nevin Martell. Filled with fun facts (Which figure had the first eyelashes? When were females introduced?) as well as pages full of pictures showcasing the hundreds of different variations of those intriguing little people, this book will keep Lego fans, young and old, busy for hours. It is sold as part of a set, packaged with The Lego Book (a wonderful book of Lego history), but is entertaining enough to stand on its own. The set can be purchased for just over $25.00.

Image: HarperCollins

The Father Christmas Letters by J.R.R. Tolkien
It’s hard to decide what’s more thrilling about this book: discovering a Tolkien book that you never knew existed, or the hand-lettered missives inside, their envelopes bearing this real, if undeniably magical, address — “The Tolkiens, 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford, England.” Beginning in 1933, Tolkien’s children received hand-written illustrated letters from Father Christmas. The book compiles the letters, which share a certain similarity in prose style with the writings of Tolkien himself, with illustrations the North Pole and even the fanciful postage drawn on the envelopes. The letters relate the ancient history of the polar elves and their battles with marauding goblins, and derive much comic relief from the well-meaning North Polar Bear, Father Christmas’ helper, who unfailingly manages to wreak havoc on the holiday.

Photo: EyeThink

EyeThink Board Books
Just when you think the term board books should be changed to bored books along comes this exciting new variation. From the people at EyeThink, these books come to life, with pictures that seem to move when you tilt the book from side to side. There are three variations, Gallop, Waddle, and Swing, and they retail for $12.95.

Photo: Kid-O

Things That Go Wooden Book by Kid-O
Somewhere between book and toy are Kid-O’s wonderful wooden books. Things That Go is a wordless book featuring lovely, simple art of vehicles printed on maple wood, great for those kids who like to rip and chew their books. Also available: Animal Homes.

Stay tuned next week for our second holiday gift guide!

Enhanced by Zemanta