I’m Doing it Wrong?: Star Wars & the Next Generation

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, I was introduced to the Star Wars Universe. My introduction was at the movie theater, during the original theatrical release of Empire Strikes Back.

The year was 1980 and, in retrospect, I was probably too young. As it was, my poor father had to watch the majority of the movie through a hole in the door. I was so terrified by the removal of Darth Vader’s helmet, I made him leave the theater and refused to go back inside.

That makes me feel somewhat less guilty about the odd way I’ve introduced my daughter to Star Wars.

Continue reading I’m Doing it Wrong?: Star Wars & the Next Generation

3 ‘Star Wars’ Handprint Paintings for Younglings

Photo: Kelly Knox
Photo: Kelly Knox

When my daughter was a toddler, one of our favorite activities was making handprint paintings together. She loved feeling the cool paint as the brush tickled her fingers, and I loved having a small keepsake of her little hands. Add a Star Wars theme to the handprints, and you’ve got a perfect painting to hang on the fridge or paste in a geek mom’s scrapbook.

Here are three Star Wars handprint painting ideas crafted with small hands to make happy memories.

What You Need

  • Washable paint (Crayola)
  • Paint brush
  • Black marker
  • Paper

Princess Leia Continue reading 3 ‘Star Wars’ Handprint Paintings for Younglings

Would You Survive Order 66?

Poor Plo Koon....\ Image: Savanna Kiefer
Poor Plo Koon….\ Image: Savanna Kiefer

Order 66 is the order that was given by Darth Sidious (the evil ego of Chancellor Palpatine) to the clone troopers to kill the Jedi they had been serving alongside during the Clone Wars. The desolation of the Jedi is one of the most significant events in the Star Wars universe. Obi Wan Kenobi and Yoda famously escaped their own executions, while many younglings and other Jedi were not so lucky. Master Aayla Secura was gunned down by her squadron, Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) lead the 501st Legion into the Jedi temple to kill everyone they came across, and Master Plo Koon was killed by Captain Jag. It was a dark time for the Jedi—to survive, you had to be good or pretty darn lucky.

The question I have for you is…would you survive? Take my quiz to find out!

[playbuzz-game game=”http://www.playbuzz.com/geekmom11/would-you-survive-order-66″]

Come to the Pink Side, We Have Tutus

Photo Ella Rose: Melody Mooney

This is Ella Rose; she is three. Her favorite day of the week is Tuesday, which is ballet class day. She loves pink and she loves tutus.

Ella was born into a very geek-centric family, so her girly-girl behavior came as a bit of a surprise to her father and me. “Pink” was never a big-bad four-letter word in our home, but we also knew how influenced she would be by the popularity of Disney Princesses among her schoolmates. We wanted to give her options, so we practiced a huge amount of “geek balance” right from the start.

She learned her alphabet from the Star Wars ABC book. Her first eight-inch dolls were Anakin Skywalker and Qui-Gon Jinn, not Barbies. I shopped in the boys’ section of Target for all of her shirts, which had superheroes on them, not Mini Mouse. We bought her Doctor Who hair clips and a teddy bear companion at local craft fairs. My husband even joined in and donated to the Goldieblox Kickstarter campaign, which created toys to get girls interested in engineering.We were content with the Jedi training of our little geekling. Maybe, though, we were smug. We might even have been presumptuous.

As Ella grew, she began to exert her own personality, she chose what she wanted to wear and play with. That’s when the tide of pink and tutus began to rise. Questions regarding negative gender influence and threats to her developing mighty girl power began to plague me. Would my GeekMom card get revoked if it were revealed that Snow White was her favorite princess and not Leia?

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Yoda Potty Trained Jedi for 900 years Photo: Melody Mooney

Yoda was always perched on Ella’s pink princess potty as she trained in the bathroom. But looking him in the eye became uncomfortable.  I felt a great disturbance in our family force.

I felt a strange sense of guilt about all of this. Were we not, after all, huge advocates for choice? It seemed to me that we were restricting her play and imagination to things that fit our ideology. Even stranger was that her male playmates were getting praised for putting on a crown and fairy wings. Why was it so wrong for Ella? I realize the important groundwork that has been laid and the awareness that is growing when it comes to young girls, role models, career and life choices. Frozen and the wonderful message it provides was one of her first movie theater experiences. It is truly exciting to think of Ella’s nearly unlimited future as a woman. We could be looking at a future engineer, a future NASA pilot, or world leader. What if her future includes studying ballet at Juilliard and wearing tutus for a living? Would limiting those first experimental choices because they are viewed as damaging be playing god with her future? As parents—even geekling-parents—we need to guide, educate, and support her in whatever path she chooses. Yes, we must accept and brace ourselves that she may even find A New Hope, Dungeons and Dragons, and comic books terribly boring and lame.

Time moves so quickly. Why not let her dance in whatever color makes her happy now? There are very serious challenges just around her future’s corner. Flights of fancy, glitter, and princess dresses will give way to other stages. Letting go, we are trusting that we will all find balance in this exploration.  Leaving today for her ballet class, I smiled at her and surrendered to the Pink Side. After all, they do have seriously cute tutus.

Star Wars Week: Five Ideas For A Star Wars Birthday Party

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The birthday boy gets his cake. Yoda loses his ears. All photos by Ruth Suehle.

For his first birthday, my younger geekling had a flaming robot. For his second, he chose Angry Birds. This year he was committed to celebrating his third trip around the sun with Star Wars. Here’s how we did it:

The cake
There’s so much to love in Star Wars, it’s hard to commit to one character or scene for a cake, so why not hit as many as possible?

Click the small images to enlarge.

The cake is four layers each split into two halves:

  • 10″ round: Side 1 is black with Darth Vader’s chest plate. Side 2 is white with Leia’s silver belt.
  • 8″ round: Side 1 is Chewbacca fur with his bandolier. Side 2 represents Han Solo with white on top and a black V shaped “vest” and blue on the side with a red strip for his Corellian Blood Stripes.
  • 6″ round: Side 1 is gold with concentric circles representing C3P0’s chest. Side 2 is R2D2.
  • Dome top: I used half of the Wilton ball pan to make the top of Yoda’s head (all the way around).

R2D2 for trash

You’ve probably seen an R2D2 trash can, or a child’s costume made from one. A party needs a trash can, so why not? I started with a black trash can, taped off two areas at the bottom to be “blank” where there should be space under him (rather than build legs onto the trash can). I spray painted the bottom white, the top silver, and painted in the details.

Death to the Death Star

You can find instructions all over the Internet for making papier-mâché Death Star piñatas, but the basic idea is simple. Blow up a balloon. Cover it in papier-mâché (dip newspaper strips in a flour and water glue mixture). Paint. I used the silver spray paint from R2D2’s head to coat it, then taped of sections with painter’s tape. I covered the remaining areas with spray adhesive and sprinkled black sand over them. (The sand is incredibly cheap at your local craft store.)

I didn’t think foam lightsabers could take down a piñata, but papier-mâché has nothing on the determination of preschoolers.

Lightsabers that won’t kill a toddler

And of course, you need something to bring down the Death Star. Pool noodles and duct tape are your key to cheap, safe lightsabers. If you fold a pool noodle in half and press the bent spot just a bit with a knife, it will pop in half cleanly. (You may have to sometimes saw a bit through part of it.) Add duct tape for a hilt and electrical tape for details, and in just a few minutes, you have enough lightsabers for every kid in your party to be a tiny fighter.

I didn’t think the foam would be enough to destroy the Death Star, but never understimate small children with fake weapons. They were determined and indeed broke the piñata with nothing else.

Foam lightsabers alongside the favors made from Target Dollar Spot Star Wars goodies.

Snacks

My birthday boy really wanted an ice cream sundae bar, so we set that up with Star Wars cookies made quickly and easily with the Williams-Sonoma Star Wars cookie cutters. I didn’t bother to frost them since they were all going inside Darth Vader’s head. The cutters leave a reasonable character impression in the cookie.

I also made pretzel stick lightsabers by dipping them in colored candy melts and wrapping the bases in foil.

Still want more?

For more ideas, see Jennifer D’s posts The Ultimate Star Wars Party: Original Trilogy Only Please and How To Throw A Star Wars Halloween Party.

Star Wars Week: Star Wars + Tom Tom = Giveaway!

Jango Fett and the Tom Tom - Photo By: Dakster
Jango Fett and the Tom Tom - Photo By: Dakster

The Tom Tom VIA 1535TM is a great companion for your trips around the galaxy. I’ve never really used a GPS before so this made for an interesting experience. The device itself is pretty simple and I appreciated the ease of getting my device ready for the road. Of all the really neat features that it has, I found a few especially helpful.

One of my biggest pet peeves about following directions is not knowing which lane to get in for the next turn. To help make sure I don’t miss my exit, the advanced lane guidance feature came in handy. The voice guidance is clear and easy to understand.

Another neat little feature I discovered while on my way to work one day was the IQ routes. I started to notice my suggested route would change based on the time of day I was driving. Since traffic patterns are different at 7am than they are at 5pm, it was a nice feature that helped me get home just a little bit quicker.

One of the neat, but kind of funny features is the voice command feature. While testing this out, I was in the passenger seat and asked it to take me to Jo-Ann Fabrics. It must not have heard me correctly because it replied “Did you say Jack in the Box?” Needless to say, my husband about rolled over laughing. I’ve never had a voice command feature (not even Siri) that got everything I said right. Even if you don’t need the GPS to get you to the grocery store, the voice command feature might give your passengers some good laughs on the way.

Of all the features of device, my favorite is the ability to customize the device with various Star Wars voices, sounds and images. So far, my personal favorite customization is C-3PO’s voice guidance. His personality fits that of a side seat driver you want to slap (much like the real character).

Now on to the real fun stuff…giveaway time!

In honor of our week-long celebration of the force, Tom Tom has given us a Tom Tom VIA 1535TM device along with a Star Wars voice download! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment captioning this photo by 11:59pm, Eastern Standard Time on May 8th. Winners will be chosen randomly and announced on May 9th.

Good luck and may the force be with you!

Catch up on Origami Yoda’s Adventures in Darth Paper Strikes Back Before the Fortune Wookiee Comes

Darth Paper photo by Ruth Suehle

If you have young Star Wars fans in your house, and they haven’t read Tom Angelberger’s pair of origami-novel love letters to the franchise, I highly recommend you pick them both up now. And if you don’t have young Star Wars fans, but you are yourself perhaps a less-young Star Wars fan, you’ll enjoy them yourself. I’m talking about The Strange Case of Origami Yoda and its sequel, Darth Paper Strikes Back.

Cover: Darth Paper Strikes Back

Darth Paper Strikes Back: An Origami Yoda Book came out last August, and I’ve been quite remiss in not writing about it before now–but not for lack of love of them both. In fact, everybody I’ve seen since then who has heard me talk glowingly about Dwight, Tommy, and their mystery-solving friends will tell you how much I adore these books.

The Strange Case of Origami Yoda is the paper creation of a sixth-grader named Dwight. He’s a little weird. No, he’s a lot weird. You remember that kid from your own sixth-grade class, I’m sure. Dwight himself is not that brilliant, but his Origami Yoda seems not only smart, but sometimes downright prescient. Dwight’s friend Tommy is dying to know how that can be. Is Origami Yoda “real,” so to speak? Sentient apart from Dwight? Or perhaps he just uses the Force?

The hunt for the answer is the story of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, each chapter told from the point of view of another person from Tommy and Dwight’s group of friends.

In Darth Paper Strikes Back, without ruining for you the conclusions reached in the first novel, Origami Yoda is in danger. And he’s facing a dark paper-foe: Darth Paper, created by Dwight’s nemesis, Harvey. Those who believe in the good of Origami Yoda and Dwight need to save them both from the dark side of paper.

Darth Paper is also written from multiple points of view, in the form of “case files” compiled by and shared among the friends. They’re illustrated just like your notebooks would have been in sixth grade, with doodles of teachers and sarlaacs in the margins.

As a bonus, each ends with the instructions for creating your own origami Star Wars characters, and you can see galleries of those that others have created at origamiyoda.com. You can also follow Origami Yoda on Twitter at @origamiyoda.

Best age for these books? They’re targeted at grades 3-6, ages 8 and up. My six-year-old thought they were fantastic, although I had to explain a few things, like what a school board is and what getting expelled means. Comments on Amazon suggest that their popularity skews towards the younger end of the intended audience. That said, I’m well beyond my elementary school years, and I gleefully devoured them both in one evening and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Be sure to grab them both so you’ll be ready when book three, The Secret of the Fortune Wookiee (Origami Yoda), comes out in August.

Disclosure: I received a copy of these books for review, which arrived along with the adorable Darth Paper pictured above.

Star Wars Bowling Pins

May a strike be with you Image Jennifer D.

Way before we had picked our birthday party theme, my son had been snacking on Gerber Graduates Puffs. While he loves these, I was dismayed because the containers were not recyclable. So, I had been saving them trying to think of a use for them. Once the label was peeled off, the container reminded me of a person’s shape. It was then that inspiration struck and I set about making baby food containers into a set of Star Wars bowling pins.

What you need:

  • 10 puffs containers, washed out with lids. You can find the Gerber ones anywhere and Target sells their brand too. They are basically the same shape.
  • Sharpie markers in a variety of colors
  • Good quality images of the characters you want. I found several random images that I attempted to draw via Google and the very talented Katie Cook was inspirational as well.
  • Beans or rice to weigh them down
  • Small ball for bowling

If you can’t tell by that scary C3PO above, I am not an artist (seriously, he looks like he is psycho or something) but I found images of Star Wars characters that I thought would be easy enough to draw free hand onto the bottles. Then I took my time and did the best I could, reminding myself that this is for a kid’s birthday party and they didn’t need to be perfect. If you make a mistake, the marker does not come all the way off. Hence the unfortunate moob on the stormtrooper. It does, however, rub off some so you have to be careful that you don’t accidentally smudge it off while completing your drawing. Also, the darker colors tend to smear into the lighter colors. You are really only limited by your imagination and,of course, your drawing skills, but these would work for just about any party theme. My favorites are Yoda and Jaba the Hutt. Which ones do you like?

Jabba and Boba Fett Image Jennifer D.
Yoda Image Jennifer D.

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Goody Bag Paradise: The Dollar Bin

Goody Bags Image Jennifer D.

Goody bags themselves have always presented a conundrum to me. On the one had, apparently it is a sin to send kids home from a party without one. On the other hand, they are usually filled with junk that ends up cluttering up geekette’s room. Goody bags at our house have been known to disappear and then mysteriously reappear with only the useful things still inside. I call it the goody bag yeti. My daughter was convinced we had a yeti living in our backyard when she was little so let’s just go with that. (She used to be convinced we had an ice troll in our freezer too, but that is another story).

Ergo, when I buy stuff for the inevitable goody bags I try and find things that fit the theme, are fairly cheap, AND will not end up as clutter. To that end, we pick our party theme several months in advance and I start scouring dollar stores and bins around our town as well as the web for good ideas. Here is what we came up with for our Star Wars party. These were all found in dollar bins except for the manual which cost printer paper and ink:

  • Decorative Tin Pail: the ones at Target were Yoda and one with Luke, Vader, Emperor, Yoda, the Death Star, and the Millennium Falcon.
  • A stress ball in the shape of C3PO’s head or Vader’s head. C’mon, first grade can be stressful.
  • A pair of ink pens: one with Yoda and one with Obi Wan Kenobi. When you click the button, it scrolls through several of their respective quotes.
  • Light up Yoda yoyo. Say that 5 times fast.
  • The 501st Imperial Cadet Training Manual: these I printed off, rolled up, and tied with some jute string.
Contents of The Bag Image Jennifer D.

In addition to these items, each child gets to take home their own pool noodle lightsaber. If you really want to up the ante for the saber battles, print off some masks for the kids. They have characters from the original series, Revenge of the Sith, and Clone Wars. For Star Wars specific goody items, you can check out the craft pages at StarWars.com. They have a ton of ideas not just for goody bags but also crafts you could do as activities at the party. Today’s Mama also has some excellent ideas on goody bag fodder for other themed parties.



A Girl And Her Star Wars Water Bottle

During anti bullying week, there were many wonderful articles on the topic, but one in particular really hit home for me. It was written by a mother whose first grade daughter was being teased for liking Star Wars. Katie has a Star Wars water bottle that she takes to school and the boys were teasing her about liking boy things. Having a daughter in first grade who has heard the same thing about the Yoda and R2D2 that she has on her Hello Kitty backpack, this story hit home.

One of the geeky sites that I read called Epbot blogged about this story and shared it with her readers. That was the start of a frenzy of support for Katie and her mom. As a result of this story getting shared around the web, Katie has had a tremendous response from fellow geek girls, GeekMoms, GeekDads, and the like. She has had over 2,000 comments encouraging her, a news interview, a radio interview, and a Facebook event has been set for December 10th.

You can do anything from simply wearing a Star Wars shirt to donating a Star Wars toy to one of the many Christmas toy drives. I want to encourage everyone to participate in some way, talk with your kids about the golden rule, and that girls (and boys for that matter) can like whatever they want to. Most importantly, remind your kids that it is ok to be you!