July 22, 2014
by Meredith Bland
5 Comments

Heading to Blogher 2014!

BLOGHER 14I’m off to Blogher 2014 tomorrow, bitches and bastards! Woo hoo!!!!!

Last year I went all by myself. I was nervous, sticky, and ate a lot of room service while watching Law & Order reruns. This year, however, my twin sister is going with me, so the good times are going to roll! We are going to get to celebrate our birthday together for the first time in many years,and she is going to be able to be my shelter in the storm when the many, many people bring on my first panic attack. It’s gonna be awesome!

This year there are a bunch of bloggers I am looking forward to meeting that I know on this series of tubes known as the interweb but have never met in person. The internet is weird that way, huh? So that’s something to look forward to,

There is an extra element of terror this year though, as I have been one of the bloggers picked from among Blogher’s Voices of the Year to read one of my blog posts in front of a hotel ballroom full of people. I am so incredibly psyched and honored, but also incredibly nauseous.

ALSO, I get to go to Netflix’s headquarters for a tour along with some of their other Stream Team bloggers! And, in addition to some Netflix honchos, we are going to meet Piper Kerman, the author of Orange is The New Black.

Oh. My. God.

So this is going to be a big conference for me, and I can barely nap enough to deal with all of the stress. So keep your fingers crossed for me that I don’t accidentally spit food on anyone while talking, or say anything unforgivably stupid. Forgivably stupid I expect and can deal with.

There will be some awesome guest posts on Thursday and the following Tuesday, and then I’ll be back with a post-Blogher wrap up toward the end of next week.

Eep, y’all.

July 15, 2014
by Meredith Bland
5 Comments

Football versus Futbol – 4 things I learned by watching the World Cup

During the past few weeks, I — like millions of other Americans — became enamored with the world of futbol (pronounced like football, only after you’ve been kicked in the stomach.) As a devoted football fan, I discovered some interesting contrasts between the game I love and the game I was temporarily flirting with.

1. In football, they wear face masks…sometimes fairly elaborate, cage-like masks like the Raider’s Justin Tuck at the bottom. Unfortunately, those types of face masks will not be allowed next season. This makes me very sad, because there so many more nightmares I had yet to dream.

Now futbol, however, has no face masks. And guess which sport’s players get bitten? With mouths? By other grown men?

POINT: Face cage.

Deadspin f vs f 1

Deadspin Fvs F 2

2. When futbol players pull up their jerseys to celebrate, it looks like this:

deadspin fvsv 3
When football players pull up their jerseys to celebrate, it looks like this:
mebane

POINT: The Mebane belly roll. I like some jelly in my NFL belly. Get it, big man.

3. Celebrations. In football, you aren’t allowed to taunt defenders after a touchdown; this includes standing over them for too long, using the football as a prop, or doing a military salute. Officials also don’t enjoy choreographed dances, which I think we can all agree is absolute madness, because who doesn’t want to see a bunch of football players doing a choreographed dance? Crazy people, that’s who.

In futbol, on the other hand, the rule book states that after scoring a goal players may neither remove their shorts nor incite a riot. And that’s about it. Shorts. And riots.

South Africa Soccer WCup England US

deadspin fvsf 5

 

POINT: Football. The game where the players are dignified enough not to have be asked to keep their pants on.

4. When their team is getting the stuffing beat out of it, futbol fans have big reactions. Like this gentleman, for example, who forgot to bring snacks to the game.

deadspin fvsf 6

Football fans however, such as this caring Manning brother watching his brother’s team getting destroyed during the Super Bowl, tend to spiral downward into despair. This kind of despair robs us of our ability to move our faces.

deadspin fvsf 7

POINT: Football’s stoney sadness. This is the correct reaction to having your dreams die.

CONCLUSION: In terms of biteyness, anguish, and forced control over joy, football still reigns supreme. Now oh my god, can it please be September already?

July 11, 2014
by Meredith Bland
0 comments

Netflix for kids: School’s out for summer, but Netflix is in.

As I said in Tuesday’s post, I am not anti-screen time. In fact, I am aaaaaaaaall for it. Sometimes kids need sometime to zone out and relax their little minds, and sometimes Mommy needs to take a nap. And eat all the cookies.

I don’t even worry too much about whether or not the program is educational, but it sure helps me feel slightly less guilty when I know that they think they are getting away with watching TV but they are actually learning about the solar system.

HA! Take THAT, kids!

This month’s Netflix Stream Team theme was “School’s In For Summer,” and gave links to a few educational yet fun programming for kids. The gauntlet has been thrown. Let’s get stupid, kids.

Here were their choices for little kids like mine:

1. The Great Mouse Detective

2. Busytown Mysteries

3. LeapFrog: Math Adventures to the Moon

4. Turtle: The Incredible Journey

5. The Magic School Bus

As usual, I let the kids pick what they wanted to watch. Their first choice?

Numbers! In space! (image via leapfrog.com)

Numbers! In space! (image via leapfrog.com)

1. Leapfrog: Math Adventures to the Moon

That’s right. I am raising some straight up nerds, y’all.

And my little nerds LOVE the Leapfrog shows. I’m not sure why, but I am sure am grateful. When one of the little frog-beings said, “Math is fantastic!” I closed my eyes and thought, “Yes…say that again…make them think math is a force for good instead of the hideous evil I know it to be.” They are going to need all the help they can get in learning to enjoy math, because if you put enough numbers in front of me, I black out. So let’s keep adding and subtracting planets.

Their second choice?

(image via imdb.com)

(image via imdb.com)

2. The Great Mouse Detective

I am not going to kid you — I am not sure how this one is educational. Maybe because it helps them think creatively about how to solve problems and also gives them nightmares about bats who have sharp teeth and a peg leg? That must be it.

And, because we couldn’t get enough and Mommy was super duper tired that week, we got to watch another one. They chose:

 

And so it begins... (image via magicschoolbuswiki.com)

And so it begins… (image via magicschoolbuswiki.com)

3. The Magic School Bus

The Magic School Bus, as I have learned from Wikipedia, was a big hit during the 1990s when I was a teenager and heavily into awkwardness and analyzing the shape of my nose. So I missed out on this one. But the kids and I really enjoyed the episode we watched on the digestive system.

See, the magic School Bus shrinks and gets swallowed by a child named Arnold, and they go forth to discuss all of the part of his digestive system. This episode had me on the edge of my seat, wondering what they were going to do when they got to Arnold’s anus. Well, they tease you by getting all the way down to the lower intestine, where the kids get increasingly anxious and converned about the smell. Here is how the Magic School Bus Wiki describes the rest of that scene:

When Ms. Frizzle states that the trip is not over yet, Ralphie becomes quite frustrated, reciting all the organs of the digestive system consecutively and asking what’s more to it. Ms. Frizzle answers that they just need to “join the rest of the waste products and finish the trip.” With the shocked class refusing to exit through Arnold’s anus as feces and end up in the toilet, they plan to venture out of him by going back.

Booooooooo. So Arnold burps them up instead. But, you know, my kids learned about stomach acid and stuff, so I guess it wasn’t a total loss for them, although it was a deeply painful loss for me.

 ***

So tell the kids to stop fighting over whose turn it is to kick the other one in the head. Go put on some Netflix, grab a comfy place to sit, and relax while the kids learn something. Or don’t. Let’s not worry too much about that. Just enjoy the silence.

Hurray, Summer!

 

July 8, 2014
by Meredith Bland
9 Comments

Screen time: I’ve decided not to stress about it.

via freeimages.com

via freeimages.com

If you want to get a group of parents squirming uncomfortably, apologizing for their choices, or climbing to the top of Mount Pious and waving their flags for all to see, bring up screen time for kids.

I have had dozens upon dozens of conversations with other parents about TVs/iPads/iPhones that include sentences like, “Well, I mean, I only let him watch for half an hour on the weekends.That’s not bad, right?” Or, “I let them watch for three hours straight the other day. I just needed a break. I know, it’s terrible.”

Let me give you the real shit right here: my kids get a ton of screen time. A TON. They’re on the iPad before school. They’re on the iPad after school. And sometimes they follow that up with video games after dinner. They have spent entire days in front of one screen or another. ENTIRE. DAYS.

Now, do I beat myself up about that? Yes. A little bit. It’s hard not to in the current parenting culture, where we are expected to martyr ourselves in both childbirth and parenting in order to prove our worth. We seem to think that unless we are struggling, we are not giving our children our best. It’s hard not to let that wiggle its way in to your head.

However, I am much more forgiving of myself than most people I know, and it breaks my heart when I hear other parents (most of the time, other moms) give themselves a hard time over letting their kids watch a few hours of TV.

No, screens should not be substitutes for parenting; ideally, your kid isn’t in front of a screen every waking minute of every day. As with most things in life and in parenting, it’s about balance. Sometimes you eat broccoli, and sometimes you eat Oreo ice cream sandwiches. Sometimes you do homework, sometimes you go out to play. Sometimes you watch TV, sometimes you…I don’t know…make puppets out of recycling and put on a show at the community p-patch. Or something.

Some days my kids gets tons of screen time, other days they get none at all. And it all seems to work out for us. It’d be one thing if I asked my kids what five plus five was, and they said “Pokemon.” But they don’t. So it’s cool. Besides, there are tons of great educational programs and websites out there. There is no reason to throw the baby out with the bath water; I mean, sometimes the baby poops in the tub, but other times it teaches your kid about planets and what the word “camouflage” means.

BALANCE!

So when my kids and I have conversations like the following, I don’t worry.

KIDS: “Mom, what is evolution?”

ME: “Well, evolution is how living things change and adapt over time.”

KIDS: “So it’s like an upgrade in a video game?”

ME: “You know what? Yes. It is exactly like that.”

July 3, 2014
by Meredith Bland
7 Comments

Blogging for Books: Why yes, I am that kind of whore

Let me tell you what I love: videos of dogs trying to talk like people.

Let me tell you what else I love: BOOKS.

OH MY GOD YOU GUYS DO I LOVE BOOKS. Bookstores are dangerous places for me –I don’t know that I have ever set foot inside a bookstore and not bought a book. I read every single night before I fall asleep because it’s usually the only time I can fit it into my day. When people ask me what my hobbies are, I tell them, “sleeping and reading.”

What I’m saying is, I love books.

So when Crown Publishing e-mailed me about being a part of their Blogging for Books program, I was super excited. See, they give you BOOKS, for FREE, in exchange for a blog post about said book.

SOLD! That is my kind of pimp talk.

Shovel Ready

I decided that if I was going to review these books on my blog, I had to pick ones that had some humor in them. So for my first book, I picked Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh.. It’s about a garbageman who calls himself Spademan in the not-too-distant future who lives in New York after a dirty bomb has gone off in Times Square. And then he becomes a hit man. Here’s the rest from the jacket:

In a near-future New York City split between those wealthy enough to “tap in” to a sophisticated virtual reality and those who are left behind to fend for themselves in the ravaged streets, Spademan chose the streets.

YES.

It’s post-apocalyptic, it’s got a sci-fi edge, and it is a tightly written book. Sternbergh (the Culture editor at the New York Times Magazine) uses a lot of short sentences and considers every word, but it doesn’t feel overused —  this may be partly because Shovel Ready is a quick read (I read it over the course of about five hours). And boy oh boy do I love me a book about the future after a large-scale disaster; I usually prefer zombies, but I’ll take a dirty bomb in a pinch.

Best of all, there are these hilarious sentences that just pop up and take you by surprise. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Come nuclear winter, Hacky Sacks will prevail. A lone sack, being hackyed, on some burnt-out horizon. We’ll know civilization, and jam bands, survived.”

And

“Ducks, plucked and bashful, hung on hooks in a windowpane, like a warning to other outlaw ducks.”

The only downside to this book is that Sternbergh doesn’t use quotation marks when his characters are speaking. I know it’s a stylistic thing, and I’m sure someone smarter than I am can tell me why it was important, but all it did was confuse me. There were a few times when I had to go back a few lines and say, “Wait, was that a thought or did someone say that?” (see how I used quotation marks there? I enjoy them.)

But this really is a good, fun, interesting book. I’d call it a beach read, but that might make me a weirdo. Can beach reads be all murdery? Well, mine can, and this is perfect. Best of all, the ending isn’t predictable, and when you find out the WHY behind everything it’s surprising and interesting. Not every book holds me till the last page, but this one did.

So tally ho! I give it four out of five nubs.

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