July 11, 2014
by Meredith Bland

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

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.


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

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.


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.”


“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.

July 1, 2014
by Meredith Bland

A report, two weeks into summer vacation

Image via freeimages.com

Image via freeimages.com

I hate summer.

Hate hate hate it.

I have hated it for as long as I can remember for two reasons: first, I hate small clothes. And, I must add, the feeling is reciprocated. Second, I hate heat and humidity. In my opinion, it is way preferable to be freezing cold, when all I have to do is put on layers and jog in place to warm myself up, than to experience the kind of heat I did years ago during my one and only visit to Key West, Florida. That’s the kind of heat where you walk outside and soak through your clothes before the door has fully closed behind you. In that kind of heat, there are only so many layers you can take off before you are just sitting there sad and miserable in your own damp.

So you can imagine how shocked I am by the fact that I am LOVING this summer. LOVING. IT. Now, have we had any temperatures above 71 degrees so far? No, because Seattle is the finest city on the planet. Have my kids been out of school for less than two weeks? Why, yes…why do you ask?

But I am putting my cynicism aside for a bit and enjoying the hell out of how relaxing it is not to have my kids in school. If I heard myself say that sentence in August, right before my kids started full-day kindergarten, I would have turned the pointy side of my ring around and slapped myself across the face. I had NO IDEA how stressful it would be to keep kids moving through a school year. Not to mention that I had twins who were in separate classes and therefore had two different sets of expectations, schedules, and projects. There was a whole lot of, “Oh shit! Today is wacky hair day AND we were supposed to bring our library books?! FUUUUUUUUUUCK.”

So far I am finding the lack of schedules and lunches and share days way more relaxing than I ever could have dreamed. We have been having a blast so far…except for the part where two kids who have not spent all of their time together for nine months suddenly start spending all of their time together and discover that they cannot wait to learn all new ways to kill each other now that they have been reunited.

Damn you to hell, Spiderman.

Damn you to hell, Spiderman.

Also, I am already plotting a fire-filled act of vengeance against that goddamn ice cream truck that seems to follow us everywhere we go. Only a week into summer and it’s already got me saying “oh shit” when I hear it coming. Just you wait till the end of summer, Ice Cream Man. First I am going put you at a table with a dozen of those horrible spider man cones. Then, I will take away all of your napkins and wet wipes. Then, I will remove all of the ice cream sandwiches from your truck and put them in a cooler…as hostages, of course. THEN, I will set your truck on fire.

But till that time, this summer is going to be filled with some happy happy kick-ass times. Until, of course, we reach mid-August, when I will be handing my kids the remote and going back to bed.

June 24, 2014
by Meredith Bland

I get it, but no: Fourth grader sued for bullying

I’m talking current events today. Well, current events from last week. But still! I am culturally relevant a little bit!

There was a time during this past school year where I suspected one of my children was being bullied. Let me try to describe to you exactly where on the rage chart that put me: somewhere between “why didn’t you figure out your order before you got to the front of the line,” and the injustice of the Holocaust.

I have a large capacity for rage.

Luckily, it turned out that my child wasn’t being bullied and I could put the jack back in the trunk, but it made me understand how helpless and angry parents feel when their children are being hurt by another child. It’s hard to talk to the teacher without wondering if you’re overprotective, it’s hard to talk to the other parent without worrying that you’re insane, and you can’t talk to the other child because that’s usually frowned on. By the law.

So when I read this articlemedium_2500644518 about a fourth grade student who is being sued for bullying one of his classmates, I initially thought, “YES! Git ‘im, Pa!” Then I thought, “Wait. Hold on a second, Pa. Isn’t he nine?”

The victim’s parents are suing the nine-year-old bully, his parents, the school district, and the school principal, for $50,000. I’m not much into suing people, but I can see the reasoning behind naming the parents and the school in the suit. But the kid? That’s where you lose me. In fact, their attorney says that if they win the lawsuit they might be able to garnish the future wages of the fourth-grade defendant. Yeah. That’s right. All of that kid’s earnings from McDonald’s would go straight into this other kid’s piggy bank. And that kid is going to buy hundreds of cupcakes. And then he’s going to sit in front of the first kid’s house and eat them all. Slowly.

All in all, the victim’s parents haven’t been doing him a whole lot of favors, here, including releasing his name and photo to the press. I definitely don’t have all the answers, but let me tell you what isn’t going to help this boy – putting his picture on the news and telling everyone the details of his humiliations.

Here’s what I think helps: conversations with other parents that begin with “Ha ha ha I know that science project was nuts right so anyway about your boy Manson…I mean…Mason.” I believe in sideways stares at the offending child, stares that say, “I know what you’re doing you little f***er, and the only reason you’re getting away with this is that I value my freedom.”

But more than anything, I believe in fighting battles for our kids without making them front line casualties. I believe in not bringing a child into adult arguments and grievances. I believe in treating children as children and parents like the responsible, adult guardians they are supposed to be. That means holding them accountable separately, and preferably, privately.


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