Friday, October 30, 2009

I think everyone needs a shockabuku

Shockabuku: A swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever. (From Urban dictionary.)

I just read Catherine Porter's first article for the Toronto Star and I am less than impressed. Aside from the whole "when did women's issues become only about moms?" problem, I am wanting to smack her around with a bag of oranges* for a few minutes as a result of reading her whine about her life.  Catherine, if by some weird off chance or due to the alignment of the stars you happen across my blog, I am addressing this post specifically to you.

What you need, my dear Catherine, is shockabuku.

You see, Catherine, there is more to life than your child's big poo and being woken in the morning by kids sitting on your head.  And, I hate to break the news to you, being a mommy is not the hardest job in the world.  You will not be getting a chuckle or been-there-done-that thought from me.  Yes, we moms all multi-task.  And yes it is hard to get a moment to ourselves sometimes.  But, we all signed up for this job when we decided to have kids.  Your mom did it, her mom did it, and her mother before her did it too.  You are not the first woman to have kids.  You are not the first working mom.  You are not special.  Is there comfort in knowing that we moms are not alone?  Of course there is!  But, those are moments shared between friends over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.  They are not issues to broadcast to your readership.

Why is it that you felt, as an introduction, you needed to tell us about your life as a mom?  I would rather have read about your year farming in India.  We all share the same morning routine to some degree, but I would venture a guess that the majority of us have not spent a year in India.  I feel like I would have known you better if you had shared the life lessons (other than the value of soap) you learnt in India.  Or maybe you could have told us about your educational background.  Mention the kids, for sure, because being a mom is part of who you are.  But it's not all that you are.  You are a journalist who spent a year in India and has some great stories to tell us about it.

You came across as a woman with a martyr complex in your column.  I'm sure that was not what you intended, but it read very much like you want us to all look up to you in awe that you can juggle so much.  Did you even think about the percentage of your readership who do not have kids?  They read something like that and it immediately turns into "blah blah blah I have kids blah blah blah I'm so overwhelmed blah blah blah".  To be perfectly honest, that is how I read your column and I have four kids (none of who, incidentally, I feel I need to give my full attention when they are around - life doesn't have to be as difficult as you're making it).

Women need an identity outside of their children.  More and more of us seem to be swallowed up by our kids.  You are in a unique position, Catherine, to address that to a mass of women through your article!

Like I said before, you need shockabuku.  I never really believed in the whole martyrdom of mommy-hood to begin with, but after my shockabuku experience I have little patience for it from others.  I tolerated going to play groups and listening about the trials of potty training little Johnny before, but now I can't.  I want more substance to what I talk about and what I read. I do appreciate how difficult it is to maintain some form of sanity during the morning rush but how about something real to read about?  Something that will make me think.  Something that will make me want to make changes to the world.  Something other than your kids.  Something other than what I just did that morning myself.  Something less mundane.

You said your biggest challenge was to change a diaper.  If that is your biggest challenge, then may I suggest that you look at it as something to be thankful for?  Can I tell you about one of my biggest challenges a year ago?  My biggest challenge was just getting out of bed through the fog of my clinical depression.  Now that I am seeing a therapist and am on medication, I marvel at just how easy life is.  Yes, I have four kids.  Yes, I have to get three of them off to school in the morning.  And now add to that that I am volunteering each morning as "parking lot monitor" at the school and my morning routine can be hectic.  But it's easy!  Oh so easy compared to a year ago when I had to do the same routine.

On November 12th, I can tell you right now what my entire day will look like.  I will be getting out of bed at 5:30am and will be leaving the house with my husband at 6:00am to drive to the hospital at 6:30am.  For the ten hours following that, I will be sitting in a waiting room while a team of specialists cut open my husband's head and operate on his brain.  I will be longing for the hectic morning routine.  I will gladly live your life for that day.

You need something, Catherine, to alter your reality.  What you see as hectic, crazy life, I see as a life to envy.  I would love it if the most difficult thing I had to deal with each morning was a poopy diaper.  Instead I have to deal with a husband who is going paralysed and worry about him driving to work.  I get to spend my day thinkging about things like seizures and aneurysms and strokes as a normal part of my day.  I get to watch each morning as it gets increasingly difficult for my husband to physically get out of bed.  Next time you feel the need to let us know how badly you have it, remember there are those who have it worse.  They deal with the day to day issues you do and then add a heap of other problems on top of it.  Think about the former homeless.  Think about the cancer survivors.  They all do the same thing you do but are glad to do it. 

Alter your reality, let go and I can guarantee that your morning will be a lot easier to deal with.

*I heard that a bag of oranges won't leave any bruises but still pack a whallop.  Anyone know if that's true?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Prison and school. It's the same thing, right?

There is a group of parents at my kids' school that want to enforce a playground policy that reminds me of a prison yard.  But, in prison yards, there actually is free association.  The yard rules are made and enforced by the inmates.

Here is the skinny.  There had been issues with older and younger kids having conflicts on the playground.  When, say, the grade four kids and the grade one kids were trying to play a game of basketball or soccer together, there were multiple occasions each recess where the kids would be running to the teachers with complaints of the older kids being bossy and the younger kids following the older kids around even when the game had stopped.  Understandably, the teachers on duty thought it needed to be addressed and a guideline was made that if kids were more than a grade apart, they were not to play together.  This was only a guideline and only to be used as a tool for the teachers to be able to say to the kids that were complaining that they need to stop playing together because of this rule.  The principal is very reluctant to designate certain areas of the yard to only certain grades.  She likes that kids can intermingle, but wants a definite line that teachers can tell kids they've crossed if needed.

This, to me, is a symptom of the overprotective parenting so prevalent today.  Had these kids (the younger and older ones) been left to defend themselves and think up solutions outside of the school, they would not have turned to the teachers so frequently to solve their problems.  These are kids who are incapable of compromise because all of the compromising has been done for them.  I can't blame the teachers for becoming exasperated with it all.

Had the issue ended there, I would be ending this post on a more positive note.  However, there is a group of parents who support this and want it enforced in the most strict way possible by designating an area of the yard for each grade.  I had the opportunity to talk to one of these parents and her attitude scared me.  She was adamant that the only reason a twelve year old would ever associate with a seven year old would be to prey on him.  After I got over the shock and was able to talk again I told her about three real life occurrences at that very school: 1 - siblings have been playing together for years without incident; 2 - a grade seven soccer guru student has been giving "lessons" to his grade four brother and his brother's friend; 3 - when my oldest was in grade two, she and her friends had a group of grade eight students help them make snowmen.  This is what this group of parents are willing to sacrifice. The fact that they are perfectly willing to turn innocent TWELVE YEAR OLDS into potential predators is one of the most disturbing things I've ever encountered.

For me, the issue is over.  I am not against the guideline for the teachers to use as needed.  A note is going home to parents to explain exactly what the guideline is and how and when it will be used.  I have a feeling that the issue is not over for the principal and the psycho group of parents.  I will keep on top of it for sure.  I have joined the Home and School Committee for the first time this year and hope to keep brining sanity to the insanity that can happen.  I am happy to report, though, that we are planning not only a bake sale but a cake raffle.  Long live the cupcake!  And long live free play!

Monday, October 19, 2009

The story of the beginning of Kevin's special brain powers - Part 3

Previously on "The story of the beginning of Kevin's special brain powers":

Kevin - "Aaahh" shake shake shake
Sara - "OMG OMG OMG!" calls 911
Scene cuts to hospital parking lot where Sara has a break down then enters hospital.
Nurse - "Time for CT Scan!"
Doctor - "Results are in, you do have a brain, but there's something wrong with it and you have to be transfered to university hospital."
Kevin - "Ahhhh I'm having another seizure!"
Doctor - "Bring me insane amounts of Adavan stat!"
Kevin - "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"
Sara - "TAXI! Take my to university hospital."
Kevin - "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"
Neuro Resident - "It's not cancer, we think it's a cerebral AVM but need an MRI."
Kevin - "zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz"

Now let's continue the story.

Somewhere around noon, Kevin finally woke up.  He was very groggy after being pumped full of drugs to stop the coming seizure.  We sat and talked for a while and I told him that the doctors are almost positive that it's not cancer.  He nodded his head and seemed to accept that.

Not having anything to eat since 5:00 the day before, Kevin told me he was hungry.  I relayed this information to the nurse who asked for a tray of finger foods to be brought for Kevin.  He started with the Cheerios.  What you have to understand is that Kevin is left handed and the seizures effected the left side of his body and the IV was on his right wrist.  So, eating was kind of hard for him.  There were Cheerios everywhere!  He finally let me put some muffin in his hand and managed to get that in his mouth.  We were both laughing.  No way were we even attempting that with liquids so I helped him drink some juice and milk.  While he was eating, he again mentioned that it was coffee and muffin day for him at work and he was missing it.  It's the little things that are so important.

Not only had Kevin not had anything to eat since the day before, but the last time he went to the bathroom was when the paramedics showed up.  Stick an IV of fluids on him and he really had to pee.  I went and told the nurse that Kevin needed to go to the bathroom and she came back with a urine bottle for him to use and told us to holler when he was done.  Well, Kevin was sure he didn't need it and wanted to walk to the bathroom.  I wouldn't let him (plus the IV was attached to the bed) and as a compromise allowed him to stand to use the bottle.  He'll probably not be too impressed to read this (hi honey! I lurvs you!) but he couldn't even stand and ended up peeing, well, kind of on the floor, his gown and the chair.  I sat him back down and went and told the nurse what happened.  She had no problems cleaning him up and telling him that he shouldn't be up and about yet and to just lie down and take it easy.  Nurses are great.  And they're fast!  The sheets were changed and his gown was changed and he was back in bed lickety split.  And they just don't care about doing that stuff.  It's all just part of the job.  Please remember any nurses on nurses day.

We talked more and he again asked me "what if it's cancer" and I told him it wasn't and he asked "but, how do you know?"  This was something that happened often that day and a couple of times the day after.  At the time it had me really scared because I didn't know if this was going to be how it was for us now.  Kevin with a really bad short term memory, unable to function to even go to the bathroom by himself.  Each time he asked if it was cancer, he was on the verge of tears.  And each time I told him the doctors said it's not cancer, he was visibly relieved.  But each time he asked me, I wanted to dissolve into a pool of tears because it broke my heart to see him so scared.

An orderly finally came down to take Kevin to MRI.  I walked through the halls with them in a daze.  I was so tired.  We got to MRI and there was a bit of confusion going on and got sent somewhere else and then back to MRI.  I guess the orderly was just a really fast walker and got to MRI before the order did.  I stood and waited with Kevin for a few minutes and I could tell he was scared.  I asked him what was wrong and he said, again, "what if they find out it's cancer?"  I told him again that the doctor's already know it's not cancer and we'll get to see for sure just what it is.  And then he had to pee again but stayed in bed when he used the bottle this time.

When it was his turn, I decided not to go in.  There was nowhere for me to sit and it was going to be loud so I went out to the waiting room.  The MRI took about a half an hour and I stayed in my dozed state and kept myself from falling asleep.  When he came back out, we went back to emergency where they told us that a bed  was waiting for Kevin.  He would be in the Neural Intensive Care Unit but it would be a while before he would get up there.  While we were waiting, the neuro residents came back to do some more poking and prodding and testing.  One of the question they asked Kevin (always they ask this question) was "do you know what day it is?" Kevin replied "yeah, it's coffee and muffin day".  It was sad and funny at the same time.  So sad because Kevin just wanted to be normal and to have his coffee and muffin day at work. So funny because of the concern on the residents' faces when he said it.  Their concern turned to a smile when I told them what he meant.

Soon after the residents left, it was time for Kevin to go to his bed.  We went up to the 7th floor.  I know that floor very well now.  They got him all settled in his bed and the nurses hooked him up to some oxygen for a while.  It was around 3:30 at this time.  I was basically going on three hours of sleep at that point. Kevin started dozing again and the neuro resident came back to see how he was doing.  She told me the results of the MRI said he did indeed have a cerebral AVM and explained what that was to me.  She took me to a meeting room while Kevin slept and showed me the MRI scans.

AVM stand for Arteriovenous Malformation and can happen anywhere in anyone's body.  There is an estimated 10% of the population that has an AVM somewhere in their body and don't know it. The majority of the time (88% according to Wiki) it is only found out when there is an autopsy done at death (for unrelated causes).  However, an AVM near the heart or in the brain or kidneys is very serious. They occur more commonly along the central nervous system and are found mostly in brains when they are serious.

When blood flows through your body, it goes away from the heart in arteries to deliver oxygen to your body through veins and travels back to the heart.  The arteries pump the blood really fast - like a fire hose.  The veins carry the blood at a slower pace - like a kitchen faucet.  To compensate for the high pressure blood flow of the arteries to the low pressure blood flow of the veins, the arteries and veins are joined by capillaries other wise it would be like trying to run a fire hose through a kitchen faucet.

What happens in the case of an AVM, the capillaries did not form.  The body needs to compensate somehow and so the veins stretch out and form a spaghetti like mass to slow down the flow of the blood but there is a bulb like area (which is the actual AVM itself) where the artery and vein meets..  All of this happens before a person is born while they are being formed.  It is not genetic and can randomly happen to anyone (kind of like winning the lottery you think?).  Most AVMs are two inches in size.  Kevin's is five.  When you include the spaghetti like blob of veins, he has a grapefruit sized growth in his head.  Size matters and will be important later, but just keep in mind that his AVM is really big.

I learnt all of this in the meeting room with the nurse and got to see his scans.  Someday, I will post them here.  They're kind of interesting.

When I got back to the room, the nurse had Kevin awake and were doing his vitals again.  When she left, I climbed in bed beside Kevin and we just lied there for a bit.  He was off the oxygen at this point.  We were all tired out and in a trance over physical and emotional exhaution.  The nurse came over to me and told me that she heard I worked nights and didn't get much sleep.  She suggested that I take a little snooze there with Kevin.  I told her that I would be going home shortly now that Kevin was in a bed and we knew what was going on.  She said she didn't want me driving in my state.  I thought it was really sweet of her.  I told her I didn't have a car and there was no way I would even dream of driving feeling like I did.  So I tucked Kevin in and told him I would be back the next day shortly after noon.  Once he was asleep, I got in a cab and went to my mom's house for some supper.  She drove me home and the kids and I all piled into one bed and drifted off to sleep.

Part three where things just keep getting worse - coming some time in the future

Halloween. It's dangerous too!

I came across an article from Single Minded Women about Halloween safety for kids.  Maybe I'm just nostalgic or maybe I'm careless, but I thought most of the tips were a reaction from media fed paranoia about our kids' safety.  One of my favourite memories from Halloween inovles going into a stranger's house with my bestfriend.  We were in grade 9 and weren't trick or treating, just walking around in costume having fun.  We were both dressed as Charlie Chaplin and someone thought it was really creative and funny.  He called us over and asked us if he could take our picture.  So we stepped into his house and he took a couple of pictures of us and then we left and went on our merry way.  I often wonder if that man still has those pictures. Weigh in on whether or not you think this was dangerous.  If I found out that any of my kids went into the house of  someone they didn't know so he could take a couple of pictures of them in a costume on Halloween, why I'd... laugh.

Here are the tips from Single Minded Women's article and my commentary because it's my blog and you want to know what I think.  Yep.  You do. Because you're awesome. ;)
1.) Select a safe and bright costume. Make sure your child’s costume (including beards, masks and wigs) is clearly marked as flame resistant or look for flame resistant fabrics such as nylon or polyester. If the costume does not have any reflective fabric, add your own reflective tape on the back and front. Avoid billowing or long trailing features, especially those made of lightweight fabrics or materials. Your child should wear well-fitting shoes to prevent trips and falls. Costume accessories, including swords and knives, should be soft and flexible.
Completely reasonable advise for the most part here.  I like the flame resistant suggestion.  No snark there, I really do.  Halloween is a time when kids are likely to come across dozens of candles. It's not something I would sweat over if I couldn't find a flame resistant costume, but it doesn't hurt to try to find one.  Well fitting shoes, well are we really that stupid that we need someone to tell us that our kids should be in comfrotable shoes?  The bit about soft accessories is way over the top, though.  Why should they be soft?  If a kid is going as a hockey player, does that mean a foam hockey stick? I'm not suggesting giving a seven year old a real sword, but surely a plastic one can't be categorized as dangerous.
2.) Masks can obstruct children’s vision and restrict breathing. Consider make-up instead, checking all labels to ensure that it is non-toxic. If children do wear a mask, make sure they can see and breathe easily.
Remember those plastic masks that had those eye holes and the tiny little slit to breathe through?  Guess how many kids died as a result of not being able to breathe in one of those.  None.   Not being able to see, of course, is a bigger problem but kids are still able to, you know, take off the mask to cross the street.  Like we did as kids.  I wore mine only while walking up to the house to get my goodies.  Then it was slipped up over my head while I walked because those things were stuffy.  But, instead of teaching kids how to look out for cars or to take off the mask while crossing the street, it's better just to not buy a mask of course. (Do they even make those anymore?  I was Yoda once.)

And seriously, who makes toxic makeup!?!  And who eats makeup?  Shouldn't the masks be non-toxic too, just in case a kid takes a nibble?
3.) Do not let children under age 12 go trick-or-treating or cross the street without the supervision of an adult on Halloween night. For guidance and safety’s sake, accompany younger children to the door of every house they visit.
This gets the big 'ol WTF! from me.  Yes, please make sure you go up to each door with your 11 year old.  Don't forget to always hover no more than two feet behind him, too.  And, for the love of all things holy, don't ever ever ever let him (or her) cross the street without you! Take him firmly by his 11 year old hand and don't let him let go.  I know you let him cross the street by himself while going to school or to his friend's house, but this is Halloween.  It's dangerous.

I stand at the end of the walk for each house and send my kids up to get the candy.  I'm taking such risks with my own flesh and blood, for sure.  I mean, they could trip or bump into someone or something.  And we all know that it takes only a second for the guy to snatch up my kid and drag her into the house with everyone watching and knowing where he lives and all that.  Thank you Simple Single Minded Women for showing me just how dangerous I have been all this time.
4). Make sure your child has his or her own flashlight or glow stick to illuminate pathways and curbs.
Flashlights and glow sticks are just plain fun.  We actually need them here because the developers of this subdivision thought that streetlights were not necessary and the city planners agreed (and this was in the 1950s).  Seriously,  walking down the street at night here, there are places where flashlights are needed.  However, I do think streetlights are adequate if they are present.  But, like I said, what kid doesn't like playing with a flashlight or glow stick?
5). Trick or treat with your smaller children during daylight hours.
Bwahahahahahahahaha!  And if you have older kids you're taking out too?  Yeah, they need to go in daylight with the little ones too.  Or you need to go out in daylight and at night because you can't let a kid under age 12 trick or treat alone.  Oh, and don't forget to mention to all of your neighbours that you will be out at 4:00 so they can be home from work early to give out the candy.  (Yes it's on Saturday this year but not every year.)  How does this even jibe with the advise to give kids flashlights?  And really, it is such a huge deal for the little ones to be out after dark! " OMG! How cool is that?  It's past my bedtime and I'm outside in the dark walking down the street!" I don't see the risk if you're, you know, hovering two feet behind them at all time, right?
6.) Teens should always go trick-or-treating in a group. Advise them to only stop at familiar homes with an illuminated outdoor light. Remind teens that they should never enter a stranger’s home, car or walk in unpopulated areas. At least one child in their group should have a fully charged cell phone.
Cell phone, not a bad idea I guess.  But, can't we just let teens use their common sense as to whether or not a situation is dangerous?  Like my story above.  Never did I think he was a dangerous person and if I did, I would not have entered his house.  I do think all kids should trick or treat together, but more because it's just more fun that way and a larger group is easier to see.  But I'm a big Halloween curmudgeon and don't think anyone over the age of 13 should be going door to door anyway.  Dress up and walk around, sure.  Get free candy?  Nope, go get a job and buy your own candy.  And why would anyone be walking around an unpopulated area on Halloween?  How do you get candy that way?  And yeah, don't go to that house where the person you don't know lives!  In todays withdrawn society, we live in a whole neighbourhood of unfamiliar homes so that's really limiting.
7). Make sure you know where and when your teen will be trick or treating and with whom. It’s also a good idea to have the phone number of their friends’ parents in the event of an emergency.
Sound advise, even for when ti's not Halloween.  Nothing wrong with knowing where kids are supposed to be - I'll leave it up to you to decide if they'll actually be there.  I do think it's a really good idea to have the phone numbers of your kids' friends.  So, hey, I agree with them here.
8). Illuminate jack-o-lanterns with flashlights or glow sticks. Avoid candles as they can pose a danger for trick-or-treaters who may come in contact with the open flames and ignite their costumes.
But then why the need for the flame resistant costurems?  I don't really see anything wrong with this advise.  If you're not going to be out front with your pumpkins in sight, it is best to use a flame free candle.  It does lose some of it's festiveness that way so we just make sure we're able to keep an eye on the pumpkins.  I may be a bit over cautious on this one, but a friend of knocked over a Jack-o-lantern when we were young.
9). Advise your child not to eat any of the candy until you have inspected it first. This is especially important if your child has any food allergies.
Children with food allergies are usually overly aware of the risks of eating something that could hurt them, but it is good to remind them that they can only munch on the licorice while out trick or treating.  However, there is no need for anyone to inspect the candy.  None.  At all.  Ever.  You know all of those stories about kids who ate poison candy on Halloween?  Want to know how many of them are true?  None.  Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.  There are two reported cases of poisoned candy killing kids and in both of those cases, it was the parents who killed the kids and blamed it on poisoned candy.  So, let's all throw caution to the wind and let the kids eat a bag of chips while they are trick or treating, shall we?
10). Monitor their candy intake too. You’d be surprised at how much sugar, fat and calories a single, snack size candy bar has.
Um, no I won't be surprised at the amount of sugar, fat and calories in a single, snack size candy bar.  I don't monitor their intake because the faster they eat it, the faster it leaves the house.  I have a sneaky suspicion that regular meals of take out, fast food and prepackaged meals contributes more to the child obesity rate than Halloween candy.

 The world is a crazy place, but it's not as dangerous as people would like us to think.  This particular article was partially written by Debra Holtzman, author of a book called Safe Baby.  Perhaps someone who has a vested interest in keeping parents paranoid is not the person we should be turning to for advise on Halloween safety.  After all, if we as parents are no longer paranoid, will we still want to buy her book?


On another Halloween note, has any one heard about the candy goblin that comes and takes the candy away and brings a toy for the kids instead? I have heard of two families who do that and they're quite proud of themselves. I personally think it's a huge waste. Why would you be proud that you're throwing a bunch of candy out that you didn't need to get in the first place? I mean, would you proud if you bought a bag of Skittles just to throw it out? No. Why not just go door to door, sing a Halloween song to the people and then get a toy at the end of it all? Plus, Halloween = candy. And candy != evil if it is not an everyday, all day thing. These families could give their kids three pieces of candy a week and it would last a year. Is it just me or is the candy goblin really a stupid and wasteful idea? (Not to mention that it is more than likely bringing in another piece of cheap plastic crap (CPC) into your house that your kids don't need. There will be more on CPC from me as Christmas approaches.)

Friday, October 16, 2009

A coming of age comedy with zombies? Yup, I saw Zombieland.

First, on completely unrelated note.  Happy 84th birthday to Angela Lansbury!  Everything I read about Angela Landsbury makes me love her more and more.  She seems like a gentle soul with such a huge heart.  As she nears the end of her life, I hope that she doesn't think that she would do anything different if she could do it all over again.
Now on with it.

Between illnesses I went with my brother to see Zombieland.  I cannot tell you how much I loved this movie!  It is worthy of being on my top ten favourite movies list.  It is definitely on my top ten favourite zombie movies list.  Woody Harrelson is just amazing and Jesse Eisenberg plays off of him so well.

When I played the Dead Rising* video game, I knew there would be a sequel.  I was hoping beyond all hope that it would be killing zombies in an amusement park.  Since Capcom decided to go a more traditional route, I was left disappointed. (For now. Once I play it and wield a broomstick with chainsaws on each end, I will be as happy as a zombie at a qulit festival?)  As soon as my brother saw the preview for this movie, he called me and we decided to go together.  We finally made it this past Monday (Thanksgiving, no less) and I am glad I shelled out the big bucks to see it in the theatres.  It's a fun movie that involves killing hordes of zombies in creative ways and it made me laugh.  Repeatedly.

Manhola Dargis' editorial review of Zombieland for the New York Times made me laugh even harder than the movie, though.
The real point and, depending on your blood lust, the pleasure of “Zombieland” is its appetite for destruction. Despite its throwaway jokes, a hint of romance and various ridiculous bits of business, some involving Twinkies, the movie is strictly a compendium of all the ways to off zombies, which can be downed with guns, of course, as well as baseball bats, gardening tools, a toilet-bowl lid, even a piano. Sometimes the gonzo antics work, though the piles of bodies at the end did make me flash on the Nazi extermination camps, which, you know, really killed the joke, too.
So close and yet so far away!  Yes, the real point of the movie was seeing the many ways you can kill zombies**.  I'll give him that.  But, zombie killing = Nazi extermination camp?  I'm not seeing it.  I can't make this guy not see something he wants to see, but is he comparing holocaust victims to zombies?  Or is he saying the victims were zombies?  I'll have to rewatch Schindler's List or any of the numerous documentaries to figure it out but I'm pretty sure that the holocaust involved actual real people really dying while Zombieland involved actual real people dressed up as zombies pretending to be dead.  I mean, I know that the Third Reich did some horrible experiments on people they deemed unworthy (namely Jewish people), but I don't think they involved zombies.  How about a little perspective there, Manhola?

What the review didn't touch on at all is the humanity in the movie.  I won't go into any kind of detail because I don't want to spoil it, but there was some really great scenes and commentary (albeit it comedy commentary) about The Meaning of Life.  The moral of this movie could be summed up as either "take pleasure in the little things" or "is it worth surviving if you are alone for the rest of your life" or both.

Take the scene where the four survivors are in a store getting supplies.  It's a pretty useless store, being a souvenir shop and they end up trashing it just to blow off steam.  They smash plates and snowglobes, have a marble fight, play dominoes with a bunch of shelves and just trash the place. In a postapcolyptic world, this isn't a big deal like it would be in the here and now.  But, in the here and now, it takes so much more to bring us joy.  For those four people, it was throwing marbles (or maybe they were stones?) at each other for a few minutes of mayham.

In the end, the four heroes drive off to face whatever they have to face to survive in Zmobieland - together.  The group consisted of a geek whose social life revolved around video games, specifically World of Warcraft***, a bad ass psychotic loner who would relishes in the hunt and kill of the undead and two sisters who will do anything to survive, including stealing the ride and weapons of those who are trying to help them.  In the end, they all realized that surviving isn't worth is if they're alone.

This is not a deep movie.  It's a fun movie with really good acting and creative zombie killing.  But it's not the abomination that Manhola makes it out to be.

(PS I missed the zombie walk this year.  I wasn't going to participate,just watch on the sidelines.  But it was on a really busy weekend for us and I couldn't make it.  Bummer.)

*OMG! People are just so creative. (If you don't get this, watch this, this, this and this. Yes you are a photojournalist and on top of saving people, you take pictures.  It's kind of a douchebagy thing to do, really, leave people hanging until you get the perfect shot.  Or instead of watching, how about you play Dead Rising! Come on over! I'll get us some snacks and my official gaming day drink and we'll play all day!)

**One really great thing about this movie is that it showed that anything can be a weapon against zombies.  It's true.  While the double chainsaw on a broom handle is definitely a cool weapon, using a toilet bowl top and a sledgehammer from those carnival games is just as effective.  Keep this in mind people.  Shotguns are good, but in a pinch anything will do.  But it falls short in one area.  When the uprising happens, there will be two kinds of people in the world.  Well, three if you count the zombies.  There will be those who will bind together for survival.  Numbers will help with survival and getting together with a group of people will be a necessity.  But, then there's group two and those are basically the psychopaths.  You have to fear them as much as you do the zombies.  People who will use the uprising as an excuse to do all sorts of unspeakable things to others just because they can or they will be people who just snapped and will shoot to kill anything that moves.  There will be the good psychopaths, of course, like Tallahassee in Zombieland and those are the ones you want on your team.  But, until you know what kind of person you are dealing with, you should always be on your guard when you encounter anyone new.

***No comments from the peanut gallery!  Plus, I haven't played WoW in a looooooong time.  Like five months.  I play Aion now so that make me a more sophisticated geek.  I'm not one of those Wow losers.  So you just leave me and my delusions alone, you hear!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Play. It's dangerous business people!

My kids brought home some interesting news from school today.  Aparentally, the principal  announced that it is no longer allowed for a younger student and older student to play together.  In order for two people to play together, they have to be either in the same grade or one grade apart, either higher or lower.  Trying to get to the bottom of it, I asked why.  The answer that my kids gave me is because older students play rougher.  Well, talk about taking the sledgehammer to a problem.  My kids can no longer pay together at recess, even though for the last three years they have played together at recess at least once a week without incident.

Why on earth would someone want to prevent intergenerational play?  It's good!  Good for the younger kids to look up to the cool older kids.  Good for the older kids to look out for the younger kids.  If there has been an epidemic of injury to the younger kids due to rough play with older kids, I have not heard about it.  If it has been a one case thing, well then GAH! (That was a scream of frustration, just to clarify.)  Last week my five year old ran out onto the street without looking for cars.  So, all five year old must now stay inside at all times.  Got it!  Oh, and on Monday, my almost ten year old fell down the ladder of her bunk beds so no more bunk beds for ten year olds, OK?

I want to address this with the principal.  I think it needs to be addressed.  It is a ridiculous rule that does not need to go into effect becasue 1) older kids are usually less rough when playing with younger kids, and 2) younger kids are just as likely to be rough with each other as older kids, meaning they can still get knocked down, bruised, scraped, bumped and whacked.  There is nothing anyone can do to prevent these things from happening.  If there is something happening, it needs to be addressed on an individual basis and stopped.  But, to ban a grade seven student from helping his grade three brother and his friends practise some soccer moves?  Yep.  Dangerous!

I need to know what to say to the principal.  I want to let her know the benefits of play between younger kids and older kids.  I want to tell her how sweeping generalizations are never a good thing.  I want to say that kids will get hurt and no amount of rules will ever stop this.  I want to include something about putting kids in a bubble gives them an unrealistic view of the world.  They will get hurt.  It's going to happen.  Let them  Let them learn how to play with younger kids.  Let them learn that sometimes it's not a good idea to play with older kids.  Let them learn how to get along with each other.  Don't isolate them.  Include them.

So, how do I say all of that?  And does anyone have a web site I could point her to?

Monday, October 5, 2009

Free Range Sesame Street!

I am wathcing Old School Sesame Street with Victoria and Rosemary. Yes, I ignored the warnings at the beginning of the disks about it not being appropriate for today's preschoolers. How Sesame Street can be inappropriate for preschoolers of any generation is beyond me, but yes there is a warning at the beginning of each episode.

So far, in this episode this is what I have seen:
  • Louise left his store in the care of a child around seven years of age while he left for five minutes to grab a cup of coffee.  He asked her to answer the phone if it rang and tell the people he would be back in five minutes.  This child is clearly not his.
  • Small kids (some girls) running around without a shirt on.
  • A group of children playing outside the buildings unsupervised and then joined by a man who has no children of his own.
  • A child sitting alone on the stoop of his building.
  • A boy around the age of 11 driving a cart of some kind (his job I assume) while a younger child sits on it.
  • A young girl telling someone who is practically a stranger that she loves him and giving him a kiss.  (The infamous A-B-C Cookie Monster clip.)
  • Lots and lots of bellbottoms.
None of that would ever be shown to todays kids.  And why?  Because all of it has been deemed to be dangerous behaviour.  But is it really?


Old school vs. new

I would rather my kids watch the outside of the box Sesame Street old school than the formulaic one that is currently offered on PBS. As my brilliant 19 year old nephew put it, old school Sesame Street taught kids how to think and now Sesame Street teaches kids what to think.

Do you remember the yo-yo man and the lost kid? What great advise yo-yo man gave to the boy!  "You should figure it out yourself".  Do you remember the kid buying a loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter?  No need to write it down mommy!  I can remember!  Neither of those clips would be suitable for today's preschool children, according to so-called child experts.  And why?  Because those children were left to think for themselves.

What are some clips from new Sesame Street?  Let's see, there's Jack Black and the fuzzy red incarnation of evil itself Elmo teaching about octagons.  Then there's Neil Patrick Harris (love him!) singing about shoes.  Where's the thinking involved in those?  (And if anyone can show me a new Sesame Street clip that would make me jump for joy and change my stance, please point me to it!  I will even make sure everyone who visits me here will see that I am wrong.)

How about the guest songs?  Well, Feist visited Sesame Street and sang a redone version of her 1-2-3-4 song.  But, way back in the day, Paul Simon visited Sesame Street and sang Me and Julio.  Can you see the difference there?  Which gives you a good feeling about the future generation?  I weep for todays generation of children when the freedom to think for ones self is not considered appropriate for preschoolers.


I would be remiss if I didn't include a rant about Elmo's world in here.  My personal feeling about Elmo aside, I hate Elmo's world.  A lot.  Sure kids like it, but kids will watch a video consisting of fish swimming in an aquarium.  And I would rather they did.  At least fish are unpredictable.  "Hey, I wonder where the orange one will swim next!  Oh and look!  The angel fish (just for you my friend Angel <3) swam in the same place three times and is now moving to a different area! What will happen next!"  With Elmo's world, kids know exactly what will happen next.  Right down to the words of the song he will sing at the end of the episode.

And just for fun, watch the clip of Elmo's song with Big Bird and Snuffy and put a sarcastic undertone on everything Big Bird and Snuffy sing and say.  "To think, he wrote that himself" *roll eyes and snicker*

Saturday, October 3, 2009

My Own Seven Layers of Hell

I know there's the whole seven layers of Hell, but I can't really put these in any order of bad to baddest. So, here are my seven layers of Hell, in no particular order.

4. An eternity where "It's A Small World" and the Smurf themes are played non-stop.  It's a small world.  Yeah.  We've all been on the ride or have at least seen some videos of the ride.  My memories of going through that ride, of course, all involve that song.  The first time I went on the It's A Small World ride I was ten and had the distinct pleasure of having the boat stop for a good 15 minutes in the middle of the ride while the maintenance crew fixed the roundy gizmo that connects to the wogle dohick so the ride could continue.  I don't want to be over dramatic but - Worst. Fifteen minutes. Of. My. Life. (Apparently, this is not an uncommon occurrence.)  When I was young, we would go to Canada's Wonderland once a year.  They had Yogi Bear's cave.  It was so cool!  You just walked through it and it showed little animatronic characters from Yogi Bear.  At the end, there was a room that was all upside down!  The furniture was above you and you were walking on the ceiling!  How cool is that!  Then, the Smurfs became popular and they replaced Yogi's cave with a Smurf cave.  That isn't so bad, really.  I liked the Smurfs and the cave was still really neat, although there was no upside down room at the end but Gargamel's area was all dark with black lights and lightening and that was pretty cool*.  But the Smurf theme played through the cave non-stop.  When there was a lot of people, you would be forced to stop in one place for a few moments from time to time, all the while hearing the theme from the Smurfs.  Either of those two songs played for an eternity would be hell enough, but both of them.  I... I just don't even want to think about that.

2. An eternity where the only food options are buffets.  I. Hate. Buffets.  Look, if I'm going to pay for a pre-made meal, I want it brought out to me.  I don't want to have to stand behind some guy who can't decide if he really wants the noodles with questionable sauce or not.  And then there's the people who go the wrong way in the lineup.  Then there's the kids who can't see over the side and drop a huge scoop of food on the floor. And then there's the "what exactly is this supposed to be?  Meatballs? maybe?" factor.  And then there's the whole ordeal of getting the food for my kids (yes, in buffet hell, my kids would be there).  Go with Lilly and Madeleine and Victoria.  Hold Victoria's plate and a plate for Rosemary while I try to scoop food on everyone's plate.  Then Madeleine can't carry hers so add that to the pile.  Then have the argument that no, Lilly, you don't like that and won't eat it so you shouldn't take it because it's wasteful.  It is better now that the kids are older, but I sill hate herding two of them to the feed trough to pick up their food.  By the time I get mine, they're done their first plate and want seconds.  Yeah, buffets suck and would certainly have a place in my personal Hell.

7. An eternity of MMO lag.  "Oh good!  There's that mob I have been after for the last three hours!  It finally spawned!  I'll just run over there and.... wait a minute.  I'm hitting it but, why am I not doing any damage?  That's weird.  All of the other players are standing still.... oh crap!  I'm lagging again, aren't I?"  And the next thing you know, you're dead and the rare spawn has been killed by another player and you have to wait for it again.  I shudder at the thought of spending an eternity like that.

3. An eternity without any Joss Whedon shows.  I don't mean not seeing any ever again, although that would be bad enough in and of itself. My obsession with Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog is so deep I think that only an eternity with no access to that Emmy Award winning show could cure me.  And Firefly?  Yeah, that special place in hell reserved for child molesters and people who talk in theatres would be a hell without Firefly.  No more Buffy kicking ass, no more brooding, sorrowful Angel and no more perfectly beautiful Dolls. But, an eternity where Joss Whedon shows never even existed?  Well, that is a hell I have no interest in! No Slayer Slang? No crazy random happenstance?  No Shiny? Just no! Make it stop!

6. An eternity of listening to people quoting Monty Python nonstop. I love Monty Python.  I watch their movies and shows.  I have even quoted them myself.  But, you know, there is such thing as too much of a good thing.  I don't want to spend two hours sitting at a table where people constantly quote Monty Python (true story), much less an eternity of it.  Don't make me fetch the comfy chair! 

1. An eternity without Diet Coke. I have in the past gone on a sort of Coke cycle. I would be totally off any kind of pop and then start drinking Coke. I would then realize that all that sugar wasn't good for me and switch to Diet Coke. Then I would think about all of the caffeine and how my body shouldn't depend on it so much and wean myself off, only to start the cycle all over again a few months later. However, I have been stuck on the Diet Coke part of the cycle now for about a year and a half. I cannot imagine going a day without it, much less an eternity.

5. An eternity with nothing to read but 1980s (and early 1990s) young adult fiction.  Ah, Sweet Valley High.  How I loved you in my tweens.  Elizabeth with her romantic boyfriend, Jessica with her crazy schemes. And Babysitter's Club.  You also have a special place in my heart.  Clear headed Kristy, artsy, exotic Claudia, sophisticated Stacey, shy Mary Anne and independent Dawn.  All of you from both books were with me when I was suffering at the hands of my bullies.  Your stories were an escape and I thought you were all just so cool.  I wanted your lives.  The babysitters all had it so together, the Wakefield twins were popular and beautiful, none of which I felt applied to my life at that time. But, MY. GOD!  Have you revisited any of those stories?  Elizabeth is a busy body know-it-all who will interfere with anyone's life 'cause she has all of the answers and knows best. Don't have a boyfriend?  Elizabeth will help you!  Parents headed for divorce? Elizabeth will get them back together!  Your parents are racist jerks and don't want you dating someone of a different ethnicity? She can fix that too, just let her go talk to your parents.  It doesn't matter if you don't want her help, she'll just barge on in and fix it all for you.  No need to thank her.  Just tell her how perfect you think she is and how much you wish you could have her life. And Jessica! What a skanky cock tease! Girl never put out but sure did have a long line of guys who wanted to pop that cherry.  Why, I will never know.  I'm not sure why any guy would want to have anything to do with a psycho who is not only unpredictable, but is likely to accuse you of date rape when you try to go for a feelskie.  The whole Sweet Valley universe is just so warped. Now, I have never left my kids with a sitter other than family (I'm cheap, what can I say?), but if I ever did and that sitter decided that she knew how to parent my kid better than me, I would put that 13 year old in her place so fast she wouldn't know what hit her.  Listen, BSC. You may think you know what's best for the kids you babysit, but you're 13.  If you ever tell my overweight kid that it's OK to go off the diet I have made for him with the help of a doctor, I will bitch slap your face.  If you ever convince my extremely shy kid that she should be part of a pageant because you're jealous of your friends who are helping other pageant kids, I will put you in a frilly dress and have you stand in front of a crowd who will yell out your faults and shortcomings while you have a fake smile plastered on your face.  To run it down:  Kristy - bossy, controlling bitch who really should have no friends at all: Mary Anne - shy doesn't begin to describe it, stand up for yourself and tell Cookie et el. to back off and stay away from Logan; Claudia - you need to go to a school for the learning disabled.  Really. And those clothes (I love the 80s!), I hate to tell you this, they don't make you look artistic.  They make you look like a clown.; Stacey - Just stop it.  I don't need you to tell me how sophisticated you are.  I get it.  Really.  You're from New York.  Just shut up already!; Dawn - well, you have a special place in my heart Dawn because you were my favourite.  But... relax, OK? Just because you don't want to eat foods consisting of refined sugar and ingredients I can't even pronounce, doesn't mean those of us who love Oreos are doomed to a life of cavities and weight watchers.  Stop expecting your friends to jump on with your causes.  Be the change, Dawn, be the change.** Don't make me read these again! I'll be good! I promise I'll do whatever it takes to aviod an eternity of these books!

I said they're in no particular order...***

* Sadly, they have gutted the cave to make room for an arcade.  I weep for this generation when we tear down an imaginative ride to make way for an arcade in the middle of an amusement park.  Video games at home are one thing but do we really need to put them in the middle of a park where kids should be encouraged to engage with the world instead of retreating into a video game?

** Lilly reads Babysitter's Club now. I'm not sure how to feel about this. On the one hand, she's reading.  But on the other hand, those books are so formulaic that I can't even get her to look twice at the copy of The Breadwinner trilogy I bought for her. She has complained now about books that she can't remember the characters because they're not introduced like they are in Babysitter's Club at the beginning of the book.  So...

***You know, I'm going to add an eighth level here.  An eternity of running from zombies and not having a shotgun or a chainsaw.  That's just plain frightening.