Game of Thrones Parents: Ranked

Being a parent makes me see television parents in a new light: a very judgmental one. I try not to judge parents I know in real life, we’re all going through our own stuff, but fake ones on television are fair game.

Here they are in order, from worst to best. This list contains spoilers from all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.

12. Craster

He “marries” his daughter (they’re North of the wall, so guess it’s technically legal) and then has more daughters. Not a great life for the girls, but that’s not as bad as what happens to his baby boys. Or maybe the boys are the lucky ones. Either way, he’s the worst.

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This list is full of terrible people and you’re the worst, Craster. How does that make you feel?

11. Stannis and Selyse

It was hard for me to not put them in the most terrible parent slot because Shireen was awesome: kind, smart, and probably the only 100% decent human in all of Westeros. And then Stannis burns him to death because he’s power hungry and thinks that her death will allow him to sit in the iron throne.

It’s okay to be ambitious, but not okay to sacrifice your children for that ambition, and Stannis does that literally. Most people I know with kids want to achieve their goals to make a better life for their children. But Stannis wants to be king because–I’m not sure, it’s not explained well–but it’s not to make a better life for Shireen.

He’s terrible. And Selyse has her creepy collection of jar babies, so she doesn’t get a pass, either.

10. Tywin Lannister

There’s a special place in Hell for parents overly concerned about their “family legacy” and not the actual well-being of their kids. Tywin went straight there after his son shot him with a crossbow on the potty. Face it, Tywin, two of your kids are in an incestuous relationship. The other one is a drunk until he finds something he’s actually good at–and then instead of supporting him, you sentence him to death. That’s some terrible parenting.

9. Danearys Targarean

The “Mother of Dragons” may be her title, but she’s not the best mom. Sure, she loves her dragons, but she doesn’t show it very well by selling them for slaves and chaining them up in a dungeon. I know, the scene where Danearys trades her dragon for the slaves but then gets her dragon back and frees the slaves is epic. But what if it hadn’t worked? What if the slaver had managed to keep the dragon? That’s a huge risk to take with your child.

As for the chaining: obviously you can’t let your kids burn other kids to cinders, but couldn’t she at least chain them up outside? We later learn that it was chaining dragons that caused them to die out. Way to go, mom.

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She might be the Mother of Dragons but that doesn’t mean she’s a very good one.

8. Randyll Tarly

Tarly is the classic example of a parent who wants a jock and gets a nerd. Actually, he gets both, so you’d think he’d at least be content to let Sam go study to be a Maester while keeping his jock son Dickon around, but no. He threatens Sam and sends him to the Wall–definitely not the ideal place for a nerd.

You could argue that Tarly at least one son he treats well, but he named that son Dickon.

7. Balon Grayjoy

Balon’s probably tied with Tarly. He’s not as bad as the parents who rape, murder, abandon, chain up, and sell their kids. But he still sucks. His kid Theon comes back to him after having probably a better life in Winterfell than he would have on the Iron Isles. And his dad’s just like, screw you, you’re not Iron Born. If I was separated from my son for so many years I probably wouldn’t want to help the people that had him, but I would’ve given him a big hug and welcomed him back home.

6. Lysa Arron

The internet is full of arguments about breastfeeding and when to stop. I’m not going to get into them here, but I think we can argue that kids should be done by the time they’re ten. (Most of the extended breastfeeders I know stopped because their kids stopped wanting to breastfeed anymore–around 3-4. Which makes me wonder what Lysa was doing to encourage this practice.) Lysa has not done a good job exposing Robin to the world and he’s the opposite of well-adjusted. Marrying Littlefinger might be the best thing she ever did for him.

But she’s still fairly high on this list because she at least seems to love him, and she doesn’t try to kill him, chain him, disown him, or send him to the Wall.

Note: I think Jon Arryn is also responsible, but we don’t get to meet him as his death triggers the whole plot of the show.

5. Roose Bolton

Roose seems like a decent parent. He even legitimizes his bastard son Ramsey, which is legitimate. Unlike parents such as Tywin, Tarly, and Balon, he allows his son to be himself.

Except that Ramsey is an evil serial killer. If your kid is an evil serial killer (and we know Roose knows) you have to put a stop to that. Roose could be said to encourage it, even–notably when he sends him to take Moat Calain.

4. Walder Frey

Walder Frey’s always complaining that he’s forgotten by the greater houses–so of course I forgot him when I was making this list. Thanks to my dad (who is such a good parent he’d surely die in the first five minutes of Game of Thrones) for reminding me that Walder exists.

Walder seems like kind of a lazy parent. He forgets his kids’ names, but he has so many of them can you really blame him?

He seems to want the best for his kids, which for him means marrying them off to the great houses. Here’s the thing: Walder’s not a great parent. He should remember his kid’s names because he’s named nearly all of them Walda or Walder. He’s not the best example of loyalty. But he’s not an actively bad parent. So here he is at number four.

3. Cersei Lannister

There’s no doubt Cersei loves her kids and would do anything to protect them. See the scene with Cersei and Tommen on the Iron Throne during the Battle of Blackwater. I think that’s the scene we all started liking her a tiny bit.

I also think she knew Joffery was terrible, but unlike Roose, actually tried to keep him from doing terrible things, like having Ned beheaded.

In Season 3, episode 4, Tywin says to Cersei, “I don’t mistrust you because you’re a woman, I mistrust you because you’re not as smart as you think you are. You’ve allowed that boy to run roughshod over you and everyone else in this city.”

Cersei replies, “Perhaps you should try stoping him from doing what he likes.”

That said, I don’t think she’s a great parent, she’s just tolerable enough to get fairly far ahead on this list. For all her best efforts, her kids all end up dead.

2. Sam and Gilly

Given, Sam and Gilly haven’t been parents for very long so there’s ample time for them to mess up and scar Little Sam for life. But they seem to be off to a decent start.

Also, this list is lacking in actually good parents and I wanted to at least have a couple.

1. Catelyn and Ned

How many tragedies could the Starks have avoided if they’d just listened to Catelyn? If Bran listened to his mom and stopped climbing the walls, he’d still be able to walk. If Robb listened to his mom and not married Talisa, the Red Wedding he’d be happily married to Roslin.

Arya is interested in sword fighting, which isn’t an approved activity for noble girls, but Ned still gives her a sword and finds her lessons. He approves of who she is as a person and helps her nurture that side of herself. Imagine what kind of woman Arya could have become if she hadn’t lost her father?

Of course, they aren’t perfect. No parents are. You could say that allowing Sansa to be betrothed to Joffery was a huge mistake, but I wonder if Ned’s research and attempting to oust Joffery in favor of Stannis was partly motivated by wanting to protect his daughter.

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Honorable Mention: Davos. We don’t get to see much of him with his son, but he’s a better parent to Shireen than the ones she was born with.

Cover photo by Tom Barrett on Unsplash. Winter is Coming. The rest of the images are via Game of Thrones and HBO.

Maybe Your Kid Doesn’t Need College

This started off as a follow-up post to Why I Choose Curiosity Over Passion on encouraging kids to follow their curiosity, and turned into this: a discussion of whether or not our kids need to go to college.

Spoiler Alert: No, not all kids need to go to college.

I’m not saying college isn’t useful. A lot of careers require college (or more) for good reasons. And enough companies require their employees to have college degrees even if they aren’t useful for the work being performed. (Companies should stop doing this, but parents and students should recognize that it happens frequently.) For some kids, college is the only way out of a bad situation. College can also act as a stepping stone between being a teenager in high school and being a full-fledged adult.

It’s a really expensive stepping stone. According to Forbes, the average college student graduating in 2016 has $37,172 in student loan debt, which is definitely more than my first salary after college. I went to college because it was expected of me, I didn’t know what else to do, and I’d been told that I’d be stuck in a minimum-wage job at McDonalds if I didn’t go. I didn’t go to college because I wanted a specific career and I knew college would get me there. I went because I was told I could “figure it out after I got there.”

It’s true: the first year (or two) of college can be incredibly helpful for giving students a chance to take interesting classes and follow their curiosities for students that can afford it. But if the student doesn’t know what they want to do by the time their Sophomore year is complete, maybe they should drop out. GASP. I know, I just suggested students should drop out of college. But college is so expensive, and there’s no point finishing a degree you don’t even know you want.

I’m also going to suggest the option of not going to college. EGADS! Baby Boomer parents reading this are freaking out right now. The children of Baby Boomers (like me) were encouraged, even expected, to go to college. For me, the question wasn’t would I go to college, it was where would I go to college. Of my graduating class of 299, 4 students did not go to college.* I believe these expectations lead to graduates with huge debt and worthless degrees they felt like they had to get because it was expected of them. Now that we have children of our own, we’re questioning that “you have to go to college” philosophy.

Here’s the thing about Freshman college students: they have no idea about being an adult. Of course they think they do, because they’ve graduated high school. Say a semester of their college of choice cost’s $20k and their parents can’t afford to pay it, but they have the option of taking out loans. That’s $40k a year. When I started college, I had no idea what $40k meant. It was just this abstract number. Now, I could tell you what kind of apartment or house I could afford on $40k in a few American cities. High schools could help by teaching practical skills like budgeting. Kids could learn what kind of jobs might afford them the lifestyles they want.

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Me in 50 years. Image via AAEC

College students don’t know what it’s like to spend 40 hours a week doing one thing. High school is broken up into 50-minute chunks, and college students usually have fewer classes plus activities and a part-time job. Then you get your first real job and it’s like, okay, I did that for 8 hours, but now I have to do it again, 5 days a week…forever? I navigated my career by seeing other people in my office doing something and thinking, “Okay, next I want to do that. What do I need to do to get there?”

I’m going to encourage my son not to go straight to college after he graduates. I like the idea of a “gap year” or even a year spent working part-time and earning some money for college (or trade school, or starting a business, or getting an art studio) and following various curiosities until he’s really ready to land on something—or not. Because if has a roof over his head (preferably not mine) and he’s fed and happy, then I don’t need him to have a Capital-C Career.

I want him to figure out what his goals are and do what he needs to do to achieve them. I know that will take some time and a lot of following his curiosities. Maybe that’s college. Maybe it’s something else.

*I went to a private school where most students came from middle or upper class families with parents who were paying for their high school education. I realize this number isn’t normal. It does illustrate how affluent families specifically insist on college for their children.

The cover photo by Matt Ragland on Unsplash reminds me of these people on Instagram who take incredibly gorgeous and organized class notes. Check out #studyinspiration for some studious eye candy.

Why I Choose Curiosity Over Passion

It was the worst date of my life. After being told I “looked nervous” I was being bombarded with questions that made me wonder if I was being interviewed for the position of preschool teacher. What’s your favorite color? What’s your favorite dinosaur? He came in with a new question too quick for me to, in turn, ask him about his favorites. Then he asked, “What’s your passion?”

At this point I wanted to throw my glass of water at him. I’d been on a lot of bad dates, like the one in Arlington, Virginia where the chain smoker wanted me to vote for him on some board–even though I told him several times that I was still registered to vote, and thus would be voting absentee, in Michigan. But this was the first time I’d gotten this angry at a date just for conversing with me.

“I don’t have one,” I said. I didn’t feel like explaining to him that instead of being super amped up about one thing, I was mildly interested in a whole bunch of things. This was the early 2010s, and it was when advice like “find your passion and you’ll never work a day in your life!” was being spewed by self-proclaimed gurus all over the internet and repeated ad nauseam. People were eating it up. I felt like I was different and something must be wrong with me.

As a college student I briefly toyed with being an Elementary school teacher because it was the only way I could see taking classes in everything and having it be actually useful. (I’ll be ever grateful for the summer I spent working at a summer camp that showed me I definitely did not want to be an Elementary school teacher.) In college you get 1-2 years of “no pressure!” before suddenly a switch flips and it’s “OMG you have to pick a major now or you’ll never graduate and you’ll be in college forever and it’s expensive, doncha know?”

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The article I grabbed this image from talks about finding a dream job, and it also says “find your passion” is bad advice.

Much of my adult life has been filled with people telling me to narrow my focus and me digging my heals in with a solid refusal. Sure, I’ll get an English degree, but I’m not going to be an English teacher. I might knit, but I’m going to try crochet, too, and embroidery, and take this hand-lettering Skillshare class, and do Inktober. Blogging? “Blogging is easy, you just need a niche. Find the one thing you’re really passionate about and write…” No.

I’m never going to be passionate about only one thing. I’ve tried to squish my round-peg self into that square-peg hole and I’m done. In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert talks about being curious instead of being passionate. I loved the book, but this was my favorite part, because it gave me the courage to let go of this burden where I felt like I had to find my One Creative Passion. She says that people who allow themselves to be curious are actually more creative.

Lately I’ve been really into knitting, and all the knitting has made me curious about hand-dying yarn. So I’ve been giving that a try. I’ve also been itching to do a little sewing and maybe make some of those macrame plant hangers. It doesn’t mean I have to stop kitting, and even if I do, I can always go back.

Most of us live in a capitalist society where we need to find something we tolerate enough to spend around 40 hours a week doing in order to feed ourselves, clothe ourselves, and support our curiosities. If there’s one thing you love doing and it supports you financially, awesome. If not, that doesn’t mean something’s wrong with you. It means you’re curious. Let yourself be curious. Who knows what will happen?

Cover photo by Dmitriy Karfagenskiy on Unsplash. Of course I had to use a cat for this.

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Anthem? No Thank You

Anthem. It’s coming soon, people are talking about it, there was a demo, and yet I wish it didn’t exist. Let me explain why.

I primarily play four types of video games: adventure games, RPGs, strategy games, and MMOs. Let’s put aside strategy games and MMOs for a second and focus on story. For me, both RPGs and adventure games are all about the story. The story is my reward. In adventure games it’s more obvious: solve some puzzles, unlock more stories. When I play RPGs, what hits my reward center in the brain is the same: more story. Kill some baddies, do some quests, unlock more story.

Loot and gear doesn’t interest me aside from that it allows me to complete more content and get more of the story. If I could play the entire game with the same armor and weapons I’d be fine with that. Gaining new skills is fun, but also not my primary motivation.

It should be no surprise that I loved Dragon Age: Origins. It was completely story-driven and everything I did unlocked more pieces of the story. I knew next to nothing going into the game; I’d only heard from others that it was good. I called in sick the next day because I had to keep playing. I’d become attached to the characters and I needed to know what would happen next. Someone told me I’d probably also like Mass Effect 2, so I played that. When I finished, I wanted to play the first one to play the story I’d missed. The first one wasn’t as good: the combat was clunkier, but the story was still there so I didn’t mind. I was just killing baddies to get more story. The one part I hated was driving the mako around desolate planets looking for stuff.

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Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy exploration. I particularly dig it in MMOs. What I hate is being unable to find something specific, which is exacerbated by trying to maneuver a vehicle with difficult controls.

People gave Dragon Age II a hard time, but I loved it. Yeah, the combat zones were all repeated, but who cares? The combat isn’t the point of the game! And the story was good and not your typical fantasy RPG story. Plus Hawke is the best player character since April Ryan. I didn’t love the Mass Effect 3 ending, but it didn’t bother me as much as most people. I still loved those games.

Then Inquisition came out. Before Inquisition there was Skyrim. It was very popular and featured an “open world.” I played it. It took me a while to get into it. I hadn’t played a non-Bioware modern RPG. I found the NPCs incredibly boring and my quest log just filled up with so many quests and I didn’t know what to do. I’d about given up on it when I read somewhere about certain quest lines that were interesting, and after a lot of mods, I finally got into it. When I heard Inquisition was going to be more open-world I was very disappointed. I didn’t want Bioware following trends and trying to make their next game more like Skyrim. I just wanted another Dragon Age game.

The intro started off well enough. We had some returning characters and intriguing new ones. Then we were dumped in this Hinterlands place—and it was an open world and we had 101 things to do there. I didn’t want to do these things. They were boring. I don’t like side quests. They distract from the main story. (Unless it’s Skyrim and the main story is boring and the side quests are more fun, but I’d prefer a brilliant main story and a handful of side quests that tie in to the plot—which I thought Mass Effect 2 did the best.) I found out I just had to do enough to get out of there and unlock more main quest, but I kept getting lost. My objective would be just beyond that mountain that I couldn’t climb over! I’d run around in circles and just get mad at the game. I’d still say I loved Inquisition—there was enough story and character development to make up for all the frustration of not being able to find silly side quest objectives.

But then we got Mass Effect: Andromeda. Which seemed like Inquisition, in space. And the mako came back. My least favorite thing in the entire original Mass Effect trilogy was a big part of the new game. I have 4 hours into my trial on Origin and I keep thinking maybe I’ll come back, but my play time is limited.

All I want is for Bioware to make the kind of game they’re good at. No trend chasing. I don’t love open-world RPGs and I like playing Bioware games alone. By myself. Aren’t video games supposed to be an introverted hobby? I like MMOs because they’re a mix of playing solo and being social. I like RPGs because you can play by yourself. I’m not a trend chaser. I’m not interested in MOBAs or battle royale, and Don’t Starve is the only survival game I’ve ever loved.

This is a very long explanation of why I’m not interested in Anthem to the point of being disgruntled about its existence. While I know there is a story, from what I’ve read, it’s not _about_ the story. Gear collection and customization seems to be a primary goal, which as I’ve said, does not interest me. After the game releases, if the reaction is positive, I might watch some Let’s Play videos and decide if it’s something I want to spend money on, but I’m not feeling optimistic. The flight suits are a turn-off for me: if I’m going to be playing a game that involves just running around fighting things, I don’t want to have to navigate a 3D space. I’m a bad enough navigator in real life. My biggest hope for Anthem is that it flops and Bioware can go back to making Bioware games. It seems more likely that it will flop and Bioware will fold into EA’s all-encompassing bosom. Even more likely that it will succeed and Dragon Age 4 will be an open world RPG focused on multiplayer and crafting where you fly around on a dragon.

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Jetpacks? Power suits? Sounds fun in real life, but more trouble than they’re worth in a video game.

I want _story_. I think video games are the best way we have to tell a story. Better than TV, film, and even books. Because they’re the most immersive, they have the biggest impact. I was thinking recently about the huge emotional impact I felt after playing Life is Strange. I wondered if my feelings would have been as strong if I’d read it as a book. Probably not. A major part of the impact comes from actually being a participant in the story.

Bioware was a major studio actually leveraging the amazing storytelling power of video games. Now their next major game gives story a backseat. Where do we go from here?

Cover image is from Dragon Age: Inquisition. Still a good game, despite all the boring bits.

The Parent Trope Game of the Year 2018

Many of the gaming blogs I read have picked a Game of the Year, and now it’s my turn. The game of the year for The Parent Trope is…

Civilization VI.

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You might not be surprised, since I did blog about the game, or you might be surprised, since this was a game released in 2016. But I have a kid, a full-time job, and a handful of other hobbies. I get behind. I just started getting into playing Fallout 4. I like the idea of the Parent Trope Game of the Year being something parents could play with their kids. My son did watch me play Lord of the Rings Online a bit (I’m still deciding if I want to resub for the legendary server) but mostly he watches my husband play slither.io if anything. “I wanna watch snakes, Daddy!”

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Modeling the snake I knit my son for Christmas, via Instagram.

I like snakes. I knitted my son a snake for Christmas. I find slither.io to be incredibly creepy. I think something about it hits the same switch as clusters of small circles. Ick.

But I digress. I had more fun with Civ 6 than any other game in 2018. Nothing else brought me back to my PC for “just one more turn!” I’m sure I’ll be playing more of it in 2019. I don’t think I’ve ever purchased a Civ expansion, but the recent one Gathering Storm appeals to me. I love the concept of the new Civ that starts off on water.

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Runners up are Life Is Strange, Northgard, and The Sims 4. I’m not sure what it says about me and the year I had that I found simulation games particularly appealing. Looking forward to what 2019 brings!

Cover photo by prwilliams on Reddit. It’s the Civ 6 menu background.

My Top 10 Books for 2018

2018 was the year of “I’m not sure I’m going to like this book, oh wait, I love it.” A list of books that I was skeptical about at first, in the order that I read them.

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

I’d read Laini Taylor’s book Daughter of Smoke and Bone and barely finished it. I’d liked her writing style, but the plot read like something a bad fanfic author would cobble together. Then came Strange the Dreamer, which sounded like a book I would enjoy, but I was hesitant. After hearing enough people tell me they hadn’t liked Daughter of Smoke and Bone either, but they’d given Strange the Dreamer a try and loved it, I picked up the book and instantly became one of them.

This book is for you if: You love unusual fantasy, you’re quiet and bookish and want to read about a protagonist like yourself, you have a vivid imagination.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials were my absolute favorites when I was younger, and when I found out about La Belle Sauvage I was afraid it wouldn’t measure up. It did. I can’t wait for the next one.

This book is for you if: You loved His Dark Materials, you want to read a book with a kind and nurturing young male protagonist, you get ocular migraines and want to read a really good description of them that makes them feel like magic (it’s perfect).

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

There was so much hype for The Hate U Give built up before I had a chance to read it, I wondered if it would be one of those times when the hype doesn’t live up to the reality. Thankfully, I did. This book made me laugh, cry, and think.

This book is for you if: You’re not sure if it’s as good as you keep hearing (it is), you don’t understand why Black Lives Matter is such a big deal, you like realistic fiction (this is the only completely magic-free, non-sci-fi fiction book on my list).

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness by Susannah Cahalan

This was the first book I read for my work’s bookclub, and let’s just say I don’t read a ton of non-fiction. Or, when I do, it’s usually either memoirs of people who were in a cult or memoirs of female comedians. But I thought, having something go really wrong with your brain is kind of like being in a cult, right? So I gave it a shot. And it was not only very well-written (always a gamble with memoirs) but incredibly interesting. I was hooked. I could not put this thing down.

This book is for you if: You usually prefer fiction but are down for a memoir, you’re interested in how the brain works, you like happy endings.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

Six Months, Three Days, Five Others by Charlie Jane Anders

While I love short stories, I often have a difficult time with short story collectionsbecause there’s no piece of plot enticing me to read the next one. Except when they’re so amazingly good you can’t wait to read another one.

This book is for you if: You’re looking for a short read, you like books that leave you thinking, you wonder what it would be like to know the future.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

I was given this book through my work’s gift exchange. A few days later, and before I had the chance to read the book, I saw a preview for the film at the theater. The film didn’t look like my cup of tea. It started out interesting, but from the preview it looked like a jump-scare horror film. Not for me.

I haven’t seen the movie, but I loved the book. It’s creepy, sure, but no jump scares.

This book is for you if: You like sci-if but are sick of all the usual tropes, you want to read a book that reads like a plot-driven adventure video game, you know the book is better than the movie.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

Matchmaking for Beginners by Maddie Dawson

This was one of my Amazon Prime’s first pick selections. I thought it was going to be chick lit. Don’t get me wrong, I like chick lit. But a lot of it is shallow and forgettable. I’m not even sure if I could call Matchmaking for Beginners chick lit. It’s an incredibly well-written female coming of age story. Reading this book made me want to write again.

This book is for you if: You want to read something that makes you a better person just by reading it, you like a little magic in your realistic fiction, you briefly lived in New York and sometimes missing it hurts.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

I loved Uprooted and didn’t think Spinning Silver could be as good. It was even better. The world is more mysterious, the heroine has more agency, and the story is this wondrous gradual journey.

This book is for you if: You like fairytale retellings but are sick of Beauty and the Beast, you like plots that move slowly but still push forward, you don’t like passive protagonists.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon

I lied at the beginning. I knew I’d like this one. But work book club’s reaction was not as positive as my own. Perhaps that counts.

This is the one book on this list that I knew I would like before I read it. A friend recommended it and she was spot on. I’ll say though, that it’s not an easy read. The protagonist lives with racism, slavery, and sexual assault and it’s brutal. There’s no toning down or romanticizing. But the writing is beautiful and everything about it is a powerful read.

This book is for you if: You like fiction with enclosed settings (space ships, bunkers, deserted islands, underground silos, speeding trains), you want more diverse protagonists, you like sci-fi that’s more about people than tech.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

I don’t read much self help. (I do listen to the By The Book podcast, though!) I never read Eat, Pray, Love. But people who’s opinions I trust kept talking about how amazing this book is, so I grabbed it with an audible credit. I’m so glad I did. Rarely I’ll read a book that feels like it was written just for me, right at this particular place in my life. Who knew it would be a self help book written by the Eat Pray Love author? Other people, apparently. But not me.

This book is for you if: You want to be a creative person, but you don’t know how or you don’t have time or you don’t think you’re good enough, you cringe whenever people say to “find your passion”, you don’t feel like you’re living your best most creative life.

Buy it from Amazon or your favorite bookstore, or check it out from your local library.

My first read for 2019? Finishing up a long series with Kingdom of Ash. So many feels!

Cover Photo by Chris Lawton on Unsplash. Old books, new books, I love them all.

My Top 10 Books For 2018

How We “Do” Santa

No, this is not the title of an erotic fanfic about Santa and Mrs. Claus. Get your minds out of the gutters.

I’m in this network of parenting groups on facebook that are mostly positive. They’re non-judgemental, free of anti-vaxxers, and no one uses “DH” to describe their partners. But once a year they blow up. It’s not about breastfeeding vs. formula or working moms vs. stay-at-home moms. It’s about Santa.

One kid tells another kid Santa isn’t real. The first kid’s mom feels guilty about it and makes an innocuous post in a parenting group. The internet explodes into chaos.

As a former child raised as someone who knew Santa was a myth, I never realized how important he is to some people. I assumed parents didn’t want their kids to find out the truth because then they wouldn’t be able to use it as a behavior incentive. (That always felt a little icky to me, but I’m trying not to be judgmental.) For most parents it’s about magic.

They want to create a magical experience for their children. That magic is tied up in a belief in Santa. They remember believing in Santa as a child themselves. They plan how they want to tell their children that Santa, as a person, isn’t real, but anyone can be Santa to someone else by sharing a joyful giving spirit. I can’t judge that. I see how they don’t want some smarter-than-you kid messing it all up for their child.

My kid. Because I’m not going to tell my son Santa is real.

We want to make our kids childhoods “magical”. There are huge amusement parks dedicated to creating magical experiences for children. Families come in droves to spend money and wait in un-air conditioned lines next to other sweaty families to experience some magic.

I don’t need Santa to add some magic to my son’s childhood because childhood is already full of magic.

I remember being a kid and knowing magic wasn’t real, but still feeling like it was part of my life. I was new to the world and everything seemed amazing. If Arthur C Clark is right, and “magic is just science we don’t understand yet”, then everything is magic for little kids.

Christmas lights. Fairy tales. Baking. Bubbles. All of these things felt like magic to me when I was a kid.

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When I was a kid, Christmas lights made me feel like I’d been transported to fairyland. Christmas lights are magic. Photo by Geert Pieters on Unsplash

You know what else felt like magic? Pretending in Santa. I knew Santa wasn’t a real person who came down my chimney (or, walked through the door, since we didn’t have a fireplace) and that the presents came from my parents. But we still pretended. We left out milk, cookies, and carrots. I knew my dad ate them when I was asleep, but it was still fun to pretend.

I think when we grow up we forget how real and powerful playing make-believe is for kids. My son often wants to pretend that we’re being chased by dinosaurs and have to hide in the curtains. These activities are boring for adults. We’d rather do structured play: do an art project, play a game with rules, throw a ball around. But my son beams when we play pretend together. He lights up. Because he’s still tuned into this childlike magic that I’ve long since outgrown. He doesn’t need me to influence him into believing in something that isn’t real. He already knows that the whole world is magic.

I’m not saying you can’t do Santa in your family, whole-heartedly and with gusto. If that’s a big part of your family tradition, who am I to stomp on it? I want to provide a middle option, somewhere in-between yes Santa and no Santa. Something that worked for me as a kid and a tradition I want to pass on.

Whether you do Santa or not, realize everyone’s going to do the same thing. There’s so many reasons for following whatever Santa tradition you choose. Some Christians find Santa too secular; some non-Christians find him to be too Christian. I think there’s a whole spectrum of Santa options for you to choose as a family. But please, be mindful of others. Think about how it feels when some kids get mountains of presents from Santa, and others get just one or none at all. If Santa was real, I believe he’d distribute presents equally, not based on the incomes of the child’s parents. Also, I don’t want my child to break another child’s heart with the truth about Santa. I’ll tell him to keep the secret under wraps. But since he’s not an extension of my own being, I can’t control what he does when he goes out into the world.

What are your favorite holiday traditions from when you were a kid?

Cover Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash. That’s a nice looking carrot, but I’d still go for a cookie.

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What I Did on my Autumn Vacation

Hello there! Did you think I abandoned this blog? I thought about it. Or turning it into something else altogether. My mind is constantly whiling with thoughts of what I should be doing with my various internet “properties.” But I decided to keep it. Here’s what I did while I was away from the blog, and what my plans are for my blogging future:

September

I got married! My now-husband Will and I got married outside at my parents’ house in the country. They live on a beautiful lot (that I never fully appreciated as a kid) and we had a small ceremony with my Uncle doing the service and a wonderful violinist. The best part of it all was when our son came up and took turns hugging mine and my almost-husband’s legs saying he loved us. This wasn’t planned. No one told him to do it. It was completely spontaneous and perfect.

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That’s me on the left!

October

I did Inktober.

Above is one of my Inktober drawings probably most relevant to this blog.

Will and I had a short honeymoon in Louisville, KY. We did a lot of walking and ate so much good food we spent most days going back to the hotel after lunch for a nap. Quite a lot of bourbon was consumed.

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My work sent me their home state of Georgia for some team building, which included mountain climbing and rappelling.

My son was a pterodactyl for halloween. He loved trick-or-treating but did not enjoy being told he couldn’t have any more chocolate.

I did a lot of knitting.

November

My parents’ had some of the extended family over for Thanksgiving and Will and I outdid ourselves cooking: mashed potatoes, appetizers, apple turnovers, and the turkey. The food was amazing. I’d eat turkey and cranberry sauce every day.

Around this time I found myself gradually playing World of Warcraft less and less. I tried the LOTRO Legendary server but haven’t been playing that, either.

December

I wanted to reboot the blog at the beginning of the month, but wanted to have some posts in a backlog to grab from when I don’t have something new to say. I spent the beginning of the month turning outlines into drafts.

My new goal is to post at least once a week, and I may specifically limit myself to a maximum of three posts per week so I don’t get burned out again.

The hardest part of blogging is coming up with topics. If there’s anything you’d like me to talk about within the intersection of parenting, technology, gaming, and being a nerd, please let me know!

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Another Inktober doodle just because.

Cover photo is the view from the top of my mountain climb in October!

Happy Friday – Hiatus Edition

While this week was difficult, there were little moments of joy sprinkled throughout. I realized that our wedding is no longer a vague ways away, but in a few weeks. Despite the stress dreams, I’ve been enjoying the last few bits of planning. Instead of rings, we’ve decided to exchange framed hand-written vows. My mom and I went shopping for accessories. Tomorrow I’m going for a bra fitting. Oh la la!

I’m a natural worrier. I worry about the weather, the violinist who hasn’t emailed me back, and if I’ll like the flowers. The one thing I haven’t worried about is the man I’m marrying. I think that’s the important part.

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Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.

Reading

I’m loving An Unkindness of Ghosts despite having limited reading time. The world building is exquisite and Aster is unlike any other protagonist. Sadly I won’t be getting much extra time to read soon.

Online, I enjoyed Wired’s article about Microsoft’s parental leave requirement for subcontractors. When I had my son, I had to go back to work after about 8 weeks. It was hard enough for me, someone with the luxury of a job sitting at a desk to go back when I did. It’s even harder for people who work on their feet. This line in the article stuck out: “paid family leave was the most desired workplace benefit.” Shout it from the rooftops, people!

One of the hardest things about being a mother is the judgement. We live in a society where nearly every parenting action, particularly of mothers, is scrutinized by others. Kelly in the City’s thoughts on the subject closely mirror my own. I’m so grateful for the judgement-free online community parents I’ve found.

Playing

Battle for Azeroth has been the perfect stress relief this week, particularly getting absorbed in the Nazmir quest chain. I think the fiancé may want to play our Alliance mains with me again soon, but he’s been leveling a shaman.

Tonight we played some Pokemon Go and walked to a small event downtown. The ice cream sandwiches were delicious. I always forget about Pokemon Go as a game I play, as it’s just become a regular part of life. My interest in it has been waning lately. We need some new Pokemon to catch.

A few new games may be in my future. I’m pleased at the news of an upcoming Rusty Lake game. The No Man’s Sky community challenge sounds almost interesting enough for me to buy the game.

Writing

Today marks the end of Blaugust. I’m glad I participated. It was the catalyst for me to launch the blog and a way to connect me to a larger blogging community. However, I have felt pressured to post more, perhaps lower quality posts than I would like. Yesterday I was working on a post and trying to get it finished. Eventually I decided I really wanted to spend more time and thought on the topic and posted some photos of my cat instead. I don’t mind posting (literal, in my cat’s case) fluff and I love injecting some humor in my writing, but some of the topics I want to tackle require more thought. Those posts are going to take longer than a half hour at lunchtime or 45 minutes in the evening to explore.

At the same time I tend to try to be too perfectionist in my writing and sometimes I need to just let go and hit publish.  Perhaps the scales need some time to find the right balance.

Doing

That said: I’ve decided to go on hiatus until around the end of October. I have so many things coming up including my wedding, my honeymoon, a work trip, my son starting a new daycare, and some personal things. If I have extra time, I may spend it working on some of the more in-depth pieces I have brewing in my head so I can finish them when I start back up again.

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Image Source. I gotta bounce, but I’ll be back soon.

I hope you stay in touch! You can follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Mastodon, or Ravelry if you’re crafty.

If you want to chat, send me a note and we can find each other on Discord, Steam, Battle.net, or some other place. I’m always happy to make new friends.

Sprinkles of joy! Cover photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.

 

 

 

We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Program

…for a few photos of my cat, Sashimi, when she was a kitten. I’ve been having a rough day, and she always helps me feel better.

Please pardon this pause from regular blogging. We shall return shortly.

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So stinking cute!

Alright, fine. Here is another one:

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Too cute to function!

And finally, one form Instagram, possibly my favorite photo of her kitten face.

Find your happy place. Mine is with my cat.

Cover photo of Sashimi as a full grown cat. Still cute, but now more majestic.