Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A Rant? About Technology

   I'm not a technologically gifted person; if you've been reading along, that much should be clear. That being said, for someone who is so challenged when it comes to all things computer, I sure get in a rage when things don't work right. Just now, I tried to log into one of my accounts online so that I could pay the bill. But for some reason, I'm getting a message saying that my account is unavailable, along with a 1-800 number. Instead of calling the 1-800 number, like a rational person, I try to log in three more times. When I am still unable to log into my account, I scream at the computer, "Fine! I didn't want to pay that damned bill anyway!" Because that's the rational, adult thing to do in this scenario. Call the 1-800 number? I don't want to talk to some dumb-ass service rep who doesn't speak my language and knows about as much regarding this issue as I do. I want my effing account to pull up so I can pay the bill, by myself, in the dark, like the antisocial little troll that I am.
    And that's the thing about technology, about computers and the internet: everybody has to utilize it. One reason I don't want to call that 1-800 number is that they charge a fee to pay by phone, whereas you can pay online for free. I don't even know how to mail in a payment; everything is 'paperless', so that's out too. No snail mail for me. Things ain't what they used to be. My daughter came home from school the other day complaining that they were supposed to be using their smartphones in class to get online and do research. My daughter, folks, is probably one of the few twelve years old girls to NOT have a cell phone of any kind, much less a smart one. What are all these kids doing running around with shitting-ass Iphones anyway? (And yes, I am aware of how much I just aged myself.) But the thing is, we don't have the money for that shit. I mean, you are likely aware of what the monthly bill is on a smartphone. I don't even have one; so far as I am concerned, my daughter's school is going to get a boot up the ass if having a smartphone is now required just to do classwork. That's too far, and this is a public school and I work in a grocery store, for crying out loud. This isn't rich-people school, this is poor-folk school.
   I'm not anti-technology. I suppose I can come across that way, but I'm really not. I think it's a great thing that the school teaches kids to do things like make Powerpoints and use Microsoft Office, and all those things that will help them in college, but they also need to keep in mind that not all these kids have access to some of these resources. I sent my daughter to school the other day with a good, old-fashioned research tool the other day - a book. This way, if the class does smart-phone research yet again, she can participate in some manner at least. Because frankly, even if money were not an issue, I'm not sure that I'm sold on a twelve year old's need to have the latest Iphone.
   And as for the bill collectors - well, they can just kiss my ass. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

How To Get A Kid To Read

   I'm an avid reader; I know that is kinda like saying the sky is blue, but I have a point with making that my leading sentence. Also, I raised a daughter that is an avid reader. But I don't really think I can take a ton of credit for that, you see, my mother is also an avid reader: I think it's genetic. Regardless, I have been asked for tips from several people about getting kids to read, so I thought I'd say what I think. In saying what I think, however, I need to also explain that what I think did NOT work whatsoever on my niece. She doesn't like to read and none of my tips worked. So take this with a grain of salt. That being said, here is my opinion on the best way to get kids to read.
   1. Read out loud to your kid, and start as soon as possible. I started reading to mine at birth. She didn't get to choose the books at first, because she didn't care and couldn't talk to tell me what she wanted, so her first books consisted of The Lord of The Rings trilogy, but even that got her into  the ritual of reading, and that is so important.
   2. Poems; specifically silly poems like those written by Shel Silverstein. For a kid with a short attention span, poems are shorter than stories and the silly ones about being eating by boa constrictors, picking your nose, and being buried by garbage can catch a young reader's fancy.
   3. Dr. Seuss is your friend. Actually, any books that rhyme and can be read in a rhythm are good. My daughter loved those best when she was still reading books for young children. She wanted them to be read as often as possible, and if you didn't read them in rhythm, she would make you start over and "read the book right".
   4. As your kid gets older, let them choose the books that they read. Don't outlaw things like comic books and manga. They may seem frivolous, but any book reading is building skills such as vocabulary, imagination, critical thinking, comprehension, and so-on. Over time, those skills will translate to other things, such as that science article their teacher wants them to read or that chapter in the history book. The important thing is for them to enjoy reading, so that they will build these skills. So if what they want to read is the newest Spiderman comic, then go for it. If all they want to do is sing a song, find song lyrics online, and print them out so that they can read the lyrics and sing along to their favorite songs. Get creative.
   5. When your child starts reading to you, don't get impatient when they are sounding out words. Let them do that themselves. My daughter got really angry when I would give a word away. I suggest only helping them when they ask for the help. For me, this is good training for school, because whoever their teachers are, they are not going to know if your kid needs help unless they speak up. Patience is really key, not matter how much the kiddos are stumbling with the words, and really, they get so happy when they read you a book all on their own.
   6. Continue reading out loud even when your child is proficient in reading. Reading is good quality time regardless. Also, talk to your kid about books they have read. Read what they read so that you can talk about story plots and discuss characters. These kids are going to have to show that they can analyse text; this is great practice.
   7. Don't use reading as a punishment. They have to read in school; they are required all through elementary to take AR tests on reading. You want to have reading a book to have as many positive connotations as possible. So don't say in frustration, "You're never playing a video game again! All you are going to do is sit in your room and read a book for the next week!" (I say this because I've actually made the mistake of saying this myself.) You don't want reading to feel like a punishment.
   I don't know if this will actually help anyone. Every kid is different and they all learn in different ways. This is what I did though, and maybe one or two of the things I've written will give you ideas or help you out if you are struggling to get a child to read. I hope so, at any rate. And if you are reading this, and you have tips to add, please do so in the comment section! I know a few families who struggle with this, and I'm sure they would love the tips!

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Experience With Co-Sleeping

   Recently, I had a friend who was asking about co-sleeping with her soon-to-be-born child, and if this was a good option or not. Immediately, she was bombarded by opinion after opinion, and many of those opinions where very forcefully expressed. Co-sleeping is, apparently, a hot topic for some mommies, and I remember the most rabid of those opinion-givers kept repeating that 1) the mother would crush or smother her baby in her sleep, and that 2) if the baby survived, she would continue sleeping with her mommy for the rest of her life, because why would she sleep alone if she was not forced to it?
  I was a co-sleeping mommy, so I want to share my experience with this, but before I do that I would like to state that I am not saying that every parent should co-sleep. Like many other things in life, there is no one way to parent; there are so many options and choices out there, and our jobs as parents are to find the best way of parenting for us as unique individuals, and one mother's way of being a mother to her child may be entirely unsuitable for another. In short, just because I successfully co-slept, that does not mean that I am rabidly announcing to the world that all mothers must co-sleep. Co-sleeping will just not be an option for some, and that is fine. 
   That being said, co-sleeping is neither a death sentence nor the death of all the child's independence. I started co-sleeping almost right away; I hadn't planned on co-sleeping but due to circumstance, it happened. And it worked. My daughter slept better, and while I didn't really sleep that well because my daughter often used me as a foot prop or a head rest, I was more at ease having her right there where I could quickly check on her. There are also things that you can buy now that help keep pillows and blankets off of your baby such as attachable bassinets and such, but I have to say, while I often woke with my daughter on top of me, I never woke on top of my daughter. If you sleep heavily, maybe you should factor that into your decision to co-sleep, but I never had an issue with crushing my infant. Never happened; I was always aware of her position.
   The other issue; getting your child to leave the bed, well, that should also be handled parent-by-parent. As a single mom, I let my daughter sleep in the bed with me until she didn't want to anymore. She stopped sleeping with me about the time she started kindergarten. At that time, she started sleeping in her own bed, but still shared a room with me due to the fact that we were living in an extended family home. Now in middle school, she has her own room and sleeps in her own room in her own bed. Obviously, I did not have any problem with her wanting to sleep with me while she was still in high school. I never had to use any force; she decided when she was ready, so the claim that a child will not leave your bed unless you force them I have found to be false. Also, she is not a dependent child; she very strongly asserts her independence, which sometimes does get her into trouble, being as she is a twelve year old girl and I am mom, therefor, I am boss. So the argument that your child will not learn to be independent is also something I have found to be false.
   To add to this, co-sleeping was the reason that one night, I was right there when she started choking, and I feel that my response was much quicker and maybe even saved her life, because if she had been in a different room, I do not know that I would have heard her distress. My daughter has never been a sickly child. She's, to this day, never suffered from an ear infection, and all of her illnesses have been mild, except for two instances. The first one was a bowel issue that took several years to clear up and required constant attention to her diet. The second though, was a really bad respiratory virus that I at first thought was a case of the common cold. But one night I woke up because I heard a strange noise next to my ear; my daughter. It was the smallest of sounds caused by her struggle to get breath. My daughter was choking. I flipped her over and patted her back, trying to dislodge whatever was in her throat, but nothing appeared to be in there. There had been no blanket in her face, but I could see that she was gagging and struggling with something; she was starting to turn purple. Out of shear desperation, I stuck my hand into her mouth, hoping that I could find whatever was in there an pull it out. I pulled out a mucus plug, that once out of her throat, expanded so that it looked to be the same size as her head. I was horrified, and she was truly choking, so she was not coughing or making a sound, because no air was coming in at all. What I had heard was the rustle of the blanket, and I am not sure that a baby monitor would have picked up that sound. I heard it, and I also felt it, and that is why I woke.
   So in conclusion, I think that you need to do whatever is best for you, but if you want to co-sleep, I have found that the arguments against co-sleeping have not had a true foundation. All of the main arguments against co-sleeping that I have heard; the crushing or suffocation of the baby, the lack of independence, and the child never wanting to leave the parent's bed, have not been issues I have dealt with. In fact, this image that I pulled off of the internet actually details what I found to be the true issue:
  This, at least, has been my experience with the issue. I am not a professional, but I do have a happy, healthy, independent twelve year old who has no issues sleeping in her own room in her own bed. There you have it; my side of the story. If you are considering co-sleeping, then I hope this helps. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Things I'm Afraid Of: Freaking Annabelle Is At The Top Of That List

   A while back, I watched The Conjuring, a movie that's trailers had terrified me for months with that 'clap hands' game. Watching the movie had some things that were pretty scary to me, but nothing scared me more than the doll Annabelle. I mean, holy-f***ing-shit, was that doll creepy.
   Now to step back from that a minute, I have to say that I am afraid of quite a lot of things. The list is extensive: the dark, rats, my old Speech 101 class, demons, register 6 at work, crows, dolls, anything that might be haunted, lice, driving, heights, and really, a whole slew of things. When I was a kid, I was convinced that all the posters on my sister's walls were watching me, and I had a recurring nightmare about a green man that lived under my bed, so you can add the underneath of beds to that long, long list.
   So why watch all of the horror, and do silly things like reading Stephen King and other scary shit? Well, I don't know. Maybe I'm just a dumbass. All I can say is that I've had these problems long before I remember watching or reading anything scary. Trust me, with my fear of the dark and refusal to sleep alone, my parents were pretty strict about me not  watching anything remotely scary for a long time. I was a teenager before my dad really started watching horror with me (and here you have the beginning of mine and my sister's scary movie nights) and by my teenage years, I had learned to deal with my fears. I'm still afraid of things, but usually I just shrug it off. Dark? Oh well, I'll handle it. I still prefer not to be in the dark, but if I need to walk down a long, dark hallway, I'll do so. And then I'll bitch about having had to do so for the next few days, but the point is, I don't let my fear stop me. And I guess scary movies and books and games are just a fun way for my to poke at that fear. Or I'm insane. Or something; I don't know. The point is, that usually I have my fear locked down. When we are watching horror movies, my sister is the one who won't look at the screen during the scary parts, but instead, watches me watching the scary part so that she can gauge my reaction and know when it's safe to look again. But I can promise you that I have more fear in me than she has in her, so it baffles me that she does that. Whatever.
   So now back to that doll in The Conjuring. You see, that doll really scared me. And in one of the magazines that I subscribe to, there was a movie preview for the spin-off movie that they are making of The Conjuring. Also, I would like to point out that I was reading this review around 2 a.m. in the morning because I couldn't sleep. Which I knew was a mistake immediately, so I put the magazine down and did my best not to think about Annabelle. Of course, if you have ever sit there and tried desperately not to think about something... Well, you know about how well that works. So  I started pacing a little, because when I'm stressed, I pace. I'm sitting here pacing, trying not to think about this stupid effing doll, and of course, that's making my imagination run absolutely wild. And there are dolls in my house, in my daughter's room. So I'm trying NOT to think about them either. And I'm pacing. And trying not to think about dolls that I can't stop thinking about. And the damned lights go out. No warning; just darkness. And I fall down, and I scream. I mean, a blood curdling, there's-an-axe-murderer-in-my-apartment scream.
    And my daughter is just saying, calm as can be, "Just get a flashlight, Mom." And trust me, that's embarrassing, to have your daughter say something like that to you in a voice that clearly indicates that she is rolling her eyes for all she is worth. Even more embarrassing? Knowing full well that ALL of the neighbors heard you shriek like that. It's like a bad horror movie; the power goes out and some dumbass chick starts screaming. Oh, holy crap.
   The lights didn't come back on that night. They didn't come back on until around 10 a.m. the next morning. The word around the street was that a transformer blew. But to me, this was a SIGN. In capital letters: MARIE CANNOT WATCH ANNABELLE. Bad things will happen.
Just say no, Marie.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Favorite Sub-Genres And The Shelving Of Books

   I was looking for my copy of my movie version of The Hunger Games and for a while, I was getting pretty pissed because I just couldn't find the movie, and I needed to find the movie because, for the millionth time, I was rereading the trilogy, and I just wanted to watch the movies. Of course, I found the movie; like all things lost, there it was, sitting in front of my face. As my Nanny used to say, "If it had been a snake, it'd'of bit me."
   As many times as I've read the book, you would think that I would be tired of The Hunger Games by now. But I'm not. I don't really get tired of books. I can get tired of movies in a heartbeat, but to me, it just seems like there is always something to consider, something that you missed or didn't understand or think about before in a book. There's also the fact that I love to read. I love to read so much that reading is not a past time or a hobby or an activity. Reading is something that I must do; I'd go crazy in a world with no books; I'd have to be institutionalized. I have friends and family who don't read, and to me that like saying, "I don't like to eat. I don't like to drink. You know what, forget breathing, because I don't like to do that either." I have this urge - that I don't act on because it would be crazy rude - to sit there and question them and study them and find out what they do, if they don't read. Because I guess if I had to choose between something like reading or eating, my survival instincts would kick in, and I would choose to eat, but something would be missing from me; I would feel the loss and would feel lost. Reading has always been something I turned to, whatever the reason, sad, happy, mad, whatever, I need a book to read in those quiet minutes of not-doing-anything. If I had to choose between something non-essential, say between reading and writing, I would never write another word.
    But I digress -  I was looking for The Hunger Games movie, because I was rereading the trilogy on my Kindle. I don't know why I love this book so much; I just do. And I'm not alone, because thousands love this book. But I do know that this book fits into a genre (or is a sub-genre or something? I don't know) of apocalypse and dystopian societies, usually caused by a previous apocalyptic event. Pure awesomeness. I've been reading them since I was a teenager, and my dad put The Stand, by Stephen King, into my hands, which was weird, because my dad is not a big reader and did a lot to discourage the practice. I get my love of reading from my mom, but when my dad gave me that book, it was like he just shot his cause in the back. I've read Stephen King ever since, and I love a good Holy-crap-the-world-is-ending story, and the offshoot, the dystopian society - like The Hunger Games. 
   If I ran a bookstore, which is something I would love to do, bus alas, am sadly lacking business skills or a partner with said skills, this would be it's own section. You walk into Barnes and Nobles, and you have fantasy/science fiction (lumped together, bah!) and you have the Young Adult section (or Juniors, or whatever they are calling it) that you have to search through for books like these, but I would have just a section for these books, so you could walk in, see what's new, and get what you wanted without having to wade through all that stuff that you don't want to read.
   I'd also have a section for urban fantasy. Say what you want about Stephanie Meyers (and I've taken cracks at her vampires myself, even though I own the books and love them), you can't deny that she got thousands of people to read and love her story. I have a lot of respect for people like that, because she got a lot of non-readers to read, and I'm just like, "Welcome to my world. Do you see why I read now?" But I loved the urban fantasy stories long before Twilight appeared in a dream to Stephanie Meyers. I was reading L.J. Smith's Nightworld series when I was like, thirteen, fourteen, maybe. Christopher Pike had a series called The Last Vampire that I really loved as well, and more recently, I was reading Patricia Brigg's Mercy Thompson and her Alpha and Omega, and Carrie Vaughn's Kitty Norville series long before I picked up Stephanie Meyers, so that's an old, old love of mine. People where all the sudden talking about werewolves and vampires, and I was sitting here like, "Well, duh."
    And urban fantasy is yet another section that I would have in my never-to-be bookstore. Why are all these good genres lumped into fantasy/scifi. And why is fantasy/scifi always lumped together? Questions I'll never understand the answer to. Reading Juliet Marieller and I love Ann Aguire, but as authors, they have little in common, and their stories have little in common. Juliet Marieller's Sevenwaters Trilogy contains the fey, and starts off with a retelling of an old fairytale, with seven brothers who are turned to swans and a sister who must save them all. It has an evil sorceress stepmother and great journeys, chalk full of druids and old religions. Ann Aguirre's Sirantha Jax series is about faster-that-light speed traveling, the downfall of corrupted governments, genetically altered humans, aliens even, but they are both stored in the same shelves under the same lumped together section! How does that make sense?
   Well, in the scheme of things, these shelving issues are not even real problems. The shelving of books doesn't even register on the 'real problem' scale - nor should it - but this is all stuff that came to my mind while I was looking for my missing Hunger Games movie, and this is why I never sleep. My brain won't shut-the-hell-up.