Friday, May 27, 2016

Oh, Internet... {85}

Our vacation is almost over and I'll be sad to see it end.  We've had a wonderful time visiting with family and celebrating my sister's marriage.  It's been so relaxing to not have any responsibilities and a mostly empty schedule, just talking and playing and showing off our lovely little munchkin to my aunts and uncles and cousins.

In the downtime, I've had the opportunity to catch up on some blog reading, and I found a few things to share with you:

Lovely Haley is once again using Jane Austen to teach us life lessons.  (I, for one, am in the camp of people who sort of hate Emma, though I love the story.  I guess it's time to revisit her.)

Catholic All Year has a refreshing take on teaching modesty to young children.

Julie at These Walls makes a shocking confession: she thinks social media is not entirely awful!  (I agree!)

I found this great post on A Gentle Mother with her take on the bullying epidemic in our culture.

There's a great post on Sweet Little Ones about letting go of perfect (something I need a lesson in every now and then).

Real Catholic Mom has a similar post this week about remembering whose image and likeness we're created in (hint: not our own).

What all have you found on the internet lately?

Much love,
The Geeks

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bookish Adventures: Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl

*personal photo*

There's something about stories set in high school that I just can't get enough of.  You'd think, now that I've been out of that awful place for ten whole years, I'd be over it, but I just get so sucked in to a well-written depiction of awkward teenagers learning monumental life lessons between chemistry and world history classes.  Did I ever have such life-changing experiences in high school?  Did I come to any eye-opening realizations that altered the way I viewed the world around me while hammering out my calculus homework?

Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl covers a high school experience that is definitely miles away from my own, though somehow I can relate to the narrator, Greg.  Greg takes the whole concept of being a loner to quite the extreme- he has carefully constructed a scenario in which he is not actually a member of any of his high school's social groups because, according to his well-reasoned logic, to be a member of any group is to make enemies of a rival group, so by not having any friends, he has guaranteed that he does not have any enemies.  This premise seems reasonable at first- in college I had a similar desire to fly under the radar and not get caught up in the complicated social structure outside of class- but it quickly becomes evident that his nonchalant, quite literally too-cool-for-school facade is just the result of a paralyzing fear of rejection.  The one person who Greg should in fact consider a friend- the one person with whom he spends all his time, and with whom he shares his one hobby- is Earl, and in his desperate attempt to hang on to this relationship, Greg refers to him as a "coworker" rather than friend.

This precariously perfected lack of social life comes to a crashing halt when Greg's mother interferes rather accidentally- something all mothers have a knack for.  A classmate has been diagnosed with leukemia, and Greg's mother demands that he spend time with her, because she needs a friend.  This is in direct contrast to Greg's preferred modus operandi of, you know, not having friends, so Greg drags his feet and pronounces the awkwardness of the situation at every step, yet he does spend time with Rachel (and Earl, his not-a-friend).

Lest you think this is another Fault in Our Stars, Greg lets us know from the very beginning that this is not a romantic story.  Nobody falls in love with anybody- and rightly so, as Greg does not exactly make himself loveable as he builds walls and vocally refuses to get attached to anyone- but Greg does learn some fundamental truths about being human and living life.  It's rather painful at times observing his interactions with Rachel through his own embellished narration as he is so clueless to exactly how much of a jerkwad he's being and exactly how wasteful he is with his own life in the presence of someone whose life is fading, but eventually, finally, blessedly, he gets it.  And we get it.  And we probably cry a little bit, though Greg has taken great pains to tell this story as a comedy.

I'm not sure I've ever met anyone so overtly anti-social as Greg.  My lifetime career as a nerd has brought me into contact with many introverts, but none who declare their introversion out loud in every conversation.  I know the value of alone time, and of keeping a small circle of friends rather than legions of followers, but that's more a product of my personality than a guard against those who might hurt me.  Even still, I think we can all find a bit of Greg in ourselves- we're all humans, and we all tend towards selfishness, though we may think we're being pragmatic.  But because we're all humans, we need each other.  We need relationships.  We need community.  We can't isolate ourselves and walk through life alone.  Life requires us to make an impact on other people and, in turn, that those people make impacts on us.  And life on earth is finite and fleeting; we'd better learn quickly to not waste it.

All in all, this is a really good book.  The storytelling is so original and the humor so pervasive that the inevitable tears will truly take you by surprise- but it is a cancer kids book, after all.  It's written in the first person from a teenage boy's perspective and is therefore rife with profanity and sexually explicit humor, all lending themselves to probably the most authentic voice in any YA novel I've read in a long time.  The little book club I'm a part of watched the movie after we finished reading the book and, as usual, I prefer the book.  Greg is a lot more likeable in the movie than he is in the book, but I think this story is most powerful if you can approach Greg in an effort to be his friend, discover that you kind of hate him, watch him realize that he kind of hates himself, and then breathe a sigh of relief when he finally, finally stops being such a jackass.  (Earl is the conduit through which the audience experiences these emotions, and much more explicitly so in the movie.)  The movie captures the humor and heart of the book perfectly, though.

As with most stories about high school, this is probably best enjoyed by those who have already lived it; while the things Greg and Earl experience are realistic in that they happen to real people, teenagers tend to see these depictions as romanticizing what are, in reality, tragic circumstances, and are therefore in danger of becoming tragic characters themselves.

What have you read lately?

Much love,
The Geeks

Monday, May 23, 2016

How to Act like a Princess

March 2016 
We're having a Princess Moment in our house right now.

I suppose, as a Modern Woman, I should be horrified, or at least slightly annoyed, that my two-year-old daughter is obsessed with that animated symbol of the repressive patriarchy- the Disney princess.  After all, before she was born, I experienced the appropriate levels of mental anguish when I realized that I had come to the conclusion that maybe dressing little girls in pink is not the end of the world.  I suppose I should be ashamed that I've even let her watch Snow White at all.

Except I'm totally not.

Mr. Geek and I are, obviously, huge Disney geeks, as we took a Disneymoon and everything.  (We even posed for pictures with our favorite characters, because how many times in your life do you get to hug Tigger?)

And you know what?  Disney princesses are actually quite good role models.  They teach us to value loyalty, to put our friends and family above our selves.  They teach us to be brave by doing things that make us uncomfortable or scared.  They teach us to try new things and meet new people and never judge a book by its cover.  And most of all, they teach us that nothing is more powerful than love- the love between a husband and wife, the love of a family and those we treat as family, and the love of parents for their children.

So as our boisterous two-year-old runs around the house singing Let it Go, I've decided to use this princess obsession for good- to teach manners.  (I'll let the life lessons come later.)  Since Miss Chief prefers to wear dresses and skirts because "that's what princesses wear," I've found that I can influence her behavior by telling her that "that's how princesses act."

My mother taught my sisters and I how to act like little ladies, but living in the north (for all intents and purposes) in 2016, "act like a lady" means nothing to my little one.  A princess is a much more solid concept for her, though, and someone she's eager to emulate.

How to Act like a Princess
1. A princess never runs inside the house.
2. A princess uses her inside voice when she's inside.
3. A princess says "please" when she wants something.
4. A princess says "thank you" when someone gives her something.
5. A princess sits up straight at the dinner table with her feet under the table, never on it.
6. A princess wipes her mouth and hands with her napkin after she eats.
7. A princess never whines when someone tells her "no."
8. Princesses do not hit, or bite, or push.

The list is ever growing- basically if you include the phrase "like a princess" in any behavior-correcting command, she's more likely to obey (though she's still a toddler so it's not completely foolproof).  This weekend, she was a flower girl in my sister's wedding, so how did we get her to walk down the aisle?

"Walk slowly, like a princess."

Her performance was quite royal indeed.

How do you teach your young ones good manners?

Much love,
The Geeks