CrunchyMetroMom

Trying to create balance…

Day T-1 for BlogHer ’14 (#blogher14) July 24, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 10:03 am
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After what was a pleasantly civilized trip thru airport security (no stripping! no removing things to place in separate bins!), our luck ran out at the gate. A group of us were all flying JetBlue from Boston to San Jose, and we schmoozed for a while – not noticing that HEY OUR PLANE ISN’T HERE YET. Turns out it was delayed, probably due to lines of thunderstorms, and we didn’t get out until about an hour past our scheduled departure. We also learned there was no wifi on our plane. The one carrying bloggers. To a conference for bloggers. Oh irony…

Once in the air, we enjoyed the movies (“Captain America: Winter Soldier” and “Grand Budapest Hotel” for me and my friend), but not long after our second flick finished we were told we were on approach to Salt Lake City. Um…what? Turns out that we had been diverted around those same storms – sent up as far north as Maine and central Vermont! – and we were running low on fuel. We landed in SLC, spent a short time on the tarmac and headed out as soon as we were fueled up.

By this time, we had already lost one hour to the storms – and now we lost time to the fill-up. Sometime around 11pm local time (almost 2hrs late), we groggily wandered off the plane into the surprising vastness that is the San Jose airport. Cabs were procured, and – thanks to my Marriott app the nice Rewards people recommended – our keys and two bottles of water were waiting for us at the front desk.

The view may be lovely – hard to tell at night – and it was a slog…but we are here, so I’m just happy to be able to say that we have made it. I didn’t expect red eye flights in both directions (not my preference), so here’s hoping the return trip goes more smoothly. [FWIW, it could be worse. The folks waiting for the return flight to Boston were waiting all this time for us to come in, so they could equipment, and the flight attendants were filling up the flight with passengers and heading right on back with them, working two long flights in a row. They were a chipper bunch. Hope they got some sleep.]

 

How to make your kiddo’s first movie enjoyable for everyone (within reason) July 21, 2014

Filed under: parenting — crunchymetromom @ 7:19 am
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Recently, a friend of mine who has a 4yo son asked me if I’d written something about how to decide when it’s okay to take your kiddo to their first movie, and it occurred to me that I hadn’t yet covered that (although I do talk about the kid-freak-out-potential in my movie reviews). In the spirit of fairness, I figured I’d write up a longer version of what I discussed with him, since this was something that I was worried about when my kids wanted to start going to movies.

Let me preface this by saying that I love going to the movies. Seriously, I adore it. There’s something about going to this magical building where you can be transported away to some other time and place through sound and images. It’s a link with culture and the arts, it’s escapism, and it’s stories brought to life by people with incredible talent (both in front of and behind the camera). The first real opportunity dd had to attend a movie was when she was 4-1/2yo and one of her friends invited her to a birthday party at the local movie theater, to see “Hop”. Not being a tremendous fan of Russell Brand, I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I dutifully took her to the theater. When other parents did the “drop-off” thing (leaving their kiddos in the care of the parent[s] in charge of a party), I stuck around and bought a ticket for myself so that I could be there for her. It’s not that what those other parents did was wrong and what I did was right, but I wasn’t sure that bringing my daughter to her first immersive movie experience and then leaving her there would’ve been the wisest move I could make.

Turns out I was quite right. During the previews (the PREVIEWS!), she had a freak-out at the violence in the trailer for a “Kung-fu Panda” movie. Having been raised primarily on The Wiggles and PBS Kids shows to that point, she didn’t see violence. Ever. And even cartoonish violence can cause massive panic. I don’t recall if I offered her my lap or if she just cuddled up with me, but she was fine by the time the feature came on. There were moments where she snuggled up close, not because “Hop” has any especially scary parts but more because – at age 4-1/2 – she just wasn’t able to process all of this information without it overloading her to some extent.

By the time ds was ready to hit the theaters, it became more apparent that the “cuddle up” message had to be made and reinforced – early and often. The “cuddle up” rule for movie-going in our family is that if something on screen causes someone to get scared, they need to “cuddle up” with the nearest parent. If I take the kids on my own, then they each get an arm (it’s only fair). For the most part, ds has been fine; he hasn’t yet needed to see an entire feature on my lap, but he did get very upset when Constantine brandished a gun at the end of “Muppets: Most Wanted”, and there were tears. Since then, he’s asked for scare-level information about each movie we’re considering, so he can decide whether he wants to see it or not. Contrast this with some girlfriends whose similarly-aged kids have seen “Marvel’s The Avengers”; not every kid hits the panic button about violence, and some of it may just go away on its own. Each kiddo is different.

We’ve been to several movies with the kids (as a complete family and one parent + one or two kiddos), so at this point I feel like we have it down fairly well. With that in mind, here are five suggestions for those who are considering taking their young child to their first movie and would actually like the experience not to suck to be a good one for everyone involved:

 

1. Make sure your kiddo can get through a whole movie at home first.

If they can’t get through a whole movie at home, then attention span may be an issue. All you need is your kiddo to get bored in the theater and you’ll both be climbing the walls. Between previews and a feature, a movie experience may run 1-1/2 to 2 hours for a beginner movie; if your kiddo is unable to sit still and pay attention for that long a time, then heading out to the theater may not be the right move yet.

 

2. Check the ratings and reviews before heading to the theater.

I consider this the “Cars 2 Rule”. One exceptionally hot day, following an tent concert by The Wiggles that nearly made both of us melt, I took dd to “Cars 2″ as a way to cool off. I made that spur-of-the-moment decision not knowing that “Cars 2″ was rated PG. When the movie started out with a shootout, I realized I’d taken her to the WRONG FILM. I trusted that the “Cars” label meant “kid-friendly” and didn’t expect that it was really “kid-friendly at a certain age”. The new Planes: Fire and Rescue is also PG, so buyer beware.

 

3. Consider nap and meal schedules.

This one should be a gimme: if your kiddo is used to naps at the time when you want to go to the movie, consider the likelihood of a meltdown and plan accordingly. Similarly, check to see what your local theater offers for food if you’re going near a meal time. Nicer, newer theaters will often have anything from hot dogs and pizza to chicken nuggets and fries. Not every kid will eat well when you’re in a theater (sensory overload), but it may be easier to aim for a movie at lunchtime and head home for nap than to go to a mid-afternoon movie that may not exist. (Movie theaters just don’t consider nap schedules well enough when setting movie times!)

 

4. Use the bathroom right before the previews come on.

It doesn’t matter whether your little one is potty trained or still in diapers; odds are, if you don’t check right before the movie starts, you’ll end up missing part of the movie for time in the bathroom. That old adage of “Always go before you go” is still great advice.

 

5. Reinforce “the cuddle rule” right before the feature comes on.

Make sure that your kiddo knows that they should cuddle up if they get scared and that you’re there for them. Even if they don’t take you up on it, knowing that the offer is open (and reminding them to the point of having them repeat it) removes one potential source of stress for them. That way, if they do get worried or scared, they immediately start clinging and you both know that’s the signal that you need to “protect” them.

 

Additional things worth considering:

  • Sitting on the aisle, in case you need to make a speedy getaway (either a bathroom run or just a run for somewhere that wailing is acceptable)
  • Finding baby/kid-friendly movie showings, often a special program run by certain chains (such as Showcase), that have lower sound volume and slightly brighter overhead lighting
  • Getting the booster from the customer service desk can make it easier for kids too small (light and/or short) to see properly from their seat; the alternate is typically that YOU become the booster seat (which you may or may not like)

 

When all else fails, try just renting something from Redbox or grabbing a movie off OnDemand/Netflix/Amazon Prime, popping some popcorn and springing for $1 boxes of movie theater candy at the local drug store. Really, there’s nothing to stop you from having a “movie viewing” at your house that mimics the experience well enough – but at a price tag and with amenities – that are a little more everyone’s speed.

 

 

Movie Review: “Planes: Fire and Rescue 3D” July 18, 2014

Planes: Fire and Rescue

 

Almost a year after the first “Planes” movie was released, the folks at Disneytoon are back again with an adventure featuring Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), the mild-mannered crop duster-turned-racer. This time out, our story opens with Dusty sustaining critical damage to his gear box, a part long since out of production, putting him at risk of crashing when he pushes the needle into the red. His very real concern about crashing puts him in a metaphorical tailspin, leading the depressed Dusty to go on a flying bender that ends with him careening into a pylon and accidentally starting a fire.

The haphazard firefighting by Propwash Junction Airport’s sole – and well-past decrepit – fire truck, Mayday (the prolific Hal Holbrook – “Wall Street” and “Lincoln”), exposes the airport’s lack of sufficient fire safety equipment. Immediately thereafter, the authorities sweep in and pull the airport’s license to operate until there are at least two pieces of firefighting equipment onsite. Looking for meaning in his life, or at least to help out his friends, Dusty volunteers to undergo the certification required for the airport to re-open, and he flies up to scenic Piston Peak National Park, to study under the taciturn helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris – “The Truman Show” and “Apollo 13″).

 

Dusty and Blade

Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook) and Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) take to the skies over Piston Peak National Park

 

The lovely park is hugged by trees, hills, and a gulch with a raging river, and it features the stunningly renovated Fusel Lodge which is managed by the arrogant Superintendent, Cad (John Michael Higgins – “Bad Teacher” and “Pitch Perfect”). As much as Blade wants to make even minor improvements to the firefighting capabilities of his crack team, Cad is focused solely on the grand re-opening of the Lodge, gushing over the champ and ignoring the heroes. Dusty makes friends with members of Blade’s team, including the amorous Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen – “Ed” and “Modern Family”), the philosophical Windlifter (Wes Studi – “Last of the Mohicans” and “Avatar”), and crazy smokejumper Dynamite (Regina King – “Boyz n the Hood” and “The Boondocks”). Though Dusty learns the mechanics of fighting fires, his impulsive decisions override his training and put him on Blade’s bad side.

 

Superintendent Cad and Dusty

Cad (John Michael Higgins) and Dusty (Dane Cook), discussing the grand re-opening of the Fusel Lodge

 

When Blade suffers injuries from compensating for Dusty’s mistakes during a wildfire, Windlifter is left to direct the team as the fire spreads close enough to threaten the Lodge and all its visitors. Dusty has to put his own personal safety on the line to prove to everyone – and himself – that he has what it takes to be a true hero.

Ultimately, I found the movie to be just okay. Understanding that the first “Planes” movie was originally intended to be a direct-to-DVD movie that detoured to the theaters, this felt much like something that could have gone straight to DVD. There were no visible advances in graphics or effects, the plot was fairly predictable, and it straddled an interesting line between repetition and sophomore slump. The movie has some cute moments, and the casting is truly wonderful, but the drive to see it will be fueled primarily by Dusty-philes and merchandising.

 

Vehicles in danger during a fire at the park

Piston Peak in peril, the park’s firefighter, Pulaski (Patrick Warburton), looks for help from the team in the sky

 

The two big questions that I typically see pop up around these movies are: should I see this in 3D and is it too scary for my child? As to the question of whether to see this in 3D or 2D, I’d say that there’s no tangible benefit to seeing it in 3D. Frankly, the best use of the 3D display was in the end credits – and that’s insufficient to justify the surcharge. When it comes to the scare factor, the scenes with the fires (two of which are probably a bit scary for those under 7) are likely to be the biggest issues. Dusty and the Piston Peak team are put in harm’s way, and though the graphics aren’t hyper-realistic, I can imagine that some kids might find even those brief scenes a bit tough to take.

 

Piston Peak firefighting team

Some of Piston Peak’s finest, including Lil’ Dipper (Julie Bowen) – far right – and Windlifter (Wes Studi)

 

In the end, “Planes: Fire and Rescue” does the job it sets out to do; it continues this fork of the “Cars”-world franchise and it offers all new characters for kids to collect at their local stores. Parents can expect some amusing one-liners and great cameos, and kids get to see Dusty in action all over again. For many, that’s reason enough to head to the theater.

 

2 stars out of 4

“Planes: Fire and Rescue” opens nationwide starting July 18, 2014. This movie is rated PG for action and some peril.

 

21 books and 10 lbs (week 28): Overdue books July 13, 2014

I realize I’ve been sorely neglecting the book reviews I should have been posting as I’ve made my way slowly but surely through the year. In the past several months, I’ve made my way through four books – some of which were FAR better than the others. As far as my weight goes, I’ll be reporting on that in a separate post, since there is news to provide there and I’d like to have separate space to think it all through. I am still aiming to get through 21 books, though – as Goodreads was kind enough to point out – I’m moving too slowly. You can see farther down on this page just who owes me a month of my life back. Hopefully the next few books will go faster…

As far as the books go, you can see where I am on Goodreads at any point, or you can wait for me to post my reviews here. One note: typically, I link to the Amazon page for a given book (just out of habit), but the copies that are exclusive versions printed by Barnes and Noble are linked to those product pages. Regardless of the book or the product page I’m sending anyone to, I’d like to be clear that I am not part of an affiliate program, and I do not make any money off you clicking on a link. If you want to buy these books, feel free to use these links or not; I make nothing off them. I’m just trying to make sure I’m sending people to a rough approximation (or accurate representation) of the version of the book I read.

So, without further ado, catching everyone else up on my last few months of reading:

 

Book 3: “Treasure Island” by Robert Louis Stevenson

The quintessential “pirate” book, “Treasure Island” breathes life into the character of Long John Silver, a character of broad reputation and dubious morals. A young innkeeper’s son, Jim Hawkins, gets recruited to go on a hunt for a sea-faring hunt for treasure, where he uncovers mutiny and danger. As one of those books that I felt I always should have read, I wasn’t sure what to expect. When you think back to the books you were required to read in school, “classics” typically stood in for “boring” or “why am I reading this” or “isn’t there something written within the last century?” This book was a fairly good read, the first time I’d ever read any fiction centered on pirates, and it was interesting reading about Silver and buried treasure. You saw Jim come into his own, learning probably more than he cared to about the dark side of human nature. For what’s typically considered something aimed at children (the “classics” version of YA?), I’m surprised at the amount of death and danger. Then again, I guess every century has its way of trying to shock parents.

 

Book 4: “The Magic Mistake (Oh My Godmother, #2) by Barbara Brauner and James Iver Mattson

From the presses at a Disney imprint comes the second book in a series about – you guessed it – Fairy Godmothers. Only, in this case, you have a young girl who’s been tapped to head off to Fairy Godmother school, leaving her family and friends behind. Lacey Unger-Ware (great name) is the young girl in question, and though she resists her call to join the corps, an accident places her squarely in the position of having to serve as a fairy godmother to her best friend’s mother…or have everyone hate her. A series of madcap mishaps ensue, and it’s up to Lacey to save the day – and herself – by saving others. I read this one with dd, who liked it a lot and asked to get more books from this series. I was sent a copy by the Disney folks so that I could see what she thought, and I was happy to see yet another example of smart YA writing. As much as dd liked the book, I found myself snorting along and enjoying it immensely. Definitely two thumbs up.

 

Book 5: “Telegraph Avenue” by Michael Chabon

Having loved “The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay”, I figured that this one had to be worth a read. I saw Chabon appear on “The Colbert Report”, plugging the paperback release, and I went out right away to get a copy for myself. What then ensued was my “Midnight’s Children” moment for the year. I could not have been more disappointed with this book if I tried. I liked that Chabon tried to explore the lives of multi-cultured couples in Oakland, CA, centering around a failing record store in a failing neighborhood about to be gentrified and steamrolled into a whole new existence. Archie and Nat are co-owners of this anchor for a driftless neighborhood, and the relationship between the two men and their families is the central point on which the book should turn. Instead, you follow the shiftless Archie more often than not, finding him less an anti-hero and more just a poor excuse for a husband and father. Threads of stories don’t get pulled together too well, as everything suffers under the weight of Chabon’s apparently editor-free writing. The idea was just far better than the execution. Chabon’s rambling narrative – including one epic 8-page-long sentence that was a chapter unto itself – reduced the value of the book to bare minimum. It was as though someone took filet mignon and smothered it in a rancid sauce; you can’t even come close to eating it with any sort of pleasure. Unlike the bother books I read this year, this one was a terrible bore and I couldn’t wait for it to be over.

 

Book 6: “Perfect Ruin” by Lauren DiStefano

The first book in the Internment Chronicles series was just the breath of fresh air that I needed after slogging through “Telegraph Avenue”. Yet another delightful YA novel that I picked up for free at the local movie theater, “Perfect Ruin” centers around a young girl – Morgan Stockhour – living in a controlled, but generally happy, society established on a chunk of floating earth, suspended high above the planet. Strict measures determine the number of children, who will marry whom, and even the lifespan (population controls being important when you have finite space), but Morgan is fairly happy in her existence on this higher plane…until a murder is committed, and her illusion of a happy society is well and properly shattered. She begins to dig into what happened, her natural curiosity getting the better of her, and she uncovers far more than she bargained in the process. This was a delightful book (not just because of the contrast with the prior read); I’m definitely hooked and can’t wait for the second book in this series to come out. Further proof that the YA tag should never be used to weed out books…but perhaps to weed them in.

 

Book 7: “The Count of Monte Cristo” by Alexander Dumas

Dumas’ book was a literal page-turner; I found myself devouring the book 50 pages at a time. The story focuses on a young man, Edmond Dantès, wronged by a rival suitor for his beloved Mercédés. Dantès is tossed into prison, where he befriends an abbé right as he is on the verge of desperate measures. As time passes, Dantès’ mind and body both strengthen, and when he manages to escape from prison, he reinvents himself as the eponymous Count so that he can take revenge on those who contributed to his imprisonment. I’m not quite sure how I’ve managed to miss every theatrical version of this book, since the material is so rich you could mine it for ages. Dumas draws his characters in 3-D; they just seem to have such depth and emotion. Where Chabon was slow and plodding, Dumas races from household to household, weaving an incredible tale of love, betrayal, politicking, redemption, mystery, and finally – salvation.

 

{divergence} I’m just a girl July 1, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 7:23 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

When asked about the meaning behind No Doubt’s “Just a Girl”, Gwen Stefani explained that it was about her struggles against the restrictions placed on her – specifically – because she was female. Every woman I’ve met has at least a half-dozen stories of some kind of injustice or imbalance she encountered in the workplace, at a party, at school, or in the home. It’s like the ridiculous double-standard that a man who’s dating four women at the same time is a “stallion”, yet the woman who does the same is a “slut”. It’s not just the Madonna/whore complex, it’s our cultural unwillingness to treat women as though they are members of society valued equally with the men.

Between last week’s Supreme Court ruling that shreds the protective protest barriers around medical clinics that offer abortions and yesterday’s ruling that allows large companies, like Hobby Lobby, to “opt out” of offering certain kinds of birth control due to “religious objection”, women are more under fire than ever. At a time when over 62 million women aged 20-64 are employed all over the country (roughly one-fifth of the entire US population), it seems like we have a value that’s less than zero. We are not defined solely by our breasts, our uteruses, or our vaginas any more than men can be summed up solely by their penises. The fact that we have brains or spines seems to be completely missing from the conversation.

Will letting “closely held corporations” opt-out of the contraception mandate reduce healthcare costs or the employer insurance burden? No, not quite. Large corporations like Hobby Lobby are typically “self-insured”, meaning that they pay health insurers an administrative fee to get cards and (effectively) rent their network. They get to design their health insurance benefits. BUT, when the government points at insurance companies and says that they have to cover the cost of contraception as a fully-covered benefit when their customer won’t have to foot the bill directly, insurers have to pay for that SOMEHOW. That means increasing premium rates for everybody (and that “administrative fee” goes up, too). Hobby Lobby gets off paying for it this year, but it’s baked into their administrative fees next year…and the year after that…and the year after that…(as well as everyone else’s, since they effectively raised everyone’s rates so they would get to pay less). Nice, eh?

So, does restricting access to low-cost birth control further the pro-life cause? NO. According to a study published in 2012, providing free birth control reduces abortion utilization dramatically. The irony is painful in more than one way, and it shows the short-sightedness of these litigants like Hobby Lobby.

Are birth control pills only for women who want to have sex without consequence? NO. A 2001 study discussed the health benefits of birth control pills in alleviating the negative effects from dysmenorrhea (aka “REALLY BAD PERIODS”) and pain from endometriosis. I can also say that I went on birth control pills to control my periods; they were irregular and sometimes debilitating without the introduction of the hormone therapy offered by the pills I took. And anyone who thinks that IUDs are just for preventing pregnancy just doesn’t know how the female body works. Honestly, people, TAKE AN ANATOMY CLASS, WILL YA?!

Are corporations people? HELL NO. 

I don’t want my daughter to grow up in a world that’s got less freedom and less opportunity for her than the one I grew up in. When I was a child, I was lucky enough to have a mother who worked in management – who showed me the value of education and hard work as a means to a successful, productive adult life. Seeing her example, it never occurred to me NOT to go to college and NOT to get a job and NOT to try to succeed in whatever I did.

I want my daughter to grow up, and then live her productive, successful adult life in a world where she’s valued. I want her to live in a world where her gender is simply a box to check rather than a box that contains her. I want my son to have a healthy respect for all women (not just his sister), and treat women with the dignity they deserve. I’ve never told my kids that one of them could do something the other had no shot at, that one of them was destined to succeed and the other would be great if they can just get married and reproduce. This is 2014, not 1914.

I choose choice. Options. There must be options. There must be freedom. And someone else’s religious freedom doesn’t get to stomp on my freedom to have those choices. So I will continue to exercise my choice by consciously boycotting organizations that have hurtful views, that carelessly aim to pick apart our society until we are nothing more than a homogeneous, mindless pen of sheep.

Are corporations people? NO. But I’m a person – with disposable income – and I vote.

Don’t EVER count women out. Don’t EVER count ME out.

“I’m just a girl” is one hell of a war cry.

 

{divergence} The Supreme Court got it WRONG about abortion clinic buffer zones June 27, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 7:07 am
Tags: , , , ,

I usually try to keep my politics off my blog, although lord knows that as someone with a degree in Political Science, it’s not like I don’t have opinions. There’s a part of me that doesn’t want to offend, and there’s another part of me that doesn’t give any thought to what other people think. If they choose to disagree, that’s their right.

So here’s where things get murky.

In the Supreme Court decision yesterday on the matter of McCullen et al. v. Coakley, the Supremes decided that the 35 foot buffer zone around clinics providing abortions in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was a “burden” on free speech. The law was intended to provide a safe space, a bubble – if you will – around clinics so that patients and employees of the same would be able to enter and exit without undue disruption. You know, like people screaming bloody murder in their face. Or, perhaps, people actually murdering someone, which is what was the impetus for the buffer zone in the first damn place.

Here’s the thing: I don’t trust that the pro-lifers will be respectful now that the bubble has been burst, and I can only hope that Governor Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and Attorney General Martha Coakley make the effort to put more protections in place while the State House finds some other way – perhaps following New York’s lead of a 15-foot buffer zone – to rebuild a safe space.

Not all women who go to Planned Parenthood or other reproductive services clinics are there for abortions. And even if they are, abortion isn’t illegal. Harassment and intimidation, if not illegal, are really fricking tacky. Murder: definitely illegal. So, if we’re going to go on record as to who seems to like committing the crimes, I’m willing to point the pen squarely at the pro-lifers.

Operation Rescue leadership and long-time clinic protestors praised the Court’s decision, salivating at the opportunity to “educate” women about their choices. Strangely, their “education” only involves one choice…which, if you’ve ever learned how to count, means a complete LACK of choice. Choice implies more than one option. And if you have to educate by screaming, foaming at the mouth, intimidating, and frightening people, then you need to re-evaluate your curriculum. Do you want to know what goes on inside these clinics? Healthcare. Women interacting one-on-one with a clinician about their bodies and their health. Those conversations and anything that takes place inside those four walls are for no one else’s ears and eyes; HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) is supposed to take care of that.

What would be great is if all of those people who choose to spend their time harassing the patients and staff of these clinics would refocus their efforts on helping the children who are already in this mortal coil and left behind by all sorts of circumstances, including parents completely incapable of taking care of them. There are kids in need of safe homes, clothing, food, education, and nurturing. Why aren’t they helping those kids?

And if we want to talk about freedom, how come “freedom” only gets to apply to taxes and guns but my uterus is up for grabs?

In the interest of full disclosure, I will say quite truthfully that – as of this point in my life – I’ve never had an abortion. I’m a mother of two children that I love more than my own life, and it was my choice to have them. And it was my choice to become a parent. And it was MY CHOICE to do what I did such that I have two wonderful kiddos. I would never in a million years want someone to have their CHOICE revoked by someone else, and – as I’ve already said – CHOICE necessitates more than one option. We don’t live in the world of “The Handmaid’s Tale” yet, and I hope we never do.

Women aren’t things. We’re people. We have brains and thoughts and feelings, and we are more than breasts, a vagina and a uterus.

To Operation Rescue: why don’t you rescue people who are really in need of saving? Put that effort towards fully funding Pre-K, donating money and time to The Greater Boston Food Bank, or shoring up finances for the tangled web of homeless shelters and soup kitchens around the Commonwealth.

To the leaders of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: I trust you to set this right and to fix the mess the Supreme Court has made. Please act swiftly, before something terrible and totally preventable happens thanks to some whack-job being emboldened by a misguided Court decision.

To the Supreme Court: shame on you for showing a complete lack of support for women and their right not only to “free speech” but to freedom from intimidation, harassment, and violations of personal space.

And finally, to everyone else: you don’t have to agree with me, and I respect your right to have a different opinion. That’s the joy of choice and the societal burden that comes with free speech. Choice requires more than one option, and no amount of bullshit “free speech” arguments will change that the people who challenged this law did so with the motivation and intent to do harm to these clinic patients and staffers, to limit these women and their freedom. And that, my dear readers, is just NOT okay.

It’s just not okay.

 

Has Disney turned a feminist corner? May 31, 2014

WARNING: THAR BE SPOILERS AHEAD FOR “MALEFICENT”, “FROZEN”, AND “OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL”. IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, FORK OUT THE $$ TO WATCH THE FLICKS AND THEN COME BACK!

 

And so it was that last night, I saw “Maleficent”. In this twist on a classic tale once done up by Disney in animated form, Maleficent is the center of attention. Most tellings of the story of The Sleeping Beauty share the same general elements: a baby girl is born to King Stefan and his Queen; a big party is held to celebrate the baby’s arrival; fairies from across the land are invited to the party and all but ONE bestow gifts of beauty, kindness, etc.; before the final fairy can bestow her gift, she’s rudely interrupted by an evil fairy – Maleficent – who’s terribly offended by the lack of invitation and decides to curse the child to die on her 16th birthday when she pricks her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel; the final fairy “softens” the curse by instead having her go to sleep until true love’s kiss awakens her; natch, this ALL comes to pass no matter what King Stefan does to prevent it; Prince Philip, who fell in love with the princess when she was incognito turns out to be said true love; AND – key plot point – he slays Maleficent and frees the princess from her sleep by giving her true love’s kiss.

It all sounds so…Disney, right?

 

Maleficent

Maleficent revealed in adulthood (played by Angelina Jolie)

 

So, then we have “Maleficent”, where we start out with a backstory of Maleficent as a kind, brave fairy in the Moors, a magical land bordering a wretched kingdom led by a cruel, greedy King. Maleficent saves the life of a young thief, Stefan, whom she befriends and soon falls in love with. In one example of how much he cares, when she tells him that iron burns fairies, the dirt-poor Stefan tosses away an iron ring, probably his sole possession of any value, before it can hurt her again. Over time, their friendship does turn to romance – sealed with a true love’s kiss they share when they’re both teens. As time passes, Maleficent becomes the protector of her magical home, and she turns away the King’s army before it can pillage and plunder. Stefan, now a royal retainer, takes up the King on his offer to become his successor by slaying Maleficent. He goes to the Moors and they spend a magical evening together that ends with – sorry, no polite way to say it – Stefan rufeeing her and stealing her wings instead of her life. Maleficent awakes to find herself violated, horribly in pain and maimed both by the betrayal of her love and the vicious amputation he’d performed. She manages to recover physically, over time, but her emotional scars run deep, as one might expect. Her only trusted ally is the crow, Diaval, she transforms into a man (or other creature), and he becomes both her familiar and her lieutenant.

 

Diaval and Maleficent

Diaval (Sam Riley) and Maleficent (Jolie)

 

When (now) King Stefan and his Queen have a grand party to celebrate the birth of their daughter, Aurora, three simpering, Keystone Kop-like fairies come to bestow their gifts – and the third is interrupted by the arrival of BOSS Maleficent, resplendent in her black “crown” (a pleather skull-and-horns cap) and full of cruel revenge. At this point, she offers her “gift”: the curse of a death sleep that can only be awakened by true love’s kiss. Maleficent curses her in this fashion because her jaded soul now believes there is no such thing as “true love”. King Stefan, completely freaked out by the ex-girlfriend-from-Hell (and totally in denial that HE MAIMED AND BETRAYED HER), becomes obsessed with saving Princess Aurora from her fate. He sends her to live with the trio of witless fairies (a terrific waste of some great actresses), puts all of the kingdom’s spinning wheels in sequestration in the castle dungeons, and violates every iron worker union rule by having them work around the clock to manufacture iron implements of destruction.

Maleficent and Diaval oversee the three fairies’ raising of the child, becoming surrogate parents to Aurora and generally making sure she survives. Over time, the “beastie” (as Maleficent calls her) turns into a lovely – if completely vacuous – young girl, and Maleficent realizes that the ice in her heart from Stefan’s violation has thawed thanks to his daughter. She attempts to undo the curse, but she’s unable to stop it. When she sees that there’s no way to keep Aurora from her fate, she even rushes heroically to her rescue, dragging along a sleeping Prince Philip to serve up true love’s kiss. Philip’s kiss fails to revive anything (except maybe One Direction fans in the audience), but a teary kiss from a regretful Maleficent brings Aurora back to consciousness. Maleficent and Diaval fight their way out of the castle, so Aurora may escape to freedom in the Moors with them, and redemption comes at a heavy price. Aurora finds Maleficent’s wings, which – once freed from imprisonment in a display – rejoin their owner and make Maleficent’s physique finally match the wholeness of her heart. King Stefan, driven mad by obsession, dies in a final battle with Maleficent. Once Stefan dies, the tale can finally have its happy ending: Maleficent can return to her homeland to be a kind protector, Aurora is crowned the good Princess, and Prince Philip makes a sheepish appearance so there can be puppy love stares.

The new storyline puts Maleficent firmly at the center and finally gives us some justification for how she got to be thought of as the evil fairy. You can clearly see that the reason she’s so angry and badass is because she was mutilated by her human boyfriend, who thought he was doing the right thing by sparing her life. Of course, his ruse still involved maiming her, so perhaps he just didn’t understand that his lust for power was evil? This calls to mind the new-fangled origin story of the Wicked Witch – Theodora from “Oz the Great and Powerful” – who, while scheming, was certainly “turned evil” by Oz’s rejection. And Queen Elsa from “Frozen” wasn’t an evil queen, but she is terribly misunderstood; others expect her to control a power she’s never been taught to use or manage, and she is horrified to be treated like a monster after she’s already endured years of solitary confinement.

 

Elsa

Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel) in self-imposed exile at her ice palace

 

In “Maleficent”, as in “Frozen”, the love that saves the younger female is one between family. Princess Aurora mistakenly believes Maleficent to be her fairy godmother, and their bond is far stronger than that between her and her “aunties” (the fairies), although the mistake may be more Maleficent’s. As she protects, guides, and ultimately interacts with Aurora, Maleficent unwittingly becomes fairy godmother to the child, and the completely-off-the-rails King Stefan provides the perfect counterpoint to show just how she’s the righteous one in this fight. Similarly, Princess Anna of “Frozen” can only be saved by “an act of true love”, and while much time and teeth gnashing is spent identifying exactly which boy will save the girl, it’s actually her sister – the familial bond – that thaws her and brings her back from icy statuehood. Boys on the side, indeed.

Not to say that I think this is a plot device that should be used all the time, since eventually it may get played out, but I’m happy to see Disney doing something other than the same old tactic they used for so long: a girl who’s in trouble just needs saving by a man. Now, it seems, someone believes that sisters are doing it for themselves. Beyond giving Maleficent the humanity that (oddly) is missing from the humans in her story, she’s given motivation and earns sympathy. She’s not just some evil creature, she’s a flesh-and-horns person deserving of respect and dignity. Princess Anna, for all her gullibility in believing that Prince Hans was THE ONE, acts solely out of sisterly love – risking her life and that of her companions to save Princess Elsa from herself. As much as Elsa saves Anna, Anna saves Elsa right on back: teaching her the key to controlling her power and giving her hope that they can both be happy.

I like where Disney’s headed lately, giving young girls – and boys – a new paradigm to consider. Instead of girls’ eyes fluttering open from a death sleep at the slightest peck from some wandering prince, girls (and women) are being given motivation and depth, and they’re saving each other instead of waiting for a guy to come along and do it for them. Little girls who dress up as Maleficent will think of her as a villain, and a hero, and they’re right on both counts. She finally has depth of character. By putting these characters on film and giving them wide release, Disney seems to be attempting to undo (or at least soften) the curse of the myth that all girls need a prince to save them. And like Maleficent, while the horse is firmly out of that barn and the curse can’t be revoked, it’s nice to see some stories riding to the rescue that help “flip the script” and give girls a chance to realize that they can have depth of character, strength, courage, and love – with or without that prince.

 

That time I stopped taking Zyrtec (cetirizine) and couldn’t stop itching May 24, 2014

Filed under: blather — crunchymetromom @ 9:05 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Sometimes, a title has to say it all. This is really, truly about how incredibly itchy I’ve gotten…as a result of withdrawal from the Zyrtec (cetirizine) I’ve been taking for the last couple of years. (First warning: before you start/stop taking Zyrtec or cetirizine, talk to your doctor. Seriously, that’s what they’re there for.)

Backing up slightly: I developed seasonal allergies somewhere in the range of about 14-15 years ago. I started off with brand-name medicine (Allegra), before they started to make these medicines available over the counter (OTC). When Allegra started having less and less effect on my allergy symptoms (coughing and itchy throat, in particular), I switched to Claritin. When Claritin went OTC not long thereafter, I continued to buy it – but eventually switched to the generic (loratidine). This went on for a number of years until I was able to stop taking these meds entirely, my seasonal allergies having mysteriously stopped after I gave birth to dd. Hallelujah! But short-lived…

After I gave birth to ds, the allergies I so happily lost three years before came back in spades (ugh!) – and that meant getting back on loratidine. Eventually, even that stopped helping me, and I’d wake in the middle of summer nights, when the windows were open, with terrible coughing fits. It was horrible. So, I decided to try Zyrtec – or, rather, the generic (cetirizine). My first impression of cetirizine was that it must be rather powerful, since I practically hibernated the first 48-72 hours I was on it. I was so incredibly sleepy. Once I pushed past that threshold, though, my life got much better. The coughing cleared right up, and I was able to function like a normal human being again. Hallelujah, part two!

Over the past couple of years, there have been times when I’ve failed to take the cetirizine on schedule; sometimes it’s that I ran out and haven’t made it to Target to buy another large bottle of pills. Sometimes, it’s been that I thought I didn’t need to take it. But the coughing always came back, so I would run right back to the cetirizine. It became a “take all year-long” kind of thing. On the nights when I didn’t have my nightly regimen of pills already tucked away (fish oil for my eyes, a multivitamin, iron supplement, and the cetirizine), I’d just make sure to take at least the cetirizine, to stave off coughing.

At my annual wellvisit (physical) a few weeks ago, the doctor told me that she’d rather I switched to Flonase and reserve the cetirizine for when I need supplemental allergy help. Apparently, Flonase takes a few weeks to take effect, but once it kicks in, it’s great. For allergy seasons like we’re having right now, when all the sexy flowers and trees are having sexy flower and tree sex with the pollen, it’s just brutal and I need all the support I can get. So, I got a script for generic Flonase (fluticasone), filled it, and started taking that daily. Since I figured that I should follow her directions to use the Flonase as my primary medicine and reserve the cetirizine for supplemental help, I just stopped taking cetirizine.

And then I started itching. And itching. And itching. And WTH I’m so itchy.

There are no hives, although my skin does get red where I scratch it. This is one of those all-over body itches, where it’s your scalp, your arms, your legs, your belly, your back…everywhere. It’s crazy.

Wondering if perhaps this was something that others experienced, I googled for “zyrtec and itching”. And oh boy, did I come up with a ton of results. There were even stories in things like the Chicago Tribune, where the letter to the health editor could have been written by me. The anecdotal results I scanned last night all came out with the same results: the itching typically runs anywhere from 2-4 weeks long, and there’s nothing – short of going back on the Zyrtec / cetirizine – that will make it stop dead in its tracks. There were some folks who said they just went back to the drug full-time, because they couldn’t bear the withdrawal symptoms; you could tell by their posts that they felt trapped, physically addicted to a seemingly harmless allergy medication that now they can’t (or won’t) stop taking. Some folks have had success with step-down protocols, where they use pill cutters to take limited doses and taper off over a period of weeks. Some have just toughed it out and waited for the itching to stop.

I’m planning to go the latter route, because I’m a stubborn person and really – *$&% Zyrtec and cetirizine. If the only way to get the withdrawal side effects to go away is to go back on the drug itself, then that’s physical addiction and I’m just not having it. This is definitely a great allergy medication, but the side effects of withdrawal are just NOT fun. Of course, I’ll say that many meds have side effects when you’re taking them, so this is sort of like the ultimate bad breakup.

{Side note: it’s also impressive and more than a little frustrating that McNeil – Zyrtec’s manufacturer – doesn’t have a warning saying that this could happen to you. Many online posts I read complained about this lack of information from the manufacturer, claiming that it was fairly reckless of them to know this and not warn people, but I guess they figured that if you have a problem when you come down off their meds, that’s not THEIR problem, that’s yours.}

So, what should you do if you’re on Zyrtec or cetirizine? First off, this is a conversation you should have with your primary care doctor or allergist. Talk with your doctor about whether you need to stay on the medicine. If it’s not harming you and you need it, and your doctor wants you on it: great. If you decide you want to come down off the medicine or swap it out, talk with your doctor about the treatment they recommend for you. Don’t design a step-down plan on your own; do it with your doctor. Don’t whip out a pill cutter and start a step-down protocol without checking with your doctor and being certain that’s what they want you to do. Don’t stop taking Zyrtec or cetirizine without consulting with your doctor. (Note that I had this consultation during my physical; we had this discussion, and I’m acting in accordance with what we agreed.)

I can’t say this strongly enough: HAVE A CONVERSATION WITH YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT WHAT ALLERGY MEDICATIONS, IF ANY, ARE RIGHT FOR YOU AND YOUR CONDITION. DON’T TRUST THE ADS, DON’T DO WHAT I DID JUST BECAUSE I’M COOL AND SEEM TO HAVE MY ACT TOGETHER. DON’T LET DR. GOOGLE PRESCRIBE YOU ANYTHING. DON’T DESIGN YOUR OWN STEP-DOWN PROTOCOL WITHOUT TALKING FIRST WITH YOUR DOCTOR.

The purpose of this post is to serve as a warning to those who are on Zyrtec (cetirizine), who are considering going off it, or who stopped taking it, just to provide some information about what many people (and now I) have experienced upon stopping a long-term treatment with it. Now you’re armed with the knowledge that this could happen to you, as well, so before you start, change, or stop a course of allergy treatment that involves Zyrtec or cetirizine, you just got a new question to ask your doctor.

 

Avocado Bruschetta May 13, 2014

Filed under: entrees,sides — crunchymetromom @ 7:31 am
Tags: , , , ,

In the past few months, I’ve become fairly well obsessed with avocados. I’ve been eating them for decades, in small bites (as part of sushi rolls), but it was only in the last few years that I became a fan of guacamole and chunks of avocado in salads. Recently, when we were trying to come up with what to do with some swordfish destined for the grill, I offered to make a bruschetta.

Quite a long time ago, I fell in love with a swordfish sandwich made by a now-defunct Boston restaurant, Division 16. The sandwich involved a braided roll, a thin slice of swordfish steak, and bruschetta. It fell apart as you ate it and it was just the most wonderful thing ever. That’s how my association with meaty fish and bruschetta started, and it’s a pairing I’ve enjoyed many times since.

We’ve done bruschetta many times, including on scallops, which is a particular favorite of mine. So, when the question came up during my shopping trip of what to put on the swordfish, I headed straight for the avocado and vowed to try making an avocado bruschetta. It’s insanely easy, and it definitely holds its own versus the meaty swordfish (and tuna, as well). If putting this on scallops or lighter-flavored fish, I’d recommend using a smaller shallot, unless you like a lot of shallot flavor. I tend to use gargantuan shallots that grab you by the ears and shout “HELLO!” loudly in your face, and that can overpower more delicately flavored seafood.

This dish would ABSOLUTELY go with any grilled poultry, as well, so feel free to play with it a little. Additionally, add some shelled edamame and make it an entrée. Or serve it on crostini. Or put it on matzoh (as we did the other night). Seriously, I love eating this; the combination of flavors just makes me so incredibly happy…

 

Avocado Bruschetta

So pretty…so tasty…

 

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 0 minutes

Serves: 2-4

 

Ingredients

1 shallot (size it to your shallot level preference)

1 ripe avocado

1 medium-sized tomato

2 Tb olive oil

1 Tb lemon juice

salt and pepper to taste

 

Make it Happen

1. Peel and dice the shallot; place it in a mixing bowl.

2. Slice open the avocado and remove the pit. Scoop out the avocado halves in whole pieces if you can, then chop them into half-inch chunks. Add to the bowl.

3. Dice the tomato and add to the bowl.

4. Add the olive oil and lemon juice to the bowl; stir well to combine. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

 

Super-easy Crock Pot BBQ Pork May 10, 2014

Filed under: crock pot cooking,entrees — crunchymetromom @ 9:17 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

There came a day when we agreed that the night’s dinner would be pork roast – but I had no clue what I was going to do to the pork…and we were on our way out the door for work. In a fit of desperation, I threw stuff together and I was shocked and amazed that it worked. Not only did it work, but we repeated it several times since, sometimes with pork tenderloin, always to super-tasty results. Now, sure, you can just skip even the work I did by simply making this a two-ingredient recipe (pork and barbecue sauce), but I actually like the idea of mixing something on your own, so you can adjust it however you’d like. Note that if you’re cooking pork tenderloin, you can easily get away with a lower cook time – say, 8 hours on LOW. If, however, you go with the pork roast, I’d strongly suggest more like 10-12 hours, so it has plenty of time to cook itself to death and fall apart. I’m drooling just thinking about it. I will also note that this goes quite well with cornbread, making for a very simple meal, low on prep and high on flavor. Seriously, that’s just a combo made of win.

 

Crock Pot BBQ Pork

*want*

 

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cooking Time: 8-12hrs on LOW

Serves 4-6

 

Ingredients

2-3 lb pork roast

1 cup ketchup (I use Heinz Simply or Organic, because both are HFCS-free)

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

2 Tb red wine vinegar

non-stick cooking spray

 

Make it Happen

1. Spray the inside of a 4qt crock pot with non-stick cooking spray (or an olive oil mister, as we do).

2. Place the pork in the bottom of the crock.

3. In a measuring cup or bowl, add the ketchup, then the brown sugar and vinegar. Stir well to combine. Pour over the pork until it’s completely covered.

4. Cook on LOW for 8-12 hours.

5. Remove the pork to a cutting board and let it rest for about 5 minutes before cutting, then serve with sauce on the side.

 

 
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