Monday, October 20, 2014

Skull Brother 2 From "Gladstone's School for World Conquerers"


Ansel insists that we reread this book by Mark Andrew Smith, art by Armand Villavert, at least once every couple of months.

"Gladstone's"  is a story about the kids of super-villains, including Ansel's favorites, the infamous Skull Brothers. Not only do the masked brothers look cool and carry an erxtensive armory of weapons, they are appealing to Ansel because their mother is locked in the super villain prison and they are free of adult authority. And even in the context of the bad guy community, the Skull Bros  are definitely up to no good.

My more realistic version of Skull Brother number two definitely diminished his coolness.
You can see the cooler originals on the Gladstone's Facebook page.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Zombie Horde Brings Fruit and Vegetables


...and one turkey sandwich.

The kids always love a "zombie episode" of any TV show.  They have yet to see an actual zombie apocalypse movie, but are somehow familiar with all of the conventions of the genre and delight in seeing them applied to a sitcom.

This napkin has been laying around the house in varying stages of incompletion since the tosillectomy. Besides having made the mistake of choosing an excessively complex subject matter, I realized early on that I wasn't going to be able to keep it from becoming too creepy and too green.

One cannot stray far from the "Plants vs Zombies" style cute and cartoony treatment of the undead without them looking too scary....or too much like the jolly green giant.

(Those orange things are supposed to be carrot sticks, by the way.)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Giant Goldfish in Bathtub


A fish at least partially out of water is another giant house pet.

Ansel says he might consider taking the previous napkin with the large kitten on it when he goes back to school next week, but that this one is just too weird.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Watching TV with a Giant Kitten


Ansel is still languishing at home, mourning the loss of his tonsils and in constant need of doses of Tylenol, sympathy and foot massage. He's been mostly parked on the couch, watching TV, and he strongly prefers to have company while viewing dreadful Disney reruns. I've gotten to the point where another 22 minutes of "Jessie" might bring on a cerebral hemorrhage, so I've been fantasizing about a cooperative and soothing pet who would placidly sit on the couch with him while he convalesces.

It seemed like a good time to make another giant pet napkin (previously a Chihuahua and a Rat)
I was also thinking of the photos from 1971 of Tippi Hedren and her family living with Neil the lion that have been circulating recently. Ansel looked at those pictures and said, "I want to live with a lion too."

I somehow managed to make the large kitten look at least as threatening as the lion. Perhaps this somehow reflects my state of mind after spending a week incarcerated in the apartment with my sons.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Trick or Treating Sharks


What kind of candy do you give to a trick or treating shark?

We've had a slow recovery after Ansel's tonsillectomy on Wednesday, complete with regularly applied narcotics (we came home with a disturbingly large bottle of cherry flavored Oxycodone) and excessive viewing of the Disney Channel.

After sitting through  a few episodes of "Dog with a Blog" and "Girl Meets World," while dispensing maternal sympathy and back rubs, I was pretty enthusiastic about watching "Sharknado 2."  And I was pretty certain that watching Syfy pseudo dreck would be less developmentally harmful to my seven year old son than another episode of "Jessie."

After "Sharknado," I seriously considered drawing a flaming shark on a napkin, but decided it was better to get started on Halloween as it is already almost  mid October. I have been shirking so far this season, we had many more Halloween themed napkins last year.

Maybe a flaming shark for Hannuka?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Waddles From Gravity Falls "Little Shop of Horrors" Episode



"Good Thing I Installed a Dumb Dumb Button"

Since Ansel is scheduled to have his tonsils extracted tomorrow, I indulgently (and foolishly) allowed him and his brother to stay up to watch the latest episode of "Gravity Falls" last night.  

One of my more explicit fond childhood memories is of my parents allowing me to watch a Muppet television special despite the fact that it was on after bedtime and I had behaved horribly earlier in the evening.  Now, of course, I wonder just why this generosity stands out so much in my memory.  It seems that my parents gave me a second (or third, or tenth?) chance and let me have something that was important to me at the time, despite my not having remotely deserved it. I am hoping that I remember it clearly because I felt that my parents were really being nice to me, not because I thought I had gotten away with something. 

I have more than once considered this childhood memory in relation to my own sons, who let no parental indulgence go unpunished. They are much the classic case of "give them an inch and"... they will steal your shoes, pee on the floor,  leave the toilet seat up and the water running in the bathroom. Both boys are compulsive envelope pushers by nature.  (Hi Archer sweetheart! I am aware that you will be reading this at some point) 

Envelope pushing is not necessarily a bad tendency in and of itself, but it has made me more careful about being too nice/generous/indulgent of my sons...Particularly as they are boys, and my more youthful angry feminist self is lurking just beneath my premenopausal dry skin, wanting to burst out at any moment and stomp on any lazy, entitled, disrespectful owner of a Y chromosome who lives in my house.  I often find myself complaining to my sons that I want to be nicer to them, but they are not letting me.

All of that said, the Gravity Falls viewing went off without too many repercussions (although I will no doubt pay on next Monday, when the indulgence will be viewed as a new entitlement.)  Archer and Ansel love the weirdness of the show, and are particularly fond of the pig character Waddles

In the middle segment of the episode, Waddles became suddenly super smart and built himself a voice synthesizer which spoke in the mellifluous tones of Neil deGrasse Tyson. At the conclusion, however, Waddles chose to give up the intelligence and the voice, pushing the "dumb dumb button" because he valued his affectionate relationship with Mabel more than his new intelligence.

And here's the pithy wrap-up that ties all this drivel together:  Even though I should be too smart to ever indulge my sons, I feel that I still have to occasionally push the dumb button because I am their mother and I love them despite how they behave. I just have to be careful so their future female friends, teachers, coworkers etc. don't end up cursing me.







Monday, October 6, 2014

Garazeb Orrelios From Star Wars Rebels


Ansel has been resistant to all things Star Wars for so long that his burgeoning enthusiasm for  the new Disney incarnation of the franchise, "Star Wars Rebels," is slightly disconcerting for me.

His older brother was a Star Wars obsessive for several years, but mostly back in his early childhood before I started posting napkins online. There were many, many Clone Wars themed napkins, as Archer was a big fan of the earlier animated series by Genndy Tarakovsky. Those shorts were released on Cartoon Network from 2003-5 back when I was a virtuous new mother and Archer was not watching any television beyond the occasional "Baby Einstein" video. He got to know them later on DVD.

We conscientiously held off on letting Archer see even "A New Hope" (The original 1977 movie, for those who are not within the fold) until he was almost six years old.  This feat of superior parenting was immediately rendered pathetically laughable as Ansel, still a toddler, was in the room for that first viewing. 

During the period while we were admirably sparing Archer's tender young imagination from the overwhelming pressure of the movie itself (and sparing ourselves all of the "pew-pew-pew"-ing and "light saver" slashing that was to come), I worked hard  to find age appropriate books  that would scratch the Star Wars itch and provide Archer with enough information to allow him to keep up with his cool friends who had already seen the whole series of movies by ages 4 or 5.  I found the original manga series based on the first two movies, and we read the near dozen Dark Horse produced Clone Wars graphic novels by the Fillbach brothers until their pages fell out.  Archer knew as much or more about the "expanded universe" than most of his friends who had just been allowed to see the damn movies.  He was able to pick the words "Luke Skywalker" out of a dense block of text long before he officially even began to try to read.

Archer was further incited to encyclopedic knowledge of all things Star Wars because his best friend's father plays a not in substantial role in the Star Wars pop culture empire as a successful writer of reference coffee table books and fiction.  Archer could go over for an afternoon playdate and hang out in an apartment that had a life-size storm trooper lurking in the corner and an exhilaratingly extensive selection of action figures thoughtfully curated by an educated adult proponent of the franchise. The two boys had hours long discussions of the minutia of the various powers and fates of obscure characters.  All questions, like the correct pronunciation of the name of the planet "Coruscant" could be answered.

Spectating on years of all of this Star Wars obsession, Ansel decided he wanted absolutely nothing to do with it.  Ansel is usually pulled helplessly along into whatever topic his big brother is focused on this particular week, but apparently he had to make a stand somewhere. Dislike of Star Wars had been his one significant rebellion.

Beaten down by two maniacally contrarian sons and eleven years without a full night of sleep, I have long ago abandoned the parenting high ground of offering edifying age-appropriate books in place of television and movies.  However, I still find myself advocating for Star Wars because we do have several bookshelves of the stuff, and much of it is at a good reading level for a second grader.

Unfortunately, Ansel remains exclusively interested in "Rebels," perhaps because his brother seems completely unmoved by it.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Banzai Blade with Oni



One just never knows when a video game that nobody in the house has thought of, much less played, in months or years is going to suddenly become absolutely necessary for continued existence.

I am not sure what caused the resurgence of "Banzai Blade" yesterday, but suddenly it was back.  It seems to be a fairly straightforward slicing game- Fruit Ninja with running and demons.  While not terribly interested in playing it myself, or even hearing about it, I must admit that it has a nice version of the ever receding single point perspective road and some amusing demon faces.

I briefly had the idea that I would make it look more realistic (the running ninja guy in the game is a very cartoony chibi style big head) but the demon faces really defied realism, and it was all I could do just to put the guy in red on the road.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fainting Goat


I had lived my entire life in ignorance of the phenomenon of fainting goats until yesterday.  Thank goodness, my sons were able to show me a youtube video in order to fill me in.

I have my suspicions that this is a situation like the videos of Slow Lorises being tickled.  The goats involved don't seem particularly troubled, although I doubt that they find the problem all that funny.

After 90 seconds of extremely casual research, it seems that there is no actual fainting going on, just intense stiffening of the leg muscles when the goat 'experiences panic." Sounds fun, doesn't it?  Obviously this condition, know as myotonia for those who need to know, would not work well in the wild, and has at least been enabled by domestication.

This fall semester I teach on Wednesdays, so the kids actually go three hours after school without my services as transporter, waiter, tutor, masseuse and personal assistant. Thus, I missed the genesis of their interest in fainting goats yesterday afternoon.  I think it may have had something to do with a game titled "Goat Simulator" (a tagline; "You no longer have to fantasize about being a goat") but I cannot say for sure.

I am definitely not fantasizing about being this goat.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Silas and Miss Lupescu from "The Graveyard Book" Offer Lunch


The graphic novel version of Neil Gaiman's "The Graveyard Book," adapted by P. Craig Russell, was obviously appealing for my macabre minded sons.

They were, however,  immediately annoyed that I had not procured Book 2 yet.  (It will be released in a few days)

The story centers on Nobody Owens, a toddler whose entire family has been murdered and is then protected and raised by the inhabitants of an old graveyard. Since ghosts aren't ably to shop for groceries, he has the additional guardians Silas the vampire, and Miss Lupescu, a werewolf. 

Ansel really like the characters- and the idea of being raised by a vampire- but was not impressed with my drawing.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Rocket Raccoon Feeds Chewbacca


Another "Guardians of the Galaxy" and "Star Wars" mashup.

If Groot is the Chewbacca of "Guardians," does that make Rocket the Han Solo?
I based this image on the scene in the recent movie where Rocket perches on Groot's shoulders while blasting away with a gigantic gun.

Blasting enemies with a huge weapon is not so appropriate for Quaker second grade lunch, so here Rocket is offering the Wookie some healthy lunch food.

Since my children are too cool to admit that they often willingly eat broccoli, there is a bit of a sadistic quality to the situation here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Star Lord with Light Saber


"Guardians of the Galaxy" Meets "Star Wars,"
Or, Disney Corporate Synergy Motivates Halloween Shopping:


It is not yet October, but I feel the hot breath of Halloween on the back of my neck.
My kids start planning their Halloween costumes yearly on November 1st, but the situation does not usually become dire until October. It becomes more dire the last week of October, and then often completely leaves the realm of the possible on the evening of the 30th.

I made the grievous mistake many years ago of cludging together a homemade Captain Rex costume the night before Halloween. Archer had changed his mind at the last minute and could not possibly wear whatever costume it was that we already had.  I don't remember the original costume plan.  I'm sure it was one in a long line of shifting costume choices...And I should also note that I don't get enough sleep to actually form long term memories.

I created the false impression that a complete costume can be created overnight out of nothing but cardboard, masking tape, American Apparel pants and a lost night of sleep. A couple of years later, I further screwed myself by making Archer an Assassin's Creed III jacket (that time it was an American Apparel turtleneck dress).

This year's "but they don't sell costumes for kids" franchise problem is Skyrim,  Archer is presently working to convince me of the absolute necessity of making a Skyrim "Dovahkiin" or "Dragonborn" helmet. Last night, we watched a youtube video of a teenager fabricating one out of cereal boxes, toilet paper and glue in his bedroom. While I do theoretically make three dimensional objects for a living, this thing has horns, and eye holes and goes down the back of the neck to the collar, and will have to fit and be comfortable enough to wear for an evening......and the client will not be paying me for my time....and I try to avoid working in toilet paper.

As a result of the aforementioned helmet threat, I was grateful that Ansel thought that the components of his costume could actually be purchased.  Unfortunately, he "needed" to be two characters at once: Ezra Bridger from the new Star Wars TV show "Rebels" and Star Lord from "Guardians of the Galaxy."  I don't think Disney will be offering discounts on crossover driven double costume purchases.

Ansel had already talked me into buying an Ezra Bridger helmet despite my well founded fears of last minute costume changes. Last night, Ansel decided that the Ezra/Jedi part of the character did not need the already purchased helmet and would instead wear a knit skull hat and sunglasses. 

And of course he told me that in order to complete the costume, he will need a "real" lightsaber.  I don't think toilet paper with white glue is going to help us there.


Ansel's concept for the costume is below.  (Can you believe that I messed up the color of the lightsaber and gave him a Sith style red one)
And following are the previous costume  indulgences







Sunday, September 28, 2014

Chicken Jockey


TWFS (Too Weird For School)

I am told that in Minecraft, a baby zombie riding a chicken is a extremely rarely occurring antagonist (or "mob"). According to the Minecraft wiki entry for Chicken Jockey:
"In a chicken-free environment, this gives each spawned zombie a 0.25% chance of becoming a Chicken Jockey; if chickens are present, the chance increases to 0.4875%."

Usually the combination of cute and creepy (and Minecraft!) is a hit, but Ansel told me in no uncertain terms today that he would not be taking this one to school. I asked him which element was the problem, the baby zombie or the chicken?

He said that both were definitely the problem. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Giant Pet Rat


Unsafe At Any Speed:  Biking and Giant Pets

Biking is always a sore subject in New York, and recent tragic events in Central Park have not made people who don't bike feel any better about bikes and the people who ride them.

Not only am I a person who endangers myself and the general public by cycling a couple of hours every day, I am particularly culpable because I put underage children at risk by schlepping my sons back and forth to school in a cargo bike.  I find that motherhood generally offers unending opportunities for both self inflicted guilt and public judgement. Something about the combination of biking and motherhood, however, stirs hostility and disapproval like almost nothing else. People are so concerned about my kids' safety that they feel compelled to scream profanities at me as we pass.

So what could possibly be worse than biking one's kids around the city?....Perhaps doing so with them seated in the lap of a giant rodent? (Visibility would definitely be obscured, but at least they are wearing their bike helmets)

My younger son is terribly pet deprived. Since there are some dog allergy issues in the family, during the quest for a furry pet, the idea of a rat came up. Earlier this week, he and I had discussed whether a small well trained pet like a dog....or a rat....might be able to ride with along in the bike on the way to school....And since there was a giant pet dog on the napkin yesterday, why not a giant pet rat today?

So there you have my excuse for this drawing. Ansel was not convinced.

You can see several napkins related to biking in the 24 hour comic series
The kids in the actual bike, without any pets:


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Giant Chihuahua


A Boy Has Fed His Dog Too Much:

Because he is intensely dyslexic, Ansel's comprehension far outpaces his decoding abilities (as they say in the teaching business).  In other words, he would like to be reading books written for young adults, particularly graphic novels full of exciting violence, horror and sex, but his reading skills are not yet up to it.

I've debated mentioning the dyslexia issue here, because it is my son's story more than mine. But lets be honest, nearly everything I write here is an overshare of a sort and at least a slight invasion of my kids' privacy.  I do always try to be mindful about not divulging anything that is too personal or beyond the usual ridiculousness of parenting and childhood in general.

I think dyslexia is a different issue however. Discussing it is unlike revealing that my kids wipe snot in the crevices of the couch (not that either one would do that, EVER)  Dyslexia is just part of who he is, and the more that he and the rest of us remove the stigma from the term, the better.  Of course dyslexia is not the same for everyone, nor is it a perfect description for anyone's situation.

In Ansel's case, it is not just a diagnosis of a learning delay, although it definitely does mean that learning to read has been a horrible pain in the neck for him.  He is a good example of the dyslexic as a person with a different style of brain.  Ansel is very bright (I know... so says his mother) probably both because his brain is different from the norm, and because he has been doing a huge amount work to learn the stuff that comes easily to most people.

At any rate, as a result of his reading challenges, I have force him to read a "baby book" out loud every night in addition to my readings of more mature stuff that he actually wants to read. Despite a library of kids books that threatens to swamp our apartment, it is still a challenge to pick out a book that he will actually enjoy slogging his way through.

Last night we reread a "A Fish Out of Water" (By Helen Palmer and P.D. Eastman) and I think it is one of the exceptions where the language  is simple enough, but the spare plot and humor is classic enough to not be babyish.  A boy feeds his pet fish too much, despite having been warned not to do so, and disaster ensues.  He ends up calling the police and the fire department to deal with his rapidly swelling pet.  All the adults repeatedly exclaim, "A boy has fed his fish too much!"

Yesterday as usual, Ansel and I had been discussing the possibility of getting a pet dog someday, and I had observed that given the family allergies, it would have to be something like a Chihuahua,  very small and washable. Ansel told me in no uncertain terms that he did not like Chihuahuas.

In perhaps a moment of parental perversity last night, I drew a boy standing in the lobby of the our kids' school with a giant dog.  "A boy has fed his dog too much" doesn't have quite the alliterative quality as "A boy has fed his fish too much."  "A  boy has dished his dog too much" isn't quite as good either....

And the perspective in the drawing is a mess, but the dog is kind of cute. Ansel found it amusing enough this morning.