Mystery Science Theater 2015

The girls have opinions. Lots of them. And they are not shy about sharing them. Unfortunately, this often takes the form of criticizing whatever it is they don’t like. Daughter #1 has strong opinions about what she is going to wear on any particular day. I can’t count the number of times we’ve had to tell her “No, sweetie, that dress has no sleeves. It’s winter” or “That’s not a dress. It’s a shirt. You need leggings to go with it.” Sometimes she avoids the argument altogether and just dresses herself, and I must admit that a lot of the time she does a pretty decent job of it.

Daughter #2’s opinions tend to come out at mealtime. She likes what she likes. Period. And getting her to try something new is often a battle royale. We try to keep it from becoming a fight, as she’s the kind of kid that, when confronted, will dig in and protest even louder. With gentle persuasion, though, we’ve gotten her to try a few new things, sometimes taking the form of “I don’t like this!” while she continues to eat it. Furthermore, on an unrelated note, you’d better not DARE sing along with a song on the radio or iPod–she will tell you about it. “NO! NO! NO SINGING!!” like Herbert’s father in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”

Despite the pitfalls, one of the most satisfying things about being a parent has been listening to my children discover their personalities. And there is no place where this becomes more evident than when we are watching something.

The first time the girls watched “Frozen,” they were rooted to the ground, riveted by what they saw. Now, since we’ve owned the DVD for almost a year and watched it countless times, there is a constant running commentary during every showing. “There’s the Yuck Guy! He makes bad choices,” they say whenever they see Prince Hans on the screen. They’ve even taken to naming his horse “Mr. Crankypants.” And a screening of “Beauty and the Beast” yielded the comment “Gaston is bringing the badness.”

This kind of commentary has even spilled over into the other things we’ll watch. When watching sporting events, they will often refer to the opposing team as “the Bad Guys.” During a basketball game she was watching with me, Daughter #1 told me “I don’t like those Bad Guys. I’m gonna throw them in jail with the Yuck Guy!” The girls have also said similar things during football and baseball games, as well, and this should give you an idea of the kinds of comments we heard during the Super Bowl.

However, it isn’t all snark. Daughter #1 in particular has expressed a great capacity for empathy. Elsa alone on the mountain has elicited “Elsa looks sad. I would give her a hug and make her happy.” Those heartbreaking commercials with suffering shelter pets has her saying things like “That doggie looks sad. I’ll make a house for him and he needs some buddies and a blanket and he can play and be happy.” And it’s been amazing to see her put these words into actions. She will often be the one approaching kids playing by themselves to see if they want to play with her. She will share the good things about her day with anyone who will listen because I get the feeling she wants them to be as happy as she is. As a parent, I am very often my own worst critic, but when I see my kids doing that, I definitely feel as though I am doing something right. And when I hear their running commentary during a movie or show, I’d like to think I’ve done my job encouraging them to watch with a critical eye.

Pretty Good Year

I stole this meme from another blogger friend of mine, and since it’s been about a month since the last time I posted anything, I figured this is a good place to start to get the writing juices flowing again.

1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
We did some traveling to places we’ve never been before. We went to Rehoboth Beach with the kids (well, my wife has been there before, but it was the first time for me and the girls), and we went to Montreal for a long weekend without the kids.

2. Did you keep your New Years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don’t think I made any resolutions for 2014. I did, however, make some for this year.

3. Did someone close to you give birth?
My cousin’s daughter gave birth. My cousin, who is only a year older than me, is now a grandfather.

4. Did anyone close to you die?
No.

5. What countries did you visit?
As mentioned before, we went to Canada this summer.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
More “us” time for me and my wife. This is one of the aforementioned resolutions. And more non-dad time for me, whenever possible.

7. What date from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
March 18. My wife came home from work early, and after dinner we curled up on the sofa with the girls to watch Frozen for the first time. We had no idea at the time what a game-changer it would be.

8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year?
Starting (or rather, re-launching) this blog. I used to do it on a somewhat regular basis about 10-12 years ago or so, but time grew shorter, demands on my time grew greater, and I stopped doing it in favor of things like Facebook posts. However, I missed the the depth of analysis of situations that longer-form blogging provided. That, and I seriously needed a creative outlet to feel more like me and less like “#1 and #2’s dad.”

9. What was your biggest failure(s)?
Losing my patience too often, especuially with the kids. That, and not taking proper care of myself, which led to stress, which led to me losing my patience too often.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing earth-shattering, although I did have a cold with sinus issues that helped spoil some of the holiday events we had planned in December.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A new TV in the bedroom. I know the research says you shouldn’t watch TV in bed, but we tend to put something on that we like, turn it off when it’s finished, and go to sleep. Sometimes.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?
My wife, for enduring a tough situation at work that was followed by a new position with new (and better) challenges. That, and she had to put up with my hand-wringing angst all year.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?
My own. I look at how I dealt with some of the situations this past year and I say to myself “Really?!?!”

14. Where did most of your money go?
The mortgage, regular bills, and the girls.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Getting Daughter #2 to use the potty after months of ambivalence. Of course, we had no idea that this was going to be a long, protracted process that we’re still dealing with today (we’re very close, though).

16. What songs will always remind you of 2014?
“Let It Go,” naturally. That, and “Happy” (as it’s one of the only songs that will keep Daughter #2 on the potty–see #15).

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder? Hard to say. There have been ups and downs.
ii. thinner or fatter? Fatter. I’ve got to get back to the gym and clean up the diet.
iii. richer or poorer? Probably about the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Looking at the positive in every situation.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Stressing out about things that are out of my control for the most part.

20. How did you spend Christmas?
Christmas for us is a multi-day, multi-stage process. We started off at home for a quick breakfast, then it was on to my mother-in-law’s house to see what Santa brought the girls (since he drops his presents for our out-of-state niece there, he just saves himself a trip and drops the girls’ gifts there, too). We then moved on to my wife’s aunt’s house for brunch and more family gifts, and then back to my mother-in-law’s house for some grown-up gifts and stockings while the kids napped. This was followed by dinner and the trek back to our house.

The next day, we did the same thing at my father-in-law’s house, only this time we came over for breakfast. then, a week later, we did the same thing with my side of the family at my sister’s house, only this time it was for lunch.

21. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No, I was already in love.

22. What is your favorite photo from 2014?
The girls, holding hands, from their birthday photos.

23. What lesson did you learn about yourself?
That I’m really not wired to “wing it.” I do much better with a solid, organized plan.

24. If you had more time to invest in this past year what would you do with it?
I would listen to more music. I don’t get a say on what we listen to in the car any more, which was my previous sanctuary, so I need to remember to have my iPod and headphones for my rare kid-free moments.

25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I think hate is such a strong word, but I’ll say this: if all the stuff about Bill Cosby turns out to be true, I am going to be incredibly saddened and disappointed.

26. What was the best book you read?
Lions, Tigers and Bears by George Takei. I’ve read pitifully few books this past  year. Another resolution, perhaps?

27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
The Division Bell. It sounds far more like the Pink Floyd of old than Momentary Lapse of Reason ever did. It’s a shame it took me 20 years to pick it up.

28. What did you want and get?
More non-kid time, although I didn’t get that until September. Don’t get me wrong–I love my girls, but I’m the kind of person who needs a little alone time to regroup and digest situations.

29. What did you want and not get?
A clean house (I have a whole separate blog post on this one).

30. Favorite film of this year?
I don’t think we made it to a theater this year. As far as home video viewing goes, Frozen did not disappoint.

31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 43 last year, and we celebrated by going to Shady Maple Smorgasbord for breakfast.

32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Better weather. Although the summer wasn’t too hot, the winter was brutal. I realize I’m wishing for something that is beyond my control, but just sayin’.

33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
Don Johnson Ain’t Got Nothing On Me. I didn’t shave very often. I’d give it up completely if I didn’t look so silly with a beard. That, and the girls don’t like it all that much.

34. What kept you sane?
Blogging. That, and the network of fellow bloggers I’ve found. Also, my kids–yes, the sources of a lot of my insanity help keep me sane.

35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
Mike Rowe.

36. What political issue stirred you the most?
I tend to keep my political views private, thankyouverymuch.

37. Who did you miss?
Oddly enough, Joan Rivers.

38. Who was the best new person you met?
Rojeania. I knew her from Usenet a lifetime ago, but I really got to know her this past year. She’s a fellow blogger, and has been a great cheerleader for my blog. Thank you.

39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014?
CTFD – Calm The F— Down.

40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
“My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around.” I know it may be a bit cliché, but I’ve liked that line since the first time I heard it, and this was definitely the year of Elsa.

Everybody loves you when you’re bi…

When I was in 6th grade, I began having trouble seeing what was written on the blackboard from my seat. I was the kind of kid, though, that would just work around the problem rather than solve it, or even ask whether there was problem in the first place. If I couldn’t read something, I would either write down what I thought it was (which was often incorrect), or I would just skip it altogether. As you might have guessed, this had a negative impact on my grades. My Social Studies teacher, who knew I was no slouch, noticed this downward trend, and after a conference with me and my parents, I ended up getting glasses. I didn’t mind wearing them–unlike Jan Brady, I didn’t view it as some sort of horrible cross to bear. They improved my vision and, subsequently, my grades. It was a win-win.

My glasses took on several iterations. First came the plastic frames and, being a middle-school boy and somewhat accident-prone, I was often unintentionally hard on them. This would frequently lead to the “spaz” look of tape on the frames to hold them together until my parents could order me new ones, but this would sometimes be several weeks, or even months. After a while, though, my parents tired of having to replace my glasses so often, and my next pair had metal frames. Not just any metal frames–these were the heavy, industrial-strength, will-hang-out-with-the-cockroaches-after-the-apocalypse frames. This pair, while not attractive, lasted me through to my senior year of high school. However, the lenses were glass, which would become quite heavy (these were the days before scratch-resistant plastic), and were sometimes a bit painful to wear. It was during these times that, like Jan Brady, my glasses did become a bit of a burden–I got the whole “not making passes at guys who wear glasses” thing.

Once I was working, I was able to afford my own glasses and own frames, and was free to pick out sleeker, more stylish, and lighter-weight pairs. Then, my wife introduced me to the world of contact lenses, and I was free to wear sunglasses again (a major plus while driving), and not have to worry about so much wear and tear on my long-suffering glasses. Moving to contacts brought in a whole other category of expenses (lenses, cases, contact solution, etc.), but it was worth it to not have to worry about the prospect of another broken pair.

This went on happily for about fifteen years or so. And then something happened.

One afternoon when I was doing laundry, I went to look at the care instructions on a tag for a piece of clothing I had never washed before. And I found that I couldn’t read it. I turned on a light and backed it away from my eyes a bit, which helped, and I didn’t think anything of it. Until it happened again. And again. And with things that weren’t laundry tags–books, instructions for putting my kids’ toys together, texts I receive on my phone.

I brought this up with my eye doctor during my next visit, and she adjusted the power of my contact lenses and glasses. However, when I went to order my glasses, the technician gave me a bit of a shock:

“So, do you want progressive bifocals or traditional ones?”

Bifocals. This was something my eye doctor hadn’t mentioned. I feel like nothing says you’re over 40 quite like bifocals. However, I knew that this was not a condition that was going to get any better (if anything it was getting worse), so I swallowed my pride and said “progressive, please.”

If you’ve never worn bifocals before, let me explain the experience: for the first week or so, it feels like you’re experiencing a constant state of vertigo as your eyes try to focus on everything all at once. After a while, though, my eyes adjusted, and I figured out where to look and how to tilt my head in order to best focus on faces and text. Now it’s very natural.

For my girls, it has been a source of unending amusement when I wear my glasses for long periods. “What are you doin’ with those weird glasses on?” Daughter #1 will tease. “It’s not bedtime!” I explain to her that they help me see better, sometimes better than with my lenses in. At my most recent eye exam, the doctor made further adjustments to my contact lenses, so this may change. In the meantime, though, I will continue to (happily) be the butt of their jokes. And I have a feeling that, given how much they love their books (and because of our family’s eyesight history), we will probably be visiting an eye doctor with them in about six or seven years. And then it will be a waiting game to see how long before they ask for contacts.

What a beautiful mess I’m in…

image

My house is a little bit messy. I’m just going to come out and say it.

When we bought our house, we were working from the “five-year plan” mentality–we could stay here for about five years and maybe one kid, and then we’d see if we can move on to something bigger/better/closer to family/closer to jobs/etc. Well, twelve and a half years and two kids later, we’re still here. And we’re a little crowded.

At first, we were hit with the invasion of the Big Plastic Toys when the girls were very little: bouncers, exer-saucers, play yards, and the like. Now that they’re older, we’ve been inundated with the Smaller Toys With a Million Parts: Barbies with a zillion outfits and shoes, puzzles, art supplies, trains, a kitchen with pots and pans and food, and little toy cars to name a few. Even though the size of the toys have gone down, the volume has remained roughly the same.

Don’t get me wrong–our kids aren’t spoiled, and they don’t get everything they want all the time, as tempting as it might be to do so sometimes. We’ve also been teaching them the value of charity, and how it’s good to give some of the older toys they don’t play with any more to children who aren’t as fortunate (Daughter #1 has particularly taken this to heart, and gives willingly and gladly). This also helps to make room for the newer, more age-appropriate toys.

The biggest issue we encounter is the fact that, because we’re still in our Five Year Plan house, there’s just not a huge amount of space. Our public spaces tend to be play spaces for the girls as well, in spite of efforts to try and keep them separate. They’re still a little too little to play completely on their own and unsupervised in their rooms (particularly Daughter #2), so having the play space in the living room isn’t the worst thing, either, from a being-a-responsible-parent standpoint.

While I’ve been trying to instill in them a sense of responsibility for their things, I have to keep in mind that they’re only 3 and 4, and that I need to keep my expectations realistic. The girls have gotten better about it, but even so, there tends to be stuff everywhere. And, very often, I run out of time by the end of the day to get it all cleaned, straightened, washed, folded, and put away. It’s been a constant battle.

I try to stay positive and philosophical about it, but it isn’t easy. I tend to vacillate between “Oh, at least the kids are happy, who cares if the house is a little messy?” and “I am never getting out from under this. EVER.” At the end of the day, though, all I can do is chip away at it, do as much as I can do in the course of a day with everything else going on, and try not to let it bother me too much.

That is, of course, until something goes wrong and we have to call on a professional to fix something in our house.

One night, two of the electrical outlets in Daughter #1’s room stopped working rather suddenly. I went down to the breaker box to find that no breakers had tripped, so I contacted a local electrician who said he would come out the next day to look at it. After texting him my appreciation, I put away my phone, and looked up.

Oh, dear Lord, I thought. I’ve gotta do some cleaning!

The day he was scheduled to come, I quickly swept up the clutter on the living room floor and sorted it back where it went (with help from the girls and my wife). I raced upstairs to remove the random detritus on our upstairs landing/laundry area (if for no other reason than to give him a clear path to my daughter’s room). I gathered loose paperwork together and at least stacked it in neat piles. I got the dishes out of the sink and into the dishwasher. Daughter #1 and I got her room in some semblance of order (which ended up lacking a point, as we had to move a lot of things around in order for the electrician to check all the outlets).

Once the work was completed, and the electrician had left, I looked around once again. And suddenly the task of cleaning and organizing the house didn’t feel all that daunting. When amply motivated, great things can happen. Sure, I still have my moments of despair about the things I ran out of time to tackle during the course of the day, but it didn’t seem quite so overwhelming any more.

So let me ask you this: what are some of the strategies you employ in order to keep the clutter under control? Feel free to comment here or on the Dad Bloggers Facebook page.

Uh, oh, it’s magic…

The other day, my older daughter was in a public restroom with my wife. When it was time to wash hands, she was absolutely fascinated by the fact that both the water in the sink and the paper-towel dispenser turned on automatically. She turned to my wife and said “The sink is magic!”

It’s interesting to me how much the girls view technology as “magic”. This was evident in our most recent journey out of state.

We took a trip to visit my sister-in-law to celebrate our nephew’s first birthday, which was followed by a conference my wife was attending in a neighboring city a few days later. This involved staying in two different hotels, and the second one had something that blew my children’s minds: it had a snack machine.

Not just any snack machine, mind you. This one was reserved only for guests that were staying on our floor. And the best part–all of the snacks were FREE (provided, of course, that you keyed in the correct password in order to dispense them).

The girls were in awe of this magical device. They could get whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted it, as long as the machine wasn’t out of whatever it was they desired. Pretzels, corn chips, bottled water, you name it. All they needed to do was ask. Mommy and Daddy had to rein it in once in a while, and had to explain to them that, once we got home, the free-for-all was going to end. However, as long as the request was not unreasonable, it was granted. Furthermore, it was very convenient (and cost effective) having snacks on hand for when we went out on excursions to places like the park or the campus of my wife’s alma mater.

The girls do, however, have a very basic idea of how some of the “magic” works. For example, they understand that we need electricity in order for some of the things in our house to work, and this lesson was hammered home when we lost power last winter during an ice storm. It was only for 24 hours (we fared a lot better than others, like my mother-in-law, who lost power for several days), but it was enough to show them that the “magic” needs power in order to do its thing. The effect has been long-lasting; sometimes, when a light is turned off in our house, Daughter #1 will say to me “Daddy, the light’s off! We have no power!” I will then explain to her that we do have power, and that the light is simply turned off, usually because we don’t leave the lights on during the day. I will then point to the clock on the microwave or some other device that lights up and say “See? If we didn’t have power, these wouldn’t be on, either.” This will usually reassure her, or at least until the next time she notices a light turned off.

I have vague memories of believing in the magic of these wonderful devices when I was a kid. It didn’t last long, especially since my dad was an electrician and would explain in painstaking detail how they worked. I feel as though there are relatively few magical moments left for the girls, so for now, I will let them believe in it.

Bedtime for Democracy

So, yesterday was Election Day. Here in Pennsylvania, we got to pick our local State Assembly representative, U.S. Congressman (I can say that because both candidates were male), and governor. Fortunately for us, our polling place is just down the road from our house, so this year I decided to take the girls for the first time.

In the past, it’s been too difficult to go to the polls with the kids. Going with a double stroller was hard to manage or, if they were out of the stroller, they had the potential to get bored and restless if things took too long. However, it was a midterm-election year, and there were only three races and no referendums on the ballot. I figured that, at ages 3 and 4, they would be old enough that I could manage it on my own.

I tried to come up with a way to explain to them what we were doing:

“Today, you’re going to come with me to the polls and vote!” (I was prepared for the word “polls” to throw them–I remember as a kid thinking “I don’t see any poles…”)
“What’s that?” asked Daughter #1.
“Well, when you vote, we pick the people who are going to lead.”
Blank stares.
“Okay, you know how Mommy and I are in charge of our house? Well, we’re picking the people who will be in charge of Pennsylvania.”
Daughter #1thought about this for a moment, and then said “Oh! So are we voting for you?”
“No, sweetie. We’re voting for the governor. He’ll be in charge of running things in Pennsylvania.”
Daughter #2 then asked “Who are we voting for?”
“Well, there’s Tom Corbett and Tom Wolf.”
A big smile spread across her face. “Tom Wolf gave us the soap at the water slide place!” (She was confusing him for the Wolf at Great Wolf Lodge) “I’m gonna vote like Daddy!”
“And I’m gonna vote for my dolls!” added Daughter #1, who then proceeded to arrange her dolls for “voting.”

I figured this was as much as I was going to get them to understand, so I decided to quit while I was ahead.

At the polls, a campaign worker asked Daughter #1 who she was voting for. “Daddy!” she replied happily. She then told the Pennsylvania GOP folks about her pink outfit, and how pink was her favorite color, and how she had glittery nail polish on her fingers. After we went inside, she said the same thing to the poll workers. At last, I received my ballot and cast my vote, greasing the wheels of democracy for one more year. This was followed by a trip to the playground so the girls could burn off the crazies.

When she saw my wife last night, Daughter #1 told her what we did that day, and added “I’m gonna vote for Miss Becky for governor!” (Miss Becky is a colleague of my wife’s who is much beloved by the girls). When asked what the governor does, she answered that he or she “plans the events and affairs of Pennsylvania.”  Even though I know she’s just repeating something Daddy told her, I would like to think she learned something from this whole exercise. It will be interesting what she thinks when we go to the polls in two years. And it will be interesting to hear what she tells the poll workers, as well.

If You Had a Date in Constantinople, She’ll Be Waiting in Istanbul

My daughters have always been equal-opportunity when it comes to their play. Not only do they have their dolls, kitchen, Barbies, and other toys and games traditionally associated with girls, but they also have Legos, Lincoln Logs, fire engines (and firefighter outfits to go with them), and Thomas the Tank Engine trains and track. My older daughter will sometimes parade around in a ball gown with a firefighter hat on, proudly declaring “I’m a princess who’s also a firefighter!” I love their willingness not to discriminate, and it’s something we encourage.

As time has gone on, though, and I find that they are now at the age where the Disney princesses have entered their world and seemingly taken up permanent residence. They still play with their trains and Legos, but it does appear there are a lot more princess toys and princess play going on. It could be the age and developmental phase, but it could also be partly a result of exposure to the “princess culture” that social critics like Peggy Orenstein warn us about. Whatever the reason, here they are, and they seem to be here to stay. For the time being, at least.

While they love the classic princesses (Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Ariel, Belle, and Jasmine just to name a few), they have also not been immune to the spell cast by Anna and Elsa. However, the one I want to focus on is also another relatively new princess–Sofia.

“Sofia the First” is a show that airs on Disney Junior, and it has quickly become one of the girls’ favorites. According to her backstory, she is the daughter of a single-mom shoemaker who catches the eye of Roland, the King of Enchancia (where our story takes place). The king and Sofia’s mom marry, and Sofia is suddenly thrust into the role of princess with no experience or preparation, and many of the episode storylines revolve around her adjusting to her new royal life. The show is funny and entertaining, and has some good life lessons (be true to yourself, listen to others and their needs, don’t be greedy, sometimes doing the right thing is really hard, and so forth).

As the parent that stays home with the girls, I have watched quite a few episodes of Sofia, and very often I get requests to see certain episodes many times in a row. While some parents may groan at this prospect, I view it as an opportunity to give one of my daughters’ favorite shows a closer look.

For example, I look at the Kingdom of Enchancia which, according to the show, is situated in the “Tri-Kingdom Area.” This area also contains the Kingdom of Khaldune and the Kingdom of Wei-Ling (which is guess is technically an Empire, since it is ruled by Emperor Quan). I imagine something along the lines of a Disney version of the Five Boroughs; since travel to these kingdoms doesn’t seem to take very long, I would gather they are very small. It does however, make me wonder–how could three kingdoms with such diverse ethnic populations be in such close proximity? Wei-Ling is a kind of miniature China, and Khaldune reminds me of a North African nation (at least, its citizens do–we have not yet seen the kingdom itself). Perhaps the Tri-Kingdom Area is a bit like the former Yugoslavia and other parts of Eastern Europe, where diverse ethnic populations live side by side. Perhaps they are the descendants of invading armies from wars long since past.

Another explanation could be that their world may just be a lot smaller than ours. Other kingdoms in the area include Tangu (reminiscent of a Saharan Middle-Eastern country), Corinthia (19th-Century Greece, perhaps?), Friezenburg (a kind of German city-state), and an unnamed kingdom that sort of resembles 15th-Century Spain (its matriarch, Queen Cecily, looks like she’s straight out of a Velazquez painting). While outside of the immediate Tri-Kingdom Area, they still appear to be in relative close proximity to Enchancia. Or perhaps their proximity to each other is an illusion because I’m not taking shortened travel time into consideration. The monarchs of these kingdoms send their children to school at Royal Prep Academy in coaches drawn by flying horses. It could be that these flying-horse carriages are the equivalent of the Concorde in this world, and they can travel vast distances in a short time. Since this is a world where flying horses exist in the first place, it’s conceivable that they can break the sound barrier as well.

And that leads me to the subject of Royal Prep. If the kings and queens of these nations are all sending their children there, does that mean it’s centrally located in order to avoid having anyone travel too great a distance to attend? And where exactly is Royal Prep? Is it located in a Switzerland-type neutral nation? Or is it kind of like the United Nations–a sovereign region unto itself, where no one can claim ownership? Or is it—

And then it hits me. I’m reading way too much into this. It’s a children’s show, intended for three- to five-year-olds.

However, I must admit that exercises like this one has helped keep my media-analysis skills sharp, and this is something I hope to teach my girls. I don’t want them to be passive viewers. I want them to think about what they’re watching. And reading. And the games they play. I don’t want them to be pigeonholed into what marketers and media companies have decided are appropriate “roles” and “products” for girls. I want them to think for themselves, and choose for themselves. And that’s the best that any parent can hope for. Princesses who fight fires are okay in my book.