Halloween 2015: The Family DIY Star Wars

DIY Star Wars costumes for Halloween: Darth Vader, Chewbacca, Han Solo in carbonite

Between the Saturday-night timing and the rain stopping around 5PM, Halloween this year was one of the best and busiest ever. We saw around 350 trick-or-treaters!

Back in August, the kid declared that for Halloween, he wanted to be Chewbacca… driving the Millennium Falcon. Then we all fell in line and were assigned or chose our own Star Wars costumes. He told me I should be Darth Vader, and that was so perfectly obvious that I was happy to go along. Greg decided the morning of Halloween to be Han Solo, then emerged a couple of hours later encased in carbonite. Such is Greg’s aversion to ever doing the expected. My parents arrived with their Yoda and Leia costumes ready to go (okay, those weren’t DIYed).

DIY Chewbacca Millennium Falcon costume

Greg worked so hard on the cardboard Millennium Falcon, and this photo is the only one I got, because Owen refused to wear it at his school parade and on Halloween proper. Kids, I tell you.

DIY Darth Vader costume

Obviously, I bought my Vader mask, but I made the rest of the costume myself. For the cape, I followed these instructions, including the hood since I figure I can use a black cape for a hundred costumes into the future. For the rest, I wore black leggings, socks and gloves. I turned a printed t-shirt inside out and made the computery part with duct tape using these photos as reference. (Google auto-generated that .gif up there, you guys.)

It’s taken me many years to get used to Halloween being a fireworks holiday, but this is how we roll here in Vancouver (across all of Canada?). Our neighbour put on a huge spectacle for half an hour!


So tell me, did you DIY your Halloween? What did you make? How much fun did you have?


Lego for Boys, Lego for Girls: A Lego Friends Thing

Lego Friends Heartlake Airlines

The night we spent in the maternity ward nearly five years ago with our tiny, tiny son, we sat on the bed with that bundled-up baby in our arms and wondered aloud, now that we were, for real, parents, what might happen if this tiny tiny kid didn’t end up liking Lego.

Now those nearly five years have passed, and our kid loves Lego more than any other kind of toy. It’s exactly what we envisioned when we’d fantasized about being parents – kissing boo-boos, reading great books together, and lots and lots of Lego. When Owen fills up his marble jar with kindness and helpfulness and good listening, he turns those marbles in for Lego. If he doesn’t have time to finish assembling a complex kit before bedtime, he’ll skip watching a cartoon the next morning in favour of Lego. When a Lego catalog arrives in the mail, he’ll sit with it as he sits with his favourite books.

Last week, Owen announced to Greg that Lego Friends, the line of kits the company launched in 2012 in an attempt to draw girls into the fold, are just for girls and are boring.

Lots of people have decried Lego Friends as a wrong-headed idea, insisting that Lego are, at least in their before-Friends existence, for everyone, and that Lego could have put its energy into featuring more female mini-figs and superheroes in its existing lines (this comic nails it, in my opinion). And that now it seems like there’s Lego “for girls” and Lego “for boys” and that that’s just playing into the horrific trend of manufacturers divvying up kids’ culture along gender lines in a toxic, terrible way. Lego itself said it developed the line because 90% of its sales were to or for boys, and they wanted to draw girls into building.

So Owen declares that Lego Friends are boring, and this is what Greg did. Greg whipped out the well-worn Lego catalog and proclaimed his love for all the cool pink and purple kits, and Owen discovered there’s a jet plane kit. Which is why, a few minutes later, Greg came upstairs and informed me that he would be spending a lot of money at the Lego store for feminism.

A hundred and twenty bucks later, Owen spent an entire afternoon putting the kit together (it comes complete with an airport that has a cafe and gift shop, and a baggage carousel), muttering under his breath about it being a perfect choice and oh my gosh it’s so awesome.

In related news, there’s a Lego croissant, you guys.

PS I do very much wish, regardless of how successful Lego Friends is at drawing in girls – and apparently it is very successful at doing just that – that Lego had used its standard mini-fig design for the characters, so they’d be compatible with all the other Lego kits. Friends figures don’t have moveable legs or hands. It’s weird, and limiting in ways it simply shouldn’t have to be, considering the standard mini-fig can be any gender at all.

PPS Some of this post came from my initial posting of this photo on Instagram. I revised and expanded it because I want it to live here on the blog, too.


Exploding Kittens: So Much Fun It Almost Killed My Mother

image of exploding kittens card game

When Matthew Inman, genius behind The Oatmeal, announced that he’d teamed up with a couple of game designers and was crowdfunding their collaboration, a card game called Exploding Kittens, I threw my money at them.

My game arrived while my parents were visiting a couple of weeks ago, and though we were just getting into a habit of playing Trivial Pursuit every night, I suggested they’d certainly enjoy this ridiculous game one night instead.

Obviously, we played the NSFW version. (Looking back, I’m surprised I went right there with my parents.)

And Greg poured us all some scotch while we were reading the rules.

Which is how it came to pass that during the first round of the game, the Bikini Kitten card led to some joke or another, which led my mom to pretty much inhale some scotch, such was the surprise and force of her laughter.

She’s hardy, though, so when she was done almost choking to death, she insisted we keep playing.

Which we did. More than once.

I’m very, very glad I backed the Kickstarter. This game is fun, man.

Knitting the City: New Spanish Yarn Bombing Documentary

Spanish journalist and film-maker Xurxo Martínez emailed me a link to his new short documentary about yarn bombing, and I finally just made time to watch it. It’s one of the best crafts-related documentaries I’ve seen, despite the rough subtitles. He manages to touch upon everything from art to craft, fun to activism, tradition to subversion, and none of it seems rushed or glossed over. The artists he interviewed spoke beautifully about their art, the movement, their cities, and the people they encounter. I just loved it. Give it a watch and let me know what you think:

Twin Peaks and Me (As an Adolescent)

Via my agent on Twitter, I just read You, Me And “Star Trek: The Next Generation”.

Yeah, I grew up watching Star Trek with my dad (no Coors Light for him, and it was the original, not TNG yet), and Picard remains one of my sci-fi heroes (because my dad and I did, naturally, also watch TNG together). But the show that anchored my adolescent experience was Twin Peaks, my love for which I’ve mentioned before.

I was a weird kid. I was never able to get a handle on who I was and how that related to who other people thought I was. I was a jumble of contradictions and I both hated and loved everything, while I also hated and loved myself and the people around me.

Twin Peaks was a weird show. It was both about adolescence and about adulthood, and also about some seriously weird shit and how that weird shit related to who the characters were and how other people saw them. It’s also the most frightening television show I’ve ever seen. (Unlike the woman who wrote The Awl article, I did re-watch Twin Peaks as an adult. I’d been hesitant, for the same reasons she mentions, but it turned out to be even better the second time around. It’s a damn fine show that holds up better than most over decades, and was still terrifying the second time around.)

The only time I’ve ever properly inhabited fandom was when Twin Peaks was on. I was immersed in it. I kept a notebook to write quotes in. One of my friends was also really into the show and we would talk about it for whole minutes straight, foreheads nearly touching. (I was enough of a disaster at that time in my life that the friendship never went anywhere from there. We should have been best friends for life after that. High school was not my highpoint.)

I’ve recently been spending time with people who make me think about my bicoastal identity – always a New Yorker, but one who belongs in the Pacific Northwest. Taking the train home from Portland last week after an epic meeting with people I loved immediately in part because of our shared culture and heritage, I was struck by the trees being so Twin Peaksy. Reading this Star Trek TNG essay today, I’m left wondering if my experience of Twin Peaks somehow influenced how much I feel, right now, that I belong where I am.