Saturday, March 31, 2007

Review: Mac Games, Part II

Tank O'Box is designed by the same folks who brought us Bubble Bobble Nostalgie. The Rhino, who is 11, was given a chance at this game. In the game, you are a tank, and the game play has you fighting against panzer tanks, whether to shoot them before they shoot you, or to protect your headquarters from their attacks, etc. The display for the game is set up in such a way that it appears you are playing with a military model set up in a box at the center of a children's desk. The desk is decorated with colored crayon drawings and the like. Inside the box (hence the name Tank 0' Box; can't understand why it isn't Box O' Tanks), the realistic-looking little tanks turn into black smoking hulls when hit and then disappear. Your tank can roll over randomly appearing starred icons in blue and green to earn upgrades like faster speed, heavier shielding, or double-shooting guns. The Rhino enjoys games with "army guys" or a military theme, and after playing Tank O' Box for about 15 minutes, he said, "I like this game!" He enjoyed the arcade style immensely. However, when playing the "extra" section of the game, which gives you the opportunity to keep going after other tanks until you have beaten 100 of them, he became bored about halfway through and was ready to be done. My take: At $19.95 for the full version, this game is over-priced. You can play the first five levels in the trial version, however, for free. Here's the link to the trial version:

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Monday, March 26, 2007

First SAHM's Carnival

Check out Cool Moms Rule and the other fine bloggers at the First SAHMs Carnival for Stay-at-Home-Moms over here:
1st SAHM Carnival

Thanks so much for your support! We appreciate all our readers at Cool Moms Rule. Please send us your comments, criticisms and critiques so we can make our blog the best it can be!

If you are at SAHM or a WAHM and would like to submit an article to the Cool Moms Rule blog, please click here:
Cool Moms Rule editor, viv

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Game Recommendation: Faeries

You all know by now that I am a Mom and a gamer. I play all kinds of games, from Scrabble to Stronghold, from strategy to shooters.

If you ask me how I feel about a certain game, I'll tell you. On Cool Moms Rule, the blog posts you read will only review games that have been tried and tested.

There's plenty of games, for example, that I don't like, or that I did like but quickly became bored with.

For instance, I used to enjoy World of Warcraft, which is an MMORPG (that's Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game), because the graphics are great and it's fun for the first 30 levels or so.

But then I got tired of WoW, because it grew harder and harder to level up, and you could never find other people to go on quests with, and it costs ~$15 a month for the online subscription, and you can only play online, so you have to cough up the dough every month, even if that month all you did was get frustrated or not even play. So I quit, and I have no problems letting you know why.

[They have a new expansion for the game, though, called Burning Crusade, and in one day it sold more than any online game. Ever. So it is still going strong without me, and I'll tell you that, too.]

And I know that a lot of you Moms don't care about console gaming, but the fact that you are online now and reading this shows that you know your way around a computer.

So when I tell you to try the computer game Fairies, please don't just scoff and laugh and point your finger at me. I had a free demo of this game, and yet I bought the whole version because it is so addictive. And then I got MY MOM, who doesn't even game unless you count Scrabble, to try it.

And she said, "It's hypnotizing. And it's beautiful."

Faeries is one of those games, and any of you that have gamed will understand right away what I mean, where you have to line things up. You need to get three of the same colored Faeries in bottles in a row.

Wait a minute, I hear you saying. Three Faeries IN BOTTLES?!

Yes. In bottles. Apparently someone has been catching beautiful Faeries in bottles like fireflies in glass jars, and you have to set them free. They are counting on you to do it. You slide lines of bottles up until three matching colored bottles of Faeries are all in a line, and you set them free.

So, very simple premise.

And, when you set them free, their souls or light or something goes onto this scale (I don't know who thinks this stuff up, but bear with me, okay?). And if you get enough weight on the scale, you win the level. Win a level and you get a piece of a puzzle; win enough levels and you put together the whole puzzle, which is generally a beautiful portrait featuring, you guessed it, Faeries.

There are roadblocks to make it more difficult, and bonuses to help you, but that's the basics. There are a lot of matching types of games, and some of them are okay, but this one, in my opinion, is the best.

And here's why I like this game. First of all, the graphics are stunning. Absolutely beautiful. The colors, the images in the background, are pretty just to look at. And I am not a cutesy kind of girl, so I worried that Faeries might be too cutesy for me. It's not.

That's another thing I like. The Faeries themselves. They are women, yes, and they have wings, and they are gorgeous. But they aren't anorexic little slivers of women. You could feel good about your daughter playing this game. The Faeries look healthy, and serene. They aren't cutesy. There's no babies with curly hair and puffy red cheeks or silly pixies with blue Smurf skin.

Along with the images, there's music in Faeries (which sometimes I mute because the Engineer is watching TV, or the rhino is trying to beat a level on Starcraft and I am in the same room), but when I have it turned on, it doesn't annoy me. It's not tinny, or repetitive, or speeding up into it culminates in some cacophonic, clashing finale. The music is melodious and flowing.

And that's the thing I like the most. However you do at the game itself, you don't feel frustrated and worn out at the end. You feel uplifted, and calm, and like you helped save the day.

Which is why it is the perfect game for Moms. You NEED to feel that way.

So, this one particular game, Faeries? I'm recommending it to you all without reservation.

They have Mac and Windows versions of Faeries. Go try one out by clicking the pretty Faeries graphic below. You'll thank me for it later:

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Take Our Fun Quiz--What Kind of Mom Are You?

What kind of Mom are you?

What kind of Mom are you?
Your Result: Procrastinator

You believe in putting off until tomorrow what should have been done today. Unless you can put it off until the weekend. Or next week. Definitely have it done by the end of the month, though! Your kids might be wearing clothes a size too small and their hair might need cutting, but you get everything done eventually! And you've found a way to keep stress at bay by not making unreasonable demands on your time. Your motto? "Don't sweat the small stuff."

The Queen


Soccer Mom

What kind of Mom are you?
Quizzes for MySpace

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Don't Let Your Daughters Fall for This

I am an active member of the "Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids". Today I received an e-mail from them on a disturbing new ad campaign that targets women and girls.

Here's an excerpt from the heads-up they sent me:

Do you know what's pretty in pink and "light and luscious" -- but kills?

This year, R.J. Reynolds (RJR), the second largest tobacco company in the U.S., introduced a new product - Camel No. 9. With its sleek packaging, flowery ads, a pink camel on every cigarette and the slogan, "light and luscious," Camel No. 9 openly targets women, but is also very appealing to girls.

Camel No. 9 has been launched with a huge marketing effort that is estimated to cost between $25 and $50 million. Full-page ads are running in some of the most popular women's magazines, including Vogue, which is also read by 1.4 million young girls.

Fun, exciting, and luscious are hardly words that describe a product that lures young women into a deadly addiction that kills. More than 150,000 women in the U.S. die every year from smoking-caused disease and those diseases result in $34.7 billion in annual health care costs.

I think you will agree with me that the full-page ads, with their pretty pink flourishes, look like something that would appeal to young women.

If you would like to let Vogue know that you do not support this kind of advertising targeting young women, maybe even your daughters, The Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids has made it easy for you. Clicking on the link below will take you to a page where you can fill in your information and send an email to the editor-in-chief of Vogue magazine:

Send Vogue a Message

Note to those of you who smoke: If you are a smoker, you may be wishing you could quit and finding it very difficult to do so. Studies show that the majority of people who smoke today started very young and became addicted to nicotine at an early age, before much was known about its addictive properties. Better education for our kids today means they will make more informed choices. At the very least, encouraging them to wait until they are old enough to understand the consequences of their actions could make them stop and think before starting a habit that could affect the rest of their lives. That's one reason why I do not support advertising that is clearly geared to young people.

I'll get off my soapbox now! : )

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Welcome to the March 21, 2007 FIRST edition of the MY FAVORITE THINGS CARNIVAL! We have some great Spring finds for you this month. Please do check out the sites of our Carnival contributors! We appreciate our support and there is no better way to let them know than supporting them in return.

First, from Popgadget--Personal Tech for Women comes 10 Fun Things for Spring

Next, from our own blog, Cool Moms Rule, comes this list of Five Fave Spring Finds!

I love the entire line of pretty, new, blue tableware at Pier 1 Imports! Check out cool Ginkgo dinner plates with matching blue chopsticks, ginkgo leaf placeholders and napkin rings, and clear gingko-leaf patterned goblets.

If you haven't tried Bath and Body Works foaming hand soap, you are missing out on a sensual experience. I prefer the Cucumber Melon, which is ON SALE (!), but the product comes in a variety of fragrances, and leaves your hands not just clean but soft, smooth and lightly scented.

In a similar vein, The Body Shop has a whole line of new Pink Grapefruit scented products! Right now, if you purchase $25 or more in bath and body products, you will receive a free Satsuma Shower Gel worth $10 as a gift with purchase. Additionally, shipping is free for orders over $55.

If you are looking for something equally sweet and just a bit indulgent that's also functional, check out The Bombay Company's Handbag Tealight Holder . This pretty little box holds an unexpected treasure inside: a tealight holder. The inside of the box's lid is mirrored to reflect the light from your candle. The box also does double duty as a small jewelry box which can hold your favorite bracelet, a watch or that special pair of earrings. It's a steal at $15.

The perfect little dress for Spring! If you've been watching any of the morning shows lately, you'll notice a new trend for Spring is floaty, flirty, little dresses with empire necks in fun patterns. You couldn't hope to find a better bargain than this one from George ME, available at (of all places) your local Wal-Mart! Pick it up with your next shopping cart full of groceries. Need to accessorize? Head over to your local Target for this cute Xhiliration Hobo bag in matching polka dot print.

And From the blog Fuel the Rebellion comes the Most Promising Gaming News for Spring!

Lastly, and most bizarrely, comes this entry from Lola London:
Tell me a story, Jackanory posted at L'undone.

That concludes this edition. Because of the short submission time for this first Carnival edition, we expect our next edition to be jam-packed with all those who couldn't meet the deadline this time! Submit your blog article to the next edition of my favorite things carnival!
using our carnival submission form.
Past posts and future hosts can be found on our

blog carnival index page

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Flight of the Conchords- Business Time

My friend Traub Tribe ( took the time to share this with me, and I am passing it on to all of you. Stick with it, I think you will start to relate. And, if you do? I'm so sorry! LOL

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Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday blahhhs

So today is Monday and I have the usual Monday blahhhs. It was a beautiful day, but now it is clouding up and the sky is grey. Thankfully, The Grandparents sent us the great pic above to cheer us up! That's the Mama resident Sandhill Crane with two new additions to the family! See the little fluffballs? It's amazing to think they will grow up to look like Mama, isn't it?

And of course, we have the My Favorite Things Carnival on Wednesday! Bloggers, you still have time to get those submissions in! Cut off time is Tuesday at 8 pm EST. (Yes, I will be scrambling to get those posts out there on Wednesday!) Remember, we want your Favorite Things for Spring for this edition, with links so the Cool Moms out there will know how to get them! You can post your entries through the widget over there >>>> on the sidebar, or send them here: Cool Moms Rule, with the word "carnival" in the subject line.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

There Ought to be a Moral in Here Somewhere

Today, of course, is St. Patrick's Day. But apparently I don't have the luck of the Irish, because we spent the day at the soccer fields instead of actually celebrating.

Actually, I enjoy watching my boys play soccer now. They are both old enough to understand the game and yet still have fun playing, which is a great age. They aren't too bogged down by the whole "win at any cost" attitude because we have all decided, thus far, to stick with recreational soccer rather than join the "comp" leagues that are out there, where the focus is on win win win.

Instead, we have a lot of fun. The Owl's team lost today, but only after a very valiant fight. The guys felt good because they all played their best, hustling all over the field, and it was a nail-biter right up to the end, a really close game. Both teams were good sports and shook hands at the end and each left with a healthy respect for their adversary.

And sometimes, though we don't make a huge deal about it, we even win. The Rhino's team won today. As a proud Mom, I was overjoyed when the Rhino scored a goal. But the whole team did well. They are a great team because they work together, and like each other, and it shows in the way they play. There are very few ball-hogs or hot-doggers on the Rhino's team.

In fact, they went undefeated last year, which I especially enjoyed because I am a small, petty person and there is this One Coach I just can't stand to lose to, even though I am, of course, all about the fun! And don't even keep score! Mostly!

This one coach is a Screamer. You know the type I mean. He doesn't just yell out constructive things like, "good shot, Billy!" or, "Nice defense!" He doesn't stop at the automatic "Not in the middle!" reflex every coach has when a defender kicks the ball right back into the center of the field of play, in front of his own goal. Or the slightly frustrated, "Are you listening, Joe?" that really means I-told-you-not-to-do-that-just-a-second-ago-and-look-what-happened.

No, this guy screams all the time. He screams at his team because they didn't do this right or that right even when they are winning. And when they are losing, he just screams louder. And what makes it worse, his kids get so tired of his screaming that, to hang on to their sanity, they start ignoring him, which, naturally, just makes him scream more. It is not fun to watch.

And it's not just that he screams. It's what he screams. Most of the time it's just a little harsher than I would like, because I'm not a yeller myself (unless someone goes after my kid, and then they have to hold me back). Occasionally, he even gives an encouraging remark, after a particularly good goal. But sometimes? It's downright cringe-worthy. You know, the kind of ugly personal criticism that makes the other parents shrivel up inside when they hear it, thinking, "Oh, my goodness, that poor kid."

Now, you might be saying to yourself, why is this guy still coaching, then? And that's a good question. The rec league is made up of volunteers, and they need all the help they can get, because there's never enough coaches. They don't like to get rid of anyone who is willing to help and, besides, they can't really fire anyone that isn't being paid in the first place.

But people can, and still do, request other coaches. In some cases, they specifically ask for any coach other than Screaming Crazy guy.

Most of the volunteer coaches are soccer Dads. The Engineer coached, and when he had to travel more, he switched to assistant coaching, and I'm proud that he is so involved, because it can get pretty stressful, with all the different personalities involved. But a lot of Dads tough it out and coach so they can be there for their sons, even though it means volunteering hours after work for practice and Saturdays out at the fields.

And that's the real reason the Screaming, Crazy coach is still coaching. Because he's a Dad, and his kid plays soccer. And his kid is a good soccer player. And the nicest thing anyone can say about Screaming, Crazy coach, which is also a True, Valid Thing, is that he wants to support his kid.

Which should be great. It should be this big Redeeming Virtue that makes up for it all. His son should go on to be the next David Beckham and Screaming Crazy coach should learn a good lesson from it all somehow and stop screaming forever.

But that's not what's happening. His kid is becoming a crazy screamer, too. And he has an attitude of superiority that makes even the fondest soccer Mom want to wipe the smirk right off of his face. He orders the other kids on his team around. He's a bad sport. He doesn't come and shake the hands of the opposing team, or give high-fives to his own players. He uses language, barely under his breath, that I wouldn't allow the Owl or the Rhino to use, and his father, perhaps deaf from all of his own screaming, never seems to hear it.

And his natural athletic ability has become overshadowed by these ugly personality traits, to the point where, if his Dad didn't coach, even with his skill, this boy would have a hard time finding a coach who would agree to take him on.

That's the real irony: this kid, who could really be a great player, is actually worse now-- because his Dad coaches.

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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Two Exciting Upcoming Events on Cool Moms Rule!

Cool Moms Rule is excited to announce two fantastic upcoming events hosted right here on the Cool Moms Rule blog: The Favorite Things Spring Carnival and the Cool Moms Rule Poetry Contest!

The Favorite Things Spring Carnival

March 21st, 2007

Find out what's new, what's shiny, what's best and brightest for Spring! Bloggers from all over the web community will post their favorite finds for Spring right here on the Cool Moms Rule blog homepage! You won't want to miss this one!

Cool Moms Rule Poetry Contest

March 23rd, 2007

Open to all readers of Cool Moms Rule! The topic is, simply: Moms! Poems can be humorous, touching, irreverent or sappy, we don't care. We want to hear about all those Moms out there, whether you are a Mom or you have a Mom or you're going to make your kids write a poem about their Mom! The Top Three poems will be printed on the Cool Moms Rule website on Friday, March 23rd. The First place poem will win an $10 gift certificate!

If you want to enter either event, all you have to do is click the link below to enter your submission. Make sure you put either "carnival" or "poetry contest" in the subject line:
Submit my entry!

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Did I Put My Foot In It Or What?

Wow, have I stirred up a hornet's nest! I had an alternative point of view than the "Be a Good Dad" blogger and, boy, was that whole family quick to jump on me for it! Read what all the brouhaha is about HERE and please come back and let me know if I was out of line!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Put A Little Irish On It

So, with St. Patrick's Day coming up this weekend, you'll be wantin' some ideas, I'm thinking. And you'll need time to get it all together. So I have been wracking my brain and scouring the web just for you, dear readers (really, 'tweren't no trouble 'tall).

I'm a big fan of the traditional, "Wear green or you will be pinched" way of celebrating St. Patrick's Day. Although some ideas make me shudder--green beer?! Ugh!--in general, I am all for a little more green in my life! :)

And I know you Moms out there want your kids to eat healthy, and you are always looking for new and creative ways to accomplish that goal. If you can find a naturally healthy Innovative Recipe My Kid Will Actually Try, it's a win-win situation. So, rather than skipping right down to the delicious desserts I have for you, I'm giving you an entire meal's worth of ideas for St. Pat's.


First off, consider the simple bell pepper. It's practically perfect for the day, already a naturally beautiful green. You can cut the bell pepper in half across the widest part (NOT from stem to stern), and the shapes resemble three-leaf clovers. Stick a toothpick through them (preferably a green sparkly one) and serve with Ranch dressing for a healthy starter. Cool green cucumber slices are another good accompaniment to the dressing.


You can also create a truly green "green salad" with your clover bell pepper shapes and any (or all) of the following:

Romaine lettuce, iceberg lettuce, spinach, endive, green olives, cucumber slices, sugar snap peas, raw broccoli florets.

Or go for a sweet fruity green salad, mixing up green apple slices, kiwi slices and cubes of honeydew melon.

Main Course

Of course, you didn't use any cabbage in your green salad! No, you saved it for the delicious traditional Irish cabbage and corned beef dinner, right? Each of us has our own special way of serving this, whether it simmers in the stove or in the slow-cooker crockpot.


Sweet Shamrocks

Here's a tasty new twist on the traditional St. Patrick's Day shamrock -- sweet green pretzels fashioned from canned refrigerated bread stick dough and coated with a sprinkling of colored sugar and cinnamon.

Canned refrigerated bread stick dough (we used Pillsbury Original Breadsticks)
Colored sugar

Step 1
Line a cookie sheet with aluminum foil and lightly coat it with cooking spray.

Step 2
To create the clover shape, mold 3 sections of bread sticks into hearts and press them together as shown. Attach a small stem, decorate, bake according to the package directions, and serve them up to your lucky guests.

Clover Cupcakes

Cupcake batter
Cupcake tins and liners
Aluminum foil
White frosting
Green food coloring
Green licorice (we used Twizzlers Rainbow Twists sold in a pack with other colors)

1. Place paper liners in 32 standard muffin cups, then fill each halfway with the batter. Step 2
2. For each cupcake, roll three balls of foil (ours were 2/3 inch in diameter) and insert them evenly around the perimeter between the liner and the tin, as shown.
3. Bake the cupcakes for a few minutes less than the package suggests (because there's less batter per cup than usual), or until a toothpick comes out clean.
4. Allow the cupcakes to cool, then remove them from the tin.
5. Cover each with green frosting (our ratio was 1 teaspoon of green food coloring to one 16-ounce can of white frosting).
6. Use a toothpick to draw leaf veins, and insert a 2-inch-long piece of green licorice for a stem. (see Finished project in the top image, above)

(Recipes, images from

Thursday, March 8, 2007

With A Little Help From My Friends

Recently, the subject of censorship came up on Cool Moms Rule when The Higher Power of Lucky risked being banned from school libraries due to the use of the word "scrotum."

This piece started me thinking. First of all, I am against banning books for any reason. I think that knowledge should be made freely available. In addition, I don't want people I have never met making decisions for my children (or for me) when it comes to what is or is not appropriate. I consider it my responsibility as a parent to teach my children right from wrong. I taught them their colors and their letters and their numbers. I taught them to walk and to talk and (with a lot of help from their teachers) to read. I am the one who is teaching them, hopefully, how to think, so that when the day comes that I am no longer around to guide them, they will still make good decisions.

That being said, as a Mother of not one but two children, it's not always easy to decide when to teach what to each child. The Rhino is always trying to catch up to The Owl, whether I think he is ready or not. For example, though at 13 my Owl is old enough to watch most PG13 movies with no problems, my 11yo Rhino merely thinks he is. I know that his very active imagination takes off where the movie stops, and some images will give him nightmares. The question is, do I hold his brother back until they are both ready for these movies? That's a tough one. The Rhino tells me earnestly that there are kids at his school--and this is an elementary school--that have been watching horror movies for years! And when they say 'horror' today, we all know it's not about suspense any more. It's about gore. When I watch movies with the boys, I make a big deal about makeup and special effects if I think anything is TOO realistic. But it's still a dicey situation.

And, of course, we're going to have to deal with sex eventually. The boys have a great relationship with their Dad, and they've had Talks already. And whenever a teachable moment comes along, I go with it (for example, "See those supermodels in their underwear on TV? Real women don't look like that," or "Smart lasts longer than pretty. Find a pretty girl, fine, but make sure she is smart, too.") Still, I cringe at the thought of all that misinformation my boys are probably hearing from friends in school, and I'm glad that, no matter how embarrassing I may be to them, I'm here if they need me.

All this long-windedness actually has a point, believe it or not. The point is, I don't think other people should decide what's good for your kids, but I also know that you as parents can't always be on the spot to make that decision.

Which is why, when I heard about this today, I thought it might not be such a bad idea. A lot of companies offer services that offer 'safe' surfing to block out inappropriate websites, etc. Apparently, though, there is a group called NetIntelligence that works with schools and corporations on all kinds of educational products that does more than that. Their home version
gives you the ability to filter and customize web access for your children, record all instant messaging conversations, set and monitor time spent on your computers, both on and off line and prevent harmful viruses - in one easy to use combined product. And with our Parental Control version you can use the service on three separate machines as standard.

I especially like that last part--no buying additional software for each computer in the house. And I know a lot of parents that worry about sites like 'My Space' nowadays. So, anyway, I am putting up the link to NetIntelligence's Home Edition here on the blog for anyone that is interested.

NetIntelligence Home Edition

Sometimes, parents just need a little help.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Some Great New Finds

I ran across some great new stuff and I thought I would share some of my finds with you.

I was surfing this weekend, since the kids and I are sick with this nasty virus that's running through both of their schools (we all have barking coughs like seals) and I came across two sites for kids that Moms can benefit from, too.

First is The Hero Machine, a cool interactive site that lets you create your own Superhero, Fantasy Hero or (bizarrely) basketball player. And yes! You can make a heroine, too! Both the Rhino and the Owl created their own superheroes, and I spent a fun half an hour here as well. You can choose hairstyles, boots, gloves, pants, weapons--choose humanoids and you even get to create an animal companion. The only downside was that I couldn't save my character (the only complicated part of the process). As I am a stout Mac fan and was working on my Macbook Pro, those of you with Windows may not have the same problem at all. Even if you do, you should be able to use "print screen" if your kids want a hard copy of their creations.

The next site is great when you have bored, sick kids around. I remember spending a lot of time reading when I was sick as a kid, but sick times were still the worst, and we didn't have game consoles to keep us entertained back then. But don't worry, your kids will never have to make the sacrifices that you did. Just for them, there is Every Video Game. Actually, a few games are definitely missing, but lots of NES and arcade games are on here, and your kids can actually play them for free.

This last site is just for us Moms. Our kids are already spoiled anyway. ;) The folks over at Real Age, a site which I have always espoused as one of my great resources for Moms, have come out with a new book that's just for us. It's entitled, Good Kids, Bad Habits. I've included the link over on the sidebar with the other "What Cool Moms are Reading Now" recommendations.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Carnival of Family Life

Check us out over at this month's Carnival of Family Life! Scroll down to find Viv's entries over at Be a Good Dad, and while you're there, check out some of the funky recipes. By the way, if you haven't tried the "White Chili" recipe Rod sent us last week, it's posted in full under the comments for "I Can Stand the Heat."

Friday, March 2, 2007

Unlikely Gamer

When I tell you I have two boys, ages 11 and 13, who are avid gamers, you likely wouldn't bat an eye. But when I add that I, their Mother, also enjoy gaming, well, I can sense your astonishment. It's just that rare to find a gaming Mom.

And I am not just talking about the weeny, E-rated family-friendly games. My boys have outgrown those, and, frankly, so have I. Cute only goes so far before boredom takes over. No, I actually get down-and-dirty in the shooters. Granted, I prefer to run and hide when things get dangerous instead of "Rambo-ing" into the fray, but at least I'm right there with them. In the corner. Behind the door. Trying to heal.

I don't know why so few mothers pick up a controller and try gaming with their kids. Sure, it can be intimidating the first few times. The Owl and The Rhino are so much better than I am at just about every game we have played that if winning were the only object, I would have retired in shame a long time ago. Though occasionally I can offer valuable suggestions; "Try picking up that thing and throwing it at the window!" I will say, when they have been struggling for ages at some impossible level. And when it yields an escape route, they are impressed and grateful and I am, indeed, the Cool Mom, as I sit smugly back in my seat, somehow neglecting to mention that if they had just listened to the lengthy dialogue between the two main characters instead of skipping past it impatiently to get to the action, they would have known what to do all along.

That's one of the areas where Moms excel at games, by the way. We pay attention. We remember what each level's objective is, instead of running off on a tangent to see if you can actually push people into the virtual pool, or take over the alien gun turret, or make the billiard ball go through the teleporter with you.

We're also quite good at puzzles in games. Those levels which bore my boys, where you have to, say, match up the ancient runes on the floor with the markings on the stones and then move them around so they light up--I like those levels. They're so nice and orderly. A place for everything, and everything in it's place. Unlike my messy house.

I am also, I find, excellent at strategy games where the point is to take care of people. Nurturing is any Mom's strength, and, yes, this does come into play, especially in strategy games. One PC (in other words, Windows-running computer) game we like particularly, and which I can recommend without hesitation for kids of all ages, is the Stronghold franchise by Firefly Studios. Though the Stronghold games are fraught with battle opportunities, at their core they are strategy games that require you to build up your Keep, piece by piece. This doesn't just mean putting bricks in place. It means feeding your villagers, giving them jobs--woodsman, for example, cut down trees for lumber, while hunters and farmers feed your troops, and masons gather stones from the quarry. Eventually, you will have enough resources to build an armory, train your troops, create leather armor and mailplate, swords and pikes, but that's only after you have mastered what it takes to truly be the Lord of the Keep. It's a friendly game, too, which welcomes you from the first moment, "My Lord, Your Castle Awaits You!"
[The only caveat I would have is to keep the play offline until your kids are old enough to join the (free!) online multiplayer modes, because in the online mode, strong language flows freely.]

But even if you are not so sure what your particular strengths are just now, there is so much more to be gained by just playing a videogame with your family that winning ultimately becomes irrelevant. This is time spent interacting with your kids, understanding their vernacular ("Whoa! I totally pwned that guy!"), and offering commentary along the way, like "I like that you only go after the aliens, not other people." I strongly believe that parents need to be informed about the games their kids are playing, and what better way than playing right along with them?

Of course, you will have to get used to being condescended to; "Hey, Mom, that was good. Really. Lots better than last time. See? You only let me get 50 points, and you got almost half my score! Yeah, you were set on Rookie while I was on Legendary, but...."

Oh, and that's another thing. When you play with your kids? Make sure they have a handicap.
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