Learn about “The Olympians” by George O’ Connor

The best way to introduce your kids to the Greek Pantheon is via the New York Times bestselling “The Olympians” by George O’ Connor.

Modern superheroes have nothing on the original superheroes: the gods of the Greek pantheon. Likewise, even the most convoluted comic book plot can’t approach the twists and turns of the ancient Greek myths.

Unlike modern superheroes, however, the myths of the Greek gods have influenced western literature and thinking for thousands of years. Their stories live on in our poetry, literary allusions and architecture. Over millennia, they’ve morphed into powerful archetypes that underlie modern thinking and storytelling.

The best way I know of to introduce your kids to the Greek Pantheon is via the New York Times bestselling  The Olympians by George O’ Connor.

It’s a series of seven graphic novels drawn from primary documents that retell the myths of the Olympic pantheon one god at a time. Books so far include Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, Aphrodite, and Ares.

Considering their source material, many books about Greek mythology are surprisingly boring. That’s not the case with O’Connor’s books. By focusing on one god per volume, he simplifies complicated mythology into compelling stories, filled with action, romance, drama and consequences. 

These exciting stories pair perfectly with O’Connor’s powerful, bold and occasionally intense art.

From Hera: The Goddess and her Glory, Olympians (Volume 3)
From Hera: The Goddess and her Glory, Olympians (Volume 3)

These books are great for curious kids (or their teachers or homeschooling parents). At the end of every book is a bibliography recommended books and websites, and discussion questions.

Not only will readers learn more about the Greek Pantheon, they’ll learn about the real ancient Greek world that manifested them.  They’ll also learn many ancient names and words that form the basis for words we still use today (Kronos, for example).

The Olympian books are available in most libraries. If you’re going to buy them, I recommend getting the box set, which collects the first six books in paperback form. It includes a large pull-out poster of the Greek god family tree.

Visit Olympiansrule.com to preview the books and download free educational activities.

Read our interview with George O’Connor here.


The battle in this music video is actually a beautiful lullaby

“Nothing I had done before did anything to prepare me for you.”


Motherhood is the juxtaposition of many things. Badassery and softness. Energy and exhaustion. Who we are, versus who we thought we were.

On Swale’s 2014 album, The Next Instead, keyboardist and singer, Amanda Gustafson delivers a startlingly honest and beautiful song about her experience as a new mother. More than appropriately titled, Beaten Down, it was written as a sort of lullaby to her first child. Like many of the songs she writes, it began with the melody and the first line. (“I thought I was beaten down, then you beat me down.” SING IT, SISTER.)

“It’s like a ghost shows up, and then I have to figure out why it’s there.”

Thankfully, she did.

It seems impossible that our journeys as parents are so unique yet so universal at the same time. But there’s not a single lyric that doesn’t have to push its way past the lump in my throat as I sing along (What would I give for that voice?) It resonates, from beginning to end.

“The feeling of being beaten down is coming face to face with the reality of what I’m going to mother like. And that’s a hard realization. Because you will be mad at an infant.”

 The video, shot at the Northern New England Golden Gloves of Vermont,spanned less than three weeks from concept to shooting . And while Shem Roose shot footage of several different fights of both men and women, it became clear during the editing there was only one match they wanted to use. Hannah Rodrigue vs. Anna Gagnon. (The fact that their uniforms matched the band’s clothing and instruments was a complete coincidence.)

“This feels very particularly a woman’s fight. The pressure that we put on ourselves to be kind and loving and sweet mothers- that’s our expectation of ourselves and the battle is to be that all the time.” 

Hear more Swale and follow them on Facebook.

Parenthood insights from Kim Gordon’s new book “Girl in a Band”

IN HER COMPELLING NEW MEMOIR “Girl in a Band,” Kim Gordon writes about her life as a wife, mother, artist, designer, and founding member of the band Sonic Youth. 

Kim Gordon is a badass, one of the coolest women around. I was totally inspired by her memories and insights from a life of art and music.

There are also a few things to learn about parenthood from Kim Gordon. After all, she raised a child in the midst of “writing, recording, doing press, endlessly touring.”

A commitment to creative expression can completely coexist with dedication to family.

Despite how it’s portrayed in American media, parenthood isn’t necessarily an end unto itself. Yes, it’s the ultimate commitment. It sparks the greatest fear, joy, love, concern. But parents don’t need to abandon their own creative path just because they had a child. Indeed, parenthood can be part of one’s creative path.

For example, on the birth of her daughter Coco,  Kim Gordon wrote “Yes, she changed our lives, and no one is more important to me. But the band played on.”

Once the essentials of life are secure, parent’s remaining concerns are nearly universal.

All parents fret about where to live, how to best educate their kids, how to fit in with their community, how to deal with judgement from other parents, how to keep marriage fresh, how to keep up personal relationships, stay inspired. Also, increasingly, how to manage the needs of aging parents.

The following excerpts from “Girl in a Band” are Kim Gordon’s own words on these universal elements of parenthood. Get the  book for yourself here.

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The creeping, inescapable and somewhat surprising urge to have kids 

“Sometime in my late thirties I’d begun looking at babies. Babies on the sidewalk, in strollers, on shoulders. The problem was, I could never figure out the best time to start a family. Thurston’s and my life as a couple, and as a band, was all about writing, recording, doing press, endlessly touring. Still, once the idea came into my head it was hard to push back.

It’s super hard to equally share parenting responsibilities for a new baby

“Like most new moms, I found that no matter how just and shared you expect the experience to be, or how equal the man thinks parenting should be, it isn’t. It can’t be. Most child-raising falls on women’s shoulders. Some things, like the laundry, are just easier to do yourself than to have to explain in detail to someone else. Other things were biological . As a baby, whenever Coco cried I felt it immediately, physically, because my breasts began to leak. Thurston, and any man for that matter, would never feel that same kind of urgency, that desire to make the crying stop not only to comfort your baby but for your own body’s sake. This doesn’t make men bad parents, though it can make women feel alone in what they’d hoped would be an equal division of labor.”

Having a kid can create an identity crisis in even the most committed parent

“Having a baby also created a huge identity crisis inside of me. It didn’t help that during press interviews , journalists always said, ‘What’s it like to be a rock-and-roll mom?’ just as over the last decades they couldn’t help asking, ‘What’s it like to be a girl in a band?'”

Rejecting expectations to be a housewife 

“I’ve never had any domestic talents or hobbies. I’m a good cook and could fill the house with art supplies, but that was pretty much the extent of my homemaking side. Coco once repeated to me something a friend’s mother had said to her, that the reason I couldn’t do anything—by which I assumed she meant domestic things like crafts, sewing, or baking—was because I was a musician. It hurt my feelings that her friend’s mother, who I liked, would say that. Maybe Coco had misinterpreted it, or maybe I had, or maybe neither of us had. Truth was, I never wanted to be a housewife. I never wanted to be anything other than who I was.

Moving out of the city to benefit the family and raise the child  

“I was thinking ahead, too. I didn’t want to raise Coco on Lafayette Street. Not on the fringes of Soho, not with giraffe-packs of skinny models on every sidewalk within the Soho pedestrian mall of high-end consumerism. The New York nanny culture also bugged me, both parents working all day to be able to afford to pay a stranger to take care of a child they never got to see. The expense and the inconvenience, and later down the line, schools and tests and applications and micromanaging your child in a city where no kid can walk around unaccompanied , where there are no yards and no real neighbors to speak of— all of these were factors in our decision to go.”

“Underlying the decision to move there was the hope that maybe Thurston, Coco, and I could become more family centered, more unified, less scattered.” 

Strategically stepping back from other parts of life to focus on being a parent

“After I became a mother, I stepped back a lot, recognizing I couldn’t be involved in every decision involving the band, that I lacked the energy, and in some cases even the interest. I trusted Thurston to make good decisions. In response, he would always present the available options to me and for the most part I concurred with him. I was just more selective about what I cared about. It was complex, since I was busy trying to balance and schedule our lives.”

Dealing with Divorce 

“I didn’t have a complete breakdown was because of Coco. I would have done anything in the world to shield her from having to deal with what was going on between her parents.”

“Families are like little villages. You know where everything is, you know how everything works, your identity is fixed, and you can’t really leave, or connect with anything or anybody outside, until you’re physically no longer there.”

All excerpts come from Girl in a Band: A Memoir by Kim Gordon, which you should immediately buy now.

Big Hero Six, Worth the Tix

This article was originally posted on Todaybox.co. We reposted it after Big Hero Six won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

The screen explodes with futuristic architecture in a world where Japan meets America in Disney’s Big Hero Six. Teen robotics genius Hiro Hamata joins forces with an inflatable healthcare robot and other promising science savants to save San Fransokyo (a blend of Tokyo and San Francisco) in this new flick.

Big Hero Six was an instant hit with our sci-fi loving, tech-oriented family. It incorporates a boatload of lessons I want my kid and students to understand and is worth seeing on the big screen.

Here are six reasons Big Hero Six is worth the tix:

1. Strong female characters pervade throughout the film. Aunt Cass takes in Hiro and his brother Tadashi after their parents die. She owns and runs her own business while single parenting the two boys. Hiro teams up with a college chemist named Honey Lemon and a mechanics and engineering major named Go Go Tomago, who has a passion for inventing fast transportation. Weak females infest most of Disney’s films, so it is refreshing to see three strong women in this flick. At one point Tomago even says to Hiro, “woman up” instead of “man up.”

2. It promotes a growth mindset. Recent brain research teaches us that intelligence is not fixed, but that is a difficult concept to teach children and even some adults. Big Hero Six shows characters failing and persevering with a growth mindset in mind. Hiro’s brother Tadashi creates over 89 prototypes before his healthcare robot Betamax functions properly. The six heroes prototype their costumes and weapons over and over again until they get them right. When the characters hit a road block or get stuck, they think outside of the box and test different theories until they problem solve their way out of a sticky situation.

3. It will make you want to do more science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities with your kids. This movie will have your kids wanting to attend Caltech, Carnegie Mellon, or MIT. The whole family will want to build and tinker with technology more after watching this film. Our six year old says she wants to be a “Lego robot designer” when she grows up, so this was the perfect flick for her.

4. Collaboration is key in Big Hero Six. No single hero dominates the screen. Six characters must work together to save San Fransokyo. Together they problem solve and learn that if one acts alone, it endangers and affects the others in the group. This is another key concept that is difficult to teach kids and students. Big Hero Six models the art and value of collaboration well.

5. It showcases a more culturally diverse America. Big Hero Six includes racially diverse families, businesses, and academic settings. It is not the typical ethnocentric western film Disney creates. Heroes come from different racial backgrounds, a refreshing change. We loved seeing how the film blends Asian and Western architecture, language, and cultural elements together in San Fransokyo.

6. The humor and timing is impeccable. Big Hero Six masters the art of timing a joke. We rolled in our seats with laughter from start to finish. The jokes are fun and appropriate for all ages.

Spoiler alert:

This film is rated PG. True to tradition Disney kills off the parents and a brother. I would not recommend this film for children under five years of age, as there is a death scene and some of the scenes with the villain may be frightening for young children. But Big Hero Six is definitely worth the tix for kids and adults ages five and up!

Need to Know: Tig Doc

Do you remember that stand-up set by Tig Notaro that lit the Twitter on fire in August 2012 and launched a little-known comic into the stratosphere? It was the one that Louis C.K. then made available on his website where it quickly sold over 75,000 copies. It started with, “Hello. Good Evening. I have cancer. How are you?

That one.

Well, you’ll be very happy to learn that two filmmakers, Kristina Goolsby and Ashley York [stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/abyork” size=”18px” new_window=”yes”], started following Tig through her life shortly after the shitstorm that preceded her cancer diagnosis (yes, the diagnosis was actually the end of a truly terrible phase of Tig’s life, which she details in the film). The resulting documentary, called Tig, premiered at Sundance last Monday.

It’s sad and tragic and hilarious and uplifting. I cried even as I laughed but never felt as if I was intruding on someone’s personal hell.

As a subject, Tig is open and vulnerable on camera without making the viewer feel uncomfortable, which I believe can be a tough balance to strike and is a huge part of the film’s appeal. As we watch her navigate the choppy effing waters of rebuilding a life and reimagining her career, we see what is possible; we witness just how resilient our species can be. I realize that sounds like a ridiculous cliché, but seriously – she suffered through this horrible illness called C-Diff, a few weeks later her Mom fell and hit her head and died(!), then she was diagnosed with bi-lateral breast cancer and had a double mastectomy. What?!? It’s unconscionable. How can someone actually LIVE through that?

But she did. She really did. Her career reached new heights, she kicked cancer’s ass, and the glorious buttercream frosting on the cake is that she even fell in love (which is a really beautiful process to watch).

The filmmakers have yet to sign a distribution deal, so like the Tig doc’s Facebook page or set your Google alert or whatever you do to ensure you know what happens next. Then go see this movie. It’ll be the most joyful snot-bubble cry you’ve had in a long time.

Check out Tig’s podcast Professor Blastoff, including this episode where she talks with documentary director Kristina Goolsby about foster care.



Need to Know: Invisibilia Podcast

Busy parents Need to Know, so every week we highlight one album, book, app, movie or show that’s about blow up. More.

Perhaps you’ve already heard about Invisibilia, the latest blockbuster podcast from NPR. Filling a void left by Serial (and driven by NPR’s marketing), Invisibilia is already the #1 podcast on iTunes.

It probably won’t get a brilliant SNL spoof, but it will spark a million dinner party conversations, Twitter posts, and Facebook updates. It’s already trending on both platforms (that’s partly how we choose our “Need to Know” subjects.)

People enjoy pop entertainment, but we’re most engaged by information and facts. Discussing “the latest research” is our modern conversation crutch. “Backed by Science” will make anything sell. We’re drawn to stories woven together by data and real-world information, especially as they relate to the mystery of human behavior.

The producers of Invisibilia understand this perfectly. They say the show “interweaves narrative storytelling with fascinating new psychological and brain science. Listen and research will come to life in a way that will make you see your own life differently.”

With a description like that, it’s no wonder the show is trending. It will get bigger as new episodes come out and people begin discussing them over meals, at parties, and on social media all spring and this summer.

This season of Invisibilia promises extra juciness. It will “dig deep into our innermost minds — examining our dark, disturbing thoughts” and how they shape our identity and emotions.

The show’s production is as compelling as its subject. Co-hosts Alix Spiegel and Lulu Miller (from Radiolab and This American Life) balance facts, anecdotes, story, and conversation to keep the show flowing.

Do yourself a favor and listen to the first episode. At least you’ll be able to say “yeah, I listened to the first episode” when everyone is talking about it. It’s a bonus if you get hooked and keep listening week after week.

Learn more and listen to Invisiblia online.

Here’s how to listen to a podcast on a Mac, iPhone or Android devices.

Follow the show on Twitter [stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/nprinvisibilia” size=”18px” new_window=”no”]. You can also follow co-host Alix Spiegel on Twitter [stag_icon icon=”twitter” url=”https://twitter.com/aspiegelnpr” size=”18px” new_window=”no”]

Download the podcast on iTunes [stag_icon icon=”apple” url=”https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/npr-invisibilia-podcast/id953290300?mt=2″ size=”18px” new_window=”no”]

Read more about it in the New Yorker and on the Daily Beast.

Need to Know: The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up

tidying-upLess Clutter, More Joy

Life clutters easily with two working parents and a young child. We toss around the word “systems” a lot in our home. The hall closet is messy again, so we need a new “system”. Towels aren’t getting hung up properly, so we need a better “system”. We need to plan a trip to IKEA to find a better home office storage “system”. And our “systems” often work – for a month or two.

We’re a fairly tidy family. We regularly weed through unused items to sell or donate. We do what we can to declutter our home, yet we’re stuck in a constant cycle of reorganizing and shuffling our belongings. This is why I didn’t hesitate to read Marie Kondo’s The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up after three different couples raved about how it’s changed their lives to me within the same week. I decided to try the latest minimalist home organization trend for myself.

Marie Kondo is a bestselling author and home organization specialist from Tokyo, Japan. She’s spent decades perfecting the KonMari Method, her own personal system for decluttering homes and spaces. There’s a three-month waiting list for her services, and she boasts that clients who follow her method exactly never need her services again.

What makes Kondo’s method so different is that it is relentless in its process of weeding out clutter. The purpose of decluttering the home is to weed out all unused and unnecessary items until the only items left in one’s home are those that “spark joy.” It’s meant to be a once in a lifetime purging process that will cure your family’s clutter problems once and for all. Kondo claims the process can take up to six months to complete, but then clients never have to do it again.

Kondo says the main home organization mistake people make is focusing on what items to get rid of or throw away. Her method emphasizes what to keep by asking the question, “Does this bring me joy?” If it doesn’t, get rid of it. But it’s not always that easy. People have a hard time getting rid of things they can still use, items that hold information they might need one day, objects that hold emotional value, or things that are hard to obtain. Rational thought often makes it difficult for people to discard of items they no longer use that just sit in storage or clutter up space. Kondo recommends sticking to intuition and focusing on what currently brings you joy.

Another mistake people make is organizing room by room. All this does is reshuffle clutter around and create a revolving door of decluttering room by room. Kondo suggests focusing on categories instead. She recommends purging items in the following order: clothes, books, papers, miscellany, and mementos. By focusing on a specific category, people declutter every item in that category from their home at once, rather than shuffle it to another room.

Our family made a commitment at our last family meeting: to declutter once and for all and only surround ourselves with items that bring us joy. We know it means sacrificing some of our time the next few weeks. It means making tough decisions and letting go of items that have meant something to us in the past, but we’re ready for a more minimalist lifestyle. The first project we plan to tackle is our clothes. Kondo claims that “not every person you meet in life will become a close friend or lover.” The same can be said of the items we keep in our home. We’re ready to discard of past lovers and friends that once brought us joy or never brought us joy. You can follow us here on Parent Co. as we purge our way to joy each week and learn some decluttering tips along the way.