Uh-oh, SpaghettiOs!

As we meandered down the aisles at ze Target the other day, Charmander managed to take a break from assaulting Squirtle when he noticed this can haphazardly shoved amidst a sea of mac & cheese:

Luigi is kind of meatballs

Patty cake, patty cake, pasta man; give me pasta power as fast as you can.

Yeah, clearly, we bought it, as that pic was taken at our house, and not the store. I have a hard time saying no to junk my kids ask for when it’s related to video games, and he was so excited about Mario, so I had to support that. Also, when I was a kid, albeit an older one, the ultimate in fine dining was a can of Sonic variety of SpaghettiOs. Every once in a while, my mom would even spring for the can with meatballs, which was extra epic at the time, and kind of depressing/horrifying, now that I think on it as an adult: We were *that* poor that the can that cost 20 cents more was a burden on our budget. Also, I thought this was good food? The latter is more a commentary on my mom’s cooking, but we’re getting off-topic.

Lunch time!

That it's in a red bowl and a green bowl is actually purely coincidental.

That it’s in a red bowl and a green bowl is actually purely coincidental.

One of Charmander’s first observations was that “the meatballs taste like pizza crust”, which I think is a compliment? The crust is his favorite part. This also brings some relevant nostalgia to my day, as we used to have pizza day once a week, and it was during the Super Mario Bros Super Show that we would eat it. Meeeemories.

Hey, Pizanos!

This is autographed by Captain Lou Albano. Insert your jealousy here.

Anyways, Charmander ate about half the bowl, and Squirtle just drank his juice, but that’s actually par for the course. It was a good learning experience, though. Charmander was able to explain on his own to his brother that the squares were supposed to be bricks, and the flowers Fire Flowers. He was really confused over the Super Mushrooms and Goombas for some reason, though. He kept asking what the difference was between the big mushrooms and the little mushrooms. We *have* played Mario games in this house; I don’t know what the problem was there.

Much adventure. Such shapes.

These shapes make up like, 2% of the actual pasta, though.

Also, I gotta say that Mario was looking kind of Wario in there, but maybe that was just me. The boys were pretty disappointed that there wasn’t a separate Luigi noodle. I think I’m going to email the company and suggest that they just flip a pic of the Mario pasta on the label and claim it’s Luigi to appease my children. Another fun fact: The Year of Luigi business was very successful in raising my kids’ awareness of the character. No lie; before all the promotion, Squirtle referred to the other Mario brother as “that green guy”. It was like he was an NPC in a Mario RPG. Fun times.

I don’t think we’ll be picking up another can of this, or any other SqaghettiOs; I think it’s more cost-efficient to make actual spaghetti and meatballs, but it was an experience, so there ya go. If they make some Mario mac & cheese, though, we will be all over that nonsense.


Plants Vs. Zombies, Part 2 of 534975348754893754893574

“Garden Warfare, silly!”

That’s how my 5 year old explained the game he was attempting to play to his friend. He’s not playing the actual video game; we don’t even own it (we are not going to pay for an Xbox Live Gold membership ever), but we’ve watched videos of other people playing it, and so it has become a real world game. It basically involves the boys running around making their best pea shooter onamonapias and occasionally falling flat on the ground; waiting for the other to come and stand idly next to them for 2 seconds to revive them. Yes, this is just another way Plants Vs Zombies permeates our daily lives, and confuses the lives of everyone else.

Back in Part 1 of my series of discussions of my children’s favorite franchise, I posted a pic of my old Playmobil Victorian dollhouse, with its patio overtaken by paper zombies. This came about from an attempt to distract Charmander from wanting to play the actual video game constantly by rigging a real world proxy. Initially, we set up a game board of sorts with Legos, and used some very abstract designs to stand in for the plants (different colored blocks for the plants, and headless mini-figures for the zombies). This was a satisfactory substitute for probably half a year or so, but one day he wasn’t feeling content with the designs any more, so I decided to set up these cut-outs for him:

Just cut 'em out and fold them.

A sheet of PvZ paper cut-outs

Now, we have a million of these hiding around the house, being nibbled on by Bulbasaur. Both Charmander and Squirtle play with them pretty quietly together, though, and at least they can’t really hurt each other with paper, can they? Interestingly enough, my oldest started making some of his own plants again just the other day, out of the larger Lego Duplos:

The WallNut is not made of Duplos.

Ready the firing squad.

Even Squirtle, ever eager to be like his brother, has developed his own games based on Plants Vs. Zombies. He can’t actually play the game at all, so he pretends that he’s playing it on an imaginary phone.

Squirtle: “Look, I unlocked the Far Future!”

Random person: “Oh, very nice?”

Squirtle: “I’m a Sunflower!”

It has to be really confusing for his poor Pre-school teacher, although I’ve tried to explain what’s going on. This particular game of pretend can lead to confusion for Squirtle, as well, because he doesn’t understand that smart phones aren’t actually dedicated gaming devices. A lot of people, upon being shown his imaginary phone, try to make imaginary phone calls to him, which he doesn’t get, even though I’ve had him speak to his Grammy on the phone multiple occasions.

So, yes; PvZ takes up a lot of our life. Even when they’re not playing the actual game, they are still playing games based on the game. In way, I think that can be counted as a positive: they’re being fairly creative and active, right? We need to do something to get them to communicate with their friends about it more clearly, though. Can you guys all have your kids be obsessed with PvZ so that they just understand like my kids expect them to? Thanks, guys. Sincerely, The Zombies.

Plants Vs Zombies, Part 1 of 534975348754893754893574

The other day, Charmander said something odd to me:

“I love Angry Birds; I play it all the time. But sometimes, I play Plants Vs. Zombies.”

This is a lie. I have no idea why he would say that to me. It should be reversed. In this house, it’s PvZ on a schedule, and if for some reason the oldest has managed to tire out from it from an abnormally long screen time run, he might switch to Angry Birds for a few minutes. He does like playing real life Angry Birds with his brother, which involves removing all the cushions from the couch and hurling themselves into said cushions, but that game has kind of been completely banned. Real life play is more full of PvZ influence, anyway. But let’s back up a moment.

Husbachu and I are the ones who innocently introduced our children to the world of gardening against the undead. Some time in a distant, cloudy, memory, Husbachu had played the game on PC, although I don’t recall if he completed it. We both thought it was a cute and interesting game. Skip forward a few years, and a friend got us a copy for the PS3. As somewhat responsible parents, in terms of exposing our children to video games, we were happy that this was a game we felt was safe to play in front of the young ones. I mean, I guess it can be construed as dark, what with the brain eating and the plants are technically shooting the zombies, which is something you’re officially not supposed to let your kids see, but it’s with veggies, so what-evs. Charmander enjoyed watching us play occasionally on a non-fanatical level, and he loved the ending theme, as well he should. When we were done playing the game, we were done playing the game, and it seemed like we were all moving on with our lives.

Or your unlife or something.

Now loading the rest of your life.

Theeeeen, one day, (actually, one week), Plants Vs. Zombies was suddenly free to download on iOS, and if it’s free, then it’s for me! So I downloaded it; it had some new achievements to unlock; seemed like a good deal. Well, now it was on a device that was easy for Charmander to use. I even showed him it was there. And he learned to play it. Eventually, he even beat it. I did not beat any games when I was a 4 year old, so I was impressed. Plants Vs Zombies 2 came out, and I downloaded it, thinking I was going to play it, but he played it. He still plays it. Every. Day. Sometimes, he deletes the save file for the first game so he can start it all over and playit again. And at night, he watches YouTube videos of other people playing it(More on that another time. I actually kind of feel like it’s better than watching, say, Mickey Mouse Club. At least he’s learning strategy, instead of bad adventure game logic). It is always Plants Vs. Zombies in this house. It was the theme of his 5th birthday party, and he’s looking to have it be the theme of his 6th as well (But time will tell…) And it permeates his and Squirtle’s real world play waaaay more than Angry Birds does. And yes, I am clearly an enabler. They didn’t do these print-outs themselves:

The line of doll carriages and canoes andwhatnot are supposed to be the lawnmowers that run over the zombies if you fail to defend against them with your plants.

The zombies… are coming…

I will talk more about that next time, though. Right now, my kids are doing something that has NOTHING TO DO WITH PLANTS VS. ZOMBIES, and I have to go see it before it’s too late.

On Nonexistent Fictional Babies.

Having kids, especially very small ones, tends to make your mind completely full of them all the time, even when you’re doing non-kid related things.  You think about your own relationship with them, and when you’re engaged in various media, you tend to think more about the implications of what the characters’ own parent/child relationships have been to bring them to that point.  At least, I do.  Maybe it’s the lack of sleep or something.

Well, this past Sunday night, the kids were all asleep in bed by 8(!), so I managed to sneak in some extra video game time before passing out for the night.  As mentioned last post, I’ve been veeeeeeeeery sloooooooowly making my way through .  I played the first two XII games, and enjoyed them well enough.  I particularly like this entry because it has the highest potential for goofiness, and that’s all my brain can handle after having night after night of segmented 5 hours of sleep.  I’m not going to explain all the mechanics here, but basically you have a bunch of outfits that change your stats and powers, and you can customize the looks of these outfits further by changing the colors and adding little extra “adornments”, like hats, and glasses, and tails and other cutesy stuff that belittles the seriousness of our stoic heroine.  So, I’m running around in Cloud from FFVII’s garb that I’ve altered to be entirely pink, with a horrible little Tonberry on my shoulder, as I tell grown women dressed as the iconic Chocobo birds, “Meow-meow choco-chow” so that they give me fireworks. 

Sorry, I don't have a pic with the outfit I'm describing in the post.

Totally qualified to hand out free explosives.

This is all in front of a darker backdrop of immortal (but not invulnerable) people existing in a world set to end in a few days. And as a parent, that setting got me to thinking: what about the babies?

So, it is established early on that no one has been having babies since the event that caused all the chaos to come out and stop people from aging. But, surely, at the moment this happened, and obviously before it happened, people were having babies. There were probably women giving birth the very moment that time was distorted, and shortly before. There were women who were pregnant when this event occurred, even though we never see any. Then again, in a previous FF game, FFX-2, a character was said to be close to having a baby, and she looked exactly as she had when she was not pregnant, which was not fat. But I digress. The point is, we encounter an array of adults stuck at various ages, and we also encounter young children running around this world, still doing kid things… but no very young children. No babies. Maybe I haven’t searched the datalogs, which flesh out extraneous game details, properly, or maybe I haven’t gotten far enough for an explanation yet, but did the babies magically grow to a certain point in childhood while everyone else was stagnant, or…

Having a newborn is tough. Having an immortal newborn has to be nigh impossible. How long did it take for the people to realize that they weren’t aging? How long until they realized their newborn would never sleep through the night, never reach any milestones, and never learn to smile at them? Never feed themselves, never walk on their own, never say “Mama”? How long until they gave up loving the child they had been hoping for and nurturing and caring for before their world was torn asunder? And then live with themselves for centuries and centuries after giving up… or not?

I’m on my final kid; we’re stopping at three. Part of me has been melancholy about little Bulbasaur outgrowing clothes that won’t be passed down anymore, learning to sit, moving on to solid foods, etc. Squirtle is maybe possibly not eating every toy and art supply anymore? Charmander has decided to give up taking a bath in favor of a shower, all on his own. I’ve always been proud of my kids’ achievements, but I’ve been increasingly aware of how they’re eventually not going to be as cuddly as they once were. Thankupo, Final Fantasy, for the refresher on how horrible it would be if they didn’t grow up. And thank you, children, for making me think of the horrible things that happened to the fictional babies, instead of contemplating how Sahz and his son are the only black people in the entire FFXIII universe, and no one has anything to say about it. Meow-meow, choco-chow.