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Is my 6-year-old ready for the likes of Jack Sparrow?
Is my 6-year-old ready for the likes of Jack Sparrow?

The kid wants to see PG-13 movies

Most of the time, I am turned off by the PG-13 rating, because usually I want the director / producer / actors to take it to the limit with "adult content." However, lately, my thoughts about PG-13 movies have been in reference to my son, who is only 6, but already wants to watch a slew of films with this rating.

At the top of his must-see list is "Pirates of the Caribbean," followed by "Iron Man" and the Transformers movie. I am still pushing "Cars" and "WALL-E," and he still loves both of these films, but other kids in his class have seen "big kid movies," and naturally he wants to check them out, too.

Really, this is a microcosm of a bigger issue. Whether the subject is movies or video games or curfews, there will often be a divide between our family's rules and the values of other families. In the case of PG-13 movies, I don't want my kid to be left out of popular culture milestones, but I don't want to expose him to too much too soon, either.

I think I need to consider each film individually, and think about what I really don't want him to see until he is older. I probably need to pre-watch these films, too. Luckily, I find Johnny Depp delicious, so pre-watching the "Pirates" films is not a problem. In fact, I can't believe I haven't already seen these.

I told my son he would probably have to wait a few years to see a couple of these films, and he asked me at what exact age would be acceptable. I threw out 10 or 11 as a ballpark age, but this made him pout and say, "I'm not going to wait that long! I'm going to see them when I'm 16!"

His number and age confusion only furthers my hunch that he is not ready for some of the content in these flicks. But if anyone has any cut-and-dried thoughts about a 6-year-old seeing PG-13 movies, I'm all ears.

Sidebar: I am one of those freaks who loves sniffing old books.
Sidebar: I am one of those freaks who loves sniffing old books.

I heart book club

I’ve been in a book club for two years, and despite initial reservations, I thoroughly enjoy it. I guess I thought book clubs were for stuffy ladies much older than myself, but my book club proves the experience can be intellectual and super fun.

Maybe it has something to do with the wine. 

In any case, my book club meets once a month, and the meetings are a nice mix of book banter and random-topic gabbing. I really enjoy hanging out with these women, many of whom I only see in this setting.

We take turns meeting at our houses, and whoever hosts the club gets to pick the book.  Consequently, I read one book a month, which is important to me. I love to read, but wouldn’t necessarily make time to do it if I didn’t have an assignment. (I might have to finish the book while stirring a pot of mac 'n' cheese, or in the rest room, but I almost always get 'er done.)

My book club reads mostly mainstream, best-selling literature, which I probably wouldn’t normally pick up, but I discovered that I really do enjoy it for the most part. Some of my favorite book club picks are "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert, "The Red Tent" by Anita Diamant and "Love Is A Mix Tape" by Rob Sheffield.

In a few months, I'll host the book club again, and I'm looking for entertaining reads that instigate stimulating conversation. Know of any? Oprah and I want to know.

During times like this I remind myself that crime happens everywhere.
During times like this I remind myself that crime happens everywhere.

The urban lessons keep coming

Like most parents choosing to raise their kids in the city, most of the time, I’m confident and certain about my choice. Once in a while, however, something happens that makes me question my decision.

Take last Friday, for example.

My sons and I were exiting an East Side grocery store with a cart filled with groceries when an alarm started blaring.  Then, we saw a guy jump into a brown car that pealed away onto a busy street. A second or two later, a security guard came running outside, said the guy stole two bottles of liquor and asked if anyone got a license plate. (I did not.)

My kids were absolutely blown away by the loudness of the alarm and the "bad guy" action. We talked about stealing, and the consequences of stealing, in the parking lot. When we reached our car, I realized that someone had backed into our car, busted out a taillight, and, not surprisingly, didn’t leave a note.

I tried to ignore the broken taillight. I didn’t think we needed to segue from a liquor story robbery discussion to a little chat about hit-and-runs. But Kai, who I often refer to as "eagle eyes," noticed right away.

So, all the way home, we talked about hit-and-runs and the importance of taking responsibility. At the supper table, we talked about stealing again, and before bed, Kai asked if I had ever stolen anything. But the biggest chunk of fallout from the messed-up afternoon came the next morning, when the boys took turns chasing each other around the living room, reenacting the liquor store holdup.

"Hey, it's my turn to be the guy that stole the beer!" Kai told his brother.


Urban Outfitters opened in Milwaukee in 2007.
Urban Outfitters opened in Milwaukee in 2007.

My favorite Madison spots are now in Milwaukee, too

It's "Madison Week" at We sent our editorial staff to check out bars, restaurants, retail outlets and cultural venues in order to uncover some of the best of Wisconsin's second-largest city. 

Years ago, I took day trips to Madison a few times a year. I had a long list of places I liked to visit, including Community Pharmacy and Ragstock, but Urban Outfitters and Noodles & Co. were my favorite places to crash.

The fact I loved Noodles so much -- and would beeline for a bowl of Japanese pan noodles -- is particularly humorous to me now, considering the chain is one of the "McDonald’s" of the new millennium. But 10 years ago or more, the concept was fresh and the food was tasty, especially to my unsophisticated palate that savored any noodle dish that didn’t come in a package stamped with the word "Ramen."

I also adored going to Urban Outfitters. I would spend hours in the place looking at everything, from the fashions to the funky home furnishings, and would usually walk away with what would become my new favorite sweater, necklace or drink coasters.

I still love Madison, but it’s just not quite as magnetic as it was a decade ago.