Friday, May 25, 2007

A Hidden Mission Field

Right now I am at a homeschool convention (blogging on my phone--how cool is that?), and I just had a very overwhelmed-looking mom ask me how to start [homeschooling]. I tried in about two seconds to recall all the things I wished I had kown when I got started, asked her some "diagnostic" questions, and quickly rattled off some suggestions. We were interrupted for a moment, and the Lord used it to prompt my heart. When she came back, I asked her if she was coming from a faith base, an she hastily told me not at all. Suddenly I realized I needed to counsel her differently. I also began praying. I prayed to know what to share. I prayed God would give them he opportunity to homeschool (there are some difficulties that might be obstacles). Most of all, I prayed God would use homeschooling andthis convention to confront them with what Jesus did for them. The interesting thing is that God has really laid on my heart to concentrate on world geography and misions with the boys this year. Here was a mission field where I least expected it--at a homeschool convention where I take for granted that everyone has similar beliefs to mine. Makes me wonder what else I have missed because of wrong assumptions.

Note: Blogging from my phone was actually a complete disaster. I couldn't figure out how to send it, and even when I did, the message had to be so brief that I hardly got my first thought out. I probably won't use it again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Movie Review: The Last Sin Eater

Just as the boys have eagerly awaited the release of Spiderman 3, I have been counting the months and days until The Last Sin Eater finally came out on DVD. I tried to see this movie in the theater, but it only ran a week, and I didn’t get the chance to go until the second week after it was released. I was DYING to see it, since I had read the book and really loved it.

The story is a wonderful account of a young girls battle with guilt. Living in the Appalachian Mountains, isolated from much of the rest of the world, the Welsh immigrants in her community have carried on a tradition brought with them from Wales when they emigrated. Having a strong understanding of sin and guilt, they follow a twisted tradition based on Holy Communion and the use of a scapegoat who takes the guilt of their sins after they die. Chosen from among them, the Sin Eater is an outcast, yet he plays an important role in the community, absolving those deceased of their sins by taking them on himself. But when young Cadi Forbes struggles with guilt over her sisters death, she longs for the Sin Eater to take her sins immediately so she won’t have to live her life with them. What will happen if the Sin Eater is unsuccessful? How can she ever be free of her burdens?

The movie did not disappoint me. In fact, it was one of the best adaptations of a book I’ve seen in a long time. I couldn’t even tell you off the top of my head what they changed. The acting was superb. No big names, but I thought that kept the characters from being overshadowed by the actors playing them. The message of faith and redemption is strong in this movie, which I loved. There is nothing inappropriate, perhaps a few intense moments and some implied violence, but I let the boys watch it with me. There is also a great scene that reinforces the idea of boys being the protectors of girls, and all the children are respectful of their elders, even when it is undeserved. I applaud director Michael Landon, Jr. and Fox Faith Films for producing such a wholesome movie. Next time, keep it in the theaters a little longer.

Worst Mother of the Year Award?

Anyone else in the running? You have stiff competition here.

Josh asked me a question today. Seemed simple enough. Can't imagine how I forgot the answer. He asked,
"Isn't tomorrow Stephen's birthday?"

Ummmmm ... yeah. According to the calendar anyway. I have nothing . . . or at least . . . I had nothing. Until I went running to Walmart about an hour and a half ago. There I was, standing in line . . . at midnight . . . with my son's birthday presents.

Now I just have to clean house (sort of) for friends coming tomorrow for lunch, wrap presents, decorate a little so Stephen can tell it's a birthday. And tomorrow morning I get to get up and make breakfast.

It's really not my fault. Darn kid had to be born at the end of May, you know? When school gets out and everything is helter skelter. Guess Christmas was booked. I can't wait until this weekend. I get to sleep.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Help! I'm Raising Milli Vanilli!

This past Sunday, for Mother's Day, our children's choir performed two songs. Our children's choir has been done a bit differently this year. The instruction has been superb, but the performances have been added one at a time. So just after Easter, we got a postcard letting us know that choir would continue meeting to prepare for the Mother's Day performance. Now the boys and I have had Spring Fever since . . . oh . . . about January! So we were ready to call choir quits. I told the kids we were done, they didn't have to do choir anymore.

Imagine my surprise when Josh informed me that when he went to get AJ from class, AJ was with the choir, ready to perform!!! When I got to the sanctuary, I just sat down to enjoy the show. He was so funny. He kind of knew the first song, so he tried to sing along. But I could tell he was lip sync-ing. The second song? Didn't know it at all. He tried to figure out where the other kids were, but hey. That song doesn't even sound familiar! I laughed. Not just at him, but at all the people around me giving me adoring looks and admiring how well my son was performing. Little did they know!!!

After church, the choir director came up to me and told me how glad she was that AJ had decided to sing. She said she asked him when he wanted to go with them, "Do you know the songs?"

AJ said, "Oh yeah. I know the songs . . . . What songs?"

Hmmm . . . we call that a clue.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Are You Related to Toy Story's Sid?

We're convinced our new dog Nathan is. I take stuff out of his mouth all the time: marbles, wood, shredded papers, a bath scrunchie, a straw, legoes, shoes!, etc. But toys? They are a favorite!

Princess isn't taking any chances.

Use Caution When Choosing a Movie at My House

I started watching Rocky Balboa yesterday, and decided it was a great movie for the boys. (And I wasn't wrong.) But here's what happened at my house tonight:

TV viewing for us is not passive. It is definitely interactive. Anyone who doesn't believe that all the problems we are seeing in society are much the result of the media kids are exposed to . . . needs to come spend some time at my house.

And yes, AJ has already come to me crying because he lost a fight. He did get hurt a little, but he was mostly upset that he didn't win the $6 in prize money offered to the champion. 'Course that's what you get when you let your opponent be the ring judge.

The Dangers of My Love for Technology

OK. So I'm noticing this trend in my passion for technology. I noticed it today as I irritatedly tried to get video feed transferred from my camera to something!!! See, my dad gave me this really great video camera about four years ago. Stephen and I were going to Mexico, and so of course we needed it. It was an early generation DVR camera--really cool at the time. When I got my computer I thought it would be a piece of cake to transfer video footage to make DVD's. Transferring was easy, but there was no way to burn DVD's with the software I had pre-installed.

So I finally purchased Adobe Photoshop and Premiere. I LOVED Photoshop, but to my irritation, Premiere would not work with my CPU processor. About a year ago, I got a new computer, which I made SURE I could use Premiere on. Premiere loaded and worked fine, but my stupid camera--only accepts a USB 1 cord or Firewire, and of course my new computer has only USB jacks and Premiere only accepts USB 2 feed. I could use Premiere to make really great photo slide shows, but no video footage. Aaaarrrrgggghhh! Do you see where this is going?

Now about Christmas time, we were given money for the family. Our DVD player had been acting up, so finally! I had the solution! I would buy a DVD-R, so I could transfer video to a disk, then load the disk to my computer and Premiere. With Josh having been in this play, I finally had a real motivation to get it working, so we rushed home Friday night to play the video on our TV. But the cord that is supposed to transfer video from the camera to the other thingy you want to play it on? USB of course . . . which my TV and DVD-R have no receptor for, and my computer won't accept because it's USB 1!!!! (I'm feeling like and Abbot and Costello routine right now.)

There was one hope. My camera had Four output holes--USB, S-video, Firewire, and a little round yellow hole. The little round hole was my last hope, so I stopped at Radio Shack today to see if I could get a cord that worked. Mr. Knows-Everything-About-Electronics at Radio Shack looked at me like I was mentally challenged and handed me the correct TWENTY-FIVE DOLLAR cord. But hey! At this point I have about a fortune invested in being able to make these videos, so what's another 25 bucks? I drove home with images in my head of what I would do with that cord if I got home and it didn't work either (they did involve Mr. Knows-Everything). Got home . . . plugged in the cord to my camera . . . plugged the cord into my TV set . . . and . . . we have video! And sound!

I spent Mother's Day copying an hour and a half of video to a DVD, transferring it to my computer, importing it to Premiere, and editing video to my heart's content.

I think it would have been cheaper and easier to just buy a new camera. And oh yeah, Photoshop and Premiere now have a newer version out . . . and they do more stuff. Bet they don't take video footage from my cool little Radio Shack cord.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

I'm Much Too In Love With Technology

So months ago, I changed to a new cell phone carrier to save money. Ha! The new carrier offers all kinds of things the old one didn't have . . . like Internet service . . . and messaging . . . not to mention my new phone has a camera . . . and pictures count as messages.

So why am I paying for all this extra technology? Is it to make my business more effective. right. To improve communication with important people in my life? There are three of them . . . and none have cell phones. To keep up with my technologically advanced friends? When have I ever tried to keep up?

No. I have technology so I can message myself reminders and pictures.

Best of all? I just found out Blogger has mobile blogging! And I have just signed up for it. Now I can take pictures while were out . . . and blog about it!!!


Josh at small group Playing football. Whose kid is this?

Better Bear Photos

I love the second (and later nights) of a performance. The cast and crew are really starting to bond, and have lost just a little of their nervousness so that they are beginning to really have fun with the play. The kids were so much fun tonight, and my young assistant Richard and I captured it all on film (OK, digital) and video. Maybe we'll make a U-Tube video to post someday.

Josh really enjoyed himself tonight. The real treat was that his dad and grandparents came, and I was so glad and hoped it made him feel really special. His mic was working better tonight so all his "bear sounds" were projected better, which made him funnier.

By the way, did I mention that Josh was wearing red and white high-top tennis shoes before the play. So I asked him if he had other shoes, but he didn't. I asked if he was wearing socks, and he said the ones he had on were white. So I told him . . . ready? . . .

. . . . guess you'll have to wear your bear feet! Get it? Bear? Bare? Bwaaaa haaa haaa!

Yeah, I just got eye-rolling and a "Mommmm!" from Josh too.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Josh's Theater Debut

Josh was in the play "The Magician's Nephew" tonight. He played a talking bear, and I was so very proud of him. We discovered he has a love for acting last year when he was in a Middle School drama/musical. This play was produced by the private school that our church has, and Josh got in on it when we inquired whether he could be involved in their drama elective program. Here are some photos of the evening:

They perform again tomorrow night, so I'll try to take more photos.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Movie Review: Spiderman 3

This is the movie of the month. (Although it does disturb me a little at the amount of money it brought in at the box office last week. Then again, some of that money was mine.) The boys have been counting the months and days until this movie was out since . . . well . . . I think since we got Spiderman 2 on DVD. So last week on a whim, I told them I'd take them to see it at the midnight show on Thursday night. They were SOOO excited. They counted hours and minutes all week. Of course I felt like a real goofball when we were at the theater at 7 o'clock for a MIDNIGHT movie!!! (We were the ONLY ones at the theater at 7 o'clock, but I wouldn't have stayed home with that much energy for anything!) We ended up going with a whole herd of boys and another mom (as crazy as me!). And of course since I knew the movie wasn't going to be over until 2 am (try actually 2:40--but we were home by 3:30!), I offered to let all those crazy boys sleep over (the beauty of homeschooling!). But actually it was really fun. I have however determined that I am NOT young anymore, and cannot go all night without sleep. What part of me goes next?

Boys at the theater, and the reason I LOVE having a camera phone!

So what'd I like about this movie:

  • Amazing special effects and CG animation. You felt as if you were right there swinging along with Spiderman. Even I thought it was cool.
  • The message that hatred and revenge are dangerous, and forgiveness is the best choice for our well-being.
  • This Spiderman didn't have any wet-dress, upside down sensual kiss scenes in it. (Thanks for wrecking the first, and my favorite of the three films with that!) It did allude to the scene in the first movie, but I was not as uncomfortable with my pre-teen boy seeing it.
  • The relationship between Peter and MaryJane Watson moved into greater maturity as Peter began to understand what it means to love someone unselfishly (he didn't throughout the movie, but was learning about it).
  • Aunt Mae's very wise cousel on marriage and vengeance.
  • Compassion and understanding when someone did very wrong things without justifying or excusing those wrong choices.
  • Mostly action violence, although there was a LOT of it, and the Venom villian at the end was very creepy and scary.
What bothered me about this movie:

  • The message repeated several times that a man's choices make him the person he becomes and that we can always choose what is right. While I agree that choices affect the person we become, I think God's Word is clear that our choices actually reflect the person we already are at our core. We cannot choose to do anything apart from who we are (sinners), unless God has transformed us (into new creations).
  • Having said this, I did appreciate that there was a strong caution to consider your choices wisely, and the indication that there are things that are clearly right and wrong.
  • Some rather out-of-character scenes for Peter Parker where he flirts and does a very suggestive dance with a female character.
  • Certain references to religion in an irreverent way.
  • The characters were more shallow than in the previous movies, in part because there were so many characters.
  • Lots of destructive battles, even though it was all in comic-book fashion, and there was no blood. Younger children could be influenced by all of this. Guess bigger ones can too. (Fortunately, much of this was too intense for my youngest, and he hid his eyes from it!
The short of it is, this is a great boys' flick (and girls might like it too!), but I'd be careful about showing it to young children. My seven-year-old was kind of at the edge of being OK with it, and I actually thought at one point, "Oh no. I spent $6 for him to hide his eyes all the way through!" This movie DOES offer lots to converse with your kids about as far as good and evil, and our choices. And even though the black Spidey suit represents the "bad Spidey," it's still pretty cool! (I CAN'T believe I just said that!)

For a more thorough review I'd recommend PluggedIn Online.

How Do You Keep a Good Dog Down?

Our dog Princess just had "the operation" a few days ago. In her recovery orders, I am supposed to keep her resting for 10 days!!! It was easy the first day when she was still sedated. My oh my, what a calm dog she was. (I think I want MORE of that med!) Yesterday she was back to her perky, spazzy self, but it was easy to keep her resting. We just spent the day trading her and Nathan in and out of the downstairs crate. But I realized what a chore I have ahead of me this next week. Today she thinks she can just do anything. She wants to be outside with the boys and with Nathan. I think she may be a little relieved that Nate is not being allowed to bite on her heels, but she does want to play. And if the gates are up, she is still jumping over them. How do you explain to a five-year-old German Shepherd that they have to take it easy or they will hurt themselves? Aaaarrrgggghhh!

It's easier to deal with boys who have to be still. At least they'll play PS2 and watch movies.

Movie Review:The Pursuit of Happyness

I loved this film. I wasn’t sure if I would love it at first, but I did. Will Smith plays a father who is determined to be a father to his son. Unfortunately he made a bad investment that is costing him his marriage and dragging him down financially. But instead of running out, he continues to dream about finding “happiness” in doing something he loves and is good at, and in being able to provide security for his family. When the opportunity to intern as a stock broker for Dean Whittier presents itself, he seizes the opportunity to change his life, but you don’t know until the end if it will finally bring him to ruin or turn out to be the answer to his prayers.

In a day when dads are constantly portrayed as unnecessary or bumbling idiots, this film was like a breath of fresh air. Will Smith is tender but tough, troubled but hopeful. Although there are a few objectionable elements, like a few strong words, some very sad images, and mature themes, I let my two oldest boys watch this because I felt it was important for them to see a dad who rejected the failings of his father and determined to be different by putting his family first. I also wanted them to realize that as difficult as things sometimes seem for us, God has been very gentle on us. I want them to have compassion on the plight of others, and movies like this are one way I feel I can expose them to some of the extreme difficulties others face, while still protecting their innocence to some degree. Even though the story could have been very sad and discouraging, Smith’s constant determination, enthusiasm, and the extreme, sacrificial love for his son are inspiring.

I’m an easy target for movies that are able to capture the feelings of being a single parent with all its demands and frustrations, and this movie did an excellent job of that. But I also loved the strong themes of family commitment, of pressing on under humbling circumstances, and of pursuing happiness not in money, but in doing your best and being all God created you to be.

For a more thorough review I would suggest you check out PluggedIn Online.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Movie Review: Night at the Museum

Our family really loves silly movies. Unfortunately, since I have three boys, we have a hard time agreeing on what is silly and what is stupid. The boys love . . . welll . . . boy humor. You know, lots of body noises and ridiculous stuff, falling down, getting hurt. I can only take so much of that. But Night at the Museum, starring Ben Stiller satisfied us all. Stiller is one I can usually only take so much of before he starts getting on my nerves, but this role was perfect for him. As a divorced dad who aspires to do something great he instead finds constant failure. Because this results in steady unemployment and frequent evictions, the most recent eviction puts pressure on him to find a job or face temporary separation from his son. So he takes a job as a night security guard at a museum, not realizing that there is something magical afoot. The first night at the museum is full of surprises and the movie is about how he comes up with ways to manage the zany events that occur nightly. The film is graced with cameo appearances by Robin Williams, Dick VanDyke, Mickey Rooney, and Bill Cobbs, whose combined comic genius absolutely makes the film in my opinion.

The boys loved the silly stuff--dinosaur chases, teeny little guys fighting each other and the "giant" (Stiller), talking statues, and more. I liked the message that eventually you have to just grow up, especially when you have someone you love depending on you to provide stability and security for them. However, I also liked the idea that "growing up" and being responsible doesn't always mean leaving your dreams behind. I was a little uncomfortable with the image that divorce can result in a happy, satisfying life for everyone, becuase I just don't think that's so. There is also some potty humor which the boys love, but which still bothers me some. But nothing in it made me so uncomfortable as to cause me to question my judgement in letting the boys watch it. All in all, the film is accurately rated PG, making it a great family film if you like something a bit silly, but still exciting.

For a more detailed review, I recommend you check out PluggedIn Online.