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7 Jan


Between craft-supply-shopping and book-shopping and eating out yesterday, we also stopped at the movies.  The kids wanted to see We Bought a Zoo, which their friends had seen last week.

The movie was better than I’d expected (based on previews) but also much harder than I imagined.  Having not read the book, I didn’t realize that the main impetus for Benajmin Mee to buy this dilapidated zoo was that his wife, the mother of his two kids, had died six months earlier.

There were some really hard scenes showing Benjamin grieving; especially hard because our grief still feels so fresh.  I still cry at songs on the radio (last week I almost had to pull over because I couldn’t see through the torrent of tears sparked by Trisha Yearwood singing, “How Do I Live Without You?” even though I’ve never really liked that song…).  Things still feel raw around the edges, so watching someone else go through the same thing was pretty painful.

Benjamin Mee kept going, mostly for the sake of his kids, and some days I pull myself along for the same reason: these precious kids.

So, moments with our friends and family feel that much dearer.


Tonight, we enjoyed dinner and games, play time and hugs. These three munchkins make it all worth it.

An Emergency Movie

3 Jan

Thank goodness for the second-run cinema!

The kids and I spent the morning waiting for their grandparents to arrive.  They had planned to come yesterday, so I didn’t have anything planned for today – no obscure-but-fun holidays to celebrate, no outings on the schedule, no lessons waiting in the wings.

It was a lovely, quiet morning, spent talking and reading, playing and building Legos, listening to didgeridoo music on the stereo.  Both kids were very content to do their own thing with little interaction from me, so I sat with them on the couch or the floor, casually chatting, and reading and finding all kinds of things on the computer (it was a very prolific morning on Facebook and Twitter!).


Unfortunately, my Dad called at noon to say Grandma N. was still feeling too sick to travel, so they are putting off the visit for at least one more day.

This announcement caused major grumps and crankies in my living room!  I had to do something drastic…


…so we went to see Puss in Boots in the second-run theater.

This turned out to be the perfect decision, since we wound up being the only three people in the room, which is always a decadent feeling.


We all enjoyed the movie (I liked it more than I expected to, and both kids were thrilled), the popcorn and slushies, and the getting-away-from-ourselves. Even better, we got up to dance and make shadow puppets during the end credits!


I’m relieved that we were able to turn the day around, and hope that Grandma N. is feeling well enough to travel soon!


Who Is Simon Miller? {movie preview}

5 Aug

I had the opportunity this week to preview the new Family Movie Night movie… Who Is Simon Miller?

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This action-packed spy movie – suitable for the family to watch together – premiers tomorrow, August 6th, at 8 pm on NBC.

Here’s the plot: When unassuming geologist Simon Miller mysteriously disappears one night, the Miller family is thrown into a desperate search to find him. Simon’s wife Meredith and their two kids, Sarah, 18, and Kevin, 15, frantically search Simon’s office for information. When they find a stash of passports, all with Simon’s picture but each with a different alias, they realize that their father has been keeping more than a few secrets. Who is Simon Miller? And what has he gotten himself – and now his family – into? Not sure they can even trust the Dad they thought they knew, the Millers embark on an international mission to get him back. It’s a heart-pounding adventure that tests the limits to which families will fight for each other. (The movie stars Robyn Lively, Loren Dean, Skyler Day, Drew Koles, and Christine Baranski.)

GoGoGirl and I watched this movie together one night while KarateKid was at karate.  She enjoyed it, but – at 4 – didn’t really follow the spy plotline or understand how the characters were moving from country to country.  I think KarateKid (who is 9) will enjoy the movie a lot more than she did!  I liked seeing the characters in different European cities with the famous landmarks in the background, and I think that would spark a lot of discussion with KarateKid.

I do like the new Family Movie Night from P&G and NBC.  I think a lot of the stuff on tv – especially in the summer – isn’t appropriate for families.  In fact – I even like that this movie was a little too old for my 4-year-old.  So much of the “family entertainment” is really aimed at the younger crowd and so doesn’t hit the mark with older kids or tweens.  This movie might not be great for the preschool set but it’s something that older kids will enjoy watching with their parents.

Let me know if you tune in tomorrow!

I wrote this review while participating in a campaign by Mom Central Consulting on behalf of P&G and received a promotional item to thank me for taking the time to participate.

Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure

26 Apr

A dog on Broadway?  Must be a new Disney film!

Released last week on Disney Blu-Ray and DVD, Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure is a film from the producers of High School Musical and stars Ashley Tinsdale reprising her HSM role as Sharpay, the spoiled-little-rich-girl.  In this latest movie, she heads to New York City where she finds herself a little out of place as she tries to audition for a role on Broadway, only to find the director was interested in casting her dog, Boi, instead.

Click here for a sneak peek of the film!

My kids aren’t huge HSM fans so they didn’t really know who Sharpay was, but they will always agree to watch a new movie to help me review it!  I thought Sharpay’s spoiled-brat antics and provocative dancing in the beginning of the film were over the top for my kids – who are only 8 and 4, remember.  However, once Sharpay arrived in New York and started to find herself by coaching Boi for Broadway and taking on the position of assistant to the Broadway star who was even more spoiled and self-centered than Sharpay, I didn’t find other things that made me want to skip scenes.  The kids enjoyed watching the movie, and I’m sure that High School Musical fans would love it.

My kids adored any and all scenes that featured the dogs – Sharpay’s pet Boi and Boi’s rival for the part, a spaniel named Countess. There were plenty of cute songs with the dogs and lots of funny scenes.

The blu-ray features not only the blooper reel (always a favorite!) but also a feature called “The Evolution of Sharpay” which looks back at the character through High School Musical – that was fun, too.

Since my kids’ favorite parts featured the dogs, I thought I’d share a couple of pages about the dogs here with you… the first is a tip sheet about taking care of dogs in the city; the second is about how they dressed and trained the dogs for the movie. Click on the images to see or print larger sizes.



The movie and the images were provided to me by Walt Disney Home Entertainment and Click Communications for the purposes of this review; I was not compensated in any other way, and the opinions above are my own.

A Day Filled with Goodies

19 Nov

… but no pictures!  I didn’t turn my camera on once today, and I can hardly believe it.

The day started with a two-hour swimming class for KarateKid (the gym is apparently being repaired, so instead of an hour in the pool and an hour in the gym, the kids got two hours in the pool).  GoGoGirl and I ran out to the store for a while.

Next, we splurged on a lunch of POPCORN as we settled in for an early-afternoon showing of Deathly Hallows Part 1.  The long awaited movie was certainly worth the wait; a better adaptation of the novel than some of the movies have been.  GoGoGirl was thrilled because the movie had a wedding, something she’s been obsessed with lately.  KarateKid was so excited when the title music started that he was practically levitating in his cushy chair.

After the movie ended (and believe me, we didn’t want it to end but would gladly have sat through the next 2 1/2 hours of film immediately), we split up – I went with Aunt Robin and Uncle Jared to the warehouse booksale for a second go, while MechDaddy took the kids to the dojo for KarateKid’s picture night.  As I slowly filled a box of books (one!  only ONE box!  see how restrained I can be?), I ran into plenty of like-minded friends and had great fun poring over the titles with Robin.  MechDaddy and the kids met us there after a while and helped us check out and load up.

All this fun was followed by a late-night dinner at the diner, and now home.  The kids were both asleep within ten minutes of getting home… now that is a successful day!


14 Nov

It’s hard to believe that KarateKid has only been a Potter-fanatic for a little over a year and a half… that it was in April 2009 when he read Sorcerer’s Stone for the very first time


Since then, of course, he has read all 7 books over, and over, and over.  They are his go-to books now, and it’s not exaggerating for me to say that he reads at least a part of at least one of the books every single day.  He can quote huge sections from memory.  He creams us at any Harry Potter trivia game, corrects us when we misspeak about the Canon, and uses spells in everyday life (when washing his glasses, for example: Oculus Reparo!).

We didn’t think he’d be ready for the movies, but over the years, as he proved he could handle the content of the books without being disturbed, we slowly let him watch first one, and then another of the movies.  Which means…

He’s absolutely trembling with the excitement of seeing 7.1 on Friday!

Normally, before watching a movie-based-on-a-book, I’d encourage him to re-read the book.  But that’s just silly, because he’s reading the books all the time!  Instead, we decided to watch all 6 previous movies.  We watched Sorcerer’s Stone last night and Chamber of Secrets today, and we’ll keep watching one a day through Thursday.  It’s so much more fun to turn a single movie into a week-long event!

We’d love to hear any other fun ideas that families are doing to celebrate Harry Potter this week… let me know what you’re doing, or link me to great things you’ve read about.

Monday’s Movie: Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue

20 Sep

For months, Disney dvds and blu-rays have contained trailers for Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue… and it is finally here!  My kids were thrilled to spend the first part of our afternoon watching this movie – even 8-year-old KarateKid, who initially balked because, “It’s for girls!”

The magic, imagination, friendship, and creative tinkering were enough to draw him in.  There was plenty to enjoy.  Of course 3-year-old GoGoGirl loved it too – for all the same reasons.  Both kids sat rapt throughout the entire movie.

You can watch a clip here that shows Tinker Bell (in her pre-Peter Pan days) meeting a human for the very first time.  Lizzy has dreamed of fairies all her life and is delighted to meet and learn from one.  I loved watching Lizzy and Tink work together to create a “scientific” journal of all the kinds of fairies and all the things fairies could do.  What a wonderful opening for my kids… I’m sure they will be making their own Fairy Field Journals in the days ahead!  A great opportunity for lots of creative thinking, drawing – even building fairy houses and gardens like the ones in the movie.

The 77-minute all-new CGI animated movie arrives tomorrow in stores, in our favorite format – the dvd and blu-ray combo pack, which includes a blu-ray for watching at home on the big family screen, and a dvd for watching on the go.

The voice talents are great, the music is fun, and the story – which includes the thrill of discovery, the joy of friendship, a little adventure, and a father who finally believes – is delightful.  Best, of course, is the inspiration that it is giving the kids to create and imagine worlds of their own.

If your kids are also fairy-lovers and would enjoy this movie, here is a craft idea – make a pinwheel – Vidia’s Wind Wheel!  (If you click on the image it will take you to the flickr page where you can view it in larger sizes.)

Vidia Windwheel

I love movies – or books, or games – that get the kids thinking about something new and excited about creating their own worlds.  This movie was delightful because it’s bound to do exactly that.

This movie was provided to us by Click Communications and Walt Disney Home Entertainment for the purpose of this review.  We were not compensated in any other way and the opinions above are our own.

Peachy Fun with James

10 Aug

I begin by extending my deepest apologies to MechDaddy’s childhood friend Dave… who has always been deeply terrified of Giant Peaches…  if you, too, have mega-peach-a-phobia… stop reading!

For the rest of us peach lovers: last week, Walt Disney released James and the Giant Peach onto blu-ray and special edition dvd, and we celebrated!

If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re missing out.  It is a combination of live action and stop-motion, along with some computer-generated special effects, and it tells the story from the beloved book by Roald Dahl.

If you haven’t read the book… stop RIGHT NOW and read it!

We are huge Roald Dahl fans here.  There is something unique about his blend of the gloomy everyday with the amazingly fantastic, with a big serving of the utterly gruesome, that really appeals to kids.  We started our week by reading the book out loud, three or four chapters at a time after each meal and again at bedtime.  I wasn’t sure that GoGoGirl (3 1/2) was really following along until the second day when she started playing “Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker” with her dolls and including details from the story!

The basics of the story are the same from the book to the movie: young James has been orphaned (after his parents were killed by a rhinoceros!) and now lives with his mean aunts.  One night, a creepy old man gives James a bag of magic crocodile tongues, guaranteed to change his life.  As James is carrying the bag inside, he trips and all the magic seeps away into the ground.

It is that special crocodile-tongue-magic that turns a mostly-dead peach tree into the home of the world’s largest peach… which turns out to be the home to talking, laughing, adventuring, magically-grown bugs as well – a centipede, a spider, a ladybug, and more become James’s new friends as they set off on an adventure.

Peach House 3

As with any book-to-movie translation, some things were changed.  In the book, the events that unfold are all accidents of one shape or another; in the movie, James has a strong longing to go to New York and so he and his not-so-little friends are shaping events to try to get there.  Other scenes were taken out, added, or changed, and KarateKid (8) and I had a great time talking about what was different and why the movie was changed from a straight adaptation of the book.

We are Tim Burton fans, so we loved his treatment of this movie, along with the great music by Randy Newman, including a fun rendition of “Eating the Peach” – the lyrics were straight from the book.

Peach House 2

The day we finished reading the book, before MechDaddy came home for a movie night, we decided to put together a little playset so the kids could keep playing “James.”  We took an empty milk jug and painted the inside peach by pouring peach paint inside and swirling it around, then letting it dry upside down.  When the paint was dry, we cut away a big panel from the side, and that was our peach!  While it was drying, the kids rummaged through toy bins to find toys that could represent James and his friends – the centipede, the ladybug, the spider… we had to use a small white snake toy to be Earthworm!

Peach House 1

The kids and I were outside playing when MechDaddy came home, so we had some picnic sandwiches for dinner with dessert of – what else? – fresh peaches! KarateKid decided to make “tunnels” through his peach with a straw. The peaches were juicy and delicious, and we stayed outside eating and playing until dusk. Then, of course, we came inside and snuggled together to watch our new movie!

Peach House 4

The special edition blu-ray and dvd combo pack was released last week, on August 3rd. The blu-ray includes a “Spike the Aunt” game to play with your remote that both KarateKid and MechDaddy had fun trying. There are other “extras,” of course, including a music video, stills, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and the original trailer.  We had a blast making this movie a week-long event!

This is a Click Communications review.  The blu-ray combo pack was provided to me by Walt Disney Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review; we owned our copy of the book.  The opinions above are our own and we were not compensated in any other way.

Air Bud: World Pup and other Soccer Fun

21 Jun

This week we were pleased to review the re-release of Air Bud:World Pup by Walt Disney Home Entertainment.

World Pup (released originally in 2000) is the third in the series of cute-dogs-playing-sports movies that started with Air Bud and Golden Receiver. We hadn’t seen this movie before but had already enjoying several other Buddies movies including the newer films starring the Air Bud puppies, like my kids’ favorite Space Buddies.

The movie fits squarely in the predictable but sweet series. In World Pup, Buddy the Golden Retriever joins his teenage owner Josh on the soccer field, as Josh is pursuing the new girl in school, Emma, and the team is pursuing a championship. Buddy meets Emma’s retriever, Molly, and they fall in love and have puppies.

There was plenty of hijinks, sports action, and adorable fluffiness to keep both my kids entertained for the 83-minute movie one rainy afternoon last week.

The embed feature isn’t working for me today, but you can click here to watch a quick clip of Buddy playing soccer:  World Pup

We also enjoyed checking out the all new Buddies’ Sports Channel bonus feature, where the Air Bud puppies act as commentators to review and discuss the long and varied sports career of their famous dad.  KarateKid also really liked the behind-the-scenes featurette that showed a little bit of how the producers and trainers taught Buddy the moves he needed to play soccer.

This movie also includes a small mesh cinch bag that GoGoGirl has claimed as her own!

If your kids have enjoyed the other movies in this series, I’m sure they’ll also like World Pup, which fits right in with the live-action doggy cuteness.

Its release is well-timed, too, since there’s lots of World Cup action going on right now.  We watched the England-USA game and now enjoy reliving it… in Lego.

The World Cup and a fun new dvd have encouraged my kids to start playing more soccer in the yard and talking about joining a soccer team this summer – what fun!

This film was provided to us by Click Communication and Walt Disney Home Entertainment for the purposes of this review; the opinions above are our own.

May the Fourth Be With You!

4 May

Happy Star Wars Day… May the Fourth Be With You!

Our celebration started about mid-afternoon today since we were busy reading and celebrating The Red Pyramid this morning.  When we came home for our siesta, KarateKid and I watched The Empire Strikes Back.  Once MechDaddy came home, the food festivities began!  We had a traditional May the Fourth meal…

May the Fourth Dinner 1

The kids helped with the cooking as we made…

May the Fourth Dinner 2

Tie Fighter Ties (breadstick pieces wrapped around little smokies sausages)

May the Fourth Dinner 3

Boba Fett-uccine (with a homemade white sauce and veggies)

May the Fourth Dinner 4

Yoda Soda (lime juice and sugar, seltzer and lime sherbet) – served in our finest stemware – the collectible fast food glasses from the 1980′s

May the Fourth Dinner 5

with Wookie Cookies for dessert (devil’s food cake mix with chocolate chips and coconut)

Dinner was fun to assemble and fun to eat, and now we’re snuggling down to watch everyone’s favorite: Return of the Jedi.  I hope you had a wonderfully geeky May the Fourth too!