Monthly Archives: January 2015

Movie Reviews: The Wedding Ringer & American Sniper


Justin and I recently pulled a two-fer movie night.
Or night began with The Wedding Ringer. A basic run-down of the plot is as follows:
The main character is a man who is getting ready to be married SOON. The only problem is, he has no best man. Or groomsmen. He has no friends. He lies to his future-wife and makes up a fake wedding party. Then he discovers a man who acts as a best man/fake best friend a peoples weddings. So, a deal is made, money is exchanged, and hilarity ensues as the most ridiculously awkward wedding party of strangers is hired and mashed together. This film is just one hilarious scene after another. I have never heard an audience laugh so much non-stop during a movie. At one point there was applause. If you are looking for a great comedy movie, I definitely recommend this one.

Now, American Sniper is a totally different type of movie. I will admit my ignorance on this one. Despite the fact I now live I Texas, I was unaware that this movie was based on the true life story of a man from Texas. When I saw the preview I glossed a general idea that it was about a vet who dealt with PTSD. Intrigued by that side of things, I wanted to see it. I am not a fan of war movies and was hoping this one had limited combat scenes.
I was very wrong. A large portion of this movie IS combat action. It is graphic. It is heart-rending. One of the opening scenes involves a child. If graphic scenes of combat are a trigger for you, be forewarned. I have been told of a few vets who had to get up an walk out. But what was truly unique about this film compared to many like it is, it delves far more into the psyche of combat and HOW PTSD is such an issue for our vets.
This film is about Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal Sniper who does 4 tours of duty and gathers 161 confirmed kills under his belt. But these kills do not come without a price. And the cost is the innocence of his own mind. Although the combat is shown throughout the movie, they also delve into his struggles with PTSD and adapting a civilian life after his 4 tours end. (and in between.) As a sufferer of PTSD myself, I was impressed with how well this film showed the intricacies of the disorder.
Chris Kyle finally begins to find healing and purpose by volunteering to help other vets. This choice ultimately results in his death. (I am giving away the ending here in my assumption most people have heard the news story.)
The movie ends with real life footage of his casket being driven down the Texas freeways and miles upon miles of people standing at attention to honor this man. Standing solemn with American flags, on roadside and on overpasses. When the credits roll, there is no music playing. Only silence. And not a muscle moves for a few moments in the dark theatre. In comparison to the first film we watched, this one has a air of reverence and sadness that is tangible. An older lady a few rows in front of us is weeping. The man across the aisle has his face in his hands. On our way out, as we file out in silence, a man stands with his face to the back wall not moving. I wonder, due to the fact we are in Texas,if any of these folks knew Chris Kyle personally. I wonder how any are vets, how many have family I service. I am none of those, but this film still wrenched a my heart. I, as a hippie, do not support the concept of war. Ever. But I DO respect all humans. This film is about a man who gave his heart to something he believed in and it inevitably resulted in his death. This is a bend of honor and injustice. If you want to see a movie filled with raw emotion and solid action and good acting, make a point to see this film.


What Unschooling In Action Looks Like


Our family unschools. (Or, to be more precise in defining it better: we do Child-Led Learning.)

What this means, is although we have loads and loads of school text books and paper and supplies, we do not follow any specific schedule nor use any one certain curriculum. I simply allow my children to chose what they are interested in, what they have a passion for, and we follow that route. My oldest son is planning on being a Manga artist and moving to Japan someday. So, I bought him a “how to draw Manga” book. We plan on getting him a English to Japanese language book soon. He watches documentaries online about Japanese culture and history. We prepare Japanese foods together. Justin takes him out to the Japanese restaurant. He reads online articles about Japanese laws and traditions. He spends hours a day perfecting his drawing methods. He learns techniques by copying more skilled Manga artists. And in all of this, by allowing him to seek out more knowledge on his passion he is learning language history, economy, home economics, government, math, reading, art, etc etc

That is what unschooling looks like. It is not forcing a child to learn a cookie-cutter lesson, expecting all children to adjust to one style of learning and be interested in only the same subject matter. George Bernard Shaw said: “What we want to see is the child in pursuit of knowledge, NOT knowledge in the pursuit of a child.”¬† That is what unschooling is. It is allowing the student to lead the way.

And for a parent new to this idea, there can be some panic in the beginning. We tend to associate schooling with busywork. Book work and paperwork. Hours a day pouring over these things. To let go of the reigns can mean some worry at first, because most children need some transitioning/adjusting/healing time from the pulic school setting. They have never learned how t think for themselves as far as their education goes. Set free in such a way can result in hours upon hors siting n front of video games or watching movies or simply playing. What a parent must do at this point is two-fold.

1) Remind yourself how much learning really happens through simple play. They may appear docile and unmotivated but they are still learning. Look for it.

2) Tell yourself it will not always be this way. Eventually they will grow bored of the video games or toys and will come to you, with an idea of something they want to earn. Maybe it will be a trip to a local museum. Maybe they will want to bake a cake. Maybe they want to know why dinosaurs are extinct or how candy is made or why planes can fly. When that happens, that is your chance to encourage, to provide resources, to learn along with them. TRUST THE TIMETABLE that is unique to each individual child.

Right now in my house?

The 14 year old is drawing Manga while listening to Japanese music.

The 8 year old is in bed reading his way through a chapter book. Reading has always been a struggle for him and because of that he has hated reading. As an avid romancer of books myself, this broke my heart. So, we made a deal. I found him a fun, interesting chapter book and told him if he finished reading it, he would get a reward. I’m thinking a trip to the local bakery will be a splendid treat. ūüôā

The 11, 7, and 5 year old are playing an elaborate board game that they made themselves. It involves dice and  problem solving skills and math and teamwork and strategy. It is more elaborate than Monopoly.

Earlier, they were building complicated geometric shapes and patterns with their small shape blocks.

Later they will draw more “paper people” . (These are , in essence, basically paper dolls, like I had as a little girl….just don’t tell THEM that.) They draw detailed people, usually anime-type characters, and then they cut them out and play role-playing games with them. For hours. Seriously. My kids don’t have a game system but they can be occupied for hours a day playing with pen, paper and scissors. They play pretend games of being survivalists or in Hunger Games or they are Jews hiding from the Nazis during the war. It is all school. It is all learning. Lego buildings. Conflict resolution. Helping to cook dinner. Shopping for groceries with Justin and comparing prices. Family discussions about organic farming or Fukushima or the civil war or legalizing marijuana or Martin Luther King Jr. It is all school.

This is what unschooling in action  looks like.

Space To Grow


For those of you not in the know, I have seven children.

zane aidan bailey creed drezzy blaze lulu

I call them my Littles. But honestly as time ebbs on, they are becoming not so little. It is a strange rite of passage, becoming the parent of young men. (and ladies, although Lucy is only 9 months old so it will be awhile.) It is new territory for both myself and them. None of us have taken this pathway yet. None of us have done much more than read the map and hope for the best.

But isn’t that how life works? For all of us? Have any of us been this way before? Isn’t every day untrodden territory?

I think as parents we have to keep this fact in mind: that our children are souls separate and unique from our own souls and therefore are on their own separate journey. We cannot use our own map on their journey. It makes no sense. Because they may not be going in the same direction as us.

There is something about parenting toddlers and teenagers that has people going batshit crazy. For some reason they find these two ages to be the most challenging. I think the first problem is they are looking at it as a challenge in the first place. And when you face something expecting a challenge what will you get? Some of the synonyms for the word challenge are:

  • objection
  • test
  • defiance
  • confrontation
  • provocation
  • threat
  • dare

Well, when looked at THAT way what other choice WOULD a parent have but to strap on their ass-kicking boots and prepare to battle?

But what does one get in a battle? Go ask a vet what happens, what the end result really is. It’s blood, and echoes of shots fired and shrapnel leaving scars and PTSD. It’s innocent lives lost. Battle is never ever a simple nor pretty thing. And battle always results in a winner and a loser. If you are facing off with your children as if in battle with them, who will lose? You or your child?

So many parents I know are hard pressed and determined to not lose. But at what price?

What if we don’t look at parenting that way? What if instead we take a step back and practice EMPATHY?

Websters dictionary defines empathy as follows:

The action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.

In other words, try taking a step back and asking yourself what the root cause of your childs behavior may be in the moment. Try to put yourself in their shoes. Maybe they are overtired. Maybe they are feeling frustrated. Being a child can be really hard when no one takes your valid emotions seriously. Maybe they are scared. My son Aidan used to come home from school every day and be really rude to me with his words and tease and hurt his brothers. I finally got to the root of the problem. Some boys on his bus were bullying him. But at the age of 9 he didn’t know how to properly explain his feelings to anyone so he took his fear and frustration out in other ways. His actions were SCREAMING out a message. I just kept missing it.¬† What messages are your children giving you through their attitudes and actions? Learn to approach with empathy and read between the lines. Keep in mind that they are only new humans on an uncertain, sometimes difficult path.

And keep telling yourself, they are NOT YOU Not your past, not your aspirations, not your phobias or challenges. The relationship that you have with them is not the relationship your parents had with you. They are them. Not an echo of you Treat them as such. Respect the differences. Enjoy the differences. Imagine how dull life would be if every mate or friend we had was an echo of ourselves. Be thankful that you have the honor of rising these unique creatures, that you are lucky enough to walk beside and play a part in that.

Be there, as a voice of reason and rationale in the storms. Be there as a comforting presence, a reassuring smile, a hand on their shoulder. But do not force. Do not try to change who they are meant to be. Give them space to grow, to become, to make their own way. Find your empathy for these young souls. Utilize it in the nurturing process of your relationship with them. Treasure these years. Not to be seen as challenging years, but as precious. And sacred.

I am not facing multiple challenges. I am not stressed by the fact I am the mother of seven children. I am simply blessed. And grateful.

It is all a matter of perspective. I trust their innate wisdom, even when they are unaware of their own power. I am not molding nor sculpting anyone. I am simply here, allowing them space to grow and trusting them. Because in trusting them, I am teaching them to trust themselves. Which is really the whole point in parenting, helping them to become self-assured, confident adults.  That is all I am wanting for them. That is enough. That is everything.

mnzane mnaidan mnbailey mncreed mndrezzy mnblaze mnlulu