Monday, December 31, 2007

Juno (warning: post contains graphic content)

I took the girls to see Juno last week. If you have not heard, Juno is the latest in the "pro-life" genre of films coming out this season. Unlike Bella, Juno is a comedy, and it's a great film, but...

I wish I had not taken my 14 year old. The film is rated PG-13. In another day, it might have been rated R. It was full of references to se*ual matters, anatomy, and birth control, and there was a fair amount of crude language. The opening scene has us looking into a room as a boy sits unclothed on a chair and Juno (the title character) removes what is left of her attire (though we don't see her, just her clothes). Most of this was tolerable for my 17 year old, who has been aware of most of the issues...but my 14 year old is "younger" and was a bit shocked.

So, why was it good? It was smart, funny, and the pro-life message was clear. And the target audience is the vast majority of teens: Public school kids who already know it all, or think they do. Sadly, none of this was shocking to the audience, made up mostly, in our theater, of teen girls. But the film seemed smarter than the audience at times. Yeah, sometimes we were the only ones laughing.

The scene at the abortion mill was brilliant and creepy. Outside, a lone girl, a friend of Juno's, carries a sign and calls out to Juno, telling her that her baby has fingernails. Inside, a bored, overly pierced receptionist offers Juno a condom as she is filling out papers. We look with Juno around the room through a surreal lens, focusing on the fingernails of the folks in the waiting room. She rushes out of the place, and goes home to tell her parents (who were some of the best characters in a film, ever). The film was worth seeing for this whole scene alone.

In a world where 12 year olds are se*ualy "active" (the stepmother in the film attributes this to boredom), Juno has a necessary message, delivered in a package that will appeal to teens. That we need a film like this to get the message across is disturbing, but I'm glad someone had the guts to make Juno. It's heroic.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Daring, or just Dangerous?

Due to the popularity of the Dangerous Book for Boys around my house (what? Paul is reading something??), I decided to look at the Daring Book for Girls, and The Dangerous Book for Dogs. I cannot recommend the girls' book, and I am sorry to say it. It includes some occultish elements that are both unnecessary and harmful to a daring life, and parts are just plain creepy. And it's too bad, as it contains some great information, like how to read tide charts, how to tie a sari (I received my early education from an Indian woman, and I love saris!), how to build a campfire, etc. There are alternatives, though, like the girls Best at Everything Book, which, despite the somewhat bratty name, is quite useful in the same way that the Daring book could be. There is also my old favorite, The American Girls' Handy Book, which is chock full of games, ideas, and useful information, or, better yet, the gender-neutral Field and Forest Handy Book.

The Dangerous Book for Dogs is a great book! Part parody, part insightful guide into your dog's brain, it will provide a dog owner with hours of amusement. It is a wee bit vulgar (pee and poop, and other dog behaviors abound), but so are dogs. From a dog's point of view, for instance, a list of edible items might include things that, as David Letterman once said, no human would ever eat. But it also includes detailed information that your dog needs, like a diagram on how to avoid taking medication, a guide to things to chase, and great dog battles in history. Astronomy includes Canis Major. If you live in a rural area, you dog will need to know how to tree a raccoon. Major doggy motion picture stars are given a chart of their own.

Dogs will be dogs, and we all know what dogs do, especially with other dogs, and sometimes with guests, so use your own discretion when handing the book over to the kids. But it is pretty funny.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Christmas Memory Worth Reading

Hey folks, I don't know if anyone out there is a fan of First Things, like I am, but Joseph Bottum has posted a walk down Christmas-memory Lane that is sure to appeal to many. Check out Dakota Christmas. When you do, I bet that you'll find it universally real, no matter what part of the US you hail from...I grew up as far away from the wilds of South Dakota as possible, and I just laughed and nodded through the whole essay.

Just One More...

I had to post this photo of Paul and my brother Tom...I have no idea what they were so wide-eyed over, but here it is:
(Note the lovely bottle of Patron that Tom and his wonderful wife Laureen gave me for Christmas...bless their little hearts!)

And Back Home Again...

Everyone was busy opening gifts. The three kids with regular jobs provided gifts galore. This was a fun evening!

T got a cell phone! (Is that a smile???)

P with a new shirt while Grannie Annie looks on...

A opens a Shakespeare book.

L leaves for Midnight Mass.

In the end, L sang or played for 4 Masses and one wedding (yup...some crazy couple got married on Christmas Day) in 3 different parishes. It makes one wonder if there is not more of a musician shortage than a priest shortage. All three parishes are praying that she gets into a local college!

Tuesday, December 25, 2007


Thought I'd try this again...the first time it didn't take.

Trip sets up for Mass, removing the Polish Missal and putting the English in its place.
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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Circe vs. Venti

Mine, all Mine

Open up a mountain, and you never know what you are going to find. In this case, miners found copper. The mine, Kennecott Copper mine, just outside of Salt Lake City, is a huge open pit copper mine, with an informative visitors center, and an impressive view, even from space!

We arrived just before a rain storm, and nearing evening. The colors of the pit were fantastic, with greenish tints on yellow and red rock. The mine was bustling with trucks...HUGE trucks....hauling the ore away. There were diggers removing rock and filling the big trucks.

Up in the visitor center, we saw a tire from one of the huge trucks on display. We also saw a bit of mining history--the old mining cars on pedestals. Inside, copper was king. Displays showed how copper is used in nearly everything, how it has been mined over the years, and how this particular mine has changed the landscape of an entire mountain. There was an interactive map showing the corporation's mining holdings across the world. And a film told us that the mine was environmentally friendly. It was an lovely piece of propaganda ;) .

Of course, there was a gift shop. The assortment of copper gifts was hypnotically shiny. There were earrings, bracelets, simple "native" bits of copper, books, and a variety of trinkets to numerous to enumerate.
Paul loves gift shops.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Four and Twenty...Maybe More

Blackbirds are migrating through my yard. From here (my very warm office) it looks like the flock is made up mostly of grackles. But blackbirds often flock together, so I'd bet there are cowbirds and red-wings with them. Cant' get a good photo (the woman across the street just shooed them off her lawn!), but you can test your blackbird spotting knowledge here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Thing About Picture Books is...

...they are so good for all ages.

Case in point: I just bought Peter Sis' new book The Wall. Subtitled "Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain", this picture book gives us a picture of communist oppression from the point of view of a child growing into manhood. Sis pulls no punches; he is unabashedly pro-American and draws the secret police with leering eyes and piggish faces, while rejoicing in details of western freedoms that trickle into his world. His signature line drawings,often in grey with splashes of red for the communists, and full of color and fancy for the free world, perfectly depict the contrasting cultures. Folks who love Sis' artwork will not be disappointed.

But an even more intriguing part of the book, and the reason it works on different levels, are the notes and photos from Sis' own journals and life. He uses a series of his early drawings and photos as frames for entries taken from his personal journals. This peek into the private life of a child growing up in the changing tumultuous world behind the iron curtain, in both word and picture, is unique.
The book begins with drawings of baby Sis (drawn by grown-up Sis) in 1948, as the Iron Curtain falls around his native Czechoslovakia. At first, it seems fun. There are flags and parades, art classes and gymnastics, all geared to raising the ultimate communist citizen. But it gets creepy rather one picture, a pig-faced official sits with a boy to ask about his family. In another, elderly people are exiting a church while a group of young children in red neckerchiefs stands by, their leader pointing out (we presume) the folly of religion, which the brief text tells us is "discouraged". He repeats such words as "compulsory" in the margins.

Glimpses of hope abound in the drawings, only to be shadowed by secret police, tanks, walls and wires. There is a wall in nearly every drawing, and the effect is chillingly oppressive. But hope grows throughout the book, as young Sis finds ways to live free. In one journal entry he claims to have tie-dyed everything he could find! And, in the end of the book, in the Orwellian year 1984, Sis leaves his home and flies to freedom.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Saturday, December 15, 2007

How Paul Learned to Stop Worrying and Love...

...the Bones.

Dino bones, that is. Due to a traumatic museum visit in childhood, Paul has had an irrational fear of dino bones for quite a while. This has precluded him from several visits to the dino halls at the AMNH. When we got to amazing Thermopolis Wyoming, he almost refused to go into the museum. But I bribed him, offering him a gift from the gift shop afterwards.

We eased him into the Jurassic by gently leading him through the Ediacaran into the early Cambrian displays. All seemed well, until he realized there were skeletons of long-dead dinos just on the other side of one wall. Up to this point, I thought this was a bit much--a show put on for mom and dad, with little real fear.

To my surprise, Paul broke into a cold sweat...sort of like I do in
hospitals. Poor kid! I let him hold my hand. It took a bit of coaxing, with smaller skeletons first, and later, the larger members of the reptile group...finally, dinos! He did it, and he liked them! No longer chained by irrational fear, he had a great time...

Pterodactyl? That's not a dinosaur! No worries!

Hey, he's kind of cute!

I'll take this one.

But he still chose an item from the gift shop! (chocolate rocks).

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Dawning of the Age of ...Deuteronomy?

Some of you might recall that I posted a few CCD stories last year. Kids never cease to amaze me with their knowledge, and their misconceptions. Here's the latest.

I gave my wonderful class of 4th grade CCD students a challenge: Memorize the books of the OT by the end of the year, and get a gift certificate. So, every class, we have little games to help them memorize them...this time, I simply went around the room once and asked each child to name one of the OT books, and they all did well, until the last. Her answer? Aquarius. Not sure what to think about that...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Info for Homeschooled College Applicants

This is not a Suggestion


Didn't get enough bears in Yellowstone? Try Bearworld.

Yeah, we saw bears in Yellowstone, and they were closer in Bearworld, but the best part about Bearworld is the other wildlife to which Paul bonded.

Number 1. The Pig (note resemblance):

Number 2. The Deer:

Number 3. The Fawn:

Definitely worth the trip to Idaho. Bearworld even housed the only wolf we saw during the trip, and we only glanced it through the shrubs.

How to make a Chess Set From a deck of Cards

...while Camping on the Wind River!

You need a sharp knife (Hmmm. We did not think to bring scissors!). Carefully cut the numbers, letters or suits into squares:

Make a board with a crayon or marker on the top of the cooler (we did not bring a ruler, either):

Once the pieces are set up, play:

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

More from the West...

Can you believe that I still have more stories of the Great Family Roadtrip II? And maybe when I'm done, I'll finish the stories about the first road trip.

So, meanwhile, I'll post a few photos, and get back to the specifics over the next few posts.

Stage coach in Jackson WY

Nice rocks (on the road...somewhere??)

Funny signs in a Mormon book store


So, if you are handicapped, you get to park in the bushes?

Grand Tetons before I hit the elk
(they looked about the same afterwards, too)

OK! I'll be back soon with more photos and stories.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Puppy camoflage

Autumn Hiking

No one can resist a bright yellow trail in November, and this was a perfect day! We hiked a favorite trail, crossed under the "dragon bridge" while Annika showered us from atop the bridge with golden maple leaves. It was chilly, but we were warm with several layers of clothes for insulation. The hike is a quick 3/4 mile loop--just long enough to enjoy the scene, but short enough so that the youngest children don't get cranky. Because this is a loop, we never retrace our steps. Today, we added a brief detour to the beach, and could see the shores of Westchester County and Connecticut just north of us.

The nature of a hike is such that you never know, even if you have hiked a hundred times, what you are going to see. A special spot always reveals something new to us. This time, we saw a rainbow in the sky above us. It was a good thing that we looked up, or we might have missed it! And despite the chilly weather, there were sailboats on the sound. A few photos later, and we were on our way back tot he car. Total time out of our day? 2 fact, 2 hours out of a week is not too much for a bit of nature in the great outdoors, is it?

Did you get out this week?

Monday, December 3, 2007

PCO performs Candide!

Edit #2: The video has been removed from YouTube. No surprise there, as video is forbidden by the school. Oh well!

You can't see Libby, but you can hear -2:00 she has a tiny solo, LOL!

And as Concert Master, she had a blast...looks like Maestro was pleased with her performance. Congratulations to all the students and faculty for making this a brilliant concert. And Libby says "Thanks" to all her friends and family who braved the city in December to see the show.

Edit: The embedding feature has been disabled; you have to visit YouTube to see the video.