Movie recommendation: Boxtrolls

I have a new favorite movie: Boxtrolls! It has everything – cute characters, awesome scenery, witty dialogue, good music, good lessons that aren’t preachy, and a happy ending. And cheese – lots of cheese! The after-credit scene is awesome. I took our 3 year old to see Boxtrolls four times, and even got my husband to join us for one of them.

It even inspired my 3 year old’s favorite costume:

boxtroll girl

Yep, she’s a Boxtroll. ūüôā

Like all movies, it has triggers for some people. It touches on adoption, open adoption, what makes a family, being chased/caught, and fire. (But everything works out in the end. The only one who gets his comeuppance is the main bad guy.)

Keeping in the spirit of this blog, one of the reasons I love this movie is its theme song. It’s Little Boxes by Loch Lomond and you can listen to it here:¬†

“Little boxes on the hillside / Little boxes made of ticky-tacky / Little boxes on the hillside / Little boxes all the same…”

"Little Boxes" - satirized image

An example of the middle-class housing satirized in “Little Boxes”: Levittown, Pennsylvania, one of the first major post-World War II housing developments in the United States.
(photo and caption credit to Wikipedia)

The original to that song was written by Malvina Reynolds, at age 62.¬† (Talk about being outside the box! She didn’t even begin composing until her late 40s.) You can listen to her version here:¬†¬† You can learn more about Malvina Reynolds on her Wikipedia page.

But back to Boxtrolls. It’s great. Hand drawn backgrounds depicting Victorian England. Stop-motion filmed characters. Witty and satirical dialogue. Good triumphs over evil. And cheese.

Interested in buying any of these for Christmas? Here are links to these products on Amazon:

Boxtrolls Movie

Boxtrolls Soundtrack

Malvina Reynolds’ CD containing “Little Boxes”






Why does Santa treat different families differently?

I have heard this question, in all its forms, so many times. A child whose family can barely put food on the table wonders why she received a hat and scarf from Santa when her schoolmate received¬†a most-coveted¬†Rainbow Loom and dozens of packets of circlets. Another family wonders why Santa skips his house, not understanding the differences between his Christian neighbors’ celebration of Christmas complete with Santa, and his on Jewish family’s decision to celebrate only Hanukkah. Another family struggles to explain how Santa left footprints on their friends’ fireplace and¬†reindeer poop in their yard, while leaving no sign of his presence at their house besides the presents.

All parents must decide how to explain Santa, at some point. The man in the red suit who shows up in the mall, on decorations, and in movies must somehow be explained to little ears who want to know who he is. This post is for those families who are willing for their children to believe in Santa, whether you include him in your celebrations or not.

In the world of adoption and foster care, the questions are sometimes even harder.

A child who was abused by her babysitter’s boyfriend might say: “NOOOOOO! I don’t WANT a strange man to come into my house. MOMMY NO! You said this house was SAFE and noone could get me!”

A 3rd grade boy struggling with ADHD and low self-esteem might say: “Dad, I’m sorry. I forgot my homework at school. I’m so stupid! I can’t remember anything right! I’m gonna get coal in my stocking.”

A child in foster care for the first time might burst into tears at the sight of Santa in a book and sob “Why couldn’t Santa find me last year? Mommy said he couldn’t find us so couldn’t give me my presents. Why couldn’t he find me? Will he find me this year?”

Or on the other hand, a child who was in foster care last year, who you have adopted might wonder: “Why didn’t Santa bring presents this year? Why do I have to write thank-you notes to grandparents? Santa brought all the gifts when I lived in my other home!”

The stakes are so much higher when you are parenting abused or neglected children, or ones who have memories of different homes and different¬†parents in years past. Regardless of your personal beliefs about Santa and how much “reality” to use when explaining him, sometimes children arrive in our homes with opinions and past experiences that have shaped how they already think about him.

Noone reading this blog is going to insist to that abused child that Santa will come down the chimney, unknown to even the adults, in the face of such “stranger in my home” fear. But especially if there are other children in the home who expect Santa’s visit, just how do you handle it? Or the child who was accustomed to Santa before, if you do not celebrate him in your house? Or the child to whom you have to explain Santa’s absence and the parent’s fib last year, whether or not you have him at your house?

Many years ago I read a story about one little girl’s fear of the Tooth Fairy. She desperately wanted the dollar the Tooth Fairy would leave if she put her tooth under her pillow, but¬†equally desperately¬†she wanted to save her tooth to show her mom at next week’s visit. Her dad was a smart one, and said he’d talk to the Tooth Fairy and make a deal with her so that his little girl got her dollar AND got to show her mom the tooth. And suddenly, peace reigned at their house.

Can we do that with Santa Claus? Can we, as parents, decide that not only do we each get to celebrate Santa (or not) in our own way, but also explain to our children that it is the parents’ decision that makes Santa do what he does?

I propose a Santa Contract. Each family makes their own, and takes ownership of it. In one family the contract can state that Santa brings the most wished-for items. In another family, it may state that Santa brings the most needed items. When I was growing up, our family’s contract would have stated that Santa would bring identical items for each of the children, since that is what we received each year. Another family’s contract may state that Santa not leave presents at their home, because they choose to give gifts to each other themselves.

The Santa Contract can also state where the gifts may be left. Sure, it’s often fun to think of Santa sliding down the chimney, but it is no less wonderful to receive gifts discovered on the back porch if that is where¬†your contract said¬†to look! (And this eases the fears of children who do not want strangers in their home while they are sleeping.)

A contract with Santa can also take care of “mistakes” he made in the past. I know of one family who adopted two little girls from Tanzania, who were sad that this Santa they had heard of had never visited their orphanage – that they had been so “forgotten”. On their first Christmas, under the tree Christmas morning were multiple presents for each girl – one for each year of their lives. They were labeled with their names, and the year they would have received them. So in the package marked “first year” each girl received a rattle. In the one marked “second year” each received a pair of baby shoes. And so on. Santa also left a note that explained that houses in Tanzania don’t have numbers or names on them, so he couldn’t know where each girl lived. That he loves everyone, and now that they have parents and now that he does know where they live, he wanted them to know that he had always remembered and never forgotten them. What a boost to a little child’s way of thinking about their worth!

This little idea can not fix everything. No single idea can. But if you are struggling with your child’s questions about Santa and the different treatment they notice around them, it may be something to consider. Because we each want our children to feel loved, and valued, and keep them from unnecessary trauma,¬†don’t we? And even if Santa is just a game in your home, it’s never fun to miss your turn in a game, so this Santa Contract idea¬†may be one way to make past hurts feel a little less sharp.

I hope this helps someone, in at least some small way.

It never hurts to ask

I saved 12 cents today off my grocery bill! And all because I asked if I could.

That’s a good lesson for me to remember. When asked, many people are willing to help you out. In my experience, it happens more often than not. All I have to do is get over my embarassment at asking.

Where does that embarassment come from? I have no idea. But it’s there all the same!

What sorts of things do I ask for? Well, the 12 cents today happened because I forgot my reusable grocery bags in the car. At my store, each reusable bag you bring and use (instead of a store-provided bag) discounts your bill by 6 cents. I didn’t remember the reusable bags until my stuff was on the conveyor belt to be checked out. So I asked the cashier – Can I be credited the money for bringing my own reusable bags if I just don’t use your bags? She thought for a moment and said “Sure, it sounds like the same point to me.” And of course it was. As long as I don’t use the store bags, it shouldn’t matter to them whether I use my own or whether I use none. So she credited me for two bags and I¬†used none. I put the groceries straight into my cart and took them out to the car, and loaded them into the reusable bags there. Twelve cents saved.

One thing I have less trouble with is asking if they offer a cash discount. This works well with service industries, like car repairs. I hear the total bill amount, and ask if they give a cash discount. Most places do, because if I give them cash, they don’t have to take a check to the bank and they don’t have to pay service fees on credit cards. So they’re often willing to give at least a 5% discount. Plus, with checks¬†there is always the concern that the person might not be able to cover the amount. And with credit cards the concern that the customer will later dispute the charge.

Of course this works best if the person you are speaking with is allowed to make those kinds of deals. Owners, for instance. It’s yet another reason to deal with small mom-and-pop type stores rather than large chains. Yes, WalMart in some areas offers car repairs, and offers them cheaper than the one-man store down the street. But the one-man store down the street is where the owner greets you when you walk in, works on your car, tallies your bill, AND gives you the cash discount which means his final bill is cheaper than WalMart’s.¬† I saved $20 off a $400 car repair bill last time I took my car in. And I saved $15 off a $115 gas fireplace repair bill just a few weeks ago. It never hurts to ask.

Discounted merchandise is possible, too. I love asking if the store would sell me the floor model of whatever it is I’m looking at. A dishwasher, a treadmill, etc. One can often get 10% or more off the asking price just for taking one that is already out of the box. That discount can be even better if the floor model has something cosmetic wrong with it. A dishwasher might have a paint scratch on the side – it would be invisible once installed, but can be an extra 10% to 20% off the price. I once got 25% off a treadmill. It was the floor model, it had some wear and tear, it had some advertising stickers on it. As the title of the post says, it never hurts to ask.

Sometimes I just have to get over myself. My nervousness, my embarassment. So what if they think I’m a penny-pincher – I am! I don’t want to conform to the societal norm of just paying what’s on the sticker or the bill just because it’s typically done. Asking for a lower price doesn’t hurt, especially because most of the time the answer is “yes”.

I was surprised by “Here Comes the Boom”

It was billed as a mixed martial arts fighting movie, full of punches and blood. And because the main character is also a high school teacher, we’re led to expect put-downs and toilet humor. Also a sexy woman the main character was always asking out, so you know what to expect from that. So I was very surprised when I found out one of my friends had gone to see it – and what’s more, she liked it!

So I went to my trusty movie spoiler source:¬†and looked it up. And what I found was that “Here Comes the Boom” is really an adorable movie! Full of hope, overcoming challenges, silly music, and friends supporting each other –¬†even when they think the task is impossible.

So since it was showing in our local dollar theatre, we went to see it –¬†and really, really, really LOVED it.

Yes, there are some punches. A small handful are shown on screen. Yes, there is some blood. About two thimblefuls. There is no sex, at all. There aren’t even any swear words! The sum total of the potty-type humor is an episode of vomiting which you see coming from a mile away and which is actually an important plot point.¬†I was thoroughly astonished. But the point of the whole movie is people pulling together to make the impossible happen. The intention is to benefit a particular friend. But in trying to help him, they make life better for whole groups of people.

If the movie had been advertised to show what it really was, I would have paid full price to see it. As it is, it’s one of the movies I’m going to buy to keep in my library.

I highly recommend seeing¬†“Here Comes the Boom” to anyone who wants a fun movie!

For those of us who don’t believe in ourselves all the time

Reblogged from

About six months ago, you may remember, Google put up a logo that looked like this:

Martha Graham

(That’s the static version. If you haven’t seen the animated version, take a moment to watch it now. It’s worth the ten seconds of your time.)

Personally, I think this is one of the best logos Google has ever done. So, following typical Internet logic, I clicked the pretty picture and read the Wikipedia article…

Read the rest of the article>>

I won’t settle for TV shows I don’t like

By¬†the beginning of this summer, I had developed a long list of television shows I enjoyed. I did not have a reliable enough schedule to watch them on their first showing, but thanks to things like OnDemand I could turn them on whenever I had time – really nice for when I’m doing something like kneading bread or brushing a rabbit. Just click the TV show on and enjoy it while I’m doing other things. I enjoyed shows like CSI, Bones, CSI:SVU, and similar detailed, semi-technical dramas. On the list was also Pawn Stars, Toddlers and Tiaras, and Hell’s Kitchen.

But then I accompanied my husband to the Philippines, and we didn’t have access to television. The family had one, but I only ever saw it on once or twice in five weeks. So for us, we went cold-turkey off of all the television programs we normally would have watched. At the end of the five weeks, the only thing we regretted missing was the Olympics. The rest – meh. No loss. In our small amounts of down time we would watch a short YouTube episode of something like WipeOut just to take a mental break from the poverty we were studying day after day. Other than that, no television programs at all. Instead we read the news online when internet was available, talked to people, read books, and played card games with each other.

When we returned to the States, I guess I thought I would just pick up and start doing things the same way I had before. One day I had a lot of vegetables to chop, so I turned on one of my typical programs and saw someone tied to a chair be punched. No-o-o, not what I wanted to see. I switched to another, and saw a crying woman in a courtroom telling the details of her recent rape. No, not the choice for me. I switched again and saw a dead body in a tank of water surrounded by scientists staring at it. Nope.

I realized that I had come to think of scenes like that as “entertainment”. Of course I understand the marketing of it, that the detailed technical parts that make the show unique are not considered enough of a draw to keep someone watching through to the end. Marketers think I won’t be as “invested” in the outcome of a show if I don’t get emotionally involved with the characters, and¬†therefore I have to see their emotional distress in order to¬†stay riveted to the screen (including commercials)¬†to see what happens to them. I get that. They mix what we turn the show on to see with what they believe will keep us watching each episode.

But after two months of no television, I can objectively ask – do I really want to see that? Do I really want to hear that? Crimes happen.¬† I’m interested in the technicalities of solving them. But it’s television, people. I get to pick and choose what parts of the solution I watch. And I no longer care to watch the emotionally-wrangling ones showing people in pain, so I won’t. Drama between people happens. I’m interested in the point of the television show, and don’t need the distraction of people saying bad things about each other. I now skip those shows as well.

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks. Most of the shows I used to enjoy I no longer watch. They simply are not pleasant to me anymore. I have replaced some with a couple new ones (for instance, MasterChef has replaced Hell’s Kitchen. Just as much cooking, much less screaming and drama.) Others I simply haven’t replaced, preferring to read a book instead. I’ve gone back to find some of the YouTube shows I used to follow, like Victorian Farm. I want to try some new recipies, and that takes more attention to detail than something I’ve cooked a dozen times.

It’s easy to get accustomed to something, even something you don’t actually like. Taking that “fast” from television made me able to step back and see that. Once seen in their true light, my viewing choices could be re-evaluated. And they have been.

I hope you’re listening, marketers. I want what I want. If the show is intelligent and detailed enough, it will keep me watching even without all the blood, gore, heart-wrenching emotions, and drama. Good, clean shows are what I want, and I won’t settle any more.

It’s my birthday!

Happy birthday to me! Having a wonderful day. The clouds even moved away and aren’t blocking the sun anymore. It’s a SUNNY day in Oregon!

Had a wonderful lunch with a friend and her two children – finished off by a chocolate sundae. Yum!

On the way home, the car died. Completely. At one of the busiest intersections in town. Being new in town I had to pick a tow service out of the phone book, but they were great. Showed up in only 10 minutes, and reasonably priced. Of course in such a small town, there are no mechanics open on Saturdays, so the car was towed to my house and I’ll deal with it on Monday. (Live in Springfield, OR and need a tow? I recommend Jack’s Towing (541) 746-9669.)

One of the downfalls of a small farm/homestead is that while you may live pretty well, there isn’t much cash money laying around. Hope the repair doesn’t cost very much! Or maybe they want a temporary gardener or office help. Bartering is awesome. But in preparation for this adventure, we also became fans of Dave Ramsey and took his Financial Peace University course, so we do have an emergency fund. But how awesome would it be if we didn’t have to tap into that even for a car repair???

She got her head stuck!

Today’s rant about rectangles is in honor of my new rabbit. I have two brand new rabbits – so new they don’t have names yet. One is a Californian doe, about 2 years old. The other is probably an American Chinchilla Rabbit doe, also aged about 2 years. They are accustomed to being together, so when I brought them home I put them together into a super-large dog crate in the middle of the yard. This serves the dual purpose of letting the new rabbits enjoy their surroundings (and all the fresh grass that comes up through the bottom of the crate) as well as keeping them away from my other rabbits in case the new ones are carrying some germs that haven’t shown themselves yet.

The Californian rabbit is crazy for fresh grass. Cra-a-zy for fresh grass! I have plenty of it –¬†I don’t mow my backyard, prefering to keep it long so I can grab handfuls for the rabbits’ enjoyment.

Well this Californian and her friend had eaten down all the fresh grass they could reach in the crate, and the Californian wanted more. So she stuck her head through the grating and nibbled some more. Then she wiggled her head around to get it further out and reach some more. Then she squeezed a little further, and got her ears out. Ahh, that’s better! She could reach grass a whole inch further away. Now to pull her head back in and do the same thing in the next section of the crate…

Oops. Now that her ears were out, she couldn’t pull her head back in! Rabbit ears fold backward very easily, but they don’t fold forward at all…

Thankfully my husband went outside to peek at our new chickens right about then, and saw her. He pushed and pulled at her for a bit, but she couldn’t budge. He called me, and I crawled into the dog crate and pushed and pulled from the inside. Then we worked together from the outside and inside at the same time. We tried pushing the ears in backwards. We tried turning her to the right, then the left. No dice. She was stuck fast.

With nothing left to try, we went to Jerry’s home improvement store for bolt cutters. The nice salesman asked what we needed to cut, and was rather dumbfounded when he heard the story – but quite quickly pointed us to the type of bolt cutter he thought would work. We bought it and headed home. We worked a washcloth in between the rabbit and the wires, and my husband cut the wires. Success! I was able to lift the rabbit out and put her in a different area of the crate. After a few tentative movements of her head and ears, she started moving around and even nibbled some hay.

We blocked up the new hole, and left the bun to herself and her friend’s company. With rabbits, sometimes peace and quiet relieve their stress more than anything humans can do.¬† A new tool in the toolbox, and another rectangle removed. If only I could remove rectangles from my animals’ lives as well as mine!