A Spectacular View of Another Culture

Review of the Pixar Movie Coco

coco

Pixar has wowed us once again! Their newest film Coco is an exquisite look at the Mexican observance of Día de Muertos (Day of the Dead), an annual holiday that honors deceased loved ones. As usual, Pixar has created not only a visual masterpiece but also a story that appeals to kids and adults.

Despite his family’s baffling generations-old ban on music, Miguel (voice of newcomer Anthony Gonzalez) dreams of becoming an accomplished musician like his hero, Ernesto de la Cruz (voice of Benjamin Bratt). Desperate to prove his talent, Miguel finds himself in the stunning and colorful Land of the Dead following a mysterious chain of events. Along the way, he meets charming trickster Hector (voice of Gael García Bernal), and together, they set off on an extraordinary journey to unlock the real story behind Miguel’s family history.

I happen to be married to a guitar player, and he and my son are going to see the movie tonight for my son’s birthday. I just know my husband is going to be thrilled with the film’s attention to musical detail.

Jody and I had the opportunity to go see the film before it hit theaters, and as we left, we talked about how much we loved it, but how we are also pretty sure there’s a whole section of the Christian community who will avoid it because of it’s spiritual depictions. Here’s our take on it. If a family feels a particular conviction about avoiding any subject matter that portrays different religious views, then we would say it’s best to sit this one out.

As for us, we are comfortable giving our kids a glimpse of other cultures and then having discussions about how their beliefs differ from ours. We’ve always found these conversations to be great faith builders for our kids, and we have felt that it is important for our children to understand different cultures. So, if you’re unsure, just pray. God will show you what’s best for your family.

The one caution we would offer is that it might be best to keep very young ones home. There are parts of the film that may be scary for little children.

On the whole, we give this film a big thumbs up for its gorgeous animation, engaging story (it’s The Book of Life meets Kubo and The Two Strings) and fascinating look at the Mexican culture.

Directed by Lee Unkrich (“Toy Story 3”), co-directed by Adrian Molina (story artist “Monsters University”) and produced by Darla K. Anderson (“Toy Story 3”), Disney•Pixar’s “Coco” opened in U.S. theaters on Nov. 22, 2017.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Catch a Rising Star This Weekend!

A movie review of The Star

the star

If your family wasn’t already planning to go to the movies this weekend, I hope this post will change your mind. Sony Pictures Animation’s The Star looks like it is going to be a blast! We are planning to take both our families, and after watching the trailers and the behind the scenes footage, it looks like everyone from Pappy Tony (that’s Jody’s husband) down to the babies (Rhema and Ari) are going to LOVE it.

Pappy Tony and Baby Ari

Rhema Joy

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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A Must See for Marvel Fans

Thor Ragnarok Review

thor ragnarok

Thor Ragnarok was to my pleasant surprise a smashing departure from the usual Marvel fare. I was fully expecting the usual formula. You know…origin to hero, or crisis to new found purpose, maybe even a little bit of hang-up -the-powers- because-doing-good-hurts-some, thrown in. Instead, we actually get a story. As big as this movie was, it also zoomed in close enough to see the characters develop and interact with each other — and not just with punches.

As we open up to our hero in one of his usual scenarios, seemingly bested and about to be monologued to death, a new element in Marvel storytelling appears. We actually get some dialogue. This installment takes on the air of a great dialogue movie. But each scene is also carried by the stunning 3-D visuals and a well crafted script. Our primary characters shows up on the scene carrying the full weight of their backstory, a backstory that is revealed at a good pace and enhances the main plot.

Thor was never my favorite Marvel hero, but after this movie, he is definitely a favorite now. Once again we see him face impossible odds, which this time cause him to make hard choices and suffer great loss. He discovers new depths of strength, and we see a hero mature on the screen. We also see the return of old friends like Loki and Hulk along with some new surprises. With a confirmation of a Thor appearance in the forthcoming Infinity War, I can’t wait.

If you have the chance, see this one in 3-D. The visuals are absolutely stunning. From the battle scenes to the wide camera shots, this one is worth the upgrade. The only negative I can think of is that sometimes the comic relief crosses the line and detracts from the scene, but for the most part the comedy gamble pays off.

The bottom line is that this is a must see for any fan of the Marvel universe. I got the opportunity to see the prescreening with my oldest son. Check out his YouTube Review.

Matthew Stahlmann

Matthew Stahlmann is Jenni's husband. Together they have seven amazing kids. A lead guitar player for more than 25 years, Matt is passionate about music and worship.

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Can We Trust the Historical Accuracy of the Exodus Story?

A DVD Documentary Review

Have you heard that a great many of the world’s archeologists and historians don’t think the Biblical account of the Exodus ever happened? Apparently, they don’t see evidence for any of it. I’m not just talking about a mass migration of the Israelites out of Egypt, they don’t see evidence for the Hebrew people ever being in Egypt, as slaves or otherwise. And there are even some prominent Jewish Rabbis jumping on their bandwagon, saying these things are not historical facts, they’re just religiously important traditions. What? Sounds like confusion to me.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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On Becoming a Grocery Store Rock Star

grocery store

Anyone who knows me will hear me complain on a regular basis about the daunting and unending job of grocery shopping. UGH! It is the one thing that makes me wish I could duplicate myself and send my clone out on my behalf. But it’s also one of the few things I can’t successfully delegate, and that’s saying a lot because I’m a master delegator when it comes to most things!

Grocery shopping, however, is a delicate matter. Anytime I send the hubby, we end up with a mountain of junk food, and if I send a kid, they either come home with the wrong things or I end up fielding a dozen phone calls.

But a few weeks ago something happened that made me appreciate the whole grocery process just a little more.

I was in the grocery store with my huge (and dreaded) list of shopping items when a woman approached me and asked, “Does that really help?”

At first, I wasn’t sure what she meant. “My shopping list?” I asked her.

“Yes. Does it really help to write it all down like that?”

Jody Hagaman

Jody Hagaman and her husband Tony have three kids, ages 16 to 27. Jody’s story of how her son asked to be homeschooled has inspired tens of thousands of families around the nation. A true homeschooling success story, that son is now an attorney in New Hampshire and is the New England Regional Director of The Concord Coalition, a bipartisan organization dedicated to advocating responsible fiscal policy. As a community leader, Jody has served on the board of directors of many local non-profit organizations. Her work experience as a corrections officer on a crisis intervention team inspired her to make a difference in the lives of the next generation. She and Jenni co-host a weekly radio show, write a syndicated weekly column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about living on purpose with excellence and raising kids with the end result in mind.

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Date Night in a Galaxy Near You

Review of Guardians of the Galaxy 2

From the opening credits I was immediately hooked in. The expectation was high. I fully expected the modern day Han Solo in Star-Lord to be loosely in charge once again of his dysfunctional “family” of space misfits. This movie did not disappoint. From the opening scene I was bombarded with action, special effects, dynamic characters and last but not least, a seamless integration of great pop music.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2, like its predecessor, has an uncanny knack for combining the mundane with the extraordinary. Where else can we find characters bickering over senseless things like who does “the gun thing” while fighting off space beasts or the search for Scotch tape while the possibility of death and destruction is imminent? Set against spectacular action sequences, the dysfunction of this patchwork family takes center stage as we wait to see if the bonds of relationship created in the first movie can withstand the strain of a new threat.

Matthew Stahlmann

Matthew Stahlmann is Jenni's husband. Together they have seven amazing kids. A lead guitar player for more than 25 years, Matt is passionate about music and worship.

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The Power of Using Visuals With Children

Guest post by Arlen Grad Gaines and Meredith Englander Polsky

Whether it is the acquisition of new skills or the adjustment to life changes, we know that children feel most comforted by routine and repetition. The idea of knowing what comes next can feel incredibly reassuring, especially around new or different concepts. We have found that the use of visuals work well for all children, including those with special needs.

Visuals, in general, are great tools often used by special educators, therapists and anyone working with (or parenting!) a child with special learning needs. Sometimes children need less talking “at them” and more concrete ways to wrap their mind around a particular concept. Many children with special needs are highly visual and are better able to process information when they can see it. A short picture story can tap into that strength, thereby better supporting the child and his/her needs.

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody

Jenni and Jody are Christian, homeschooling moms with ten kids between them (ages 5 to 29), including one on the autism spectrum, plus one baby grandchild. Together they host a weekly syndicated parenting radio show, write a weekly newspaper column, freelance for a variety of publications, teach parenting and homeschooling workshops and seminars, speak at conventions and conferences and coach individual families. They are passionate about encouraging and equipping families to Parent On Purpose (POP) with the end result in mind.

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The Tale as Old as Time Gets a Live Action Makeover

A Review of Beauty and the Beast Live Action Film

beauty and the beast movie review

Right out of the gate, I have to say I loved this movie. Jody and I went to see it earlier this week, but because of the controversy surrounding it (more about that later), we were tentative about even accepting the invitation to review it. So glad we decided to take the risk!

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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Fighting the Word Gap

Increasing baby's vocabulary increases later success

baby's vocabulary

Thirty million is a big number, it’s a lot of money, a lot of people, a lot of anything. Imagine it in terms of a child’s vocabulary. Imagine if your child heard thirty million fewer words by the age of three than the child sitting next to her in school. Imagine how that would affect her vocabulary. 

Research shows that up to 98% of words used by a three-year-old are directly derived from their parents’ vocabulary.  They also found that the number of words the children learned varied greatly among socio-economic lines, with children from professional families hearing approximately 30 million fewer words over a child’s first three years. 

Aimee Ketchum

Aimee Ketchum

Aimee Ketchum is a pediatric occupational therapist working in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and pediatric out-patient. Aimee is the owner of Aimee’s Babies, a child development company. Aimee is also certified as a yoga instructor, a baby massage instructor, and early child development educator. Aimee is currently one of the five finalists in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Word Gap Challenge with her Word Gap App. Aimee lives in Lititz, Pennsylvania with her husband and two daughters.

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A Great Message for Parents

Moana Movie Review

If you were not planning a trip to the movies this weekend to see Moana (Disney’s newest princess flick), I hope I can change your mind.

I have to confess that I wasn’t super excited about this film. I probably would have skipped it all together, but with Thanksgiving and family in town, Jody wasn’t able to make it so it was a chance for my husband and I to get out on a sort of date night.

We took the baby with us and drove up to Tampa the night before his birthday. It was sort of a date/pre-birthday celebration, and we figured that if the movie wasn’t great, we’d have an hour each way in the car to spend together, which is always fun for us. Plus, little Rhema Joy (who is 3 months old now) tagged along, and Matt and I always enjoy going out with the kids one at a time, even when they are babies. No one can gush over a little Stahlmann baby like we can, and it’s super fun for us to enjoy Rhema together. Besides, this is for sure our last baby until a grandchild comes along, so we relished the chance to soak her in together on our date night.

When the movie started, I was immediately impressed with the aesthetics. It is a gorgeous film, and with a bunch of Hamilton fans in my house, the influence of Lin-Manuel Miranda on the score was not lost on me. Joining with Disney composer-arranger Mark Mancina and Opetaia Foa’i, the lead singer of the South Pacific fusion band Te Vaka, Miranda co-wrote a soundtrack that brings a new sound to the Disney repertoire. My husband is still walking around belting out “You’re Welcome!” — the song that the demi-god Maui sings when we first meet him.

I like a surprise in a movie. Actually, I like a lot of surprises. For me a good movie means characters I care about, a story that raises questions and answers them in sometimes unpredictable ways and a message that either challenges or inspires me. Moana had it all.

The message that resonated with me most was one that Jody and I often share with parents — children are not an extension of their parents; they are their own people with a calling and a purpose that is unique to each one of them. Our job is to help them discover that and prepare them for it. Moana’s parents were too afraid to let her be herself.

moana-1

Here’s the story. Three thousand years before our tale begins, the greatest sailors in the world voyaged across the vast Pacific, discovering the many islands of Oceania. But then, for a millennium, their voyages stopped – and no one in Moana’s world knows just why. Well…almost no one.

Moana’s father is Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison) of Motunui, a remote South Pacific island where the people live in blissful harmony. No one is to travel beyond the reef that encircles the island, but when the fish become scarce and the lush crops begin to wither away, something has to be done. Moana’s feisty (but wise) grandmother tells her the tale of Hawaiian demigod Maui, who stole the magical Heart of Te Fiti. He must be found and the heart returned for life to thrive once again in her village and throughout the lands of the Pacific. Maui is a surprisingly quirky character with his own quest to restore the magical powers of his fish hook.

maui

Their quest is full of adventure, surprises and fun characters, including Tamatoa, a 50-foot crab who hordes bright, shiny things. Voiced by Jemaine Clement, I thought Tamatoa sounded like a mix of Tim Curry and David Bowie. 

moana-tamatoa-fi

If you’re planning to take very little ones, you might want to preview it first. There are a few parts that could be scary.  Also, if your family is sensitive to potty humor, you may find your feathers ruffled once or twice.

For Christian families who are afraid of introducing the polytheistic worldview of Moana’s Polynesian world, I would encourage you to use it as a teaching tool. Learn about this culture together. Compare Moana’s beliefs with your own, and explain why you believe what you do. This is a great opportunity to begin a discussion about apologetics.

Please come back and drop me a line to share your thoughts on the film, and let me know if you liked it as much as I did.

Jenni Stahlmann

Jenni Stahlmann is the mom of six kids (ages 4 to 18) with #7 due in August and one on the autism spectrum. She and her husband Matthew homeschool the whole brood. Jenni has been a journalist for more than 20 years, having covered government, business and family issues for a wide range of magazines and newspapers. Currently, she and Jody co-host a weekly syndicated radio show, write a weekly newspaper column and freelance articles and speak at churches, political groups and homeschool conventions about parenting on purpose.

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