Family Movie Nights: Mom’s Night Out Movie Review

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This week, in honor of Mother’s Day, for Sunday Family Movie Nights I wanted to review a movie for moms. Last Friday a friend and I had a girl’s night out and we went to see the movie Mom’s Night Out.

Let me tell you, this was such a good movie! It was funny, uplifting, and relatable. As a Mom, I sympathized with the main character, Allyson, who was feeling frazzled in her role as a wife and mother. She and two friends decide to leave the kids with their husbands for a girl’s night out, which, of course, leads to some rather comedic results!

I liked that this movie was clean enough to bring your kids (at least your older ones) or your mom. While I’ve never left my baby at a tattoo parlor or been thrown in jail, during much of the movie I found myself saying “that is my life!” (especially when Allyson’s husband comes home to find her hiding in the closet after her children are asleep, not that I’ve ever done that or anything…. Winking smile).

Here’s the trailer:

Mom’s Night Out Trailer

 

So grab your girlfriends, your Mom, your family, or just take a night off yourself to see this movie!

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Family Movie Review: Monster Truck Adventures

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Cars. Trucks. Trains.
Pretty much, if it has wheels, my boys like it!

Lately their wheeled obsession has been monster trucks. They have a number of these big-wheeled trucks and they like to line up their cars and drive the trucks over them. So last week when we were walking through the library and I happened to see the title Monster Truck Adventures, I knew it would be a great pick for our next Sunday Family Movie Night!

Monster Truck Adventures is about a young monster truck named Meteor and his group of friends (Meteor’s dad is the famous monster truck Bigfoot!). In these short 13-15 minute episodes, Meteor and his friends learn about moral lessons such as patience, kindness, and friendship, while doing things that monster trucks do: racing, doing tricks, and splashing in the mud! Each episode ends with a summation of the story and lesson and a Bible verse to reinforce the lesson. The moral message reminded me of VeggieTales, though at times the lessons felt a little heavy-handed or even cheesy, but it works for this age group (designed for ages 4-9), and my boys loved it!

These DVDs are “Dove Approved” (you can find reviews of a number of the DVDs here).

Easter Fun!

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Last weekend was packed with fun family Easter activities. We had Easter baskets, egg hunts, dying eggs, and a baptism service at church. I thought I’d share a few pictures of our weekend with you!

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I hope you had a happy Easter as well! How did you choose to celebrate with your family?

Easter Movies for Kids

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As I mentioned in a previous post, about a year ago our family instituted a tradition of Sunday Family Movie Nights, in which we each take turns picking a movie to watch as a family on Sunday evenings. This has become a fun tradition that my boys look forward to (although Mr. Not-quite-three only stays up for part of the movie).

With Easter coming up this Sunday, I wanted to share a few of our favorite family Easter movies with you.

  • VeggieTales: An Easter Carol – In this Easter veggie version of A Christmas Carol, Mr. Nezzer learns the true meaning of Easter from a music box angel named Hope (voiced by Grammy winner Rebecca St. James). There was one part that scared my little guy at first, when Grandma Nezzer pops out of the picture and Mr. Nezzer thinks she’s a ghost. But she is quick to reassure him that there’s no such thing as ghosts, and that he’s having a vision (“like a dream, with a point”), and then she breaks into song and my little guys was fine after that.
  • VeggieTales: Twas the Night Before Easter – In this cute animated tale, reporter Marlee Meade wants to save the local theater but gets into a “pickle” (pun intended!) when there is competition with the local church production. My kids really liked the “Hopperena” silly song too! This one reminds me a lot of the plot of another Veggie Tales movie, The Star of Christmas.
  • The Easter Story Keepers – In this movie a group of orphans are being helped by a Christian baker and his wife during the persecution of Emperor Nero. During the tale, the baker tells stories about Jesus’s life.
  • The Miracle Maker – this is probably my favorite movie from the list. In a combination of claymation and animation, the story of Jesus is told from the perspective of Jairus’s daughter, whom Jesus raised from the dead. It is overall very accurate and it even includes the scene of Jesus appearing to two followers on the road to Emmaus.

I hope you enjoy the time this weekend with your family spending time reflecting on Jesus’s death and resurrection!

Easter Books for Kids

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Last week I shared some ideas for sharing the hope of Easter with your kids. Today I’d like to share some of our favorite Easter themed books for kids!

  • The First Easter retold by Catherine Storr – this story begins with the disciples making preparations for the last supper and ends Mary seeing the risen Jesus in the garden. One of the things I like about this book is that is has details from the gospels that are sometimes missing in children’s books, such as the release of Barabbas and Pilot’s wife’s dream.
  • My Easter Basket and the True Story of Easter by Mary Manz Simon – I really like this book as it associates the colors in the Easter basket with the resurrection story. It is a sturdy board book with glittery cut-out pages and has fun, rhyming text. This would be a great book to use during an Easter egg hunt, telling the story with colored eggs to match the text.
  • Benjamin’s Box by Melody Carlson – this book is designed to be used with the Resurrection Eggs, though it also works as a stand-alone book. It tells the story of a little boy named Benjamin as he follows Jesus during his last days and who collects “treasures” that he uses to tell the story. A similar book is Lily’s Easter Party by Crystal Bowman.
  • The Story of the Empty Tomb by Bryan Davis – with it’s colorful illustrations and rhyming text, this book tells the resurrection story.
  • The Easter Story From the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from Tommy Nelson Publishers – this is a great copy of the Easter story as the text is taken directly from the International Children’s Bible, New Century Version. This version starts with the triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ends at the Ascension.
  • Little Bunny’s Easter Egg Surprise by Joan Hood – while this book is not a religious Easter book, I like the overall message of this book. Here little bunny is the littlest bunny in his family and he is tired of always being so little. Mother bunny tells him that it’s not whether he’s big or little, it’s what’s inside that counts, and Little Bunny learns this when he finds an egg with a special surprise.
  • The Tale of the Three Trees retold by Angela Elwell Hunt – This book tells the story of three trees who have big dreams of being important but who end up being used as ordinary, every-day objects. But each of these ordinary objects take on new meaning when they are used by the Savior. Honestly, I have a hard time reading this book without crying at the end!

There are lots of other great books about Easter. What are some of your favorites?

Easter Activities for Kids

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I love Easter. It is easily my favorite holiday. I love that it occurs every year in the spring when the weather begins to get warmer and things which appeared so cold and dead all winter, once again show signs of life. Spiritually, it reminds me of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. His triumph over death raised our hearts, which were dead in our sins, to new life in Christ when we put our faith in him alone (Eph. 2).

Sharing this season with my children is a privilege and joy. Every year I look for new ways to share with my children the hope of Easter, and I wanted to share a few of those ways with you today.

One tradition we have every year is to do daily Bible readings in preparation for Easter. This year we did the Life of Christ Family Reading Plan from Intoxicated on Life.

  • This reading plan follows the life of Christ in chronological order throughout the four Gospels, and the readings are designed to be completed once a day, five days a week, from New Years through Easter. Yes, this is a long time commitment (15 weeks this year, though the reading plan has other examples for shorter time periods, depending on when Easter falls each year), but I liked that it incorporated all four gospels at once and covered everything from Christ’s birth, to his ministry and major teachings, to his death and resurrection, in chronological order. So every morning during breakfast we listen to the passage being read using our Superbook Bible App (this is a full version Bible that has a read-to-me feature so we can all listen at once without me trying to read in between bites of cereal!).

If you’re looking for a shorter set of readings to do during Passion Week, Home With the Boys has a reading plan and short daily activities using the Jesus Storybook Bible.

  • This reading plan is to be used specifically during Easter week, so it is only a week long, and I like the hands-on activities associated with this reading plan, as it helps bring the stories to life.The Jesus Storybook Bible is one of our favorite children’s Bibles because it shows how the entire Bible, Old and New Testaments, tell one story, the story of God’s plan to rescue us from the curse of sin.
  • Below is a video of the Resurrection story as told by the Jesus Storybook Bible:
Easter Story–Jesus Storybook Bible

 

One of my favorite traditions that we use every year are the Resurrection Eggs. These are a set of plastic eggs with different items inside that help to tell the story of Christ’s death and resurrection. There is a pre-made kit you can buy, or you can make your own. I really like these because they give a visual, tactile experience, which is great for kids. We usually hide the eggs and then once the kids have found them all, we open each egg in order and read the corresponding scripture.

Here is a link to different ways to make your own set of resurrection eggs:

Our final Easter object lesson that I like to do with the kids is to make resurrection rolls or resurrection cookies, where the end result is a “empty tomb.” You can find the instructions here:

  • Resurrection Cookies – each step in making these cookies (which are very easy for children to make) corresponds to part of the Easter story. For example, breaking the nuts into pieces reminds children that Jesus was beaten for us, the vinegar reminds us of the vinegar he was offered to drink on the cross, etc. The fun thing about these cookies is that you leave them “sealed in the tomb” (oven) overnight and when you take them out in the morning and eat them, you’ll find that the inside is now hollow (like the empty tomb).
  • Resurrection Rolls – for these rolls, you take a marshmallow (which represents Jesus’s body) and wrap it inside a crescent roll and bake it. The marshmallow melts and “disappears,” leaving an “empty tomb.” Just be sure to seal the rolls carefully, as I had trouble with ours leaking! But they were still tasty. Smile

These are just a few ideas our family uses to celebrate the true meaning of Easter. What ideas would you add to the list?

Update

Ok, so I started this blog last year with grand ideas of typing up new entries three times a week because the kids were a little older (ok, not that old; they were only 5 and not-quite-two, but they were in a really good routine), I wasn’t teaching for the summer, and I felt I had some extra time that I could finally begin something I had been thinking and praying about for quite a while.

However, life sometimes has a way of surprising us just when we think we have things figured out, and the week after I posted my first set of articles, I found out I was pregnant with baby #3. And life pretty much came crashing to a halt.

I had some complications during the first trimester and things were pretty touch and go for a while, so I decided I needed to reduce outside stress as much as possible. To do that I basically cut out anything in life that wasn’t absolutely necessary, including having to put this dream of writing a blog on hold for a while, so I could focus fully on this new life and all the changes that came with it.

Fast forward almost a year and we now have a beautiful baby girl!

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She is just over two months old and life is beginning to take on a sense of normalcy, and I have been bitten by the writing bug again, so I am jumping back into blogging!

Unfortunately, considering I’m still somewhat sleep deprived from getting up at 3 am every night to nurse a newborn, I probably won’t be able to keep up with the three-posts-a-week schedule for a while. But I decided I needed to start somewhere, so I will post as often as I can. I’m not sure exactly how that will look right now, and it may mean that my posts aren’t as “pretty” with the lovely pictures and fonts and all that. But I have had some things on my heart that I wanted to share and I hope you’ll join me as we start (again)!

Sunday Family Movie Nights: Cars Movie Review

Sunday Family Movie Nights

I really like family traditions. Things you look forward to with anticipation, creating fun memories as a family. Growing up, one of our family traditions was my Dad and I making a big pot of chicken noodle soup every Sunday night after church. We used to mix up a couple of packages of Ramen noodles, some egg noodles, and Mrs. Grasses soup mix (do they even make that any more? I remember it used to have a capsule of liquid bullion that I loved to watch dissolve in the pot). It wasn’t healthy, but it was our special tradition, and to this day, I always think of my dad every time I open a bag of egg noodles or Ramen soup.

Last year, we started a new family tradition in our family, Sunday Family Movie Night. It started off just being a countdown to Christmas. We started the Sunday after Thanksgiving, watching a different Christmas movie every night until Christmas. But we ended up enjoying the tradition so much that we decided to keep it going. So now we watch a family movie every Sunday night with Mr. 5 after Mr. 2 has gone to bed (he goes to bed at 7, while Mr. 5 stays up until 8:30, just enough time for most 90 minute family movies!). We take turns choosing the movie, and we often pick movies that are based on children’s books that we’ve read. Periodically, in our Family Weekend Spotlight, I’ll be sharing some of the movies we’ve watched and giving you our family review!

Tonight’s movie was my husband’s pick. It is one we’ve seen MANY times, but it is still a favorite: Cars.

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You can read the Dove review by going here and searching for Cars. I really like the Dove reviews because they tell you exactly what language is in the movie, as well as violence, drug use, and more. If you haven’t used it before, it’s a great resource. Another great source for movie reviews is Focus on the Family’s Plugged In. You can read their review of Cars here.

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We have watched Cars many times. The first time my husband and I watched the first Cars movie was actually before the kids were born. We took a roadtrip down old Route 66 from Chicago to St. Louis. The movie had just come out and we actually watched it at a Drive-In movie theater just off of Rt. 66 in Springfield. How cool is that?!

Cars is a very sweet movie about a self-absorbed race car named Lightning McQueen who learns learns that there’s more to life than just winning. After making a mess in the town of Radiator Springs, McQueen is forced to slow down and put things right, and along the way he makes some new friends and ends up helping the town. One of my favorite lines in the movie is after Mater and McQueen get back from “Tractor-tipping”. Mater tells McQueen “I knowed I made a good choice.” “In what?” McQueen asks. “In my best friend…”

Some of the positive themes in the movie include the importance of friendship, loyalty, caring about others rather than just yourself, being true to your word, and taking time to enjoy life rather than just rushing through. One of the things I like about Pixar’s movies is that they tend to be brighter and more positive than some of Disney’s movies, which can be, at times, very dark and even scary (think about the witch in Sleeping Beauty or Snow White, Jafar the sorcerer in Aladdin, or Scar and his band of hyenas in the Lion King). That’s not to say that those Disney movies don’t have their place, but at 5 and 2, my kids still get scared at those type of evil characters, and I’m ok with waiting until they are older to introduce those movies. The only “bad guy” in Cars is a race car named Chick Hicks, who is obsessed with winning at all costs and who makes snide or sarcastic remarks to the other cars. But his character is actually a good parallel to McQueen who is, himself, obsessed with winning at the beginning of the film. Chick and Lightening show the outcomes of these two paths. While Chick may win the race, it is McQueen who is shown to be the real winner because of his selflessness and sportsmanship. As my boys begin to get to the age where they enter school, want to play sports and be on a team, or participate in other activities, this movie is a good reminder that winning and being the best isn’t always the most important thing.

So what do the kids think? My boys love this movie because, well, it has race cars. Talking race cars. What little boy doesn’t love that?! The animation is really amazing, and I love how they made the windshields of the cars as the eyes, rather than the more traditional choice of the headlights. There are other cute elements in the film that parents will pick up on and enjoy, such as the scenery that is all in the shape of cars, or the names of some of the characters being linked to their real-life car names (Mack being a Mack truck, Mia and Tia are Miatas, etc.). Even the bugs that fly around the lights at night are actually VW Beetles!

As I watch this movie for the millionth time, I think of how much I can have in common with Lightning sometimes. I too can be very self-focused and so concerned with all the things I have to do that I don’t stop to enjoy those everyday moments. I guess that’s what I’m trying to do here on this blog – helping myself and my readers to take time to be still, think about what matters, and enjoy those everyday moments.

The only criticism I have about the film would be the use of the term “hillbilly h–l” and “holy” (as in “holy porshe”) a couple of times. Also, in reading the Dove review, it reminded readers about the dangers of “playing chicken” with a train (which happens in the movie as Lightning races to get across the tracks just as a train is approaching), which is worth mentioning to little ones, especially if (like me) you live near railroad tracks.

So all in all, we really enjoyed our family movie night, and I hope you enjoy the movie if you haven’t had a chance to check it out yet. This is quickly becoming one of our favorite new family traditions.

What are some regular family traditions you have in your house?

Family Weekends

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There are three main areas I want to focus on in this blog. The first is the Mommy Mondays series, which gives practical advice for organizing and completing the everyday tasks of life as a Mom (or Dad!). The second is the Midweek Inspiration posts, which help us stop and take time to be still and reflect on God’s word.

The third is a series of posts I’ve titled Family Weekends, and in this series I would like to share some fun ideas for family time. Here are some of the posts I have planned in the near future:

  • Family Movie Night reviews
  • Local events and places to go in the Chicagoland area
  • Activities for keeping little ones entertained
  • Holiday memory-making ideas
  • Educational resources for kids

And more!

Next week I will be sharing one of our newest family traditions, Sunday Family Movie Nights, as well as a review of what may already be a familiar movie at your house, Cars. To stay updated on these and other posts, sign up to follow the blog via e-mail, on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest.