Wednesday, March 31, 2010

It's Not All Vikings and Violence; The Softer Side of "How to Train Your Dragon"

It's sad that I always expect to be disappointed by kids' or family movies... but it's rare that you find a really good one that everyone likes.

Today, I was very pleasantly surprised by
"How to Train Your Dragon."

From the trailers, I had no desire to see it. The marketing team of DreamWorks had obviously taken the gross-out parts and the snarky dialogue and tried to condense them into a few clips to lure moviegoing tweens. I've got Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, thank you, I don't need to drive to a theatre and pay for more snarky.

But we had the time and a friend had highly recommended the movie, so I took my two older girls (with a PG rating, I don't like to take chances with my 5-year-old -- we've left so many scary/violent/foul-mouthed/toilet humor movies with a PG rating already; my 9- and 8-year-olds can handle more mature stuff by now).

What I loved about the movie, a classic "my parents don't understand me, but I've gotta prove myself to them" story set in a Viking village, were the quiet moments. Sure, there were explosions and crazy Viking-on-dragon violence, but there were also times when the protagonist Hiccup and the wounded "Night Fury" dragon (dubbed "Toothless") were quietly becoming acquainted. There were sweet moments when all you could hear was the dragon's breathing as Hiccup reached out a hand to pet him. I actually cried at the end; my kids will tell you that's not unusual, but I'm trying to prove a point: despite the fact that this was a cartoon, the writing was good and the story was believable enough to help me escape into the dreamlike world.

(Note: I have cried at other animated features... "Up" was like a 20-minute sob session sandwiched between gorgeously drawn scenes, and I've never gotten over the scene in "Toy Story 2" when the little girl grows up and dumps her beloved Jessie doll on the side of the road, set to a painfully sad song by Sarah MacLachlan.)

I have to tell you that there was a little girl sitting behind us and wailing during the explosive fighting scenes. So it's not a movie for little kids or those who can't handle intense sounds, lights and scary dragons (hundreds and hundreds that are more realistically drawn and far scarier than the wicked Maleficent dragon in "Sleeping Beauty"). But I'd say that most kids over the age of 8 -- and their mommies -- will love it!

Final note: if you cry during Hallmark commercials or are suffering from PMS, bring a hankie!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Superhero in My Backseat

So, we're moving. We're in escrow on two properties (selling one, buying one) and I've spent a few days vacillating between happiness and sadness, stuck in a bittersweet purgatory before we actually pack up and move. My husband grew up in this house, we got married here, two generations of babies in his family (him and his three siblings, and then our three kids) have been raised here. Countless Thanksgiving dinners, Passovers, Christmas lights, Halloween fun, birthday parties... it's all been here. I'm used to the constant back-and-forth motion of our girls running across the street to see their best friends, and then the entire 5-girl parade running back here to set up a lemonade stand or shoot a movie in the garage.

Yesterday, signing the papers to sell our house, I got really, really sad. My eyes were red-ringed as I drove my older daughter and youngest daughter to a Passover seder at my friend Ivy's house.

"I'm sad, and I'm happy," my oldest said, sitting demurely in the passenger seat in a very French outfit. It was like a happy/sweet foreign film, this small woman-child in nautical stripes, white scarf and bowler hat trying hard to smile with her freckles, mouth turning down ever so slightly.

"Are you sad, Mama?" my youngest asked from the backseat.

"Yeah, I am," I said. It occurred to me that I hadn't asked her about her feelings about moving in a few days -- I wondered if it had hit her yet, the idea of not being as close to her BFFs and kindergarten home base. "Are you?"

Like the crack of a firework, she shot back, "No! I'm excited!" Kind of like, "Is there anything else to be?"

I had to remind myself that change is important. For every fear-induced sad feeling, there are ten more excited ones. Nervous stomachs can mean excitement and firecrackers, too.

Thank you, Super Girl.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Monkey See, Monkey Blog

My oldest child, age 9, is an artist. Although my husband would argue that she is the most even-tempered of our three kids (an argument he would win), she still has an artistic temperament, subject to the whims of creativity and the blows of criticism, constructive or not.

Lately, she is studying me. Maybe she's been doing it her entire life, but it's only recently that I've noticed that she's taking an interest in a few of my favorite pursuits: writing and photography. She has started to write a book, a kids' mythological fiction novel (like my own). And she has started not one but two blogs (like me), because her thoughts cannot be contained to just one.

"Why two?" I asked dumbly.

"Well, one is for my usual stuff and the other is for when I'm not feeling as...light," she said.

Which I, of all people, can appreciate.

Initially, I thought, "Nine-year-olds don't need to blog!" But then I remembered how carefully I kept my thoughts in a locked diary when I was her age (the old school equivalent of a blog, really). My next thought was "What if she writes about me?" But the thing is... I write about her. Why shouldn't she be given the same free reign to use that artistic license?

It's a new era in my parenting, but I'm not sweating it for now. As her 2nd follower (her dad beat me to the #1 spot), I'm happy to be able to see a glimpse into her inner world online... kind of like putting her clothes away and finding her diary unlocked in her underwear drawer. After all, if she didn't want me to read it, it wouldn't be out there, right?

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Twinkle Twinkle little yarn...

You can't tell from this swatch-let, but this is the most sumptuous yarn... Yesterday, I made a yarn stop at my favorite knitting store, Abuelita's in South Pasadena and got all fevered about finding a good project for the winter. Yeah, you heard that right: next winter. It took me 3 years to finish a beanie, after all.

We have a big trip to Europe this summer and I needed a project to keep me occupied on the plane -- somehow, I tire of magazines and books and movies on long plane trips, but I love the soothing therapy of knitting.

I'm not a good knitter. I balk at big projects. But I love
Twinkle soft chunky yarn. So I find myself seeking out easy patterns that require huge needles and can be done faster than the delicate beanies of the world. I knit a kick-ass kelly green capelet a last year with Twinkle soft chunky and I am a believer.

All hail the fig-colored Twinkle and the over-long cable-knit shawl that it will create. I am half-way to my Winter 2010/11 style...

...but not because i don't like you...

I realized that my post about the "slice of heaven" might indicate that there is something wrong with our neighborhood, and so I had to clarify. We aren't moving because of anything but a wanderlust and a desire for something new.

No, this is a snap decision made over the course of a year. It's like when I met my husband: I just knew.

This, I thought, this is the place.

A New Slice of Heaven

If everything goes well, this will be my new front view. No longer will I see the crazy white-haired dude in the kimono putting his trash on the street or watch a couple of clandestine lovers use the sidewalk just outside my fence as their rendezvous spot, his Mercedes parked behind her Escalade while they sit on my curb and smoke cigarettes, speaking in a foreign tongue.

If all goes as I think I want it to, my neighbors will be "neigh"-bors... horses. Not that I'm a horsey girl, but I love being around them. And, if I want one, I could maybe put in a stable. The house is zoned for horses; not that I would buy one, but I could. And I like that, too.

There are perks to the area: good schools, clean air, close to Malibu, small-town feeling in our neck of the woods. But the main perk is something I just can't pin down. I just like it out there. I do. Don't know why.

So if all goes smoothly, I will no longer be a Valley mom, the label I have worn with pride for years. I may have to reinvent myself. And I kinda like that too.

Take it Up, Up, and Away!

I love to travel and just found this site - check it out if you love finding info about new destinations, too!

Monday, March 8, 2010

I saw a great movie - Conversations with Other Women

The thing about a great movie is... it sneaks up on you. My husband was out of town on Friday night and the kids were asleep early, so I decided to check out Netflix's recommendations and "on-demand" movies. Normally, there are a few so-so ideas and old movies I missed at the theater, but on Friday night, in the first position was a movie I'd never even heard of, with a "4.1 star rating for Erin, based on previous recommendations" heading. It starred Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckert, looked like a rom-com set at a wedding and looked like it was sort of perfect for watching without a man around. So I plugged my headphones into my laptop and curled up to watch Conversations with Other Women.

Basically, it's the story of a man and woman meeting at a wedding reception, exchanging flirtatious banter in split screens. It's somewhat disorienting at first - you don't really know who these people are or why they're attracted to each other (until you realize that this is the first time they've seen each other since their divorce 9 years earlier), and their separateness is punctuated by their placement in split screens (which remain throughout the film). Occasionally, they walk in and out of each other's screens, or a new angle/perspective is shown, or a flashback... and it was somewhat dazzling, the ability to see beyond a single perspective in the present moment.

Naturally, they spend the night together, despite the fact that she's married and he's in a committed-enough relationship with a much-younger woman. There is a lot of dialogue and remorse and laughing and emotion and talking, talking, talking, but I think what I loved about the movie was utterly personal: the characters were my age. They were speaking my language. They were close to mid-life... and they weren't sure that they had "grown up" any more than I am.

As my previous post describes, I'm fully committed in my marriage, but I could relate to the question mark feelings that the characters still had for each other, despite the differences that had driven them apart in their marriage to each other. I remember seeing my high school boyfriend when I was in my mid-20s -- and this was a guy I was *in love* with during my senior year, with a pining-for-him love -- and there was still a sort of smolder there, even though nothing happened again. It was as though we'd been there before, had the entire dramatic relationship already, and it was enough to just be there, next to each other again at a small bar for a few hours.

Perhaps my favorite part of the movie was towards the end, when Helena's character is having post-coital regrets and Aaron has followed her up to the roof of the hotel. "You're 38," he says, "and you look it." She bristles, and then he continues with something like, "And then you'll be 39, then 40, and when your doctor decides he wants someone younger, call me so that I can love you in your golden years." Because he recognizes that her beauty is not in the whimsy of youthfulness but in the rich complexity of aging (not that 38 is "old," of course... my own age bias notwithstanding...).
Helena is beautiful in her real body - there are bright lights as she disrobes, saggy belly and all, but she is luminous. At the wedding reception, she is awkward in a peach bridesmaid's dress... because she is no longer a maid (she's too mature for that silly label). There's a scene where she and Aaron are going upstairs to her room; as they get into the elevator, a hot younger bridesmaid gets in with them -- in this moment, you can see Helena's confidence shrinking away, thinking that there's no way Aaron could find her attractive after that. But this is the part that made me stop and realize that I'd rather be Helena than the young woman now -- there is no way I'd trade the beauty and wisdom of maturity for the freshness of youth.
As for the title, the "other women" are just younger facets of Helena, the women that she once was and who Aaron soon realizes are now just figments of his own memory. This resonated with me, too, the idea of my previous selves roaming around in a distant past, continuing their madness and silly ways in someone else's memory.
Thank god for aging. Let the young waste their youth. I'll take the saggy belly and good conversation any day.