Going, Going, Gone with the Wind

For fun yesterday, my son’s Honors Math teacher gave her students the opportunity to bet extra credit points based on their movie knowledge. They each bet a certain number of points – my son luckily one of the more conservative gamblers – and then she asked her trivia question.

“What’s the highest grossing film of all time?”

No one got it. No one had even seen it.

“But,” my all-knowing son informed me, “Star Wars: A New Hope is going to pass it soon. No one has even heard of Gone with the Wind.”


“Kids my age don’t even know what it’s about.”

“Scarlet O’Hara? Southern belle? Civil War? Land is the most important thing?”

He shrugged.

So, I asked, innocently, “Which one was A New Hope?”

What!? The original.”

“Well, we just called it Star Wars.”

“You are so old.”

“At least I’ve seen the highest grossing movie of all time.”

Almost as many times as we’ve both seen Star Wars. But who’s counting? And anyway…

“I can’t think about this now. I’ll go crazy if I do. I’ll think about it tomorrow.”

The Bug Project: Extra Credit

My sixth grader’s science class is studying insects. They catch them live, freeze them, then pin them to a display board. They can now identify various moths and beetles, and are quite adept at describing metamorphosis, molting and more. They know about the emerald ash borer moving west across the U.S. and killing millions of tress. They know how delicate the dragonfly’s wings are and how hard to pin.

This weekend, my son brought home a movie to watch for extra credit. It was an hour and a half of bug-watching to music. The climax? Two snails making out to opera.

“Oh my god!” squealed the boys when they realized what they were watching.

At 8:30 p.m. after a busy day of soccer and Lego Club and playing at the park, I was certain we would last ten minutes. My eyelids drooped.

But they did not stay closed for long. The sixth grader was creating dialogue with different bug voices. The first grader egged him on, rolling across the bed, giggling.

And the fifth grader kept yelling “gross!” or “no way!” or “that’s sick!”

Who knew bugs could be so entertaining?!

We watched the entire movie.

Then this morning, drinking coffee while sitting with our dog outside, I watched a bee briefly touch each leaf that had fallen to the ground and heard my son’s funny bee voice say, “Darn, no pollen. I’m so thirsty!”

How I Know What’s Up in School

Typically, I hear from the girls’ moms in my fifth graders class when they have a big assignment due, as my son and his friends often “forget” to write them down in their assignment books or bring the required books home.

“Have you guys started studying for the test?” “This project is taking my daughter hours.” “What is your son for doing for that project?”

…and worse… “How did your son do on the pre-test? It sounds like everyone failed it!”

I look blankly at them. What pretest?!

But when he is truly engaged or inspired or upset, I hear it all. I am re-learning the bones of the body. I have heard all about the hero of Wonder and his struggles. I now know every plot point in Rick Riordan’s latest Percy Jackson book.

And last Friday afternoon, my fifth grader slid into the car, looking disturbed. I immediately learned that his concern was for humanity. A tough burden for a little guy.

The fifth graders had just watched a film about the Holocaust.

Before yesterday, he knew about Hitler. He knew that Hitler and his minions had murdered millions. He knew that the U.S. and the British and Russia were on the same team. He is always pleased to recount the happy ending, that we won, that Hitler is gone.

But he did not have a picture in his head of what it means to murder millions.

“Warning, mom,” he said, “I wouldn’t plan on sleeping tonight.”


“Because I’m not sleeping. I don’t want to have any nightmares. We saw the scariest movie today that I have ever seen.”

With Halloween approaching, I assumed he was talking about a ghost story.

He was. A real one.

“Why did they have to show so many dead bodies?”

“Because one of the worse things about growing up is that you learn about how really horrible people can be. And you see things that you wish you hadn’t.”

“I’m never sleeping again.” Code for “you are never sleeping again.”

“But there have always been more good people than bad people, and that’s why it’s going to be okay.”

“I know, mom,” he said, forcing himself to appease me. “But we’re staying up tonight.”

Not Your Mom’s Bad News Bears

Last night, my husband and kids gave me the parenting gold star about a thousand times, while laughing hysterically at the movie I’d picked out to celebrate the end of school.

“Should have picked The Fast and the Furious,” my husband kept teasing.

“Yeah, mom!”

Here’s what I want to know before I take my kids to a movie, play, ballet, puppet show, concert, or museum exhibit:
• What age range is going to love it?
• What age range is going to understand it?
• What age range is it appropriate for?
• Is it going to give my kids nightmares?
• Is it going to make my kids cry?
• More importantly, is it going to give me nightmares or make me cry?
• What age range(s) will it put to sleep?
• Is it worth the price of admission with kids? Is the answer different if it’s without kids?
• What new “adult” words or concepts will they pick up?
• Will I walk away happy?

Or will I find myself with more parenting gold star awards?

I do not have time to preview every movie to make sure it is something I want my children to watch. So I need to trust the reviews or the “kids” or “family” categories. I would appreciate it if Comcast and other cable companies offering On Demand included a note about language, sex, drugs and violence if they list a movie or show under Kids or Family Movie Night. I would love it if the cable companies did not preview their less appropriate non-family movies as I try to find something for my children to watch.

To celebrate yesterday’s last day of school, I told the kids I had discovered The Bad News Bears in the On Demand kids’ section, and that if they got in their pajamas in time, we could all snuggle in my bed and watch it.

“Yay, Mom!”

I saw the original version with Walter Matthau when I was a kid. Granted the movie is about a drunk ex-baseball player who ends up learning from his dysfunctional team, but it was a childhood classic. The new version is a constant stream of cuss words that ends with a kid yelling to the champions, “See ya next year, bitches!”

Thank goodness we were too busy the night before school got out. “See ya next year, bitches!”

My five year old has no filter.

My nine year old never laughed so hard. And of course, his favorite character was the most fluent. His new favorite movie? The Bad News Bears.

His summer basketball coach should be warned.

And what should I fear from the ten year old? Constant teasing. “Mom, you picked it!”

Family of Filmmakers with a Mission

I know a family of very talented filmmakers who are dedicating themselves to making films for schools, arts organizations, hospitals, and other non-profits. They have created some thought-provoking pieces that really reflect the true mission of their client organizations, and as a result have translated into significant increases in fundraising capacity for those organizations.

So of course, I had to write about them. If interested, please read the article on Yahoo, and follow the link to a sampling of their films.