Friday, April 29, 2016

The Problem With Every Movie From My Youth: and ten family movies that won't teach your kids to swear like a sailor

Ahhh . . . movie night. It's one of the most beloved parts of our family routine. Our kids don't watch a whole lot of TV, but we do plan on watching a movie together as a family just about every week. We started off watching mostly Disney animated movies, but as the big kids have gotten older, the husband and I were SUPER excited to share with them OUR favorite movies from when we were their age.

Perhaps you, too, have figured the kids were ready to share in the joy and wonderment of all your hip eighties movie favorites only to dive for the remote while sharing horrified glances with your spouse. Goonies, Ghostbusters, Galaxy Quest, E.T., Indiana Jones, Beetlejuice, Back to the Future, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Short Circuit, Harry and the Hendersons, all really awesome movies, obviously. But all with really significant swear words in them. Like . . . the BIGGIES. Perhaps you've resigned yourself to just giving up the genre entirely.

Or maybe you're thinking, what's the big deal? I all watched those movies as a kid and *I* turned out just fine. And that's true. I happen to think you're a perfectly lovely human being. And I can see that argument, really I can. Because bad language, in itself, is not a sin. Bad words are really just bad manners, inasmuch as they are intended to shock or make someone uncomfortable or offended. Perhaps if the use of bad language stems from genuine wrath, it could be sinful, but that's not how bad words are usually used in family movies.

The old Baltimore Catechism has a section on language to avoid, and the big four letter words aren't a part of the discussion.

In fact, the language that's actually most problematic for a good Catholic isn't even recognized as all that bad to begin with. We think of "swearing" and "cursing" as just synonyms for bad words, but really they aren't.

Swearing is a no no. When Billy Madison says, "I swear to God I'm sick! I can't go to school," that's potentially a mortal sin, because he calls on God to witness to his illness, but he's NOT really sick, of course. (He would have to know it was a sin though, and probably he doesn't.) 

Cursing (the calling down of some evil on a person, place, or thing) is quite specifically forbidden by the Catechism and the Bible. So this exchange in Hocus Pocus: "Billy: Go to hell! Winifred: Oh! I've been there, thank you. I found it quite lovely," is of concern on many levels, but it doesn't sting the ears.

Taking God's name in vain, is right there in the second commandment. We're against it. So when Cher says, "Oh my God! I love Josh. I am majorly, crazy in love with Josh," unless she means that as a prayer, valley girl though she is, that's not cool. But we're so used to hearing it we hardly even notice.

So, the four-letter words that shock us in those eighties movies are, actually, not as bad, Catholic-wise, as plenty of other not-so-bad sounding language. And it's going to be close to impossible to find a movie to watch without any swearing, cursing, or taking of God's name in vain.

So what's a responsible parent to do? 

Well, that's going to have to be your call. A few of the movies on that list above, we have watched with our kids. But most of them, we've decided to skip. The husband and I are, at this point, 100% potty mouth-free. So are our close friends and family members. Most of my weird unsocialized homeschool kids have never EVER heard those words, and I really think that's sweet. As fun as those movies are, I don't think they are worth ripping away that little piece of innocence. 

And even if they ARE just bad manners . . . I want my kids to have good manners. I really don't want to be the mom of a kid dropping four letter bombs at the grocery store or during Mass. If he doesn't know the words, he can't say the words. And that's only addressing the language part of the movies, there is also plenty of surprisingly sexual content in some of those PG movies, plus complicated family situations like divorce and remarriage and kids out of wedlock that really aren't a part of my little kids' frames of reference at this point.

But. I cannot give up the movies of my youth entirely. And we don't want to give up on all movies entirely.

So, here are a few that I remember fondly and my kids have enjoyed . . . that, to the best of my recollection, won't get your kid's mouth washed out with soap. (Linked movie titles will take you to Netflix.) We watch movies as a whole family, so even though most of these are more appropriate for older kids, our little kids watch them too. Our kids aren't particularly sensitive to scariness, and we don't have a problem with them watching war-type or cartoonish violence. If you're worried about stuff like that, you might want to preview these.

My kids LOVED this movie (Frankie especially), and the husband and I were impressed with how well the goofiness holds up.

There are two kinds of people in this world: those who have The Princess Bride memorized, and those that do not. I can only hope my children will follow me onto the right path. (You've seen THESE, right?)

The NeverEnding Story
My sister and I used to "play" NeverEnding Story by sitting on the ground with long skirts spread out in a circle around us. Good times. My kids loved Falcor, obviously.

If you're looking for something to get the Frozen soundtrack out of your kids' heads. . . . Fair warning: there is some bad behavior by Miss Hannigan. She's a drunk and a, let's say, flirt in addition to being a liar, kidnapper, and all around terrible person. I find it not problematic, since she is CLEARLY a bad guy. But it might be too much for you. I'm pretty sure there isn't language though. :D

 If your kids have already seen and enjoyed Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, this is a good one.

Star Wars
If your kids haven't already seen and enjoyed Star Wars . . . what is your problem? Show them Star Wars for goodness sakes. The original ones, I mean. My kids love them. Unfortunately they also like the prequels.

And a few newer but still adventurous movies that big kids and parents can both enjoy . . .

Lord of the Rings
Very violent. And gory. And scary. But an extraordinary story of sacrifice and friendship and courage. Also very long and complicated. But in nine hours and eighteens minutes worth of movie there's not a single bad word.

 Reminiscent of the pack of kids movies from the eighties, but smarter and less profane.

If Goonies and E.T. had a baby, it would be this movie. We watched it a couple weekends ago and really loved it. There are a couple double entendre type moments, but it felt acceptable to me.

My favorite resource these days for vetting family movies (and books) is Common Sense Media. I appreciate how detailed the reviews are, so even if they've given a blanket recommendation for or caution about a movie, I can look at the specifics and decide if their problem with the movie would be a problem for me.

Share your favorite hits and misses in the comments!

And that's my honest opinion. But this is a sponsored post.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Where Do Pets Go When They Die?

Mailbag time!

The Question:
Hello, my name is Mollie and I am a big fan of your blog. I lost my pet of 17 years this weekend and I am struggling with the thought of breaking the news to my seven year old son this afternoon. We have been preparing him for her passing as she has been showing signs that her end was near but I want to be sure we honor any questions our son has on "where do pets go when they die" in a good Catholic way. How do you explain the passing of pets to your children?

Image from the St. Joseph First Communion Catechism, with smart alecky additions by me.

 The Answer:

Mollie, I'm sorry for your loss.

First step, I think, is to not rush into answering questions your son doesn't ask. But, you are right to be prepared, just in case, of course. I would give him the facts about the where and when and how of the death, and comfort him and allow him to grieve and he can ask questions if he wants to.

I just listened to an autobiography with the kids, called Little Britches, about a boy growing up on a Colorado ranch. In the book the boy's dad says we only have to be sad about creatures who die without having fulfilled their purpose. Your pet was loved and taken care of and gave love and companionship for seventeen years. That certainly sounds like a purposeful life.

That might be enough for your son.

As for what the Catholic Church teaches, there isn't an official Church doctrine as to whether there are animals in heaven. Individual animals have an animating soul, but are not capable of choosing God in the way that humans are. The traditional teaching is that animals do not have an immortal soul and therefore, when they die, nothing remains of them. They just go out of existence.

St. Thomas Aquinas, for example, taught that . . .  
Thesis XIV.  Souls of the vegetative [plant] and sensitive [animal] order, properly speaking, do not subsist and are not produced, but merely exist and are produced as a principle whereby the living thing exists and lives. Since they depend entirely on matter, at the dissolution of the compound, they are indirectly destroyed.
Thesis XV.  On the contrary, the human soul subsists by itself, and is created by God when it can be infused into a sufficiently disposed subject, and is incorruptible and immortal by nature.
The news headlines a year or so back saying that Pope Francis had said animals go to heaven were a complete fabrication. The pope simply stated that the entire universe will be renewed, echoing a statement by St. Paul (Rom 8:21).

However, some people, including C.S. Lewis (not Catholic, but very very close, theologically), do think that animals could be in heaven. Not by their own merits, but because of their relationship with humans, just as humans can be in heaven through our relationship with God.
If, nevertheless, the strong conviction which we have of a real,
though doubtless rudimentary, selfhood in the higher animals, and
specially in those we tame, is not an illusion, their destiny demands
a somewhat deeper consideration. The error we must avoid is that
of considering them in themselves. Man is to be understood only in
his relation to God. The beasts are to be understood only in their
relation to man and, through man, to God. . . .

Man was appointed by
God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does
to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of
an authority by divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the
deepest sense, the only "natural" animal - the only one we see
occupying the place it was made to occupy, and it is on the tame
animal that we must base all our doctrine of beasts. . . .

And in this way it seems to me
possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in
themselves, but in the immortality of their masters. . . .

It makes God the centre of the universe and
man the subordinate centre of terrestrial nature: the beasts are not
co-ordinate with man, but subordinate to him, and their destiny is
through and through related to his. And the derivative immortality
suggested for them is not a mere amende or compensation: it is part
and parcel of the new heaven and new earth, organically related to
the whole suffering process of the world's fall and redemption.
chapter nine  The Problem of Pain
But no matter what . . . 

There wouldn't be any problem in saying that IF it would make his happiness in heaven complete, certainly your son would see his pet again, because that's true. 

We would each have complete happiness in heaven, so anything that his happiness requires will be there. But most theologians would argue that the beatific vision of God and an understanding of the whole purpose of the universe and God's plan for our lives is all anyone would need for perfect happiness in heaven.

I like this way of looking at it, by Paul Thigpen:
God might choose to keep at least some animal “souls” from perishing after death, by granting them a privilege beyond their nature — what is known as a preternatural gift.

In any case, we know this much: Because animals can’t have sanctifying grace in their souls to receive the beatific vision, then if any of them do go to heaven, it wouldn’t be for the same reason that humans are in heaven.

What other reasons might there be? Perhaps it’s possible that God will allow the animals we’ve loved on earth to take part somehow in our heavenly life as part of our eternal happiness.

In fact, since God himself takes delight in all the good creatures he’s made, he might give at least some animals a life in heaven for the sake of his own pleasure.

We can only speculate; we won’t know for sure until, God-willing, we arrive in heaven ourselves.

Whatever the case may be, we can be assured that God loves every creature he makes. He loves them even more than we do.

That can be a comforting thought when we’re saddened to lose a dear pet or see some other living creature die. Because God loves them, we can entrust them to him.

Good luck!

P.S. The book Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers is an excellent read (or listen). It's like a more masculine Little House on the Prairie. My kids all really liked it. But be forewarned, it's a true story and in it there are some gruesome injuries to horses. And one mild swear word. And people die. My kids handled it fine, even the little ones, but it's probably one of the more intense books we've read together.

P.P.S. What ever you do . . .  do NOT watch the movie All Dogs Go to Heaven with your children.
60 reasons 'All Dogs Go to Heaven' is the most disturbing kids' movie ever made

Disclaimer: I am not a theologian, nor am I an official spokesperson for the Catholic Church. (You're thinking of this guy.) If you read anything on this blog that is contrary to Church teaching, please consider it my error (and let me know!). I'm not a doctor or an expert on anything in particular. I'm just one person with a lot of experience parenting little kids and a desire to share my joy in marriage, mothering, and my faith.

If you've got a question, please send it along to catholicallyear @ gmail . com . Please let me know if you prefer that I change your name if I use your question on the blog.

p.s. I am WAY behind on my mailbag. Like, a month behind. Maybe two. Between keeping up the blog, writing for Blessed is She (about the devil), the printables and custom work at the Etsy shop, the mugs and t-shirts and pint glasses at the Cafepress shop, the fixing up of the house we bought, and the general care, feeding, and education of my children . . . I am fresh out of time to respond to emails. But if you wrote to me to ask a question, please know that I got it. I read it. I composed an answer to you in my head. But I haven't typed it up yet. It is my sincere intention to do so sometime in the near future.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Few Things I Love About Living In an Unfinished House

I have so much to tell you all! All the different projects in the works, how the renovations are progressing, what I think about all the newsy things, weirdo stuff Frankie's been doing . . .

But there's not much time to tell it, so today, you just get a peek at how it is living in the bottom left part of our new old house.

The whole upstairs, which is where all of our bedrooms will be eventually, is under construction, and cordoned off . . . as is the kitchen and breakfast room area. There's still plenty of room in the house, though, we just moved beds and clothes into rooms downstairs that will eventually be put to other uses.

Many, many people warned us how terrible it would be to be living in a house under construction. We are generally up for a challenge, so I figured we could handle it. What I didn't expect was to find that there are things I genuinely enjoy about our current non-standard living situation. So, let's go over them, shall we?

1. We have no toys.

A box of duplos, a bunch of books, a few stuffed animals for sleeping . . . that is it. And I LOVE IT SO MUCH. No toys means no toys to mess up, no toys to clean up, no toys to fight over. It's the BEST. The kids play outside almost all the time, because there's really nothing to do in here.

Dirty feet = a good day.

I would love nothing more than to load every box labeled "toys" right onto the St. Vincent de Paul truck and be done with it. But, fortunately for the kids, their father is the kind of person who believes that children should be allowed to have some toys. IN the house. So . . . we'll see.

But it's going to be a sad, sad day in Momtown when those boxes get unpacked.

2. We have no window coverings.

This should be a huge problem, right? I'm supposed to get those accordion shade thingies immediately upon moving in.

But we didn't, and it's been great.

I've always worked so hard to create a "sleep environment" for little kids that would get them the most sleep possible. In our old house, we had honeycomb blackout shades in the kids' rooms. They were totally dark. In this house we have . . . nothing. And TONS of windows. And ya know what? They all sleep exactly the same.

Frankie still gets up at the crack of dawn. Lulu still snoozes in. (Can you spot her?)

It has meant the big kids wake up earlier and want to go to bed earlier, which is excellent. The husband and I have been tearing through The Walking Dead on Netflix with all our newfound child-free evening hours. (We're in season five. What is with the hipster cannibals?!)

Mary Jane has been bunking in our closet, which is the only dark room in the house . . . and waking up super early. What gives?

3. We have very few clothes.

I have been ideologically on board with minimal wardrobes for kids for many years. But it's always so hard to keep it up. No matter how often I purge, it seems like we end up with more than we need. But, at least for now, we are down to a very manageable amount of clothing.

Each boy has one basket of clothes, plus half a basket for pajamas, and a few hanging items. It's all they need, and less to keep track of. Especially since they're doing their all own laundry. Yay!

4. We have a detached kitchen.

Living in a house without a kitchen was definitely supposed to be the worst part of this whole experience. And maybe it would have been. But my oh-so-handy dad cobbled together a makeshift kitchen for me out of pressboard and found appliances and it's pretty much the best thing ever.

This is the detached garage. The top is an apartment that my parents are staying in when they visit. It's excellent for giving speeches. The bottom right door is the kitchen, the rest of it is full of construction stuff and boxes. (The main house is over on the right. The doorway with no door is where the new kitchen will be.)

Everything we need, nothing we don't.

I can't take credit for the decorative spray paint. That was there when we moved in.

It's, um, rustic, but it's actually very efficient. There are benefits to all function and no form.

Here, let Gus and Anita tell you how great it is.

Anyway, I like that it's anything at all, especially when I was planning to have a fridge and a crockpot for the duration. (Those crockpot freezer meals have been a huge success for us. If you have any upcoming life upheaval DO IT.)

I also like that it's really set up to keep us from procrastinating. The washer/dryer is right there. So, I don't forget about loads of laundry and have to wash them again. We have no dishwasher, and that's another thing I've found to be surprisingly positive. I don't think having the kids wash, dry, and put away the dishes takes any longer than having them rinse the dishes and load the dishwasher, and this way it's DONE. No unloading the dishwasher later. (To be clear, it still takes WAY longer than it should. It just doesn't take any longer than it used to.) We need fewer dishes this way, too.

The husband says we're still getting dishwashers in the new kitchen.

But the best part is that there's no snacking or messing up the kitchen between meals, because the kitchen is ALL THE WAY OVER THERE. Sitting at my computer at night, I'll think how nice it would be to grab a little something, but the kitchen is outside, through the dark. I'd have to put on shoes. It just isn't worth it.

Maybe Martha Washington was onto something with her detached kitchen. Not that she did the cooking in it. But still. I like it.

None of this isn't to stay we're not full-stream-ahead on a new kitchen a various other improvements. But those will have to be shared another time.