Sunday, June 30, 2013

Film review: Robot and Frank

Since Redbox has put free movie codes inside Dr. Pepper, my favorite soda, we rented Robot and Frank for free. Until, of course, we returned it after 9 p.m. and were charged for an extra day (boo). In any case, the movie was great.

I'd wanted to see it but was a bit hesitant because the previews seemed to give most of the movie away. Although some of the funniest moments were in the preview, there were plenty of great scenes left. 

Robot and Frank is the story of an old and possibly confused man who has a complicated and sordid history. His past transgressions involve high-stakes theft. With a witty librarian (played by Susan Sarandon) and robots to boot, the film is certainly interesting.

Frank's son buys him a health aid that also happens to be a robot. Although Frank is resistant, the robot soon grows on him. He even starts to teach the robot some of his old school ways.

Robot and Frank is a study of friendship, family and sacrifice.  It's set in the near future, giving the plot license to be slightly far-fetched. But the setting and technology only add to the general greatness. What the movie shows are universal truths that could be just as tre in the past as they are in the future. Frank is trying to find balance between his old, law-breaking self and his newer, grumpy self. His son is trying to balance being a father himself while also being the child, forced to care for an elderly parent. And the robot is trying to do his job while also making Frank happier. 

It's amazing that the robot becomes increasingly human-like to the viewer without changing his appearance. His tactics, word choice and sentiment make him a character instead of a prop.

I highly recommend this movie. It's a fun watch with real meaning. I give it 4 paws up :)

Friday, June 28, 2013

Puppy Love: Baby Edition

How I know my dogs love my baby, and vice versa, is that moments like this are normal:
Shared tummy time.

She lays completely still while little man plays horse--assisted, of course.

They love to lay near him.

He turns to them-- he cradles their big faces in his tiny hands. 
He reaches out to them when they're near.

Lots of people may caution new moms about having dogs. When Charlie was alive, he loved little man. As a collie, he had the trademark long nose-- which he tried to stick through the slats in the crib the first time we put little man in it.

Of course, we always supervise our dogs when they're around him. We also carefully introduced them when we first brought our son home from the hospital. I came in first with his hat, which we let each dog sniff extensively. Then we brought him into the nursery, and let the dogs in one at a time. He was asleep in his car seat, and each dog sniffed him and then snuggled us. After all, we had been gone three days.

Our baby adores our dogs, and they adore him. He has already tugged on them, and they have zero reaction. Yesterday, he spent five minutes holding Layla's paw. She hates having her paws touched, yet she let him play with her paws without moving.

Each family is different, but at least in our family, I'm thankful we have dogs. The dogs and the baby have already learned so much from each other. Always proceed with caution, but our family is much happier with dogs included. 

How has having dogs and babies in the same house affected your family? 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Ladies' Night Book Review

Mary Kay Andrews is one of my favorite authors. She continually crafts excellent story lines, authentic characters, and hilarious situations. All her books are set in the South, which gives my Alaska-residing self a dose of home without the expensive plane ticket. Ladies' Night is set on the Florida coast, which I dearly miss. Although I lived in Florida, I lived just far enough inland that the sea breeze didn't reach is. Thankfully the characters don't have that problem, and Andrews perfectly describes both the smothering heat and that elusive gentle breeze. 

The plot follows lifestyle blogger Grace Stanton as she discovers her husband's secret and reacts spontaneously and severely. A sexist judge sends a group of angry soon-to-be divorcees and a newly single-and-jilted dad to divorce counseling. Yet something about their counselor is decidedly off. Intrigue, research and shenanigans ensue.

The hardest part of reading one of Andrews' books is seeing the heroines fall from grace. And boy, does Grace fall. It's brutal to read, and never ending. 

By constructing multiple story lines, adding a dash of mystery and including great recipes, Andrews has created another great read.

Buying a MKA book is never a waste, as they're all re-readable. If I'm going to buy a book, I want to be able to enjoy reading it several times. Andrews has yet to disappoint me. 

Have you read it? What are your thoughts? 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Deen's Debacle

The recent news concerning Paula Deen has caused an uproar on both sides of the issue. For those of you that haven't heard, Yahoo news reported that Deen's Food Network contract wasn't being renewed due to her alleged racism; she and her brother's Savannah restaurant is currently being sued by a former employee for discrimination. 

Deen made two apology videos; the first, a clearly edited 45-second apology, was quickly removed. The 2 minute, unedited version that replaced it is still being harshly criticized. 
The Yahoo News article mentions Deen's use of the derogatory N-word during a deposition as well as an idea for a wedding in which all the servers would be black and dressed as slaves. Both instances clearly point to racist thinking.

The only account I'm truly accepting is what is on file from the deposition. I'm disappointed that a Southern icon such as Paula Deen would add to the negative stereotype of being racist. One can be Southern without being racist. 

As a Southern lady myself, I love Southern food and culture. However, like any culture, the South's history is not unmarred. Yes, slavery took place-- all over the U.S. Unfortunately, the South fought to keep it due to their already faltering economy and bigoted mindset. Racism still occurs all over our country and the world. Bigotry in any form is ugly.

What surprised me is the uprising of viewers supporting Deen. I'm not going to judge her as a person, but what she said while being deposed is, let's admit, racist. Many people are. However, I try not to invite bigots into my living room.

 I support the Food Network not renewing Paula Deen's contract-- not firing her, simply not re-hiring her-- because I, for one, want to see a Southern cook who doesn't conform to stereotypes. Wouldn't it be nice to have a new cook showing the world how to make delicious Southern food without any cloaked racism hiding behind the veil (or, in this case, apron)?

Southern cooking is a style; you don't have to use five tons of butter or fry everything you eat to make it southern. I have a flaky, delicious Southern pie crust recipe that doesn't have any butter at all in it. It probably still isn't healthy, but, as with most things, moderation is key.

What do you think about Deen's demise? Do you agree with the Food Network's decision?

The origin Yahoo News article can be found at :

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Disney Dads

With Father's Day right around the corner, I thought we'd count down the top 10 Disney dads (in my opinion). This is the first year I get to celebrate my husband's new role as a father, and the second year I don't have my own dad to celebrate with. So in honor of all dads, old and new, here are 10 shining examples of fatherhood.

10. The Great Prince, Bambi
Bambi's dad is a little hands-off in the beginning, but makes up for lost time by appearing as soon as Bambi's mom is killed, leading Bambi through the next phase of his life.

9. King Triton, The Little Mermaid
He might begin on the wrong flipper, but he makes amends quite well. It certainly doesn't hurt that he shows how parents feel-- willing to sacrifice his life for his child, yet also having a hard time letting her grow up. Oh, parent struggles.

8. Maurice, Beauty and the Beast
Maurice shows Belle how great it is to be odd. He also puts his own life at risk, nearly dying in his valiant efforts to save her. 

7. Chief Powhattan, Pocahontas 
He might start off a bit pushy, but he makes up for it when he admits Pocahontas is right and doesn't wrongfully kill someone. It takes a big man to admit when he's wrong, especially publicly. He also still speaks of his deceased wife, offering comfort and encouragement to Pocahontas. He never second-guesses his role as a single father or doubts his ability to handle any situation with his daughter on his own. He's a pillar of strength.

6. James, The Princess and the Frog
Sweet little Tiana learned a lot from her wise daddy-- that you have to work for your dreams to come true. He also instilled a strong work ethic in her, an invaluable character trait. He also showed us how you have to be strong for your kids. He may have been weary when he got home from work, but she certainly never knew it. Inspirational.

5. Fa Zhou, Mulan 
Milan's dad let her spirit develop on its own, despite the fact that it contradicted their culture. He also showed that he loved her for who she was, not who society expected her to be. 

4. King Fergus, Brave
King Fergus stood up for his daughter while supporting his wife, which is no easy task. He also fought for his family, literally and figuratively. 

3. Marlin, Finding Nemo
   The little clown fish that could, Marlin overcame his tragic last and fear to rescue his son. He was honest with himself and showed a fierceness we never knew a clown fish could have. 

2. Pongo, 101 Dalmatians 
Pongo sets a great standard-- he fixes up his owner with a lovely lady, meets his own love in the process, and protects his pack from the evil Cruella. He owns up to his mistakes (watching his language), supports Mom's decisions, and, oh yes, adopts 85 homeless pups. Whoa-- what a dad!

1. Mufasa, The Lion King
Surely you aren't surprised Mufasa is my top choice?! He admits his fear, leads his family, and comes back from the dead to steer his son back onto the right course. He's strong, wise and honest. 

Of course, a few Disney dads didn't quite make my list. So here are some honorable mentions in pictures (sorry for any repeats in the collages!) 

Now that I've given you my list, let me know which Disney dad is your favorite in the comments below. My dad was most like Fa Zhou-- he loved my sister and me just as we are. Which Disney dad is your dad closest to, personality-wise?

Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Lazy Parents Bedtime Story

Every now and then, parents may be tempted to take the easy, shortcut path. Here's a bedtime story to help with that (change the gender pronouns to fit your child).

Once upon a time, there lived a little boy.

He was very sleepy.

He went to bed.


If that doesn't work, just sing the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" theme song. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Hello, World: A Baby Story

As a huge Disney fan, it's only natural that birth should scare me. After all, how often does a parent die in Disney films? I believe Rapunzel and Mulan are the only girls in Disney to have two parents, and Rapunzel spends 18 years away from hers.

After getting the official good news from the doctor that I was, in fact, pregnant, I was insanely excited. A few nights later I lay in bed, snuggled under the covers with Nala curled up against my side. I thought with glee about the 35-ish weeks ahead, wondering about how my belly would look, if the baby would be a girl or a boy; then I thought about the years ahead, of birthday parties, days at the park and getting him/her ready for school. Then it hit me: to get from pregnant to birthday parties, I'd have to go through childbirth. My eyes popped open in terror. How on earth could I get past my fear of childbirth before my estimated due date of January 16?!

I spent my pregnancy alternating between refusing to think about birth and rationalizing that I would be fine, especially considering how many times my husband reminding me monthly that women used to give birth in fields and then just keep working (I do believe this to be greatly exaggerated). Of course, lots of people ask about your birth plan and how you feel about the whole thing. When you respond that you're terrified, they generally reassure you, by telling you that you'll do great. Then they tell you every horror-movie-worthy birth story they've ever heard. This, surprisingly, does not help.

What was I afraid of? Hmm, what wasn't I afraid of!? Not recognizing labor, going through labor, having a newborn. Childbirth class gave me loads of knowledge on labor and the different stages and the different ways to go through it. As it turns out, knowledge is quite frightening. I had no fear of C-sections until that class, when an animation showed how that worked. Gee, childbirth class, thanks for ruining animation! (Just kidding. I still love animation. Not childbirth animation, mind you. That's still terrifying. But good old fashioned Disney and I are just fine, thank you very much).

As my pregnancy progressed, my tummy started measuring a week or two ahead of the week I was in. I knew I hadn't been hitting the tacos that hard, which meant I clearly had a giant baby. The midwife didn't believe me. Oh no, it'll even out, they said. You shouldn't have a giant baby, they said. Your body wouldn't create a baby it couldn't birth, they said. In December, 6 weeks before my due date, they ordered a growth scan. He (we knew that he was a boy already) was somewhere between 5 and 7 pounds, with 6 weeks to go. What did my brain say? Ahh, I'm having a giant baby! What did the midwife say? Oh, those scans can be a whole pound off, don't worry. You probably won't have a giant baby.

Finally, my due date arrived. I went to my doctor's appointment, where I was measured at being less than 1 cm dilated. Because I'm squeamish, I'm not going to go into what that means. My baby still felt pretty dang huge to me. I was, again, reassured that my child would be too big to be born without the assistance of the jaws of life. I also had one of the worst colds of my life, and was coughing and/or sneezing a ridiculous amount.

That night, I ate hot wings for dinner, hoping those silly myths about eating hot food to start pregnancy would work. I woke with mild cramping that night, but that was pretty normal. I didn't think anything of it. The next day, I thought I was experiencing Braxton Hicks contractions, because I hadn't had them very much. I was being monitored for pre-eclampsia, and called the doctor's office with a question. They responded with," Well, it sounds like you're in labor. You should come in and get checked. I'll  call the Maternity ward and tell them to expect you." Huh. They also asked if I'd felt the baby move, but it wasn't the time of day when he was usually active. I was instructed to eat and drink something, lay down for an hour, and count his movements.

I ate a few grapes, drank some apple juice, and waiting to feel him move. This is the equivalent of watching water come to a boil. He didn't move the required 5 times, but we were going in anyway. The entire hour long car drive in, I complained to J that I feared we'd get sent home. I would be so embarrassed if it was false labor. My 'false' contractions were now 4 minutes apart, one day after my due date. Four hours earlier I'd told my mom to reschedule her flight, so we could guarantee she'd meet the baby.

When we arrived at the hospital at 5 p.m., I was so nervous I started signing my maiden name (we've been married for three years).Also, driving through rush hour traffic to get to the hospital when you may or may not be in labor is not nearly as fun as you'd think. J was extremely stressed, timing my contractions and driving. I was hooked up to a machine that showed his heartbeat (I could finally exhale), and showed that I was having real contractions. We'd been warned that depending on the contractions, you might not be admitted and would instead be advised to walk around town, eat dinner, etc. They checked to see how dilated I was, and I was at a 4. Oh, so I was in labor and I didn't know it? After all those people said, "Oh, you'll KNOW you're in labor!".

I was admitted around 7 p.m. We called and texted our phone tree, letting people know. My sweet sister cried at the news. Every member of our family lives in the Lower 48. It was my grandma's birthday. Several horrible events have occurred on her birthday, including a fire at the high school and a factory explosion. Around 11 p.m. I was dilated to a seven and asked for the IV, so I could get an epidural in an hour. Shortly after midnight, I got an epidural. The nurses and midwife told us to get some sleep, as I was dilated to an eight. J and I both fell asleep and woke with a start two-plus hours later to a room swarming with people. The (still un-named) baby's heartbeat had dropped from 150/beats per minute to less than 50. They were going to do an emergency C-section.

J was rushed from the room to be dressed in scrubs while forms were shoved in my face, an oxygen mask was put on and I was wheeled down the hallway. I was wheeled into the freezing operating room while J was slipping scrubs on over his clothes in the hallway. Activity was frantic around me, and my head felt like it was filled with cotton. I was moved from the bed to a table. An anesthesiologist named John told me he was upping the epidural for the procedure. I remembered from childbirth class that had I not already had an epidural, I would've had to be put completely under and J wouldn't be allowed in the OR with me, and I was glad I'd stuck to my plan to get one despite some negative reactions.

The rush was lessened when his heartbeat bounced up some due to the activity. My arms were strapped down since I would be awake but numb.John kept checking where I could feel and where I couldn't. I told every nurse that spoke to me as well as John that I was freezing. I was shaking uncontrollably. I started to feel sick-- really sick.
"I'm going to be sick," I whispered into the oxygen mask.
"You feel sick? That's normal, it's okay," John said, and turned to answer a nurse.
"I'm going to be sick," I repeated, turning my head towards the nurse on the other side of me. Then I began to get sick. But there was an oxygen mask strapped to my face and my arms were tied down. J wasn't allowed in yet, because they were still prepping me. I was choking, and no one was noticing. In the flurry to save me and the baby, I'd been momentarily overlooked.

Finally a nurse noticed my sputtering from across the room and yelled at John, who swiveled and tore the mask off my face and began suctioning out my mouth. Thankfully he wiped down my face as another oxygen mask was replaced over my mouth. J was finally allowed in, and sat right next to me. I reminded everyone that I wanted to see no part of what was about to happen, just the baby. I don't do well with blood, and I'd made that known in my birth plan. The blue sheet went up. There was lots of pushing on my stomach, as he was over to the side.

 I'm not totally sure how long it took, or what happened, because all I heard were my own prayers. I got past the point of thought, and all I could think were the lyrics to two songs, intertwining with each other: My God is healer, strong to deliver, mighty to save.

J tells me that when the surgeon was pulling the baby out, she said," That's a big-- that's a big baby! That's a big baby!" He was held over the sheet for me to see, and the first words out of my mouth were, "Thank you, Jesus." My baby was safe. My prayers had been answered. I turned to J and told him he should go over with the baby while he was weighed and cleaned. I wanted one of his parents to be there with him, and even if J wanted to go, he would stay by my side if he thought I needed him. When he walked back over with our boy wrapped in a blanket in his arms, my first question (after being reassured he was okay) was, "are his eyes green?" I love my green eyes, and really want my son to have green eyes too.

Unfortunately, things did not get easier for me after that. Little man, though still nameless, was perfectly fine. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 5 ounces. So yes, I did have a giant baby. The surgeon said had he not gone into distress, I would have had to have had a C-section anyway, because he was simply too big to fit. I was wheeled to recovery while J and the baby were shown first to a room with just a chair and then to our room. I was told I could leave recovery when I could move my legs, probably in about an hour. So I laid there and wiggled my toes, and then my feet, and finally my legs. 15 minutes later, I was wheeled down the hall to join J and the baby in our room. I had an adverse reaction to the second epidural and the pain medicine, causing me to get sick to my stomach for the next six hours or so. I would nurse the baby for a few minutes, then hand him to J while I got sick. This cycle repeated for the entire 6 hours. Did I mention I still had a cold? I was coughing, which was very painful on the surgery incision.

Little man's arrival may have been rough, but it doesn't deter me from wanting another one someday. In a couple years. He is so sweet, and funny, that I would go through it all again in a heartbeat. It's amazing how this little person can change your whole perspective.