Autumn snuck up on me this year. Our family eased our way into a new school year and a slightly busier schedule way back in early August, but I was still half-riding the easy summer train. Then without my noticing, the days got a little cooler (by Texas standards, meaning it’s now in the high 80s) and the daylight hours dwindled. My mornings are chillier now, the sun goes down before bedtime, and pumpkins fill the store shelves and my own front porch. Fall is upon us.
This month was one of change as we said hello to a new Bible study and a couple of new school activities, and goodbye to life with two one-year-olds. The world outside our home has continued to feel hard and heavy and tense, but within our four walls, this September was a sweet one.
// READING LATELY //
I only read one 5-star book this month, but despite less-than-awesome selections, my reading life was not devoid of interesting reads. Charleston and I both enjoyed this month’s read alouds (this and this). I read this popular romance and this sisters story, neither of which had enough substance to win me over. I also read two thrillers about moms engaging in drastic behavior for the sake of their kids; this book might fit that description as well.
In nonfiction, I learned how to rework problematic children’s classics for a modern audience; how to support Luke in parenting our sons; and about the Holy Spirit, proper understanding of the Bible, and how to connect with God through my personality strengths.
I have some spicy opinions on several of these books and look forward to sharing them in upcoming book reviews.
// WATCHING LATELY //
Cruella ~ Hollywood has apparently lost all originality—nearly every movie and show these days seems to be a remake, a spinoff, or adaptation. I guess I can understand why: these “familiar/comfort watches” bring audiences . . . and I am certainly not immune, as I was just as excited as the next Disney fan for this origin story behind one of Disney’s most iconic villains. Set in the London fashion scene in the 1960s and 70s, the movie explores Cruella Deville’s backstory: how an eccentric and creative orphan morphed from misfit to misanthrope; the origins of her flair for fashion design; her acquisition of sidekicks Horace and Jasper; and why she came to despise Dalmatians.
I was skeptical of the movie, because I have a hard time condoning art that portrays villains in a new and often more positive light. While I certainly believe all people are deserving of empathy and that society is better off when we cease putting individuals into categories of “good” and “bad,” I have a harder time with the “humanization” and “sanitization” of fictional characters—especially characters who are well known to young audiences . . . kids who are not ready to grasp the nuances of behavior, and still need clear-cut portrayals of good and evil as their understanding of values continues to form. I’m uncomfortable with society’s current trend towards glamorizing badness while vilifying traditional ethics and standards for goodness.
Stepping outside my discomfort with the overall premise of the movie, though, I will say that I loved it. My favorite movies are ones that are visually appealing, and this whole film is a feast for the eyes: from the phenomenal costuming to the retro London setting to the prop nods to past Disney films and other cultural icons . . . I was so swept away by the film’s artistry, I nearly forgot to pay attention to the story. And speaking of the story, it does not tie in very well with the classic 101 Dalmatians story, but once I stopped trying to spot direct correlations and discrepancies, I was able to appreciate this film as a spinoff rather than a prequel, and by the end, the connection did make quite a bit more sense.
The movie touches on some important themes such as found family, the source of creative inspiration, and the ongoing question of whether or not we are destined to be who we become or whether we have agency over our futures and our identities. These are all such great subjects to think about and discuss with younger viewers.
The casting is perfection. Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are brilliant in their roles, and the peripheral characters are either exactly as I imagined they would be or unique interpretations of familiar characters that work surprisingly well.
The movie earns its PG-13 rating due to its instances of violence, suggestive costumes, hard subject matter, and the condoning of evil (something that I’m not opposed to my kids seeing, but that certainly requires some discussion before and after viewing). This isn’t a movie for young kids, but as an adult viewer I was deeply impressed. The movie sets up for a continuation and I can’t wait for the sequel!
My Rating: 5 Stars.
// TWIN CORNER //
Our twosome turned two this week! I’m mostly in denial that my babies are TWO, but mostly I’m in love with the little humans they are at this age. (I’ve been in love with them at every age, of course, but this age is especially magical.) I’ll spare you all the Kali and Sully details here and instead point you to this post from their birthday on Monday.
// MONTHLY CHARLIE-ISMS //
It was the twins who had a birthday this month, but Charleston also passed a milestone: he’s been a big brother for two years now, and it’s wild to think how he’s changed since they were born. He continues to grow into his role of big brother, serving as the family activity organizer, hug-provider, and kid problem solver. I am so thankful for him as Kali and Sully’s role model and friend, as my amazing little helper, and as an all-around great kid (who says some pretty funny things):
- Out of the blue one day: “Imagine how much turkey there will be in the grocery stores in Heaven!”
- Me (in a discussion about diets and body size): “It’s just your job to eat healthy food. It’s your body’s job to decide what to do with it.” Charleston: “Well, we all know what to do with chocolate. Eat it and enjoy it for our whole lives!”
- “Isn’t Arlo made of turkey?” Me: “Hmm, no, he’s not made of turkey.” Charleston: “I mean meat. Isn’t he made of meat? And don’t we eat meat? So when Arlo dies, do you think we should, you know….”
- Me, after his first day of school: “Did you learn any of your friends’ names today?” Charleston: “No, I’m not a fan of learning names.”
- “This pickle is really delicious. I mean, other than the flavor part.”
- “Nice hat, Mom! I’m not sure it goes with your style. . . but I’m sure no one would mind.”
// HAPPENINGS & HIGHLIGHTS //
Luke and Charleston spent a week at a beach house on the Gulf coast with Luke’s parents and siblings. The twins and I sat this trip out (we thought we all might have more fun with this arrangement), and while we missed Charleston and Luke, I know they had a ton of fun, and it was nice for me to have time with just the twins for a few days. The boys had an awesome time hanging out in the water, fishing, playing board games (which cousin Collin calls “people games”) at the house, and visiting the aquarium.
My parents came from California for a week-long visit, and we had the best time with them while they were here. They joined us in our usual activities of church, Bible study, school work, stories, backyard play time, and family meals, and we did some extra fun activities too, including time at the train, some playground visits, and a trip to Little Land. Having them here was the best—I loved that they got to see how much Kali, Sully, and Charlie have changed in the four months since we were together last, and I cherished every hug, conversation, and glimpse of them loving on my kids.
The occasion for my parents’ visit was the twins second birthday! We didn’t go over the top with birthday festivities, but we did make their birthday a special and memorable one. Last Saturday, we had a small family party with a Taco Twos-Day theme. Kali and Sully were “two” cute in their “We’re Dos, Let’s Fiesta” shirts and they loved their decorations, playing with family, opening presents, and blowing candles out on their cupcakes (they did really well with the blowing!). This was the first time we’ve had all four grandparents together since the twins were born, and having both sides of our family in one place made me SO VERY HAPPY!
Monday was the twins’ birthday, and it was fun how aware they were that this was their big day. They were eager to wear their birthday shirts and asked all day about our various plans. We took them out for donuts for breakfast, then headed to the park for a few hours before it got too hot, then spent the rest of the day playing at home. Their birthday ended with some more presents and one last candle blow-out. What a fun day with our dynamic duo.
And now, on to October and the steep slide through the end of the year! What was the highlight of your September? I’d love to hear about it!