Archive for the ‘Early Childhood’ Category

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

Monday, March 26th, 2018

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

My daughter loves to read. I mean, the girl LOVES reading.

I mean she refuses to leave the house without a book. I’m talking about a kid who stays up way past her bedtime reading, every night, unless I remove all books from her room. I’m saying she burns through books like…I don’t know, but something that doesn’t last a long time. Even all the resources of both her school library and our city library cannot keep this kid in books.

Please know I don’t say this as a criticism. I’m not mocking her. Oh no. Because my book-obsessed child is basically a mini-me in this regard. The bookworm does not fall far from the bookworm tree.

She’s also a teensy bit obsessed with Harry Potter. She was Hermione for Halloween. She began planning her Hogwarts-letter 11th birthday party the day after she turned 10. She has a Harry Potter-themed shirt for every day of the week. And last week? I registered her for a Harry Potter day camp coming up this summer. She’s a big fan.

But my daughter is also sensitive. And innocent. And, much to her great dismay (and the fantastic combination of tween attitude and gnashing of teeth), she was not ready to read the fifth Harry Potter book after devouring the first four.

Despite her protests that she was the only kid in the fourth grade who hadn’t read all the Harry Potter books, I know I’m not alone in navigating the challenge of a tween who loves books and can read at a higher grade level than she’s in – or ready for. So just in case you have a kid who loves Harry Potter (but has already read them all or isn’t ready for the next book in the series) in your life, I’ve got a few other series that might keep your bookworm busy.

Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

5 Book Series for Kids Who Love Harry Potter

The Land of Stories by Chris Colfer – Twins are transported to a fairytale land through a mysterious book. The stories are more Grimm than Disney, but still suitable for my fourth-grader who is reading the fifth book in this series (and loves giving me a play-by-play WHILE SHE READS. It’s fine. It’s great. It’s FINE.).

Reportedly, a movie based on this series is in development. But since no cast, release date, or other news has been announced yet, you and your kids still have plenty of time to read the books first.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan – It may be sacrilegious to Harry Potter fans, but this is my favorite middle grade series of all time. So when my daughter finally showed interest in this book about a boy who learns his father is Poseidon, an actual Greek god, I was super excited! And nervous. Would she love them as much as I do?

Well, I won’t keep you hanging – she did. Because it’s the best series ever, said the totally unbiased and definitely cool mom. It really is a great series, though, with funny, complex characters who go on incredible adventures. And readers learn a whole lot about Greek mythology along the way.

Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley – This nine-book series about two sisters whose parents have disappeared and who learn that fairy tales are true begins light and gradually grows darker. Like with Harry Potter, parents may want to set the pace for their kids’ progress through these books. But also like Harry Potter and the other series I’m recommending, parents may enjoy them just as much as their kids! So reading them together may be a great option, as the messages of girl power and the strong bond between sisters enhance the clever nature of these fractured fairy tales.

Story Thieves by James Riley – Life was pretty boring for Owen until he discovered his classmate Bethany could jump inside books and interact with the characters. The two students go on adventures in different types of books over what is so far a five-book series, and while reviews call these books more simplistic and clichéd, my daughter loves them. I legitimately just requested the fourth book in the series for her from the library.

 My 10-year-old still enjoys these books but they are geared toward a younger audience than these other series (which makes them a great alternative for kids who aren’t quite ready to advance to the next Harry Potter book!).

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – It may be experiencing a resurgence in popularity because of Disney’s recent movie release, but this series has been captivating and inspiring kids for decades. I wasn’t sure how my daughter would respond to this book, with its old-fashioned roots and sometimes complicated syntax and vocabulary. I shouldn’t have underestimated either my daughter or this series. She was hooked from the beginning, as I read to her, “It was a dark and stormy night.”

Significantly different than the 2018 movie, this book captures readers and encourages them as well. I’m thrilled that my daughter wasn’t content to wait for me to read another chapter each night and has finished the first book on her own and begun the second.

I looked up each of these books on CommonSenseMedia.org, and they are all suggested for readers ages 9 and above (except for Story Thieves, which is appropriate for kids 8 and up). This site also has a great guide for both the Harry Potter books and movies, if you’re unsure about what age is best for each of the installments in this series. You can watch a quick video here and read a more detailed guide here.

It can be hard to hold our kids back from books that may be too intense for them, but it’s worth it. Reading the books when they can truly comprehend the storylines and handle difficult situations emotionally will protect their love of these books so they can enjoy them for years to come.

And if taking a break from one series leads to interest in reading another, well, that’s just an added bonus as our kids grow into great readers who love all sorts of stories.

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Harry Potter Illustrated

Isn’t Mary so great?

As I was titling these images, I ran across these photos of our Harry Potter fans.  They look so little, don’t they?

The days are long, but the years are short.

I can’t believe how quickly time has been passing.

Savor these reading moments with your kids because they, truly, are gone in a blink of an eye.

What to Read After Harry Potter Book Series from MomAdvice.com

If you want to explore a couple more authors and where to go next, check out these two posts from Mary:

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest Kasie West Novel

What to Read After You’ve Finished the Latest John Green Book

Do you have any recommendations for a great kid series after Harry Potter? Feel free to drop your suggestions in this comments below!

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

 

5 Pop Culture Parenting Goals for 2018

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

5 Pop Culture Parenting Goals for 2018

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

Though I noticed weeks ago that this new year began on a Monday, I didn’t take advantage of it. Which is a real bummer, because it’s exciting enough for this type-A planner when a new month starts on a Monday. But the first day of a new year?! Starting on the first day of a new week?!

Well, that’s like a perfect storm…or the holy grail…or a magical unicorn!

But because I’m a mom as well as a list-maker and goal-setter, that so-called special day passed in a blur of puzzles and leftovers and pajamas and Netflix. And it was a solid week before I even opened my brand-new planner or organized my thoughts into resolutions. Luckily for my sanity, I decided years ago that if I can set some goals and take down holiday decorations before February 1, I’m doing okay.

When I finally did sit down to make some plans and set some goals for this year, I realized that not only did I have a list of things I wanted to change or improve, but I also had a list of experiences I want to have with my kids. And while several items on that list were the usual road trips and field trips and cooking lessons and finally sticking to a chore chart and allowance system, several others were related to pop culture.

This is no surprise, since books and movies and music and TV shows are pretty much my favorite things. Of course I’d want to share those things with my favorite people!

Do any of your parenting goals for this year involve pop culture? Here are 5 of mine:

1. Read the book before the movie. Last year my daughter read Wonder three times. She asked me to read it, too, and I said I would, and I wanted to – but I didn’t. That didn’t stop me from taking her to seeing the movie as soon as it came out (and sobbing for two hours straight), but it did mean a missed opportunity to bond even more with my daughter.

This year we’re both going to read A Wrinkle in Time before the movie comes out. I read it when I was younger, but decades later my memory of the storyline and characters is pretty faint. So I’ll re-read it while my daughter reads it for the first time, and we’ll discover the magic of this story together.

If you’ve already read this one or aren’t interested in it, plenty of children’s books have been and will be made into movies! You could choose an older one, like Bridge to Terabithia, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, or How to Train Your Dragon. Or you could get caught up on the Maze Runner series before the third movie comes out later this year. No matter what story you choose, enjoy meeting new characters and entering a new world with your child on both the page and the screen!

2. Attend a live concert or play. Our city has tons of free musical performances, especially in the summer. Everything from barbershop quartet to a string quartet can be found playing on one stage or another. Festivals, library programs, carnivals, Friday night shopping promotions – they all have a soundtrack, and frequently, it’s live. When my girls get a bit older, I’d love to take them to not-so-free concerts to hear their favorite artists, but for now, the free shows featuring talented musicians in all genres work just fine.

We also love watching children’s theater and try to get in at least one show at year. That’s not free (and not always fun with squirmy little ones), but I love creating the tradition of making art a priority for our family.

3. Introduce my kids to old movies or TV shows. Between Netflix and Hulu and On Demand and DVDs and YouTube, my kids have hundreds of options for entertainment. This is great and fun (and scary – but that’s a conversation for another day!), but it means they haven’t been exposed to some of the quintessential children’s programming I consider classics. When I realized a while ago my kids didn’t know who Popeye or Bugs Bunny or the Flintstones were? I was shocked – and determined to remedy the situation.

In addition to introducing them to my favorite old-school cartoons, I also decided to show them some of my favorite movies. So last summer, we watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, The Princess Bride, and Flight of the Navigator. On my list for this year? Mrs. Doubtfire, Sandlot, Hook, Mighty Ducks, and Karate Kid (the original one, not the new one!).

4. Go to the drive-in. I’ve never seen a movie at the drive-in. So, obviously, my kids haven’t either. I’m determined to visit our city’s one drive-in theater this year, eat all the popcorn and candy we can handle, and sing, “Stranded at the Drive-In,” from Grease to them at the top of my lungs.

(“Embarrass my kids” is ALWAYS on my to-do list.)

5. Try something new. – Something new slides into my Facebook feed or inbox or actual mailbox every single day. Nobody can possibly keep up with all of it! But when I see a new magazine for kids or article about geocaching or a creative subscription box or local art show, I take note and try to fit it into our budget and schedule. It doesn’t always work out, but if we can try one or two new things this year, I think we’ll be doing all right!

What are your parenting goals for 2018?

Mary Carver is a writer, speaker, and recovering perfectionist. She lives for good books, spicy queso, and television marathons, but she lives because of God’s grace. Mary writes with humor and honesty about giving up on perfect and finding truth in unexpected places on her blog, MaryCarver.com. She is the author of Fast Talk & Faith: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls and co-author of Choose Joy: Finding Hope & Purpose When Life Hurts. She is also a regular contributor to incourage.me and MothersofDaughters.com. Mary and her husband live in Kansas City with their two daughters.

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo 

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DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by Simon & Schuster. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

It feels so strange to be talking about our baby hitting the tween years, but we recently hit this milestone age and all that comes with it. Today I am partnering with Simon & Schuster to celebrate girl power with the launch of the incredible series, “The Littlest Bigfoot,” written by Jennifer Weiner. If you are an avid reader like me, you may know Weiner from her fun chick lit novels and now she is penning a trilogy for girls that encourage self-love, positive body image, and friendship between girls.

DIY Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

“The Littlest Bigfoot,” and “Little Bigfoot, Big City,” are the first two books that are out in the planned trilogy. These books explore the good old-fashioned themes of friendship and belonging through this modern day fairytale.

The lead character, Alice Mayfair, twelve years old, is ignored by her family and is being shipped off to her eighth boarding school. She longs to have a friend and when she rescues Millie Maximus from drowning in the lake one day, she finds the friend she has always been looking for.

Millie happens to be a Bigfoot though, a part of a clan who dwells deep in the woods. Most Bigfoots believe that people—NoFurs—are dangerous, but Millie is fascinated with this human world and feels that they understand her own dreams and aspirations better. Alice protects Millie’s secret, but they must face a league of Bigfoot hunters who are trailing them.

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

The story then continues into the next novel where the friends sneak off to the Big Apple in search of Millie’s stardom. Unfortunately, they end up getting trailed by a shadowy government organization and are finding cryptic clues that force them to confront their history, choices, and find out what it means to be a true hero and friend.

At this in-between stage of life, I love finding books like this that are filled with positive messaging and heartwarming dialogue about inclusion and belonging. Definitely pick up these two books for your tween and keep your eyes peeled for the third book, coming in 2018! This series is just perfect for your middle grade readers, between the ages of 8-12!

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

I remember how much I struggled with self-confidence at this age and also remember all the new territory that came with all of these changes. My parents wanted to encourage me to embrace good hygiene habits and to help me understand all the upcoming changes that would be happening in my body. As the oldest of three children, I felt that I had to share everything with my siblings so anything that I got that was just for me (not for them!) was really special. It could have been something as simple as not sharing my french fries or as grand as getting a date with just one of my parents, these simple moments made me feel special because they were mine alone.

Instead of just talking about good hygiene and caring for my body, my mom put together a pail of items that I would need to start implementing good habits of self-care and explained why and how to use these items. This pink pail housed my new face washes, a loofah with body soap, and deodorant. All I could think about though was that all this stuff was JUST FOR ME and I didn’t have to share it.

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

This week I gave my daughter a Tween Confidence Kit of her own and I could see that sheer delight she had to have items that were just for her. Truth be told, many of my own items were starting to magically disappear from our bathroom, and after this came up, she explained how she wanted to wear or add some of these things to her own routines.

This kit of supplies had everything she needed to get started implementing her own big girl routines! We talked about implementing a good skincare routine (daily wash and moisturizer, weekly exfoliation scrub), the importance of washing our body and deodorant, and dry shampoo for days when we need fresh locks, but don’t have the time. A few things to make the routines more fun included her own little scrubber, a shower cap for busy days, and a quick absorbing towel to wrap her hair in after she hopped out of the shower.

We also dipped our toes into some of the things that might be coming up and how to prepare for those circumstances too. She had lots of great questions and this was a great way to open up the dialogue about what we might need to know for the future.

She also expressed a desire to start wearing makeup and I gave her a set of her own blush, lip gloss, and a little concealer as her first starter kit into that. I worked with her to apply the makeup and shared the importance of keeping her face natural and just enhancing the beautiful girl she already is. I loved working with her on this together and hope that she feels confident coming to me in the future because it means a lot to me to get to be a part of these new stages with her.

I hope that these ideas to help build tween self-confidence too. Each stage has been such a gift and I love being a part of the process with her.

To learn more about these incredible books, follow Simon Kids on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram or visit them on their website!

DIY Tween Self-Confidence Kit from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by Simon & Schuster. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

 

DIY Breakfast Caddy

Monday, June 19th, 2017

DIY Breakfast Caddy for Car from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

Well, hello there! I hope your summer is off to a lovely start! We are trying to soak in as many carefree and unscheduled days as we can, but it is funny how life gets in the way of this. This week we tackled doctor’s appointments, the dentist, running a kid back and forth to a sleepover, and we are signing up for a couple of fun summer programs and camps that are happening around town.

All of that leads to busy mornings so today I am partnering with  Florida Department of Citrus to show you how to enjoy your breakfast on-the-go, complete with a glass of Florida Orange Juice! We are sharing a breakfast caddy idea that you can assemble on the weekends to get your kids off to a great start, no matter what is on the to-do list!

I will admit, I got the inspiration for this from Pinterest where there were numerous pins of fast food meals in totes to make it easier for kids to eat their meals. I wanted to translate that idea into a healthy one that is perfect for busy mornings.

Supplies Needed

Lightweight Plastic Shower Caddy (exact, similar, similar)

Small Plastic Containers or Jars for Food Assembly

Drink Holder

Water Bottle

Food Supplies (as listed below)

DIY Breakfast Caddy for Car from MomAdvice.com

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Directions for a DIY Breakfast Caddy

The beauty in this project is that you can fill your tote with whatever you think will help fuel your kids that day.  I can’t stress enough how much I LOVE these make-ahead burritos because they save me on many busy mornings in our house. Once heated, they can be wrapped in tin foil to keep them warm. Of course, if burritos aren’t your thing, a breakfast sandwich made on an English Muffin,  peanut butter on rice cakes (a favorite in our gluten-free home), or even a slice of frittata (try this one, or this one) can be other great options for the main course.

For fruit, I follow the rule that it must be in season and on sale that week to make it in our produce drawer. Today’s fruit selection are blueberries and strawberries in mason jars, but grapes, bananas, cantaloupe, or watermelon also make great options. You could also do a package of easy-to-eat veggies like baby carrots, celery sticks, or red & green peppers if you struggle to get your kiddos to eat fruit.

DIY Breakfast Caddy for the Car from MomAdvice.com

Of course, a surefire way to get your kiddo’s to consume fruit is a little juice, isn’t it? Did you know that an 8 oz. glass of 100% orange juice counts as one of your daily recommended servings of fruit? Pretty cool! Not only that, Florida Orange Juice provides 5 amazing nutrients in every glass: Taste, Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and No Added Sugar.

Since mornings can be long in the car, I added toasted edamame in a small container for munching before or after our morning activities. You could also do nuts like almonds or cashews to add a healthy crunch to round out the meal or as a great in-between snack once hunger strikes again. You just know it will!

Oh, and don’t forget the water! It has been a scorcher out there so we are trying our best to stay hydrated. It’s also so nice to have a water bottle in case we forget it for the next thing on the agenda.

DIY Breakfast Caddy for the Car from MomAdvice.com

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Wouldn’t this be so great for your next family trip too? I have a feeling that our mornings would start out a lot better on trip days if I had a few of these items prepped and ready to go in my fridge for our next adventure.

Well, we are all packed up and off to our next thing probably. I just want time to s-l-o-w down, but I blink and another summer is over. Do you feel that way too?

I hope this idea can be one you can use to fuel the family and maybe squeeze in a good chat with your kids while they are enjoying their breakfast on-the-go. I have, honestly, had some of my best talks with them in the rearview mirror. It is one of those ways that I have found it helps to keep an open dialogue between us as we navigate these new waters of being teens and tweens.

Thank you so much to Florida Department of Citrus for letting us share our fun little diy breakfast caddy with you. We hope you find this idea inspiring.

Cheers, mama, to surviving another summer!

PS- I hope that you made some room for some FLOJ in that mimosa over there!!

Love this idea? Be sure to visit these fun posts too!

Funny Faces Printables

Gluten-Free Orange Creamsicle Pancakes

Make-Ahead Sleepover Breakfast Buffet

Follow the rules below to enter to win a HUGE prize pack from Florida Department of Citrus today!! Follow the rules in the widget below- good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DIY Breakfast Caddy for Car from MomAdvice.com

This blog was sponsored by Florida Department of Citrus. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site!

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The Real Santa Story

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017

The Real Santa Story from MomAdvice.com

From our Parenting Contributor, Kristina Grum, from Thriving Parents.

This past December it finally happened.

All 3 kids asked the question every parent dreads during this time of year.

“Is Santa real?”

Over the years, they had occasionally asked this question.  It had always been easy to pacify them with a question in return.  I always asked them the infamous questions every parent uses:

“What do you think?”

Except it was no longer working.

It was late afternoon while I was getting dinner ready and all 3 kids came and sat at the kitchen island. Our 9-year-old led the conversation.

“Mommy, we have something important to ask you.”

Our 6-year-old followed her.

“Is Santa real?”

Before I could respond, our 8-year-old said, “We know you’re going to ask us what we think, but we want to know the truth.  The real truth.”

The 6-year-old then started in with questions:

“How can one person get around the entire earth AND deliver presents in one night?”

“Reindeer are real but can they really fly?”

“If elves make toys, why do they look like the Lego company’s toys?”

“How can a fat man get down a skinny chimney?”

“Why would it be okay with you to have a stranger come in our house in the middle of the night?”

Ouch.

Are we here already? Weren’t they just babies and we decided what Christmas traditions we wanted to have as a family?

We never put a lot of focus on Santa around the holidays.  We tried to focus more on Jesus since he was the reason we celebrate Christmas.  Most of what they know was learned from friends at school, books, and Christmas movies.

I wasn’t prepared.  I had no plan.  

I thought I’d feel cornered when this moment came but honestly, I felt relief.

“No,” I said. “Santa, the person who wears a red suit and has a white beard isn’t real.  At one time there was a man who delivered presents to children on Christmas but this was hundreds of years ago.”

I told the girls the story of St. Nick and how its earliest origins were of a man who brought presents to children on Christmas and how his story has evolved over the years.

The Real Santa Story from MomAdvice.com

I explained how we all have the spirit of Santa in us and told them it was our responsibility to continue giving presents and doing Random Acts of Kindness for others.  As a family, we do Random Acts of Kindness once a month.  It’s really taught them the importance of giving to others and being more selfless.  Because of this, it was easier for them to see the correlation between giving gifts to celebrate Jesus and being a light in someone else’s day.  

I asked the girls if they could think of some of our Christmas traditions that resemble the spirit of giving.  

They needed some prompting but were able to list a few.  

  • We sponsor a family each year
  • We give the kids Advent boxes at the beginning of the season
  • We bake cookies and deliver them to other people’s mailboxes
  • We pay for the car behind us when we go look at our local light show
  • We donate toys
  • We collect coats and hats and gloves to donate

I was worried our kids would be devastated with this news.  I was especially worried they feel betrayed and lied to.  They didn’t – thank goodness!

I’ll be totally honest, I always felt a little icky about not being truthful with our kids about Santa.  We loved how much fun it was for them but it never sat well with me.  I was more than happy to finally come clean with them and felt Christmas became, even more fun, for them this year.  We did more special surprises and when they wrapped everyone’s gifts, they signed Santa’s name to them.

I think every parent gets to the point where they know they can’t continue to avoid answering questions.

Here are some tips for finally having the real Santa discussion:

  1. Don’t avoid the topic if they’re directly asking about it.
  2. Answer their questions honestly.  
  3. Talk about the importance of gift giving: finding the perfect gift for someone, making people feel special and important, etc.
  4. Ask them if they have any questions.
  5. Be empathetic if they get upset with you.  
  6. Try to find things you can do as a family to make others feel special and to embody the spirit of Santa.
  7. Ask them to not discuss this topic with their friends.

I asked our kids to not discuss this topic with friends at school.  Our kids know children from different cultural and religious backgrounds so it was easy to explain to them.  “Different families have different beliefs and it’s not our responsibility to talk about it with friends.  They can discuss it with their own parents.  If anyone asks you, tell them to talk to their own parents.”

Ending the belief in Santa almost feels like it will be the end of childhood.

I assure you, it isn’t.

Our kids still wake up and crawl into our bed in the middle of the night, still get scared by bad dreams, and still need us to help reach things in the kitchen cabinets.  They still cry when they fall and still want us near by when they’re upset.

There’s plenty of childhood left in them.  

xoxo

–k

Kristina Grum is a Certified Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days she strives for ways to connect with her kids, while using shortcuts to manage and organize her home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in parenthood that is just lurking around the corner. She currently teaches positive discipline parenting classes in her local area and she believes that every parent can shift from barely surviving to thriving in Parenthood. Visit her on Thriving Parents today! 

 

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5 Reasons I Let My Kids Watch TV

Tuesday, April 25th, 2017

5 Reasons I Let My Kids Watch TV

From our parenting and marriage contributor, Mary from Giving Up on Perfect

Anyone who knows me knows I love television. I also love my family and cats and mysteries and queso and long drives by myself, but it’s often more fun to talk about TV. (And, let’s be honest, less divisive than the never-ending debate of cats vs. dogs.)

Given my love for TV I have struggled as a parent, acknowledging and respecting the frequent (and valid) advice from pediatricians and other parenting professionals to limit my children’s screen time. When I had my oldest daughter, I was determined to keep her away from all screens for her first two years. Yes, I was a typical first-time parent that way. And my good intentions and determination did not last for long.

Kudos to those of you who adhere more strictly to the screen-time guidelines than I do. I don’t judge or criticize your choices by any means; I’m sometimes even envious of them. But I’ve found that, while we do try to keep screen time to a couple hours a day, it actually has great benefits for our family.

And I’m not just talking about the fact that I would hire Daniel Tiger to babysit my preschooler in a heartbeat.

Much more than mindless entertainment or free babysitting, watching television with my kids has turned out to be an active and, I believe, healthy part of our relationships. Here’s what I mean:

5 Ways Watching TV Together Benefits Our Family

1. It gives us special time together. After I put my youngest to bed, my nine-year-old and I slip back downstairs for some together time. Our days feel rushed from the first alarm to the bedtime prayers, and my daughter’s love language is quality time – so this pocket of time is high on her (and my) priority list. Sometimes we go through her papers from school, and sometimes we work together to finish some chores or clean up dinner. But most often, we settle into the couch for an episode of Girl Meets World, Just Add Magic, or Project MC2.

I’m super selective about the shows that my kids watch, steering clear of the ones with sarcastic tweens and clueless parents. And when my younger daughter is with us, it’s all-cartoons, all-the-time. But a few nights a week, my older daughter is able to watch a “big kid show” (or the occasional American Girl movie) while she also scores time with her mom. And as long as she wants that, I’m going to give it to her!

2. It creates inside jokes just for our family. Because my girls are young, we don’t have a whole lot of pop culture-related jokes yet. We do have an entire catalog of Daniel Tiger songs and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse cheers that we repeat, but I am sure more quotes and jokes are coming soon. I know that because my brother, parents and I still quote TV shows we watched together, and that was twenty (or more) years ago! I also know this because my daughter already loves processing and remembering plot lines and dialogue after a show is over, which is likely to lead to inside jokes someday.

3. It brings up tough topics and promotes open communication. While I anticipate inside jokes becoming part of our family’s language, I’m already seeing this one happen. Even when I’m selective (or protective, whichever word you want to use) about which shows my kids watch, serious issues are addressed in most every program these days. (I had to laugh when we watched episodes of Doc McStuffins and Girl Meets World in the same day that both dealt with being jealous of your friends. So many struggles are universal through the ages!)

Often, when I’ve needed to discuss tough topics with my oldest daughter, I’ve turned to picture books. But as she’s getting older I’m learning that TV shows are a better medium for raising subjects that we need to talk about. The characters are more relatable than two-dimensional characters in a “kid book” and less threatening or embarrassing than an unexpected lecture from me. Watching a TV show together and letting the conversation develop more naturally has allowed both of us to warm up to some hard things that led to heart-to-hearts.

4. It plays a big part in our holiday traditions. Singing songs, making crafts, eating special food. Serving others, spending time with family, wearing matching sweaters. All these things and so many more are part of our family’s holiday traditions. But so is It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and the Claymation Christmas Special (not to mention Christmas Vacation and other classics we’re saving for when the kids are a bit older!). Watching the Grinch’s heart grow every year is as much a part of our holiday celebration as drinking Grandma’s green punch, singing Silent Night, and exchanging white elephant gifts.

5. It teaches us valuable lessons about life. I used to feel guilty about my love of television. But I’ve realized that those stories we watch aren’t simply entertainment. If we pay attention, they can also teach us something – about the world, about family dynamics, or about social situations. (After all, which of us doesn’t remember the dangers of abusing caffeine pills, courtesy of Jessie Spano and Saved by the Bell?!)

That’s not all. My family also learns about history or the world from all the History Channel shows my husband insists on watching, and we have lots of animated conversations when we watch DIY shows and make up plans for our next home project. And, of course, we also bond over a shared love for sports teams (or shared dismay when they lose!)

Now I want to hear from you! Does your family watch TV together? What are some benefits you get from family screen time?

Fast Talk Faith

If you enjoy learning lessons from your favorite TV shows, you might be interested in FAST TALK & FAITH: A 22-Day Devotional Inspired by Gilmore Girls. Available on Amazon, this devotional offers relatable messages of hope and encouragement with humor and grace, based on stories about our favorite friends from Stars Hollow.

 

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Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure

Tuesday, March 28th, 2017

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com

From our Parenting Contributor, Kristina Grum, from Thriving Parents.

Failure is a funny thing.  As adults, we hate to fail.  

Our mistakes look bigger than they really are.  

We think about our mistakes much longer than necessary.  

We replay situations and think about what we should have done instead.

When it comes to our children, however, we should approach failure in a completely different way.

We should want our kids to make as many mistakes as possible.  

I’ve always encouraged learning from mistakes.  Recently, our family began celebrating them.  Yes, you read correctly – we CELEBRATE mistakes.

It all started with a book.

We go to Barnes and Noble often.  We love to sit and read books and look at the games they have for sale.  I never walk out of there without buying a book for someone.  The girls in our house (me, included!) have an addiction to books – which is a good problem to have.

Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty

A few weeks ago, we met our close friends there and their daughter pointed out the book, Rosie Revere, Engineer.  A few people had already mentioned it to me and said we would love it.  Our girls love to build and create and often use the most random things to do so.  Once, Caroline used a knitted afghan and had it suspended from her bedroom ceiling with paperclips, yarn, and packing tape.

We read the book in the store and loved it so much we bought it immediately.  I love how the story reinforces the importance of failure and how failure is the best way to get on the path to success.

This passage reinforced for me how important it is for kids to experience failure over and over again:

She turned round to leave, but then Great-Great-Aunt Rosie

grabbed hold of young Rosie and pulled her in close

and hugged her and kissed her and started to cry.

“You did it! Hooray! It’s the perfect first try!

This great flop is over.  It’s time for the next!”

Young Rosie was baffled, embarrassed, perplexed.

“I failed,” said dear Rosie.  “It’s just made of trash.

Didn’t you see it? The cheese-copter crashed.”

“Yes!” said her great aunt.  “It crashed.  That is true.

But first it did just what it needed to do.

Before it crashed, Rosie…

before that…

it flew!”

We celebrate failure every day.

Every day, sometime after school, I ask the girls what mistake they made during the day.  It can be as simple as not paying attention in class, saying something mean to their sisters, or throwing their backpacks in the middle of the living room floor.  Sometimes it’s more serious as not speaking up for someone, being disrespectful, or hitting a sibling.

The best thing we can do is to teach our child that everyone makes mistakes.  It’s important to own up to those mistakes and try to do better the next time.  

What this looks like:

Read the book Rosie, Revere, Engineer to your child.  Talk about the feelings Rosie has throughout the book.  In the beginning, she feels embarrassed by her failure because her uncle laughs.  Her great aunt embraces the failure and shows Rosie how it will lead to finding success with her inventions.

Talk about a time you and your child has failed at something.  Talk about something in which you failed as a child or an adult.  Then the next day ask your child, “What did you fail at today?” or “What mistakes did you make today?”  They may be perplexed and not remember what you are talking about at first.  Remind them.

“Remember when we read Rosie Revere, Engineer and she became excited about making mistakes because it meant she was learning? What mistakes did you make today?”

At first, they’re going to have a hard time thinking of one.  That’s okay.  Instead, you tell your child what mistakes you made during the day.  It’s really important for adults to participate in this activity too.  We need to be modeling that it’s okay to make mistakes.

The most important part of talking about failure is…

We talk about what we’ve learned from these mistakes and how we can work to change them for the next time.  It’s important to acknowledge there’s a high chance the same mistake will be made again.  That’s okay.  People are flawed and we make a lot of mistakes, some of them over and over again.  We hope each time the mistake is a little less so we can begin to learn from it.

We should want our kids to make as many mistakes as possible.  

During these formative years, we’re available to help guide them on how to pick up the pieces and repair their mistakes, if they need it.  When they’re old enough to go out into the world on their own, they’ll be better equipped to handle mistakes and uncomfortable situations.

Here are some great books that help reinforce the importance of making mistakes.  They go in age from youngest to oldest audience.  I hope you find them helpful.

xoxo

–k

Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beaty

Rosie Revere, Engineer

rosie-reveres-project-book-engineers

You can pre-order Rosie Revere’s Big Project Book For Bold Engineers, which will have projects your child can work on.  I know our kids are going to love it!

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure from MomAdvice.com

Other books to check out on teaching the importance of failure:

The Most Magnificent Thing

What Do You Do With a Problem?

What to do When Mistakes Make You Quake

Feats and Failures

How They Choked

Teaching Kids the Importance of Failure

What are some ways you have taught your children the importance of failure? Please share!

Kristina Grum is a Certified Parent Educator who has over a decade of experience working with children, including being a classroom teacher. She took the (very) long route to loving motherhood. These days she strives for ways to connect with her kids, while using shortcuts to manage and organize her home. She is a postpartum mood disorder survivor who thrives on helping others find the joy in parenthood that is just lurking around the corner. She currently teaches positive discipline parenting classes in her local area and she believes that every parent can shift from barely surviving to thriving in Parenthood. Visit her on Thriving Parents today! 

This post contains affiliate links that help our site! Thank you for supporting me! xoxo

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The Truth About Disney’s Beauty & the Beast

Tuesday, March 7th, 2017

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

I’m so thankful that Mary screened this movie for our readers and could give us her perspective on the highly anticipated Beauty & the Beast film. I ask the commentary today be kind and respectful, as always! 

Before I walked into the theater to watch an early screening of Beauty and the Beast last week, a man in a suit took my cell phone and put it in a brown paper bag. He frowned and reminded me that phones were not allowed in the theater for our special preview. Before I handed it over I took one last look at the screen to make sure my oldest daughter’s school or my youngest daughter’s babysitter hadn’t called. Satisfied I wasn’t missing anything vital, I stepped into the dark theater and found my seat.

Giddy to see the live-action version of my absolute favorite Disney movie, I had no idea that my phone was blowing up with concerns and controversy about the very film I was watching.

After retrieving my phone I immediately checked all the places I might have messages and was surprised to find notifications in nearly every one of them. As I listened to and read messages, I learned that Disney had announced that the new movie featured scenes with a gay character – and the world reacted strongly.

beauty-and-the-beast-3

I’ve read lots of rants but few reviews because, well, this is a movie that has not been released yet. Since I have actually seen the film in question, I thought I’d share with you the truth about Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.

You might be wondering how to weigh my opinion or what perspective I have about this topic. That’s a fair question, so I’ll start with those facts.

• I am a Bible-believing, Jesus-following Christian.
• I am more conservative than some, more liberal than others; an objective evaluation might label me moderate.
• My husband and I have two daughters, ages three and nine. I am careful about what media they consume, sticking exclusively to programs and materials rated PG or G.
• I love Disney movies, though I’m not a Disney super-fan by any means. I do, however, unabashedly adore Beauty and the Beast, and I could probably recite most the of the 1991 movie and sing every word of the songs for you at any given time.

Now that you understand where I’m coming from, I’d love to answer your questions! Keep in mind that this post will include SPOILERS for the movie, but I’m assuming that if you are interested in this film, you’re familiar with the story.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

Does the new movie include a gay character?

Maybe. Lefou, played brilliantly by Josh Gad, is a silly character. He’s over the top in his adoration of Gaston and cracks jokes throughout the movie. Is it behavior based in hero worship? Is it a romantic crush? I think you could take it either way. To me, it seemed like hero worship and extreme devotion, just like it was in the animated version. Yes, he is exuberant in his affection for Gaston, but no more than in the cartoon and no more than the adoring sidekick typically is in this kind of story.

In the Gaston song, where Lefou sings verse after verse about how no one can compare to Gaston, he has a short scene with three villagers. The men are standing at the bar, and Lefou sings to and/or near them about Gaston, eventually physically turning their heads. I interpreted that as him making sure they paid attention to the main event (Gaston), and nothing more.

Later on when the villagers attack the Beast’s castle, those same three men are caught by the wardrobe. Her defense is to throw clothing at them, leaving them wearing dresses and wigs (and possibly make-up, but I don’t remember for sure). Two of the men are embarrassed, while one lights up with a grin. As he runs away after his friends, the wardrobe sings, “Be free!”

In the final scene all the characters are seen dancing in the castle’s ballroom. The focus is on Belle and the Beast-turned-back-to-prince, but we also see Mr. and Mrs. Potts, Mr. and Mrs. Cogworth, Lumiere and Plumette, and other couples dance. The style of dance involves a lot of turning and twirling and some switching of partners, and Lefou ends up dancing with the villager who didn’t mind wearing a dress. They both look surprised but happy.

Each of those three scenes are only a few seconds long and take place in full, fast-moving acts that include stunning (even overwhelming) visual details and spirited, full-volume songs.

Will my kids notice the implications that a character is gay?

It depends on your kids. But if they’re early elementary or younger, I doubt it. As I mentioned, the scenes that imply Lefou or the villager might be gay are brief and, in my opinion, subtle. Nothing is explicit or spelled-out, and if your kids haven’t been introduced to homosexuality before, they probably won’t think about it now.

Obviously I don’t know your kids, how observant they are or what they’ve already been exposed to. I can’t guarantee they won’t ask any questions. But I am confident that when my girls (ages 3 and 9) watch this movie, they will not notice any character’s sexuality.

Should I take my kids to see this movie?

Maybe. (I know, you’re loving my definitive answers, aren’t you?!)

I can’t wait for my girls to watch the new Beauty and the Beast, but I won’t be taking them to see it in the theater. My oldest is sensitive to intense scenes, and the wolves and the attacking villagers would scare her on the big screen. My youngest is only three, and I’m afraid those same scenes would be too much for her in the theater as well. When we’re at home I can distract them, remind them that it’s make-believe, or simply hit fast-forward.

Nothing is gory or graphic in this movie, by the way. My kids are just sensitive. If they weren’t, I wouldn’t hesitate to take them to this the day it opens.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

Should I go see this movie?

I think so. It’s fantastic! I shared a full review of the movie on my blog, but the short answer is that this version is incredible and I’m already plotting ways to see it in the theater again. The music, the costumes, the acting – it’s all beautiful, and I was delighted by every part of it.

If you’re concerned about a character being written as gay, this might not be the movie for you. I personally was not offended by any of the characters. But even if you believe differently about homosexuality than I do, I believe you could still love this movie. Nothing about it was in your face with any kind of agenda; honestly, Zootopia was more political than this. And as with many things, you often find what you’re looking for. If you watch Beauty and the Beast for the wonder, the magic, the truth that beauty lies within and girls should be allowed to read books and dishes should be allowed to dance and sing, then that is what you’ll find. And you will be as enchanted as I was.

The Truth About Disney's Beauty & the Beast from MomAdvice.com

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3-Ingredient Cloud Dough With WeeSchool (FREE- Limited Time!)

Monday, March 6th, 2017

3-ingredient cloud dough recipe from MomAdvice.com

This post was created in partnership with WeeSchool. All opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! We need this exact call to action language early in the post: Download the WeeSchool App here by June 1 and you can register for free, lifetime access to all premium WeeSchoool content and features.

Although much of the mothering I have done for my kids has felt instinctual, I found many challenges and had a lot of anxiety about them meeting certain milestones. My son, for example, had a significant delay in speech and sensory issues in his early years. I had no idea to help him and relied upon a community program that provided at-home guidance to help teach me how to help him overcome these hurdles.

I, honestly, have no idea what our life would have looked like if we had not had early intervention, and I attribute much of his academic success to these programs that intervened and helped guide us.

Now my kids are getting older, but I still recognize the importance and need for early intervention for other families. That is why I am SO incredibly and genuinely excited to share with you about a new app called WeeSchool that you must download ASAP.

It is, truly, like having a family educator right at your disposal to help guide you to help your child succeed.

WeeSchool App Milestones Month by Month

As you can see, this app gives you a quick at-a-glance look at what key milestones your child should be reaching each month. Play Plans are provided that help guide your child to reach those milestones.  These allow you to play smarter with your child with a list of recommended activities, toys, books and music.

In fact, it is the first-ever curriculum for babies from birth to age 3 that can help you learn how to play smart with your baby.

This helps you to not only track the milestones, but to support you and your baby in the process. WeeSchool wants to enrich your daily routines by creating activities you can do with your child, providing guidance on practical toys to support milestones, and even books on the different milestones you are working toward with your baby.

WeeSchool App Journal

Imagine going to the pediatrician with your child’s milestones marked and even a photo to document those moments to share with your family and friends. I can’t imagine how reassuring it would have been to come armed like this for my doctor. Could we have flagged our son and gotten him help sooner if we had something like this? I, truly, believe we could! This is a transformative tool for new parents.

Get a FREE Membership to WeeSchool Today!!

I am so excited that WeeSchool is offering our readers a free premium membership! Parents can sign up until June 1, 2017 to become a Charter Member and receive lifetime access to all Premium WeeSchool content and features!

 

3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com 3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com 3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com

If there was one thing I learned from our early childhood intervention classes that we did with our son, it was the power in creating from things you already have. In honor of today’s partnership with WeeSchool, I wanted to share with you this easy 3-ingredient Cloud Dough recipe that you can make for your kids! This fluffy dough is a great sensory activity for kids and is so fun to play with that even adults want to get on the action.

Sensory stimulation is so important to a child’s neurological development, and playing with this simple and safe flour mixture offers a pleasant (even therapeutic) sensory experience. Playing with cloud dough also encourages fine-motor development as your wee one explores and creates using tiny hands, delighting in the tactile wonderfulness of this unique medium.

Pair this with items from your kitchen drawers like measuring cups, spoons, ice cream scoops, silicone cupcake molds, or cookie cutters.

We are using Tempera Powder Paint to create the vivid hue in this dough because it blends so easily into this recipe. If you are worried about your child ingesting it, feel free to leave the color out of this one!

3-Ingredient Cloud Dough from MomAdvice.com

3-Ingredient Cloud Dough
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8 cups
 
Ingredients
  • 8 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • A spoonful or two of Powdered Tempera Paint (order online or check a teacher's supplies store/craft store)
  • Large Plastic Container with Lid for Storage
Instructions
  1. Measure flour directly into container.
  2. Add a spoonful or two of powdered tempera paint and mix well with a wooden or metal spoon.
  3. Add vegetable oil and mix well until it is fully incorporated.
  4. Store in an airtight lidded container for up to one month.

3-ingredient-cloud-dough-recipe

 

 I hope you can take a moment to download this amazing app and mix up a little cloud dough to keep your kiddos busy! Download the WeeSchool App here by June 1 and you can register for free, lifetime access to all Premium WeeSchool content and features.

This post was created in partnership with WeeSchool. Thank you for supporting the companies that support our site! 

 

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I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

Monday, January 16th, 2017

I have Hidden Figures in my book stack right now and I can’t wait to catch the film now with my daughter after reading this review from Mary today!

From our marriage & parenting contributor, Mary Carver.

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

The first time I saw a preview for Hidden Figures, the movie based on true events in the lives of three African-American women working at NASA in the early sixties, I cried. And I don’t just mean a tear or two slipped down my face. No, I sobbed. LIKE A BABY.

The same thing happened the next five times I saw a preview, too. Clearly this was a story that moved me, and I couldn’t wait to see it. Even more, I couldn’t wait to take my nine-year-old daughter to see it.

I’ll admit, when I showed her the preview a couple months ago, she did not understand what the movie was about or why I wanted her to be excited. And, though, we talked about it a little before seeing the movie last weekend, she still went into it with a lot of questions.

Questions like, “What is NASA? Are they the best at making space ships?” and “Why are they calling her a computer when she’s a person?” and “What is that?” (It was a typewriter. A TYPEWRITER, you guys!)

But her biggest and most frequent question was simply, “Why are they being so mean?”

Over the past year we’ve had quite a few discussions about racism and civil rights, both in our country’s history and in current events. I’ve tried desperately to keep up with my daughter’s compassionate, curious nature as she asks questions that I don’t always know how to answer but know are crucial to helping her grow into a kind, educated person who makes a positive difference in her world. We’ve read some books and watched some videos, and I just knew this movie – thankfully rated PG – would allow us to take our conversations to a deeper level as we learned, together, about a previously unknown part of our nation’s story.

I’m so happy to say that I was right. (Let’s face it; I’m always happy to say I’m right – but even more than usual this time!) Hidden Figures was an outstanding movie.

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

The writing and acting were fantastic, with realistic dialogue that included both humorous banter between friends and family and sharp, nuanced conversation between races and genders. (And the wardrobe was gorgeous. It’s possible that, in addition to her more serious observations, my daughter also noted how pretty their clothes were!) It was funny and heartwarming throughout, but also intense and heartbreaking.

Unsurprisingly, I also cried LIKE A BABY more than once.

I cried when the women were talked down to and disrespected purely for their gender and the color of their skin, when their lives were made unnecessarily difficult and yet they just kept on going. I cried when I leaned down to explain to my daughter the significance of a white woman calling a black woman by her first name while the black woman called the white woman Mrs. with her last name. I cried when the characters didn’t GET IT, and I cried when they did. I grinned so big when people simply treated others like humans, and I shook my head and said, “No freaking way!” when they treated others like less-than-humans.

But you know what? I didn’t cry one time in the car was we drove home after the movie – or as I answered question after question after question at bedtime that night. I didn’t cry when my girl asked, again, “But why did they have to be so mean? Why would they do that?” Because those conversations are exactly what I hoped for when I decided to take her to this film. Even though we don’t have answers for all of those questions, the fact that she’s asking them and we’re discussing them is a big deal.

The most important takeaway for my daughter (and for me) was absolutely an eye-opening education about these women, about the racism and sexism they faced, and an appreciation for the way they fought against those challenges. We also talked about our own racist tendencies, prejudice that we hate and want to deny but must acknowledge exists.

And aside from the global implications of this movie and its themes, I’m also hopeful that my daughter learned – from a source other than her parents – that she can do hard things. I hope she can apply what she saw to her own life and acknowledge that life is hard, but just like the women working at NASA fifty years ago, she can do hard things.

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

On our ride home following the movie, I asked my daughter a few questions so I could share her perspective with you. Here they are, along with her answers:

Me: I’m going to ask you some questions about the movie, so I can write a blog post about it.

Her: Cool! I’m being interviewed! Wait, do you have a secret camera recording this?

Me: No. … Moving on … What did you think about the movie?

Her: It was good! I liked it a LOT. (*sings* I don’t like it. I love it!)

Me: What was your favorite part?

I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

Her: They were so smart! And they fought for the right to be equal. And that one guy was really nice when she told him how far away her (colored women’s) bathroom was. I liked it when they said funny things, too. Oh, and John Glenn.

Me: Why did you like John Glenn?

Her: Well, he was really cute, but I guess that’s not the point. (KILL ME NOW, FELLOW MOMS. Although, she wasn’t wrong.) I mean, maybe it’s part of the point…

Me: Was there anything you didn’t like about the movie?

Her: I didn’t like how mean they were! And it was kind of scary. I mean, the going to space part. (Like mother, like daughter.) And the kissing parts.

Me: Are you glad we went to see it?

Her: Yes!!!

So, there you have it. My daughter and I both highly recommend seeing Hidden Figures – and taking a young person along with you!

  I Took My Daughter to Hidden Figures and This is What She Said

MOVIE SYNOPSIS from 20th Century Fox, via IMDB.com: As the United States raced against Russia to put a man in space, NASA found untapped talent in a group of African-American female mathematicians that served as the brains behind one of the greatest operations in U.S. history. Based on the unbelievably true life stories of three of these women, known as “human computers”, we follow these women as they quickly rose the ranks of NASA alongside many of history’s greatest minds specifically tasked with calculating the momentous launch of astronaut John Glenn into orbit, and guaranteeing his safe return. Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson crossed all gender, race, and professional lines while their brilliance and desire to dream big, beyond anything ever accomplished before by the human race, firmly cemented them in U.S. history as true American heroes.

 Have you seen Hidden Figures yet? What did you think?

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