Brave: A Review

Bella and I have been waiting with great anticipation for the release of Brave, Disney and Pixar's first animated movie featuring a female lead. We carved out time to watch it first thing on Friday morning.

And we weren't disappointed.

Merida is fierce and funny. Her mane bright red curls is frizzy and unruly. Her attitude is clearly and undeniable teenaged and determined. Bella was in love from the moment Merida launched herself on a horse and galloped through a forest, shooting bulls-eyes with impeccable aim.

I kept looking over at the heroine in my story -- that little girl who has a wolf heart and a staunch belief in her own power -- to gauge her engagement in the story on the screen. She was hooked. She laughed at the juvenile, slapstick humor. She cried at the tender moments and her heart wrenched when things seemed least hopeful. She was thoroughly in Merida's world.

And I loved the movie, too. I found myself wishing I could have Merida's hair, that I could slice an arrow from 50 feet away, that I could drive a horse through rough, wet terrain to save the day.

Warning: Of course, Brave wasn't without pitfalls. Bella was petrified during the three big bear fight scenes. There are three of them and I've heard many parents say their children simply couldn't handle that level of fear. The movie is rated PG, so it isn't appropriate for children who are sensitive to violence. We wound up with Bella in my lap for the last half of the movie and my girl is pretty tough.

But while the movie wasn't as complex and nuanced as other Pixar films, it was a movie that spoke to my soul, a drink of cool water in an otherwise barren field. Consider the trailers leading up to the movie. We had Wreck-It Ralph, Finding Nemo 3D, Monster University, and La Luna (Pixar short) ... all stories built around male characters.

It's sad that Brave is the only movie in the studio's repertoire that features a strong female as the center of the story. Equally sad is that in some markets, the trailers also featured Katy Perry: Part of Me 3D. Is pop-star porn the best we can do for our girls?

For all the disappointments and unwelcome violence, Brave is still a movie that will land on our shelf at home. Bella does want her own bow and arrow. I am on the hunt for a Merida doll that is true to the movie and not a sexed-up knock-off. And we had an amazing hour and a half together at the theatre.

All this to say: Brave gets three thumbs up from the Miller girls. Let us know what you think about it!

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All Flocked Up

Our sweet Fancy has been a lonely hen for so long that we forgot a few things about her. Namely, that she's a follower.

The Queen of Our Backyard happily turned the title over to a new girl this weekend. Introducing the new alpha female Lucy and her sister Ethel.

Lucy and Ethel are Jersey Giant chickens and are on schedule to get much bigger in the next year or so. They're already larger than Fancy, who we speculate is probably 4 years old.

We started them in the coop to avoid cycle-of-life issues and kept Fancy free ranging since she was pitiful the last time she went in the coop. But then Fancy forced her way into the coop. Another hour later and all three hens had busted out and were roaming the yard.

And so it goes.

No, it's not fall. We just never raked. The girls were happy in there!

Now that all three hang out in the yard during the day, they also lay their eggs in the nests of their choice (versus the nesting boxes in the coop). Fancy lays hers next to our chimney, Lucy lays them in an empty nesting box outside the coop, and Ethel lays them wherever she happens to be when the feeling over takes her.

Though she's a runt in comparison, Fancy has Lucy and Ethel beat in one area. Look at their itty bitty eggs!

Everyone's enamored with our new girls. Fancy follows them around, the kids keep finding reasons to feed them, the Mountain Man is ready to build them a coop fit for royalty, and I'm blogging again.

Bella with Lucy, who's slightly larger than Ethel.

It's been a good past few days.

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Introducing Chewy

A few months ago we acquired a cat named Chewy. She came from a home with two other cats who were highly aggressive, so when we got her, she jumped at every noise, crept along the walls, and hid from the kids.

I happen to be on The List with our local animal shelter. Apparently, I'm really good at loving animals for the first little while and then I get rid of them. We've gone through four cats and two dogs since The Mountain Man and I started dating 10 years ago. The only pet that's stuck has been Fancylina and I think that's because all we have to do is throw food at her.

So imagine my surprise when the skittish, creeper kitty -- who we took in because her owners felt bad for her and figured we were better than the shelter and who I assumed would live under our bed until she died of old age -- became my little side kick.

She is everywhere I am. When I walk, she weaves between my feet (leading me to pretend to go right when I plan to go left. It's the only way to get anywhere in this house). When I'm working, she's crashed out against my thigh snoring away. When I go to bed, she claims the spot between my feet (so that I can never, ever, get the sheets where I want them).

Chewy is my girl. I hold conversations with her and have as many photos of her on my phone as I do my children. She makes me smile and has finally given me a coworker (even if the only work she's doing is sawing logs). She'll lay with TMM, but only if I'm not available to her.

And, slowly, she's spreading her love to the kids. Javi won't allow me to take photos of him, but if he sits still near her, she'll come head butt him for some lovin'. And this weekend, she finally rested on Bella. Of course, it helped that Bella was passed out.

So I've decided I shouldn't be on The List. I was never the problem. All those other pets (including the 9 fish I accidentally killed) were wrong for us. Getting rid of each of them brought us a tiny bit closer to our big love calico ball of love.

Now if you'll excuse me, somebody needs my attention...

Yes, she will stare me straight in the face. Anyone else have a four-legged stalker?

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My Olympian

This weekend was a huge first for my girl. She donned a too-tight leotard* and competed in her very first gymnastics meet.

Looking at the intensity on her face as she moved from station to station, I had to wonder again exactly where she came from. How did I -- the girl who sucked her thumb in the corner and refused to participate in any sport -- wind up with this powerhouse of personality and sound?

Her scores reflected the hours she's spent practicing: 5th place on the balance beam, 3rd place on vault, 2nd place on bars, and 1st place for her floor routine.

Now we just need them to create a headstand station. Homegirl has talent!

*Seriously? What's up with the leotards. She was measured by a "professional" and yet her tush was still hanging out. I wanted to throw a blanket over her half the time.

Some days you just have to brag on your kid, so feel free to take to the comments to tell me what awesome thing your little one(s) did this week.

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The Sounds of Silence

My family has been tiptoeing around
a bomb. It's 11 years old
with a short fuse.

It's a noisy thing. It's screaming
and slamming and rage rage rage,
his chair scraping across the floor
as he's sent away to solitude,
the jangle-whoosh-whisper of a belt
being whipped out of pant loops
(a threat that looms without striking),
his sister's wails when he snaps.

The noise scrambles up my brain,
sends my nerves to the surface
of my skin, leaves me lurching
in the dark for compassion, restraint.
It gets trapped inside me until
I'm vibrating with white-hot frustration,
my throat craving the cleansing scream.

This is not how I'll live,
not the childhood I'll give them.
So I listen to my heart,
give him the space and silence
to defuse, to regroup, to relax.

I give him hours of silence
that are loud with quiet sounds:
His pencil against paper, the sharp
intake of breath when he spies
a grosbeak or a blue jay
at the bird feeder, the excitement
of an afternoon that's only his.

But the silence is loaded with
worry, too. I listen to it,
note its shape, memorize its cadence.
I pray the balance can last.

But this is just our start:
listening to and honoring what's broken,
and giving each other (and ourselves)
the space and time to heal.

Today's post is part of Six Word Fridays and Five-for-Five. The topic is "Listening."

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The Luxury Of Aging

My age is showing.

Silvery gray hair taking over my temples, aches and pains when I sit in one position for too long, the complete inability to down shot after shot and still function the next day... It's all gone gone gone, left in the hazy memory of my youth.

Some days I feel wise and experienced; others I'm fumbling toward decrepitude and decay.

But I never doubt for a second that I'll wake up tomorrow and the day after and the day after. Older, grayer, more dismayed at teen culture than the day before, more accepting of myself as time marches on.

There are people in my life who don't have that luxury.

My son has been terrorizing his little sister. I sat him down in a quiet moment today and told him my story. I shared with him that I wasted my childhood fighting with my sisters, with that sister in particular, and that I regret it every single day of my life.

As an adult, when her life is a struggle and she can take nothing for granted, I understand that she was a gift given to me when I was just four years old. But then? She was a brat, a nuisance, the kid who stole all the attention, who I thought had an easy ride.

We're both older now, and she's older than we ever thought she'd be. Yet I rarely see her age written across her expression or her attitude. She's forever hopeful, forever determined, forever young.

And so my age is showing. Time marches on and the gray strands will soon outnumber the brown and I'll eventually need to turn the music down in the car and I won't understand what the youngsters are talking about.

And I am so unbelievably grateful. (But, Lord, please let her ever remain by my side.)

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Capturing A Moment

I am always and forever behind her, catching up. I am begging, negotiating. Hold on, let me take just one picture.

But she's gone, arms and legs propelling her forward, eyes set on some distant there, hair flying and curling in the wind of her own motion. She is whirling ever away.

Just one. Promise. You can show me your sass. And she stops, a little girl with all power.

One hand flies to her suddenly jutting hip, her head tilts, her eyes slant and she is 5, 10, 15 standing outside the movie theatre with a gaggle of other naively confident girls learning to push their breasts out while sucking in their bellies.

But now, this tick-tock moment, she is just a little girl in rain boots and too many necklaces and an umbrella though there's no rain. She is 5, 3, 1 toddling away from me to cruise from surface to surface, exploring a world she doesn't know can be dangerous.

The shutter clicks. The stasis falls away and she's off again. Singing and twirling on a trajectory that moves her firmly toward a future this moment can't begin to capture.

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