3 lessons for kids AND parents from ‘The Lego Batman Movie’

3 lessons for kids AND parents from ‘The Lego Batman Movie’

Hollywood certainly knew what it was doing when it combined two of the favorite things of most U.S. kids — Legos and Batman — into an animated film.

The Lego Batman Movie grossed $53 million in its first weekend, slightly less than projected but more than enough to guarantee we will get a sequel.

My nine-year-old son and I laughed hysterically throughout the movie, and then walked away with a few lessons about life. Yes, The Lego Batman Movie actually has a plot – and a pretty good one, too.

Here are three lessons families shouldn’t miss when watching Lego Batman: Continue reading

We’re giving away our kids’ Christmas toys

We’re giving away our kids’ Christmas toys

My oldest son was two years old when he received his first “big” gift: a Thomas the Train track set.

It had everything a two-year-old – or even a 22-year-old – could have wanted. Fifty-two wooden pieces. A bridge. A tunnel. A crane. Even a tall, fake waterfall. And it all could be assembled on a wooden play table that was just-his-size.

He would play with it during the morning, afternoon and night, pushing Thomas, Gordon and Henry around the track. Over. And over. And over.

Seven years later, though, that train set gets little attention from my oldest son, or even from his younger brother and sister. Instead, it resides in a cluttered side of our basement amidst other toys that my children have received over the years – toys that on most days also get neglected. To borrow a phrase from a classic Christmas cartoon, it’s our own “Island of Misfit Toys” – and they’re all looking for a loving home.

Those toys can be an eyesore, yes, but they also can be convicting.

We’re giving away our kids’ Christmas toysConsider, for example, the items Samaritan’s Purse recommends packing in its Christmas shoeboxes that go to less-fortunate children in other countries. The list includes balls and dolls but also pens, pencils, socks, soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes. Toothbrushes! Meanwhile, I and countless other Americans watch 42-inch televisions and wonder if it’s time to upgrade to something much larger for our Christmas present.

Experts tells us the United States has 3.1 percent of the world’s children yet purchases 40 percent of its toys. [1] But we shouldn’t point fingers at our kids. They didn’t buy those toys.

Besides, we adults are quite good at collecting our own “toys.” Continue reading

REVIEW: Is ‘Jack Reacher: Never Go Back’ family-friendly? (And is there too much violence for kids?)

REVIEW: Is 'Jack Reacher: Never Go Back' family-friendly? (And is there too much violence for kids?)If you ever decide to venture into a dark alley, late at night with bad guys all around, then you might want to take Jack Reacher with you.

Reacher is the hero in the popular book series by Lee Child and the film series starring Tom Cruise, and it seems there’s nothing he can’t escape. Sure, he might kill a few people and break a few necks along the way, but the odds are that he’s walking out alive.

Jack Reacher: Never Go Back (PG-13) hits theaters this weekend, bringing us the second installment in the movie series that follows a former major in the U.S. Army Military Police Corps who travels the country and constantly finds himself in the middle of trouble. But somehow, he always ends up on the right side of things.

He’s part James Bond, part Jason Bourne and part Ethan Hunt – and 100 percent testosterone.

In the newest movie, Reacher (Cruise) is framed for murder and his friend Major Susan Turner (Cobie Smulders) is wrongly accused of espionage, but both escape custody (thanks to Reacher) and begin trying to find the people who truly were responsible for the crimes.

It won’t be easy, though. They’re not only being chased by military police but also by the bad guys – the bad guys who actually did commit the crimes. And those bad guys not only want Reacher and Turner dead, but they’re also after a girl, 15-year-old Samantha (Danika Yarosh), who is believed to be a daughter that Reacher never knew.

There are 20 books in the Jack Reacher series, so there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing this character for many years to come on the big screen.

But is Jack Reacher: Never Go Back family-friendly? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

REVIEW: Is ‘Storks’ OK for small kids? (And are there any scary parts?)

REVIEW: Is 'Storks' OK for small children? (And are there any scary parts?)Nate is an energetic, creative little boy who wants a sibling – specifically, a brother – so he can have a playmate. His parents, though, are workaholic realtors who can’t fathom a household with two children.

But Nate has a grand idea. He will send a handwritten letter to the storks, who live far, far away on Stork Mountain, and they will bring him a brother. There’s one big problem: The storks are no longer in the baby business. (Yes, they once were.) They are now an Amazon.com-type company known as Cornerstore.com, and they deliver packages – such as TV sets.

Fear not, though, because the letter ends up in the hands of a clueless company worker, who accidentally turns on the non-operational baby-making machine, popping out a sweet little bundle of joy. So far, so good, but the CEO of Cornerstone, Hunter (Kelsey Grammer) vows to stop the delivery, and a pack of wolves wants the baby, too.

It’s all part of the plot in Storks (PG), which opens in theaters this weekend and was created by the same studio (Warner Bros. Animation) that gave us The Lego Movie, which was No. 1 for three weeks in 2014 and ended with an incredible $257 million domestic gross. I really liked The Lego Movie, but I enjoyed Storks even more. Storks is funnier, has a better storyline, and also has more life lessons for children and parents.

Storks is pro-family in the original sense, and after watching it you understand why an adoption organization (adoption-share.com) is one of the film’s partners.

But is Storks OK for all children, including small kids? Let’s take a look. Continue reading

‘Dad, what is abortion?’ (4 ways to discuss society’s most-debated issue)

‘Dad, what is abortion?’ (4 ways to discuss society's most-debated issue)

As a parent, you don’t always get to pick the perfect moments for discussing life’s big issues with your children. In fact, sometimes they take place at the absolute worst times — like on a Sunday morning, when you and your spouse are frantically trying to get all the kids ready for church.

But that was the situation I found myself in recently when my 8-year-old son, in between brushing his teeth and combing his hair, broached the issue of politics, boldly declaring who he was for in a major election.

“And that’s who my friends are for, too,” he said.

His choice, though, was not my choice, and it boiled down to one issue: abortion. I have never supported a candidate who backed abortion rights, and this race was no different.

“What is abortion?” he replied.

Perhaps my son’s naive political position was my own fault. I enjoy talking about government and politics with my kids: We’ve toured presidential historical homes (so far, four as a family) and we’ve attended campaign rallies (of both major parties).

It’s been sort of a Civics 101 lesson for my kids, yet I’ve never gone into detail about why Mommy and Daddy support one candidate and not the other. It’s always been a generic “we’re not for them because they believe things that go against the Bible.”

Yet here I was, on a stressful Sunday morning, wondering if it was possible to explain the most divisive and debated issue of our time to my 8-year-old son … and preferably in less than three minutes.

Of course, a conversation about abortion will look different within different families, but most of them – within a pro-life framework – will share similar points. Here are four suggestions: Continue reading