Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Advanced Screening: A "Divergent" Film Review

Don't want spoilers? Fantastic! 
There's a spoiler warning below that will tell you when to stop reading. 

Don't mind them? Plow on through. 



Last night I was fortunate enough to take my husband and daughters to an advanced screening of "Divergent" (in theaters Friday). Our group came in with split expectations: My eldest daughter (Z, almost 13) and I have read the first book. She's read the second and most of the third, too. My husband, Abe, and our younger daughter, (Jace, barely 11) haven't shown much interest in it.



Knowing my family's enjoyment of things like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games, I wanted to see if we would enjoy "Divergent" together. On the way to the theater, we discussed the idea of the 5 Factions in the story: Dauntless, Erudite, Candor, Abnegation, and Amity. Abe and I got the kids thinking about where they think they would be born and where they would choose to live as adults. Jace didn't feel informed enough to make a decision. While we could all agree that Abraham would absolutely have to be Divergent and that I couldn't possibly be anything but Abnegation, the girls couldn't settle on their own fates.

Image property of Divergent.wikia.com
























As the film started, Jace assumed her "This is going to be bloody and gross" stance: Curled up in her chair with her knees pressed hard against her chest, despite my protests regarding feet being on chairs. I offered her my hand and braced myself for what very well could have been an unbearably long screening.

It wasn't. Despite a couple of jumps and one moment of burying her head into her knees, Jace made it through the whole film and enjoyed it. For those who have read the book: The things you're most worried about your children seeing probably aren't in the movie. A certain training injury sustained to a secondary character's face? Yeah, that's not in there. Take a deep breath. You'll be okay.

This brings me to my only complaint of most movies based upon books: Editing. What makes it in and why? Should these story elements be cut? Does the story still make sense after it's been chopped and stitched over and over again?


Example: Yes. 

...and no. 

Does Divergent still tell the same story? 

Yes. But there are pieces missing. 

It's probably not enough to make most fans of the book cringe, but purists may be upset. Aspects of Tris' relationship with her parents have been changed slightly. The motives of various characters are the same, but are not as well defined or explained. The Harry Potter example above is a strong comparison, possibly stronger than the assumed comparison that will no doubt take place between Divergent and The Hunger Games.

While there are similarities between The Hunger Games and Divergent (strong female protagonist; themes of self defense, war, and violence; a fracturing dystopian society built upon what once was the modern day United States) the differences are more prevalent. Where The Hunger Games pulls it's punches and opts to punctuate the story with the fallout of violent behavior, Divergent rolls into it's violence. It is clearly stated within the story that sometimes you have to take the offensive. Katniss Everdeen is looking for a way to avoid killing anyone else while she tries to survive. Beatrice "Tris" Prior is trying to live; not just survive. Neither finds killing to be an ideal option, but Tris hesitates less, understanding that that which does not kill you may well try a second time.

The similarities in book to film editing between Divergent and Harry Potter (specifically looking at The Order of the Phoenix) are far more clear. As we made our way through Goblet of Fire, it became clear that the length of the later books in the series would pose significant problems for the film team. Things had to be cut. When I think of the space between Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix, I imagine an old fashioned cutting room floor absolutely littered with things dear to my heart. Elegant explanations of teen jealousy, familial betrayal, ANGST ANGST ANGST - all scattered on the floor. Divergent doesn't necessarily suffer the way Phoenix did, but it fails to thrive due to some of the cuts made.



I want to include Abe's review of the film for those who are going into it as he did, having not read the book:

"I feel very lucky that we were able to get into this screening. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and am so thankful to Candace and Rewind 100.7 for the opportunity to go to Divergent with my family.

It was very interesting to feel how the film was affected by my expectations not knowing much about the source material. I felt like there was more to talk about as a family when I had a loose idea of the premise than after I had seen the film. Where the movie really soars for me is before the plot machinations take over for the last act of the movie- when the tension in the script comes from the protagonist's attempts to fit into a rigid, militarist culture that replies total conformity. 

As Tris is being asked to internalize a worldview for her own survival despite her idealistic, intellectual, and moral objections I was compelled. What does a thoughtful person do when they may have made a seemingly irreparable mistake and given themselves over to a culture requiring complete conformity? It made me want to talk to my children about the Stanford Prison Experiment and Stanley Milgram and Adolf Eichmann. I was ready for a very interesting problematizing of the uncertainty you feel in the The Philosopher's Stone when the characters are sorted into houses. What if your personality and moral code aren't internalized at this point? What does Ron become if somehow he gets sorted into Slytherin? What about those that exist on the fringes of a culture, that don't fit in with the core group and try to persist despite being ostracized? Is their commitment as strong? Is it stronger? I'm not going to have my children watch Platoon or Full Metal Jacket anytime soon, but these were reference points I was considering before the action in the movie took over, and while I still really did enjoy the film I found I had much less to say about its premise after it had concluded than before I actually knew what it was about and how it would approach it." 


SPOILERS AHEAD: 

CONTINUE ONLY IF YOU HAVE READ THE BOOK! 




I would be doing a disservice to fellow parents who want to know what to expect when taking their tweens to this film if I didn't specifically address some of the cuts made to the script.

What's missing:

The film has removed the early friendships with fellow Abnegation students from the opening of the story. The relationship between Beatrice and her family is less strict, but still disciplined. Ashley Judd gives a wonderful performance as Tris' mother, but her urgency is felt throughout nearly all of her scenes.

The early Dauntless scenes are significantly less brutal. The girl who falls during the first jump from the train? Cut from the film. The eye-gouging foreshadowing to the attack on Tris? Gone. Much of the interpersonal connection between Al and Tris is muted or eliminated completely. Do not think that this makes the movie appropriate for your youngest viewers. It doesn't. The first fight between Tris and Peter is still brutal and I must give top accolades to the foley team there: Those kicks sound painful. Nails down a chalkboard painful. By contrast, Molly and Christina's fight is shorter than I expected and less brutal. The impending punishment for begging for mercy isn't nearly as vicious as it had been in my mind, either.

Visiting Day was removed. I know. I hear you. "How does she know to visit Caleb?" She hasn't been told: She just does it. By removing much of the underlying motive behind characters' actions, the film makers have left us believing Tris to have far less doubt in her heart than the book portrayed. This is a blessing and a curse, as it allows her to be the heroine that film audiences crave without changing her so drastically as to eliminate the possibility of the beloved protagonist the reader already knows.

If you haven't stopped reading by now, you're more than ready for the film's release this Friday, March 21, 2014. Enjoy the movie. It's great. I could watch the zip line over and over again for days.





Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Summer Camp 1994 and 2014

It's not even spring yet and I'm busy thinking about summer. More specifically, I'm thinking about summer camp.


When I was my youngest daughter's age, I found myself preparing for my first camp experiences with church and dance groups. I didn't know what to expect and the anxiety was unbearable. My only understanding of "camp" was what I had learned from TV and movies. I grew up in the 80's and early 90's and there was plenty of media to shape my impression of what camp should be.



My expectations were a little skewed. 



My actual camp experiences came up lacking by comparison, but memories were made and I figured out who my real friends were.  There were no panty-raids, but there were snakes, outhouses, sing-a-longs, and cookouts. Among my most memorable experiences is my reason for an intense fear of veggie peelers. I was racing a couple of campers to see who could peel potatoes the fastest and may have misunderstood the goal. At least I won the finger-tip peeling race! 

(I still have the scar.)


What church camp looked like




What church camp felt like



Dance tour wasn't much different. 
(You see the only dark-skinned kid in the upper corner of that last photo? 
Yeah, that's awkward teen me. If it doesn't get better, it gets consistent, kids.)


This summer, my kids will be attending their first camp. The girls were granted scholarships to a remarkable performing arts camp in New York (I'm not telling you where exactly or which session because you are the internet and I am a protective mother.) and we are now trying to prepare them for their first flight without a parent or guardian and 3 weeks without us. Luckily, they've endured many flights and they don't suffer from motion sickness. If they made it to New Zealand and back with us, I have to have faith that they can make it to New York without us. Abe and I are working ourselves harder than ever to try to save enough to pick them up after camp and fly home with them. We've got some time, but we don't want to get caught with last minute booking fees, so the sooner we figure this all out, the better. 



Have a favorite camp story or a recommendation for camp gear? I want to hear it! Do you own a business that makes camp supplies? We'd love to do a demo and review for you! 




Wish us luck!

More camp posts will follow as we prepare our 
kids for the summer of a lifetime. 

(Or Lifetime Original Movie. Whichever.)







Monday, March 3, 2014

Acupuncture and Fertility: My Personal Experience

Background: 

(TRIGGER WARNING: If the details of my fertility struggle will be triggering for you, skip down to the next section of this post.)

In Spring of 2011, my body started going through what I can only call a metamorphosis. Scars that I had been told would never heal began to do just that. I regained feeling in nerves that had been severed years earlier. Short version: Things got weird for me, medically speaking.

After a 6 month wait to get in for a consultation with the leading fertility doctor in Utah, I went through a battery of tests and was told that I could have another baby. This was a huge shock because my husband and I had been told that we absolutely could not have any more children after our daughter's birth in 2003. Abraham and I discussed it and realized that one of the communication issues we had been having within our marriage stemmed from never discussing how we felt about being told we couldn't have more kids after J's birth. This painful conversation finally happened and we were able to admit to ourselves and to each other that we both wanted another child.

Emotionally, our marriage had suffered some pretty hard blows. We continued therapy (note: we each had our own therapist) and after another 6 months, we determined that we were emotionally healthy enough to attempt a pregnancy. The following months were just awful. They were littered with positive pregnancy tests followed by negative ones. I had multiple miscarriages and we couldn't figure out why. With heavy hearts, we returned to the fertility specialist I had seen before.

The specialist referred us to another specialist. We jumped through insurance hoops and started fertility treatments. Skipping over a great number of details, I conceived again in March 2012. 4 eggs; 3 that looked promising. I was terrified. Sure, they had said I could survive another pregnancy... but nobody had said anything about whether or not I could survive a pregnancy with triplets. I knew going into fertility treatments meant that my risk for a multiple birth was greatly increased and I had prepared myself mentally for the potential of twins. Triplets hadn't been on my radar. When all four eggs failed to thrive, I didn't expect to be so upset. It was a confusing and painful time.






Within a week of that loss, I was on a plane to Costa Rica to serve as an Artist in Residency at the Sloth Sanctuary. I found time during my stay to lick my wounds and gather my strength again. When I returned home, I told my fertility specialist that I would not be doing any more treatments.



Where Acupuncture Stepped In:

I've been seeing Brighton at Utah Family Acupuncture and Herbs off and on for pain relief treatments and assistance with my weak immune system for years. During my fertility treatments, though, I had stayed away. I was scared and my specialist had told me that she worried acupuncture would negatively impact my ability to successful carry to term.

Now that I had decided not to do any more treatments, though, acupuncture was back on the table. I wanted to focus on getting myself back to my pre-fertility treatment self. What people don't tend to realize unless they've struggled with fertility is that it's a battle that can destroy your body and leave you feeling unbalanced. I had packed on 40 lbs and felt like I had lost a lot of muscle mass. I started going back to Weight Watchers meetings, joined a local gym, hiked whenever I could with my family, and made appointments with Brighton.


River rafting with the family for my birthday in June 2012


About a month later, the whole family got sick. A weird summer flu had hit. As Abe and the girls started feeling better, I realized that I never had the flu: I was pregnant. I called my fertility specialist who confirmed the pregnancy and wanted me to come back a few weeks later to see if this one would last. She put me on blood thinners for my blood condition and I decided to keep seeing Brighton.

Throughout my many failed pregnancies, I had developed a sense of when things were about to fall apart. I'd start feeling weak and weepy and then my HCG levels would stop increasing. This time, every time I felt like my body couldn't hold together much longer, I'd see Brighton. This pregnancy was high risk and had every opportunity to fail (see here for more details) but I made it through and my beautiful little boy just celebrated his first birthday.



I'm not a doctor and I can't say that acupuncture will be your magic bullet, but I know that it helped me. I know that when I faced each hurdle, my acupuncture appointments helped me hold together. When we discovered that I was allergic to Zofran, I didn't know how I would be able to avoid another miscarriage. I was so sick and so dehydrated... but acupuncture helped. Every time my body started to fail me, I'd schedule an appointment, focus on staying hydrated with as much water as I could keep down, and I'd rest. I will forever be grateful for the friends and family that stepped up to help take care of my dogs, my house, my daughters... everything... so I could focus on this pregnancy. My daughters were amazing. I could not have done this without their support.


If you live in the Salt Lake City area, I highly recommend seeing Brighton at
Utah Family Acupuncture and Herbs in downtown SLC. Find it on Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Utah-Family-Acupuncture-and-Herbs/176817678144

You won't see a bajillion Groupon or Living Social offers for this clinic, but the prices are fair and the service and attention given to each patient cannot be beat. Brighton legitimately cares about every single person she treats. I hope you'll visit her and see what I mean.






Disclaimer: Though I know Brighton personally, I have not been paid or given any incentive for this review. Brighton has not asked for this referral. This post is a response to the questions I have been asked by TTC couples. It is my attempt to be forthcoming with any information that may be helpful in their journey.

For anyone struggling with fertility: My heart goes with you. I cannot say that I understand your struggle because I believe that each person feels that grief in a personal way. What I can say is that I know that you are hurting and it is so hard to find peace. It is my sincerest wish that no matter what outcome you ultimately experience, that peace will find you and hold you close. I acknowledge that the positive outcome that my family has met will sting for some of you. I'm so sorry for that.

My heart is always with you. 

- Candace


Sunday, March 2, 2014

10 New Baby Shower Gift Ideas for the Cloth Diapering Family


In honor of our Lil B's first birthday, we have compiled our top 10 list of the best baby shower gifts for a cloth diapering family based on our own experience and from a poll we conducted with other cloth diapering families. We are so excited to be able to include our blog's first giveaway with this post!


1. Cloth Diapers, of course!

There are many varieties and brands of diapers. If your friend doesn't have any on her registry (or doesn't have a registry), you can't really go wrong with opting for a pocket diaper that can be washed and dried in the machine. This is particularly helpful in climates that don't always support line drying. Though we love to line dry diapers, Utah winters don't make it possible year round.
We have absolutely loved our Glow Bug Diapers! Glow Bug offers great bundles for very reasonable prices and they don't take much time to wash, dry, or prep. We haven't experienced any major leaks or blow outs and can happily report that after a year of use, our Glow Bugs are still going strong!





Glow Bug's website offers helpful tips and explanations for first time cloth users. If you have questions about how many diapers you/your friend will need or how to wash them, Glow Bug has the answers you need.


2. Cloth Diaper detergent

Cloth diapers require diaper safe detergent. My favorite is Rockin' Green. Check back with them each season - they sometimes offer exclusive scents! Last summer they featured a Barry Mango-lo (mango scented) detergent that I love. I hope they've got something new and exciting like that for this summer because I'm almost out of my Mango-lo (even though I bought 3 bags).






Rockin' Green has fantastic scents and can be used for much more than just cloth diapers. I use it for all of my son's clothes and many of my own. We use it for blankets and soft toys, too. A cute way to wrap this up is to include some clothes pins and a cheap clothesline (something like this). Wrap the clotheslines all around the bag of detergent (or box if you're using a different cloth-friendly detergent like BumGenius) and then pop a cute little pin up at the top. You can wrap the whole thing in cellophane if that floats your boat, but it's not necessary. See item 4 for an even better idea. Another great tie-in for this gift would be a water testing strip. Knowing how hard your water is can be very important when washing cloth diapers.

(Rockin' Green offers Military and First Responder discounts!)






3. The Diaper Sprayer and Spray Pal 

Every now and again there is a diaper so tremendous that it requires special help. Now before y'all start with the "That's why I don't want to use cloth!" nonsense, let me just say this: It's the same with disposables. When your babe is completed covered in something that must have weighed more than they do, it's a mess and it requires a bit of effort to clean it up. When that happens, you can muddle through with wipes or you can use the most remarkable diaper cleaning combo I've ever seen.


I was so excited to share this shower gift with you that I contacted the makers of the Spray Pal and they graciously offered to give away a free Spray Pal to one lucky reader! Thank you, Spray Pal! 
For the rest of you, you can find their bundle that includes both the Spray Pal and a diaper sprayer HERE. To enter the giveaway, use the form at the bottom of this post. 



4. The gift wrap that keeps on giving: The Wet Bag 

There are many reasons for cloth diapering, but one of the most prominent is to reduce waste and protect the environment. Rather than spending any of your gift budget on wrapping that will be thrown away, try to think of ways to show your eco-lovin' friend that you respect their decision and the reasons behind it. A wet bag is a fantastic way to wrap any of the gifts on this list! 

What is a "wet bag"? 
A wet bag is a waterproof bag (usually zippered) that can be used to store dirty cloth diapers until it's time to wash them. A wet bag can be used to line a diaper pale, too. After Baby's outgrown diapers, a wet bag remains useful! You can use them in the kitchen to store wet rags or soiled bibs. Toss one in the glove box of your car for any moist stuff you don't want all over your seats. When we travel, we bring wet bags to store our swimwear and beach items! Our daughters will be taking small wet bags to keep their toiletries separated and clean when they head off to camp this summer. We've even used them as lunch bags on day trips to the zoo. Hikers get a ton of use out of a well-constructed wet bag. 

My favorite wet bags are from Monkey Foot Designs and I always recommend purchasing the largest double-pocket bag that fits within your gift budget. Pro Tip: A wet bag does not have to match the rest of Baby's layette! Have some fun with it! 




5. Cloth Diaper Wipes

Make 'em! If you've got a serger and some cotton flannel, you can make wonderful cloth diaper wipes. I chose to make my wipes 6"x6", but you can opt for larger or smaller ones if you'd like. I made mine with one side of cotton flannel and the other with terry cloth (cut up old towels that are getting ratty around the edges anyway! You'll get bonus points for recycling) but I will warn that terry cloth is a pain to sew. Your serger tension will need to be taken into account if you use terry. 



After everything was said and done, I ended up using the cotton flannel side more.
If I make another batch, I'm going to just use three squares of cotton flannel for thickness 
and forget all about the dreaded terry cloth. Tip: Choose busy designs. They hide stains!



6. Project Pomona Jeans

B received his first pair of Pomonas before he was born. When they arrived, I looked at the adjustable snaps and the cuff at the bottom of the legs and questioned whether they would really fit a newborn. Imagine my surprise: Not only did they fit him as a newborn, he hasn't grown out of them yet!



Celebrating his birthday today at the zoo. See? They still fit great!


ADMIRE THE PROJECT POMONAS!


The same pair of pants has fit him for a full year and he's still got plenty of room to grow before he'll outgrow them! Project Pomona pants are made especially to fit over cloth diapers, but because of their custom fit snaps, they'll fit over any diaper and they will adjust as the baby grows. The stitching is strong and they've held together extremely well despite many, many, many washings.

Project Pomona has been kind enough to join our giveaway and will be sending our lucky winner a free pair of their brand new shorts!

These are the girly ones. Follow the link to see the 
adorable prints for boys! Personally, I think I'll 
be buying a pair of the skull & crossbones for Lil B. 

You can find Project Pomona here:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ProjectPomona
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/projectpomona/
and Instagram: http://instagram.com/projectpomona


7. Wool Dryer Balls 

Woolies are my personal favorite, but anything without a strong color will work. It's true: Cloth diapering means doing more laundry than you might otherwise. Wool dryer balls eliminate the need for dryer sheets and they do not contain any chemicals. They cut down on drying time, too! I bought mine for cloth diapers and now use them for everything.


8. Cloth-Safe Diaper Cream 

Desitin and petroleum jelly are not friendly to cloth diapers. Pinstripes and Polkadots has the best rundown of cloth-safe diaper creams I've ever seen. Since I don't feel I can improve upon it, I'll refer you to their post: Choosing and Using Diaper Rash Ointments and Creams


9. Disposable Bamboo Liners


This may seem counter intuitive, but there's a reason for these little gems. After Baby starts solid foods, the messes in their diapers will change consistency. If you're using a disposable FLUSHABLE liner in each diaper, you can simply drop the liner in the toilet and flush the mess away.
Interesting fact: Did you know that even with disposable diapers you're not supposed to throw solid fecal matter in the garbage? These flushable liners are fantastic not just for their convenience, but also for their minimal impact on the environment. Zulily often has these on sale. Sign up for their site and keep an eye out for all sorts of cloth diapering deals. You can also find them here on Amazon.


10. Hemp Inserts 

These are for overnight use. You can pop an extra insert into a pocket diaper and it'll help absorb more and keep baby dry during the night! Two of my best friends got me a set of hemp inserts for my baby shower and I have used them every week (except when we were traveling and used disposable diapers) since then! Thirsties inserts work great.




The moment you've all been waiting for: 


Time to enter to win our fabulous prizes! 

We once again would like to thank Spray Pal and Project Pomona 
for celebrating Lil B's birthday with us and for 
making this giveaway possible!



a Rafflecopter giveaway

*Winner must be living in the United States.


You might also enjoy: Baby Shower vs. Open House