Middle School, B.L.A.A.R., and Lessons from Bug

I’d like to thank Click Communications for sending us Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life so that I could share with you my feelings on standardized testing, my Bug’s journey as a square peg, and our feelings in general on this movie.

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“Rafe has an epic imagination…and a slight problem with authority. Both collide when he transfers to a rule-crazy middle school. Drowning in do’s and don’ts, Rafe and his best friend Leo hatch a plan to expose the principal by breaking every rule in the school’s Code of Conduct. As the principal strikes back, Rafe’s world, at home and at school, explodes into hilarious chaos (both real and imagined) in this laugh-filled family comedy based on James Patterson’s best-selling book series.” 

Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life

When I was first presented with the opportunity to watch Middle School: The Worst Years of My Life, I really had no interest. I mean, for real, I still have kids in elementary school, I’ve watched others of mine go through middle school and high school, I’ve LIVED the drama. Why watch it again, from an author’s/script writer’s standpoint?

But then I thought better of my decision.

You see, Bug is about to enter middle school next year (the HECK you say?) and as you know, she’s pretty much a square peg in our round society so these years, indeed, are the worst years of her life (or so it seems). So, of course I rethought my initial scoff and happily agreed to watch the movie with her, and I’m so glad I did.

The books? Apparently my older kids were too old for these (sigh), and my babies were too young. But the movie, well it hit home in many ways. Where to begin…

The B.L.A.A.R. as they call it in the movie, or standardized (forced) testing as we all know it, is by far the centerpiece of this movie and it’s the very bane of my existence. We, as a society, teach our children these days to learn to pass tests rather than just LEARN. I hate it. I’m vocal about it. I truly feel that standardized testing will be the demise of this nation; and I feel that it has caused a nation (sorry millennials, but have you ever watched yourselves function without technology?) of “kids” that can’t function without a cell phone, a laptop, or their favorite apps. Like, if they were stranded on a deserted island, they’d likely be looking for the answers to A) How can I Google how to survive?, B) How can I call my mom on my cell phone to figure out how to survive?, C) Can Instagram show me how to survive?, or D) HOLY SHIT, none of my crap works anymore…now what?

I have many non-family-friendly terms for how I feel about the B.L.A.A.R. testing that goes on in today’s world that I’ll spare you, but I will say, I’m glad that I actually LEARNED before this was a thing. I’m glad this movie called that out! I’m just going to assume the writers weren’t millennials and leave that at that. (GET OFF MY LAWN!)

Next, the imagination, animation, and general family and friends ties in the movie were moving. Mom kind of lost her way through the first part, as most single moms do, but in the end (spoiler alert), she did what all good moms do and chose her family, her kids, above all else, as she should. Good job and very heart warming.

The personal loss portion of the movie (OMG…another spoiler alert, but near the end, Bug said, ‘DON’T mom, I know that look’ because she knew I was about to lose it) was touching, AND REAL. All of our lives are so full of loss these days, and although my children, thankfully, haven’t had to feel personal loss just yet, I know they, Bug in particular, felt the pain and totally got it.

SO…in a nutshell…this movie is basically a must-see from my perspective as the mom of six. It’s a great combination of present-world frustrations from parents, teachers, and kids alike. It’s funny, it’s heart warming at times, and the imaginative nature of the whole thing is quite entertaining. It’s a great way to show all of the conformists that the square pegs, the “remedials”, can actually rule the world again one day…despite their “failure” on stupid standardized testing.

Einstein was dyslexic. Lincoln had very little formal education. I never graduated college (because I kept having KIDS). None of us ever had to deal with B.L.A.A.R., we all did OK (yes, I just put myself in that company…don’t judge). I loved this movie SO hard. Bug loved it more.

Because we should. And so should you.

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Have you seen it yet? If so, what’s your take? If not, WHAT are you waiting for? The DVD and Blu-ray is available in stores January 3, 2017, and if you have a preteen or tween in your house, you totally want this one in your video library!

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Deed

Never underestimate the power of a good deed, especially during the holidays. You never know whose life you’ll change forever. My life was forever changed thanks to a good deed back in Christmastime of 1988.

never underestimate the power of a good deed

It was Christmas time and I was a 21-year-old expectant mother of my first child. It should have been an exciting time. I should have been full of wonderment and joy. I was full of fear, and I was alone. My then (sorry I ever met him except for the fact that he gave me my first two true loves) husband got locked up for a DUI, again. I had just started a new job. I really didn’t know anyone there and I surely didn’t share my insane personal life with them.

My mom had called, after hearing of the news. I was at work, at my new job. I did my best to be quiet. No, mom, I don’t need anything. I’ll be fine. He’ll be out in a few days. I’m fine. I’m totally fine. Yes, I know it’s Christmas, but I’ve got this! No one heard, it was cool; I was fine. But apparently, someone heard and someone heard me cry in the bathroom after that phone call. Someone knew that I didn’t even have a tree. Someone KNEW that my heart needed to enjoy my favorite time of the year, despite my circumstances. Someone, her name was Julie, changed my life that year, in 1988, and I’ve dedicated my life ever since to paying it forward.

Never Underestimate the Power of a Good Deed

I walked into my office that next morning, sat down at my desk, and there was an envelope just staring at me, with my name on it. I opened it. I read words that warmed me like maybe no other words ever have. I cried.

$50. A cool $50 and a simple note. Doesn’t seem like much, right? Change in your pocket. So wrong.

So, so wrong.

Those words…everyone deserves a Merry Christmas…forever changed my life. And it’s changed the lives of many others since.

You see, that Christmas, that year, I was ready to throw in the towel. I didn’t want to bring a child into a cruel world that didn’t understand how much I loved this season…how much I loved humanity. I thought bad things, alone and pregnant in my little apartment that week. I wasn’t sure if I could go on…or not. I wasn’t sure if that baby girl had a future with a mom like me. That note, that kind and thoughtful note, changed my entire life and the life of my unborn baby girl.

I went out that very night and bought a tree, a fake one that didn’t make me sneeze, and blue ribbon with pink bows because at the time, I didn’t know if she was a boy or a girl. I decorated my tree. I cried, I laughed, I rejoiced in life, and in the season. I was excited for the first time in a long time. Julie, little did she know, changed (possibly saved?) our lives.

still believe in the magic of christmas

With a kind note, $50, and love in her heart, she saved our lives and made me love Christmas again. Thank you, Julie, wherever you are. I still have your note. I still read your note. That note meant so much more than the money you tossed my way, so much more than that blue and pink Christmas tree that year, so much more than you’ll ever know.

NEVER underestimate the power of a good deed. Someone, somewhere, might still be fueling their Christmas spirit, their entire life in fact, off of that one good deed nearly 30 years later.

I often think of Julie. I often hope that her life turned out as good as mine. I’m pretty sure it did. Today, I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about how I’ll afford a tree; how I’ll provide for my children. I’m in a better place. I thank the Julies in my life for putting me here and I’m determined to constantly pay it forward because I learned in 1988 that a simple kind deed can change someone’s life.

My life is better now, Julie, thank you. I hope you’re living the good life too; you earned it many years ago, whether you know it or not!

PS – Julie, I never told a soul back then, but I’m telling everyone now because they really need to know. Everyone needs to know. Your “simple” gesture way back then is too powerful to conceal anymore!

I Still Believe in the Magic of Christmas

Do you still believe in the magic of Christmas? If you’re like me, you’ll want to turn your beach house into a Winter Wonderland with affordable decor from Oriental Trading. Just so you know, I did receive free and festive decor to facilitate this post, but all opinions and photos are completely my own.

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Do you remember when Christmas was magical? You woke up on Christmas morning when you were ten (or younger if some jack wad ruined it for you before then) and all in the world was right? There was a Muppet Drum Set (the EXACT ONE you wanted…the ONE you asked Santa for) sitting under your tree, just waiting for you to make beautiful music (and drive your family insane). You’d asked Santa, he listened, and you were happier in that moment than you had ever been in your whole life, and possibly happier than you’d ever be again. THAT is magic; that is the magic of Christmas.

Let me let you in on a little secret: I still believe in the magic of Christmas. The exact minute I realize it’s time to buy the Thanksgiving meal is the exact moment that I start busting out the tree, the lights, the mistletoe, the…well, everything magical. To be honest, I really haven’t had a Christmas as magical as the one that I had when I was ten since then. Not because I didn’t get the exact gift I wanted, not because I wasn’t with the people I loved, but because nothing will ever compare to the magic that I felt that year; at that exact moment. But I still try to capture the magic…do you?

still believe in the magic of christmas

For all of these reasons, I completely, totally, and ridiculously deck the halls for Christmas each year. It looks like a winter wonderland (snowflakes on the ceiling and all) in my southeast Texas home because Christmas is magical and I want my children to always feel the magic of Christmas (long past their 10th birthday so shut your piehole if you want to be the jack wad that ruins it for them before then). But decking the halls, like all of them, can get quite expensive if you don’t know where to turn. It totally doesn’t have to be though. Making the magic come alive for Christmas is as easy as building up your decor over the years, stopping by your local dollar store, or (my favorite option because I don’t have to leave the house or get out of my jammies) shopping online with Oriental Trading Company.

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Just little touches around the house, everywhere, can bring the magic alive for you and the kids. How adorable is this paper towel holder, for real?

believe in the magic of christmas

Walkways through the house are great for lighting. To me, and apparently to my kids, lighting just makes the mood in the house feel more magical throughout the season.

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A naughty and nice coffee station is a festive way to perk you up in the morning. (See what I did there? Perk. Coffee. I crack me up.)

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Of course, no Texas Christmas would be complete without a cowboy boot candy cane count down.

still believe in christmas

Turning a beach house into a winter wonderland does have its challenges though. But as long as you get your elf to play along, you can make your beachy decor work during the season of magic. Thankfully, Mikey the Elf is a really good sport!

believe in christmas

I love turning countertops into fun and festive spaces the kids can enjoy. Bubby, in particular, thinks this Snowman Candy Dish that I got from Oriental Trading Company is the BEST. THING. EVER! OK, maybe it’s the peppermints that he’s truly fond of, but I’m more partial to the dish.

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Our tiki bar even got a makeover for the season. Isn’t it magical?

believe in christmas

We all know that the tree is probably the MOST important decoration you can adorn during the Christmas season so decorating it to fit your seasonal theme, as well as your typical decor, is key for bringing this all together. Since I’m partial to snowmen during the holiday season, and beachy and sparkly things adorn my home for the rest of the year, it’s no surprise that we decorate our tree with a combination of both. Flip flops, glitter, and snowman candy cane ornaments for the win!

Do you still believe in the magic of Christmas? If so, how do you transform your home into a winter wonderland? If you find the whole process too time consuming or expensive, you might be looking in the wrong places. This year, and every year, turn to Oriental Trading Company for all of your holiday needs. Fun, festive, and affordable holiday decor you’ll display for years to come. Look, we all have to grow up, but we don’t have to grow old and stop believing in magic. Embrace the season, enjoy, and just believe in the magic of Christmas again! I believe; do you?