WANTED: good family movies


My eleven-year-old has declared “family movie night” one of his favorite weekend activities. Mine too- at least in conception. But as I search for good older-kids-family movies that are both enjoyable and appropriate for parents and almost-tweens to watch together, I find myself despairing, since any screening must also include their six-year-old sister, who would have been happy with Sofia The First: Once Upon a Princess, Part 1. Again.

I have returned to some of my favorite films of  yon 1980s, hoping to gain cool-mom cred by introducing my children to some Classic Humor. You would think I would have learned my lesson on this particular account by now: just because it’s hilarious does not mean your kids should watch it.

I beg of you. Learn from my mistakes.


The Bad News Bears. This is a movie chock full of adorable little scamps. And their alcoholic coach who curses a blue streak at them.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. This one would work well if you could just watch a highlight reel of Ferris singing in the shower, cut to pre-nose-job Jennifer Grey screaming in frustration, then straight to the parade float part. Screening the whole thing, however, means you get to hear, about three times a scene, what my nine-year-old calls “the ‘S’ word that is NOT ‘stupid.'” It’s like paid product placement for scatology.

Happy Gilmore. See above. Also, NOT funny (though my husband would profoundly disagree).

Sixteen Candles. Long Duk Dong has not aged well. Lots of boob talk. John Hughes is still a genius and all, but a fifth-grader does not need to see passed-out-drunk people and Molly Ringwald’s underwear.

Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. The talking-butt scene, I was prepared for, and ready to accept the breakfast-table consequences for some time to come. But the “tricky transsexual” humiliation/reveal in Act Three somehow escaped my mind.  Homophobia, transphobia, LOTS of questions from a nine-year-old. And did I mention Nana was watching it with us? Although she napped. But that might have been out of mercy. To quote Ace himself: do NOT go in there.

Ghostbusters. Sigourney Weaver tries to seduce Bill Murray while possessed. Pretty creepy. Also, not as funny as you remember it. Like, at all.


Edward Scissorhands. He may have scissors for hands, but he’s sort of adorably spooky, and way more scared of Anthony Michael Hall than Anthony Michael Hall is of him. And maybe one curse word? However, in the month since we screened this film, my six-year-old needs to stand with her back against a wall whenever possible, so that Edward Scissorhands cannot sneak up behind her. Repeated Google searches of Johnny Depp being nice have not really led anywhere. Be warned, be warned.



Napoleon Dynamite. Might be my favorite movie. Best title sequence ever.  The kind of squeaky-clean that could only be written and directed by a married couple who are Mormons. It also gets funnier the more you watch it, at least to a point.

But we might like to watch something else one of these Sunday evenings. Anyone have any suggestions? Or should I just lower my standards and cover my eyes?

(image credit)


Mom, I left you a note

Lately I’ve been trying to convince my kids that if they want me to take an action on their behalf, they should leave me a note. Pen and paper are on hand at all times for said purpose.

If the third-grader finishes the jar of Nutella, and he expects there to be more at some point, he needs to put it on the shopping list.

If the fifth-grader needs to wear a “neon-themed outfit” for the ice cream social next week, he needs to give me a written heads-up. (Yes that is an actual request currently in my inbox. It’s a time-honored rite of passage: the neon-themed ice cream social.)

But I’m sure it will surprise no one to hear that the only child assiduously observing the dictum to Leave Mom a Note is the kindergartener who cannot exactly read or write yet.

(She’s working on it. I mean, I’m working on it. Third child: totally getting the same amount of hands-on reading and writing instruction from her mother as the first kid did! Obviously! No difference at all!)

Yesterday, there was something on the notepad. Since only one of my children acknowledges its presence, I had a hunch as to its authorship.

ME: Maggie, what’s this?

MAGGIE: It’s a message I left you.

ME: …what does it say?

MAGGIE: Go ahead and read it!

And so I do.


Maggie beams at me proudly.

MAGGIE: So can you do that?

ME: Do what?

MAGGIE: What it SAYS. On my NOTE.

I look at it again.


ME: …You can count to six hundred?


ME: You want to do gymnastics on Daddy’s yoga mat?


Two strikes.

ME: You… want to lie down six hundred times?

Maggie’s face crumples in fury.

MAGGIE: (through hot, angry tears) Why can’t you EVER read ANYTHING I WRITE YOU!

ME: I’m sorry, honey, I–

MAGGIE: It says, “Six o’clock! Five Central!”


ME: It- what?

MAGGIE: Alice in Wonderland is on at six o’clock, five central! And  you have to tape it!

ME: Oh, sure! Sure it says that! And this is you lying down watching it!

Fresh sobbing.

MAGGIE: It’s not ME… It’s Alice falling down the ho-ho-hole…

Worst mother ever. Final proof: I forgot to set the DVR.