Monday, January 26, 2015

Take Me To The Movies, Mom!

Two Sunday nights ago, our congregation's evening worship service was canceled in lieu of our yearly congregational meeting and devotional that had taken place earlier that afternoon. There was a decidedly un-checked box beside our "Kid's First Trip To The Movies" bullet point on our McReynolds' Family bucket list. Big Hero 6 was playing at one of our local theaters. And so- accordingly- at approximately 5:30pm that day, the planets aligned. 

We took the kids to their first movie. 

It.was.spectacular. We rolled into the Treehouse Cinema with three kids, two blankets, a puppy pacifier, one sippy cup, and a whole bushel full of expectations waiting to be fulfilled. And they did NOT disappoint. 

We purchased our tickets, grabbed a two-popcorn-and-two-drink "Chuck Norris" combo and found our seats. We were running *just* on time for the movie, so the previews were rolling by the time we made it through the bi-fold doors and into the darkened theatre. It's a smaller set up than you'd normally see at a big box chain type theatre, and for us, it worked out perfectly. There were about half a dozen other movie goers watching the show at the same time we were, but there was still plenty of room to give us a three or four aisle cushion between us and the next set of guests. (Hooray for them.) 

The two big's inital reaction was to immediately cover their ears and declare to us that it was "too loud in this place!". Matt and I immedately shot each other the "We've made a huge mistake" look, but it quickly disentigrated as their attention was drawn to the screen. We settled into our seats and were able to get the five of us arranged in a row: Matt [holding Nathan,(1)], Luke (4), Josie (nearly 3), and then good ol' Mom. Luke wasn't interested in snacks AT ALL for about the first half of the movie. However, Nathan was the opposite- for the first half of the show the only thing he was interested in was his snack situation. He dumped an entire bag of popcorn (Hooray for one free refill, y'all. Hooray and hallelujah.) onto the floor within the first 17 seconds of the opening credits. Score. Josie was somewhere between the two boys- she vasilated between eating her body weight in popcorn and being completely transfixed by Baymax and SanFranokyo and Hiro's 9,345,871 microbots. 

The two littles got restless about halfway through the movie, so I pardoned Matt of "Nathan Duty" and took both him and Josie out to stretch their legs in the lobby for about 20 minutes. Treehouse Cinema has the perfect set up for a family with small kiddos- they have couches and pillows along with a coffee table and a set of apparently VERY INTERESTING coasters (according to Jo's apparent fascination with the repeated stacking and restacking of them during our intermission). They've got plenty of cafe seating and a bathroom that I was actually not horrified to take my very inquisitive almost three year old daughter into. 

**Side note: WHAT IS THE DEAL with kids and public bathrooms?? Every SINGLE establishment we walk into must have some sort of magnetic force from their lavatory that pulls my children into it.**

After stretching our legs for a bit, we meandered back into the theatre and got situated with our second popcorn refill (that, spoiler alert, was also uncermoniously dumped onto the floor shortly after we were seated) and finished up the movie with the two bigger guys. For anyone who knows me well and has also seen Big Hero 6, it'll be no surprise that after I welled up like a big ol' mess (of COURSE) and the movie concluded, the kids loved it. Luke stood in the aisle and watched roll. Not a single penny of the price of admission was wasted on that boy. Or for the rest of us, for that matter. 

To put a cherry on top of an already fantastic evening, the staff at Treehouse Cinema sent the kids home with the MOVIE POSTER for them to keep as a souviner. That's right- The big kids now have their very own authentic Big Hero 6 movie poster hanging in their bedroom. Baymax is now an unofficial official member of our family. 

The five of us piled into the van with our (freshly crumpled: THANKS JOSIE) movie poster and pockets full of popcorn crumbs. As I buckled Luke's seatbelt, I asked him what he thought of the whole "going to the movies" business. His response: "Momma, it was jussa the coolest!" And I couldn't agree more. It really was. 

Considering taking your kids to the movies? Check out some helpful tips below! 

Movie Tips for Families With Kids:

  • Research. Plugged In is a great tool that we use before we watch shows and movies with the kids. I used to prewatch the movies before I let the kids see them, but let's be honest- that was 2 kids and 3 years ago when I only had Luke and now- ain't nobody got time fo' that anymore. Enter Plugged In and I've not had a bad experience yet. I even went back and looked up some of the older movies the kids love to see how they were reviewed. I've been really happy with them! 
  • Go on off hours. Think matinees. They really are a parent's best friend. 
  • Safety in numbers. It's true out in the Serengeti, and it's true at the movies, too. There is NO WAY that I would have taken the three kids to the show without Matt (Besides the obvious "Let's make memories as a family" part.) because I knew I was going to need reinforcements. There are a lot of working parts when you take littles to the show and you're going to need as many extra hands as possible for holding popcorn bags and napkins and those gigantic drinks. 
  • Bring a blanket. Or a stuffed animal. Nathan (16 months) is super young for any movie watching enjoyment, so we prepared in advance for some serious snuggle time with him. We brought his puppy pacifier, a sippy cup, and his favorite blanket. Those three things, along with an entire bag of popcorn, kept him (mostly) entertained for the entire movie. 
  • Take up space. We went during off hours and our theater wasn't crowded at all. We were able to block off a row of seats with me on one end and Matt at the other. That gave the kids room to move and stretch their legs when they needed it. Josie (3) actually spent a good part of the movie standing up watching the screen. So, as long as the place isn't crowded, don't be afraid to take up a couple of extra seats so the kids have wiggle room. 
  • Find the nearest EXIT sign. And don't be afraid to use it. I broke down and took our two youngest ones out for a break about half way through the movie. We walked around the lobby for about 20 minutes- which was a perfect break for the littles. They got their wiggles out and once we got back into our row they were MUCH less fussy. Sure, the three of us missed a chunk of the movie, but considering how miserable the entire lot of us would have been if we hadn't given them a leg stretching break, I'd say it was well worth it. 
  • Relax and enjoy the show. This isn't going to be like watching a movie on a date. It's probably going to be the exact opposite. But, hear me when I say this, IT IS OKAY. Remember that this is more about the experience of going to the movies with your kids and less about watching the actual movie. Buying the tickets and ordering the popcorn and spilling the drink is all part of the deal! Bring a roll of paper towels and maybe an extra set of pants, just in case- because there will be spills. Lower your expectations and go in knowing that you may be required to bail out before the show is over. But, it doesn't matter if you watched 97 seconds or 97 minutes- your kids are going to have a great time and you will, too! 

Sunday, January 4, 2015

When Guilt Is GOOD.

I mentioned in a post last week about how I'd recently read through my Bible. While writing about conquering that cover-to-cover milestone, I was reminded of the times before now when I'd started and stopped the Genesis-Revelation journey.

The first time I attempted to read straight through my Bible, I was in high school. I saw it as a task to accomplish when I received my first "Teen Study Bible" and found those blank check mark boxes beside each day's outline. I crashed and burned really, really quickly- probably because my I'm such a perfectionist and once I slipped up and "missed" a few days I quickly lost my motivation and gave up almost immediately. 

Flash forward a few years with me. I was in college when I thought I'd try my hand at it again. I started out strong, just like I had before, and even lasted a bit longer than I had previously, but I eventually got bogged down somewhere in Leveticus or during the building of the temple or in the minutia of the OT law somewhere. My daily study time started to wane, and as I allowed myself to become more and more occupied with things other than my daily Bible study, guilt crept in. 

Let me tell you something about guilt, y'all. And I'm basically an expert 'cause I've felt my fair share of it. In my opinion, feeling guilty about not studying your Bible is actually a GOOD thing

What tha' whaaaat??! I hear you. I know. It's a convoluted notion. Work with me for a few minutes here.

I'd spy my unopened Bible on the nightstand in my apartment, and a familiar twinge of regret would hit me. It sort of felt like that guilty sensation you get when an inappropriate amount of time has passed since you last called someone or wrote a thank you note or balanced your checkbook or flossed your teeth. You feel badly because so much time has passed since you last thought about doing that thing you feel guilty about not doing, and you know you really should get your act together and see about doing it, but there's a damp, dank, hope-suffocating cloud that covers your heart and paralyzes your body. 

So, instead, you block it from your mind. You find something else to do to occupy your mind and keep your heart busy until that damp, dark, guilty feeling fades and eventually just dies out and goes away. 

Like I said before, feeling guilty about neglecting your daily, personal Bible study is a good thing because it means you are still feeling those emotions. And those emotions you are feeling are real. It's the Holy Spirit's way of reaching out to you. It's God's way of trying to tell you that something is missing. You're lacking a piece of fulfillment that only He can fill

If you look at your Bible and feel badly about the amount of time it's been since you've opened those paper pages then I REJOICE FOR YOU. You have that sinking feeling because it means you still feel the loss of Jesus in your life. There's hope left. Your heart is still tender. You haven't shut His voice out from your soul. 

Guilt is good. It means you're still listening.

I didn't realize it then, but it was a terrible, sad, tragic day when I got to the point that I could pass my neglected Bible without so much as a sideways glance. I could see that fine layer of dust settled on top of my leather cover and not.even.flinch. I wouldn't think twice about pushing it to the side so I could set my coffee cup down. I'd move it over to my bookshelf corner because I had textbooks to study or a relaxing book to read. 

My hardened heart had left me in a place where I felt better about my lack of personal Bible study, but what I didn't realize was that my soul couldn't have been in a more dangerous position. 

I'm ashamed to admit it, but eventually my Bible became nothing more than a prop. I could grab it as I walked out the door on Sunday mornings without even feeling so much as a twinge of sorrow about how long it'd been since I studied. It was an arm filler that I would habitually grab as I dashed out the door on Sunday mornings along with my keys and my purse and my coffee. It was the final touch to my Sunday/Wednesday outfit, like remembering to wear a necklace or my favorite silver ring. It became an accessory. 


I'd bring it with me to church because that's what you did. It was almost like a status symbol, an outward sign to show the people I worshipped with that I had my act together. Sure, I'd open it to the passages we were studying in Bible class and thumb through to the scriptures the preacher would mention during worship; I'd even take notes in the margins and fold my bulletin in half to jot down outline points while I listened to the sermon. 

My Bible got it's weekly workout on Sundays and Wednesdays. After the closing prayer, I'd gather my purse and keys and empty coffee cup along with my Bible, visit for a few minutes with my church family and then it was over. My Bible had sung it's swan song for that week, and as I deposited it onto the passenger seat in my car, that's where it's function in my life would end. 

Some weeks I would remember to grab it as I went inside my apartment after church- I'd carry it to the counter or the table or up to my room where I'd set it down with some of my other mail and papers and that's where it would sit until I frantically searched for it as I was walking out the door for church a few days later. There were even times (more than I'd want to admit) that I just left it in my car

If my hands were full or if I'd gone through a drive through to grab lunch, I'd reason with myself that it would be 'easier' for me to just leave it on the seat. That way, I wouldn't have to shuffle it back and forth from the car to the apartment then I wouldn't have to look for it and then I would always have it when I needed it as my "good girl-church girl" prop in a few days. 

It was an awful place to be in, y'all. What a shallow, empty facade I was putting on. A fake show that I was using to fool everyone around me- especially myself. I'd never pushed myself into a lifestyle, a choice, a habit of daily Bible study- and I never knew what I was missing.  

Reading through God's word has been a habit that I've never been happier that I've developed. I never really knew how much I needed it. Seeking Him, searching for Him, and finally finding Him on a deeper level throughout my Genesis-Revelation journey has been a life changing experience. 

If you're trying to develop your own daily Bible study habits, or if my story has sounded anything like yours, let me encourage you to continue to push yourself. The sacrifice that you'll make to spend in The Word everyday will far be outweighed by the relationships you'll find within it. Let 2015 be the year you stop treating your Bible like a cute pair of earrings. Use the next 12 months to buckle down and turn it into the lifeline He designed it to be. I promise you won't regret it.