The Bread Winner


I took Thorin to the film The Bread Winner . I honestly thought it was a kid friendly albeit serious film. In watching it we discovered it was about an 11 year-old Afghani girl (the same age as Thorin), Parvana, living under the Taliban rule in 2001. First her father is taken away to prison for defending her right to accompany him to the market place. Left at home are her mother, older sister and little brother. Parvana dresses as a boy so she can leave the house to work in order to support her family. What follows is heartbreaking and horrifying.



So, maybe you’re thinking, “This mother will go to any length to not take her kid to Wonder.” Seriously, Wonder seems sentimental and trite based solely on the trailer alone. When I told my friend Kelly after we went she offered, “Isn’t this the time of year there are holiday films?” Oh, how we laughed.

I saw Greta Gerwig– my favorite actor, director, writer and human– interviewed on The Hollywood Reporter — she said as a child she thought films were created by gods. Brief aside: FUCK YOU TWICE GOLDEN GLOBES for not nominating her for best director! But then again you nominated The Bread Winner. You must like your women subservient and fearful. Sad. And relevant. Art and Life now seems to be about the contradictions.

I do believe films are god-like. Stories help us make sense of life. That is a big part of The Bread Winner.

Thorin has had the movie goer’s experience which is different than the film goer’s experience. The movie goer’s experience is about the yes and the connection and the next, please! The film goer experience is about the friction, the unease, the uncomfortable sensation and defeat. The Bread Winner is didactic, to be sure, but it also shows what an oppressive state looks like. We are still the fortunate son, America. We have far to go to be this desolate. The Bread Winner shows what happens to human beings who want to learn to read and understand– and become.

We went on a snowy day in Portland. A day home schooler’s, retirees and  young people in love go to films. An older heterosexual couple behind us in line asked what movie we were going to, “The Bread Winner, about the Taliban, ” I answered.

The women looked at Thorin and said, “That sounds important.”

I tried to explain why we were there, “It has a happy ending?” It does and doesn’t.

She started to say more. Her husband gently touched her arm, “Not now, yes?” They fell behind us.

Parvana weaves a parallel story for her young brother of a prince who confronts the Elephant King. Thorin rose in his seat to exclaim, “Yes!” upon a uncertain victory. As an audience member he and I needed this. Hope is paramount. It’s why we keep moving forward, yes?

And– in further defense of my decision– I read beforehand that Common Sense rated it  for 11+. What I didn’t see until after the film– when I was frantically searching for information– was that was based on 3 reviews. One of which offered the following sober advice from a 13 year old : “Straight down awful movie. This was the worst 2017 movie yet! Don’t see it.”

But, I’m glad we saw it. And so was Thorin. He said, “This is sad. Father in jail. Bad men with guns. Girl is boy. Beat mom.”

The pain and disharmony in this film is in some superficial way on par with a Disney film where a parent is dead or dies. Except in this film it shows that circumstance is a true tragedy and not an opportunity to move the story along without parental interference. It is a horrible thing for children to be separated from their parents. Parvana is a hero and she inspires others. The film ends on a sad, anxious and messy note.

I explained to Thorin afterwards that women in some countries cannot go outside their homes without a man and even then it is scary. He understood that and was confused. So am I.


We Love Coco


I’m referring to Coco the movie not our lovely mini-dachshund who died– although we adored her.


Thorin and I went to Coco today. We were going to go to Wonder— even though I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t give false hope. Thorin was more than game though to see Wonder– even rejecting going to Justice League again. Is it that bad?

His intensity in wanting to see Wonder made me feel even more vigilant.

When he saw Coco was also a possibility he changed his mind quickly– happily. Amen!

I hope Coco isn’t culturally insensitive because this will become a crap review. Thorin and I loved it. Tackling death and your life’s purpose in the same movie is a lot for children or any age person. We are supposed to fear both things. Avoid them in fact.

Coco made the after life seem like community. It was comforting. Glorious actually. Thorin related it to Bubba and it helped. Strangely we had talked about spirit guides earlier in the day totally unrelated to the film– there are spirit guides in the movie! How awesome is that?

Sort of lazy on my part but watch this:

The 21 minute “Olaf’s Frozen Adventure” film that plays before Coco is a real shit brick. Pre-buy your tickets and show up just as it’s ending. WTF were they thinking? We all love Olaf but why degrade him to some lounge act performer or any actor who ever appeared on Love Boat. I whispered to Thorin twice: “Are we in the wrong theater?”

He shushed me both times. Thirteen minutes into this frozen fiasco the 6 year-old behind us told her friend, an equally young audience member, who wondered if they were in the wrong theater, “This is a thing they do now. This one’s long.”

Forty-three minutes into Coco one of those girls behind us got scared. A mother said, “”You said you thought you could do this.”

After some muffled conversations they all left. It seemed like a lovely thing to do. Thorin and I were the only ones in the theater after that.

I saw first-hand the meaning Thorin was applying to the movie as he watched it. His profile was of a boy and someone not completely a boy but a young man. Thorin has experienced great and profound lost. We don’t talk about that much because he won’t. Coco the movie helped him. I don’t know completely how but it has.

Stories give us meaning. And when we are very lucky we do as Pauline Kael said, “… [Lose] It At The Movies.”

I’m nervous about Wonder. Will it pale in comparison?

Please feel free to search ‘Coco’ or ‘Bubba’ on this blog to read some more stories.

Based on events from last week


We found out a month ago Thorin has ear issues that have contributed to him going from mild bilateral hearing loss to moderate. I’m not entirely convinced that is accurate because he can hear me sneaking candy from a room away and if Ward and I whisper he comes running.

The doctor determined– one ear tube has something growing behind it  and in the other ear his ear drum was torn when the tube came out. He ordered a CT scan.

Thorin had previously had two scans. One after a car accident and one after a sledding accident. Yes, we are horrible parents.

At the first attempt to have the scan performed Thorin refused immediately upon entering the room. Even though– earlier in the day– he and I had watched YouTube videos of children having scans. The sympathetic narrators told us CT scans were really like going in a large donut that doesn’t touch you or hurt you.

The technicians tried piling him with stickers. I offered a dinner out including what he calls, Big Orange Juice– or juice with sugar. As he squished himself into the corner of the room– bringing to mind The Blair Witch Project– Ward and I realized this was not going to happen. We did however take him out to dinner and he did have Big Orange Juice.

The next attempt included Thorin taking a small amount of liquid Valium– prescribed by the doctor– before the procedure. I assured him it would help him relax. What it did instead is make him less inhibited. He said things like, “I hate big, dumb donut!”, “You’re a big jerk, Mommy!” and to one of the technicians, “Ugly outfit!”

The third attempt was to have Thorin go under anesthesia. Both Ward and I wished there was another way. My sister, Betty, helped give perspective. As a child Betty had cancer and was treated for several years before she went into remission. She said, “Good for him to say what he wants. I wished I could have done that as a kid. But, I don’t think anyone would have listened. Having things done to you is scary.”

Ward was out of town so I took Thorin to the hospital alone. The nurse who greeted us was amazing. Everything was: “Thorin, I’m so glad to meet you!”, “Thorin, let’s get a movie going. You come pick it out.” and “Thorin do you like cars?” He was not an object.

Enter the nurse who would insert the IV. When she walked into the small bay the room temperature dropped about 30 degrees. She had his chart, so she knew his name– still she asked, “What’s your name?”

Thorin was silent.

“Oh, no name? I guess I’ll call you ‘What’s-Your-Name’. How’s that?”

“How about I kick you in your lady parts?” I wanted to offer.

It went quickly down hill from there. She said, “I have magic sauce for your wrists and arms.”

Thorin looked alarmed.

I suggested instead the truth, “Thorin, the medicine will numb your arms so you don’t feel the needle. You won’t feel pain.”

He nodded.

All that was for nought because when she inserted the needle she didn’t hit a vein. So of course she tried again. Thorin was hysterically screaming and crying. Through the window I could see staff at the circular desk outside the room — looks of concern were apparent.

“We are behind now because of this (the object being Thorin). The CT scan takes seconds!” she said, not attending to his obvious pain and fear.

“Okay, this is not working. We need to figure this out.”, I said while trying to calm Thorin. I also noted I was saying over and over again to Thorin, “I’m sorry.”

Brief aside: Seeing your child fearful and hysterical is awful. You would give anything to change places with them. You also wish legally you could get away with a quick throat punch to ignorant health care professionals.

The Naughty Nurse*– as we later referred to her as– quickly left not to be seen again. The anesthesiologist soon entered the room. He told Thorin, “You’re scared. Of course, you are. Anyone would be. Let’s slow this down.”

And he did. It was another 40 minutes before they tried inserting the IV. It went fine. In fact everything after that was fine including the results. It’s just a little skin growing behind the ear tube– nothing malignant. The doctor will re-check everything in three months.

On the way home Thorin said, “Dark, black blood.”

“That’s what you saw?”

“Yes, dark, black blood.”

“Oh, no! I’m sorry, Thorin.”

“Dark, black blood.”

The rest of the day was spent on the couch bed in the den watching movies and being happily catered to by me.

Yesterday, Thorin dictated a story to me:

It’s a stormy night.

There’s dark, black blood on my bed. Monsters tip-toe in my room.

And, they see me, a zombie. giant spider

My mom screamed loud!


Smudge screamed like a creaking door.

I said, “Welcome to the haunted house.”

A giant spider, drinking my mom’s blood.

I laughed: “HAHHHHHHHHH!”

Smudge starts eating an eye ball.

Dev says, “Yummy! Yummy! I want one!”

I laughed, “HEE! HEE! HEE! Ho! Ho! Ho!”

The church bells rang.

Bongggg! Bongggg! Bongggg!

*Betty offered the name Naughty Nurse. It’s term she had used as a child for nurses who didn’t see her back then as a child, fearful and in pain.



A story while making dinner


While we were making pizza last night– Thorin suddenly twirled, stopping in front of me. He clapped his hands together and said:

T:         “And then, Jimmy Allen…”

K:        “Who’s that?”

(and so on, Reader)

“An old friend.”

“Where’d you meet him?”

“At a pool.”

“Tell me about this guy.”

“He eats a lot of cake—birthday cake, chocolate cake, chocolate chip cake.”

“How tall is he?”

“He’s a big giant man! Ba-P! Ba-P!”

“When did you last see him?”

twp and kwp feet w dev

Reading on the porch this afternoon. Thorin just started the Magic Tree House series.

“Last Friday.”

“How are you sure it was Friday.”

“Because I came here.”

“Are you only here on Fridays?”


“Who’s that keen kid who’s here the other six days of the week?” *

“The End!”

“Could it be—to be continued?”


* I had used the words “cool kid” but Thorin asked if I’d “keen.”

Part 3: Are You Buying What Back-to-School is Selling?


August 25, 2017— This is the conclusion of my conversation with Michelle S. Hite, Assistant Professor in the English Department at Spelman College on oppositional consciousness and parenting. (Originally published September, 2015)

Click links to read Part One and Part Two.

Kari: Do you believe there is a universal need to be accepted?

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Part 2: Are You Buying What Back-to-School is Selling?


August 20, 2017: I am re-posting my conversations from two-years ago with Michelle S. Hite, friend and Assistant Professor in the English Department at Spelman College. It is back-to-school season and the topics we discussed are just as relevant, in fact they are timeless. This is the second of a three-part discussion. Click this link for Part 1 of our conversation.

Check out Macy’s back-to-school commercial. The soundtrack is Tears for Fears “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” with new lines including: “Everyone on their best behavior.”

Curt Smith, founder of Tears for Fears on the song: “The concept is quite serious – it’s about everybody wanting power, about warfare and the misery it causes.”

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