The BIG Adventure Series: The BIG Submarine

I discovered The Big Adventure Series by Little Mammoth Media last month when I received a copy of The Big Christmas Tree from Little One Books. I fell in love with the mission, vision, and implementation of the series from that one video alone.

Why? Because we’re kind of documentary junkies around here. The Big Adventure Series takes the concept of documentary and explores what that means for kids. And they do it very very well.

Here’s the why behind the making of the series:

ONCE UPON A TIME… filmmaker William VanDerKloot was watching kids’ videos with his children. He was disappointed with what he saw… and what he didn’t. With a few notable exceptions, most children’s videos were poorly done and overly simplistic.

“It seemed as if very little effort was put into the research or production of those products,” said VanDerKloot. “Many looked like amateur home videos.”

Then he got an idea…. A Peabody award-winning director/producer, VanDerKloot decided to produce one himself. The first subject came to him while driving past the Atlanta airport in a car full of children. As they drove down I-75, a giant plane took off overhead. Immediately VanDerKloot was bombarded with questions from the kids, “What kind of plane is that?” How fast is it going?” “How many passengers are in it?” THE BIG PLANE TRIP the first video in The Big Adventure Series®, was born.

But VanDerKloot did not want to make a simplistic video “just for kids.” THE BIG PLANE TRIP, and each subsequent video in the series, is constructed with various levels of information so that an entire family, from the youngest to the oldest, can enjoy and learn something new with every viewing.

“There is something that happens when you become a parent,” says VanDerKloot. “You begin to look at the world through the eyes of a child. Suddenly the normal becomes the extraordinary and you see things in a whole new way.”

The Big Adventure Series® shows how things work with a child’s sense of wonder. And who better to critique an adventure-in-progress than kids themselves. The team at Little Mammoth holds a number of screenings for children’s groups while videos are in their rough edit stage. Utilizing the input, the videos are modified. The result are productions that have received national acclaim from the critics, and most importantly, from families and children.

Take a peek at the overview of the series here:

Can you see why I love this? My kids do too.

I contacted Little Mammoth Media and told them how much I loved The BIG Christmas Tree. They sent me three move videos to review. We got copies of:

Picture 1
You can take a peek at all of the Big Adventure Series trailers here. Go ahead and scroll through until you see the one for The BIG Submarine. I’ll wait.

Did you watch it? It was just 1.5 minutes of what is really about 50 minutes of information awesomeness.

So much awesomeness that I scribbled FOUR pages of notes when I watched it with my kids. Seriously. These videos are an educator’s dream come true. If there’s some way to branch off on all the various subject veins, they do.

The BIG Submarine begins with a science lesson on all the water there is on the Earth. They start big with the ocean and then bring it down to something that kids have a little more tangible understanding of such as a swimming pool, a bath tub. They show a toy submarine, then a real submarine. Boating terms are introduced. Little Mammoth does a nice job of mixing actual footage with quality hand drawn illustrations to make their points.

History is brought in as they explain the first attempts of putting together a submarine during the American Revolution. The military has a big part to play in this episode, for obvious reasons.

Practical questions of how the sub manages to get under water and back up again are tackled. Details of the inside are shown as they describe how everything has to be secured on a sub, else it falls. Every shelf has bars to keep items in place. They show how the men sleep on a sub. They explain the services available to the men from the library to the barber to the doctor. They explain how the men are trained in simulators before they go out in the real thing.

Did you know the most dangerous thing that can happen on a sub is the threat of fire? I never knew that before.

I also didn’t realize the men are only allowed to hear from their families once a week in a 40-word message called a Family Gram. You’d sure learn how to communicate succienctly in those circumstances, huh? My girls were very sad for families once they realized how much time and distance separates them when a parent is deployed.

It was cool for my kids when I informed them that we actually have a very loose connection to a Submarine Officer in our family: he’s the little brother of my sister’s husband and technically I haven’t seen him since he was about 6 years old, and that was some 20 years or so ago, but it counts, right?

Anyway, all that to say that once again I was blown away by the depth and detail put into the making of this video and am looking forward to watching the other two.


Soap Head

Note to the 7-year-old who came down the stairs a bit ago fully dressed and ready to go:

When you come down the stairs full dressed and ready to go, and you walk by your mom and she can visibly see that your head is covered in shampoo, don't think she isn't going to notice that one. Also, don't think she isn't willing to delay the Sam's run by 15 minutes while you go back and get in the tub again and rinse the shampoo out of your hair.

She may be getting older, but she can still spot a soap head from across the room.



Farm Sunset

When we arrived home from the farm a few hours ago I was one year older (37) and considerably more rested. I averaged 10 hours of sleep each night. Reality hit pretty quickly when we walked in the door to what we left on Thursday morning, but that's life. And it's our life. And I'm thankful.


It's been pouring here in St. Louis all day. And I mean ALL DAY. It's been nice. I like a nice rainy day every now and then. It helped that I didn't leave the house even once today.

It's 11pm now, though, and I suddenly just realized I never checked the mail either. Oh no. I stuck my arm out the door to get it. Almost everything we got is soaking wet. Catalogs that would have gone straight to the trash anyway, magazines that would have been read first, and other miscellanous mail. Everything except…our property tax bill. Somehow that one stayed perfectly dry.

How did they do that? It figures…


Are you familiar with the story of Rapunzel? I’ll confess that I was not familiar with it, not really. I mean, I knew she was the chick who somehow ended up in a tower and had super long hair and some prince came along to ask her to let that super long hair down. Yep. That’s about all I knew.

After reading the fairy tale version of Rapunzel I linked to above I realize that not having a base line for that story in my head wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. The story Tangled uses the character of Rapunzel in a completely different way.

Watch this trailer for a general gist of what Tangled is about:

The story of Tangled centers around a magical flower that has the power to heal wounds, cure diseases, and restore youth to the old. You know what happens when good things fall in the wrong hands, right? Yep. That’s what happens here. The story of how Rapunzel ends up involved with this magical flower is an interesting one. In short, the flower ceases to exist and the baby Rapunzel takes on the qualities the flower once had – in the form of her hair.

This is why she gets captured by the evil woman who does two major terrible things: 1) keeps her locked up forever in the tower and 2) tells her she’s her mother.

Without giving the entire story away, I will say this: The life Rapunzel leads in the tower isn’t necessarily a bad one. She’s provided for and is given the means to cultivate her skills and abilities. But the woman who is claiming to be her mother has fine tuned the womanly art of guilt and manipulation and it’s clear Rapunzel has missed out on a major component of life: love.

The King and Queen are expectedly undone when their baby daughter is taken from them. Every year on Rapunzel’s birthday they send off floating lanterns into the sky out of remembrance.

From her tower, Rapunzel sees these lanterns but doesn’t know exactly what they are or why they go off every year at the same time. The year she turns 18 she develops a burning passion to go see the lanterns in person, but of course the evil “mother” won’t allow her to go.

Tangled is the story of how she gets there.

The character of Flynn Rider is equally interesting. He’s your typical good bad guy. I mean, he’s a thief, for crying out loud. But he’s the thief you want to come out on top in the end.

I could go on. The horse is a great character in and of itself. The horse is a government guy and he hates Flynn Rider. But the horse has a sense that helping Rapunzel is his duty and you can see his non-verbal conflict as he figures out how to cooperate with the guy he hates to help the girl he honors.

I don’t want to give away too much of the actual story, but it’s Disney so you already know right off the bat that it’s going to have a happy ending. I will say this: There is a very touching, powerfully sad scene close to the end of the movie in which while every bit of your being is longing for happy resolution, the story itself would probably have been more powerful had the sad been allowed to speak. Though we breathed easier when the sad was resolved, we agreed later that, as sad as that would have been, it would have given a bit more truth to the story telling. You will know what I’m talking about when you go see the movie.

Tangled presents several discussion-worthy themes to bring up with your kids on the way home. We always start with the standard, “What did you think about the movie?” From there we move to “What are some things we can affirm (agree with) as truth in the story?” and “What are some things we should challenge (disagree with) in the story?

From these questions we touched on the following topics:

  • The actions of the evil “mother”
  • The motives of the various characters (Flynn, Rapunzel, Mother Gothel, the King and Queen)
  • How the guilt and manipulation of Mother Gothel made us feel when she was dishing it out to Rapunzel
  • Was Flynn Ryder a good guy or a bad guy? Why?
  • What we thought about the scene I alluded to above (the one that could have ended very sad, but resolved in the end)? What made the character who did the brave thing do that brave thing?
  • And many more that were specific to the end of the story of which I won’t go into right now so as not to spoil it for you.

In short, Tangled is an excellent movie that not only entertains, provides a springboard for good thinking afterwards.



M is for Pie

M is for Pie in two ways:

  1. Monday is Pie Day
  2. Pies are Mmmm

Chloe’s class is helping prepare a Thanksgiving dinner for a local women’s shelter this coming Tuesday. She came home on Friday informing me that she needed to bring 4 cups of chopped celery and 4 cups of chopped pecans to school on Monday. Okay.

I was your typically overly-prepared mom and went to the store at 7:30 tonight to get the celery. So imagine my surprise when one hour and $69.97 later I discovered that store was COMPLETELY OUT OF CELERY. Seriously. Who runs out of celery? But no worries because instead of celery I came home with enough butter to make Paula Deen yell, “Uncle!” and another container of Hershey’s Cocoa. I’m ready to do this Chocolate Pie thing tomorrow.

So. This is why M is for Pie.

And in case you were wondering, I did stop by another store on my way home for the celery. It has been chopped and is awaiting it’s Monday morning transport to school (which is now officially only 8 hours from now – yikes! Goodnight!).


Do You Have a Selling Point?

I wrote about the guy who makes a living writing papers for other people to pass off as their own over at today.

Does everyone really have a selling point? *shudder*


The Chronicle of Higher Education recently ran an article titled “The Shadow Scholar: The man who writes your students’ papers tells his story.” The editor’s note at the beginning explains that “Ed Dante is a pseudonym for a writer who lives on the East Coast. Through a literary agent, he approached The Chronicle wanting to tell the story of how he makes a living writing papers for a custom-essay company and to describe the extent of student cheating he has observed.”

Reading the article is, as one of my friends, put it, “horribly fascinating.” Here’s a sample of why:

“In the past year, I’ve written roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly literature, most on very tight deadlines. But you won’t find my name on a single paper.”I’ve written toward a master’s degree in cognitive psychology, a Ph.D. in sociology, and a handful of postgraduate credits in international diplomacy. I’ve worked on bachelor’s degrees in hospitality, business administration, and accounting. I’ve written for courses in history, cinema, labor relations, pharmacology, theology, sports management, maritime security, airline services, sustainability, municipal budgeting, marketing, philosophy, ethics, Eastern religion, postmodern architecture, anthropology, literature, and public administration. I’ve attended three dozen online universities. I’ve completed 12 graduate theses of 50 pages or more. All for someone else.

“You’ve never heard of me, but there’s a good chance that you’ve read some of my work. I’m a hired gun, a doctor of everything, an academic mercenary. My customers are your students. I promise you that. Somebody in your classroom uses a service that you can’t detect, that you can’t defend against, that you may not even know exists.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of people paying other people to do their work for them. A few years ago I was on the hunt for some writing projects and in the process was asked to be a staff writer for a website that does work much like what’s mentioned above. Call me naïve, but I had no idea businesses like this existed. I wrote back: “Um, isn’t what you do unethical?” The response I got completely skirted my question, laid out their terms, and asked if I wanted in. Once again, I asked if they didn’t see what they were doing as wrong in any way. I never heard from them again.

My husband (an ethics teacher at a Christian high school) and I talked about this over dinner last night. As much as it’s disheartening to hear of people who hire this type of service to do their work for them, I was incredulous at the writer’s own lack of scruples in providing the service. Why would someone want to live his life honing a skill he will never get credit for? His name will never appear on any of the brilliant (or otherwise) works he produces. How does he live with himself?

“One word,” my husband said. “Money. Everyone has a price.”

The conversation stopped for a few minutes. “We would never do that,” I asked, “would we?”

Would we? Does everyone really have a price? Is ethical ignorance really just one small justification after another until you’re in too deep to notice?

Dear God, I hope not. I really hope not.

Craig and the 5th-7th Grade Girls’ Sunday School Class

Remember when I posted about my journey towards finding my place in a church? We've been where we are for almost two years now. It's a good fit. My girls have good friends. I have good friends. It's close to our house. All that.

I've been teaching a girls' Sunday School class for a little over a year now. My two oldest girls are in this class and the girls of my friends are in the class too. Win-win, right? Except for this: we're going through the Old Testament as a church in all of the Sunday School classes. I wasn't super excited about this at first because we just went through most of Genesis last year and we were going to turn right around and do it again. I was afraid of the girls tuning out, turning away, being bored.

We made it through Genesis and Exodus. It's really just a survey of it anyway. Then one morning I realized the lesson was on the Law. I looked at Craig. I remembered Craig teaches on this very thing every year. To kids. I asked him if he would take the class for me. He agreed.

He rocked it. The girls appeared to gain an understanding they didn't have before. I did too. This is why today I asked him to take it again on the book of the Judges. He again rocked it. The girls and I ALL got an understanding of the book of Judges we hadn't had before. And Craig seemed to get an unnatural kick out of telling the story of Ehud… ahem.

At the end of the class I looked at him. I thanked him. I asked him to just start teaching the class full time. I said I would be there and would take care of all the things about Sunday School he doesn't like (social events, etc.) but that if he would teach it that would be all kinds of awesome. I made my case more compelling by reminding him that most kids grow through the Sunday School system being taught by moms and older women. How cool would it be if the 5th-7th grade girls Sunday School class was taught by an educated, informed, and interested DAD?

I think that did it. He agreed. And I kissed him on the cheek right there in the sanctuary.

I'm super thrilled about this. Not only will the girls and I get good teaching during that hour, Craig will be using his God-given gifts in this church in a way he hasn't been able to yet. He really thrives when he's in a teaching role. I'm excited to see where this is going to go.

Thanks, Craig, for caring enough about our own girls and the girls of our friends to give them accurate, responsible, and interesting teaching of God's Word.

You rock.

This is My Accountability

Since either Craig or I were out of town every single weekend for the past 6 weeks, we've gotten pretty sloppy with our Sabbath meals and  technology fasts. Craig had the foresite to invite a couple over tonight for dinner which means I needed to actually cook something and be prepared. I figured I might as well do it right. We're restarting our Sabbath meals and 24-hour technology fast beginning at 5pm sharp.

Why am I telling you this? Because I want it posted somewhere online that I SAID I wouldn't be online until after 5pm on Sunday. If I don't tell you that's my plan, then you don't know I'm breaking it.

You probably don't even care, but I need to know that I announced it. So I'll keep it.

Hope you have a pleasant evening preparing your heart for worship tomorrow.

Peace out.