Should My Kids Watch Avatar? A Mom’s Review of FernGully Sequel


If you have read the MPAA PG-13 rating for “intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sensuality, language and some smoking” and you are still asking “should I take my younger child to go see this movie,” this review is for you.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I took all five (ages 8, 7, 6, 4, 3) of our children with us to see Avatar. We live in Japan, and the dialogue was in English with Japanese subtitles.

True to the rating, there were a few fecal matter related swearing instances, nudish blue humanoid Na’vi decked in strategically placed beads and loin-cloth size clothes, kissing and implied sex. The fibril linking between the Na’vi and the beings in their world was brilliant but erotic. The kids didn’t notice.

Children younger than 13, especially those who are acquainted with video games and sci-fi, should be fine with parental supervision.

All of my children enjoyed the movie. My six year old, who has a tough exterior, a tender heart, and kicks butt on Halo 3, held my hand during one of the battle scenes. He did not cover his eyes, he just wanted to know that I was nearby. He will kill me someday for sharing this with my readers.

While the MPAA was fretting over cigarette smoking, the strong focus on pantheism was the most malignant aspect of the movie. Today (Christmas morning here) I intend to talk with my children about praying to the spirit of the earth versus praying to the Almighty God. We have had a similar conversation over G-Rated The Lion King. Keep in mind, in a country where less than 1% of the population are Christian, my children are exposed to the worship of false gods from the moment we step outdoors. We are sensitive to this, as we should be.

The movie is gorgeous. I have never seen such CG. The creatures, plant life… the whole world of Pandora… was amazing. I am in awe of James Cameron’s ability to capture a glimpse of his genius and share with us creative plebeians. The bioluminescenct plants in the forest were so other-world beautiful, I wanted to touch them.

I cannot wait to see the pictures my children will draw for the refrigerator gallery after seeing Avatar.

While I did not experience Avatar in I-MAX with 3D glasses, I have a feeling it would have been fun. Without these enhancements, I imagine my viewing experience would compare to walking through an iridescent-on-black-velvet Ocean City, NJ, boardwalk poster shop without the UV lights.

Jake Sully, the film’s hero, is a paraplegic There’s-No-Such-Thing-As-an-Ex-Marine. His twin brother was a doctor set to work on planet Pandora as a driver for a DNA-personalized avatar. Through mind control, drivers are able to safely operate their avatars from a distant base while they interact with the Na’vi aliens in the forest. Shortly before the mission begins, Jake’s brother dies. Jake’s biochemistry was a match and, despite lack of scientific training, he is offered his brother’s job.

When Jake’s mind was reborn into his perfect new avatar body, he couldn’t contain his overwhelming joy at being able to walk again. It was very moving. (There is one other moment that grabbed me by the heart. I won’t spoil the moment, but when you hear the line, “My Jake,” remember this review!) I loved the character’s determination despite his bum legs. He kept up and never made excuses or complained. He did not allow others to treat him delicately.

I am looking forward to revisiting a dialog on with my children on disabilities, and asking them what they would do if their legs stopped working.

Cameron captured the details of the world and the characters very well. He underscored the clashes that occur between corporate interests, a private military company, and scientists on the ground who are all working on the same project for different reasons, and how each group interacts with each other and with indigenous inhabitants.

The storyline, albeit entertaining, was a recycled one. While I was distracted by the gorgeousness of the animation and the how-did-he-think-of-that creature concepts, deep down I felt like watching a sequel to Fern Gully: The Last Rainforest (1992).

FernGully is a magical rain forest inhabited by fairies. A logging company harvests trees from the forest and threatens to destroy the forest environment and the fairies’ world in the process.

One of the loggers, pure-hearted Zak, gets lost in the forest and is accidentally shrunk by one of the FernGully fairies. Fairy-sized, he can view the world from their perspective. Like Jake, Zak comes to understand the symbiotic relationship between the forest’s inhabitants and the beautiful environment around them. Things are going well between Zak and the fairies until the logging crew knocks down a huge, spiraling tree, nearly identical in appearance to a large tree at the heart of the forest in Pandora that is also destroyed. When the tree is destroyed, an ancient evil is unleashed and the fairies realize that, although Zak looks like one of them, he is still a logger. Zak must chose between his job in the human realm and helping the forest fairies he loves. Can you guess what he does?

Avatar was a movie that went well with popcorn. We enjoyed seeing it as a family, but we also enjoy the discussions that come from watching a stories unfold. Sexuality, violence, stewardship and praying to false gods are things we have talked about before, and I felt comfortable allowing my children to view instances to the degree portrayed in this film while sitting next to me.

Do I think that children should be exposed to worldviews other than their own? With supervision, absolutely. When children are young, this might mean parents sitting right next to them. As children get older, supervision could manifest itself in asking questions to keep young adults mentally engaged with the world around them.

As an adult, how do you watch movies?

I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite books on Christians and entertainment:

Two of the most frustrating replies to hear when asking people what they thought of a move are “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it,” accompanied by an inability to explain why. With an elementary understanding of the structure of storytelling, an informed moviegoer can watch a film and enjoy the story while also engaging his or her critical faculties to understand what the movie is trying to say about the way in which we ought or ought not to live. Stories do not exist in a vacuum of meaninglessness. Movies communicate prevailing myths and cultural values. And this cultural effect is far deeper than the excesses of sex and violence. It extends to the philosophy behind the film. The way we view the world and things like right and wrong are embodied in the redemptive structure of storytelling itself. – To End All Wars screenwriter Brian Godawa from his book Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films With Wisdom & Discernment.

Barry Conway: I’m Still Locked Out of My StumbleUpon Account. Does This Prove Domain Ownership?


When StumbleUpon first came out, I signed up. I enjoyed the concept and used it for about six months. At the time, there was not an abundance of users and I got tired of repeatedly stumbling upon the same pages. Life happened. I had kids. I had a tumor. I moved to Japan.

Recently, after seeing how StumbleUpon has grown, and with a renewed sense of enthusiasm for discovering interesting and relevant content, I went to log into my old Stumble Upon account.

It had been awhile. I forgot my password.

According to SU’s password recovery page, you can “enter your email address, nickname or StumbleUpon ID”.

No worries, right?

My user ID is mrsalbrecht (see my page?), the same as my Twitter ID.

However, when I entered my ID, I received this error message:

Uh oh. There is no email address associated with that account.

When I entered my email address, I received this error message:

Uh oh. A user with that Email Address does not exist.

Frustrated, I sought help.

This was the response I received:

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: StumbleUpon Feedback #82808
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 23:37:07 -0700

Hello Sarah,

Thank you for contacting us.

Normally, we would not be able to reinstate an account in such circumstances, but your ownership of the domain serves as a strong identity claim. If you were able to write back to us from the webmaster email address of that domain, we will attempt to return this account to your control.


Barry Conway

The domain is registered to my husband’s email address. Naturally, I forwarded Barry’s note, explained the situation and asked if Tom could pop Barry an email to verify my ownership of

Tom wrote to Barry and included the email that I forwarded to him.

Barry didn’t write back.

Time passed.

Crickets chirped.

Being a wonderful husband to me, Tom wrote to Barry again:

2009/12/17 Tom Albrecht

I haven’t heard anything back from you, and I’m wondering if this can be
worked out?

>Tom Albrecht wrote:
> > Barry,
> >
> > Thanks for doing the due diligence in investigating. Sarah is my
> > wife, and she does own the domain. This is my email address, and I’ll
> > vouch for it.
> >
> > If you need further verification, you can call [our home phone] number
> > on the whois information for, and either myself
> > or my wife will answer.
> >
> > Let me know if you have any other questions.
> >
> > Tom Albrecht III

This time, Barry answered:

——– Original Message ——–
From: StumbleUpon Support
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 09:33:38 +0000
Subject: Re: [Fwd: [Fwd: StumbleUpon Feedback #82808]]
To: Tom Albrecht
Cc:, Sarah Joy Albrecht

Hello Tom,

Thank you for your mail.

In our initial response we advised that:

“normally, we would not be able to reinstate an
account in such circumstances, but your ownership
of the domain serves as a
strong identity claim. If you were able to write
back to us from the webmaster email address of
that domain, we will attempt to return this
account to your control”


Barry Conway

Apparently Barry knows complicated modifier functions, like CTRL+C and CTRL+V. Neat.

Tom replied sweetly:

2009/12/17 Tom Albrecht

> Right… and I did that. This is that address, is it not?
> tca iii

Barry replied:

From: Barry Conway
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 09:45:45 +0000
Subject: Re: [Fwd: [Fwd: StumbleUpon Feedback #82808]]
To: Tom Albrecht

Hello Tom,

I am receiving mail from an address.

And I should be hearing from Sarah, the account owner, from the domain.

I regret that we may not be able to help you further with this, Tom, since
we are clearly not being addressed by the account holder.


Barry Conway

Tom replied:

Subject: Re: [Fwd: [Fwd: StumbleUpon Feedback #82808]]
From: Tom Albrecht
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 18:54:11 +0900
To: Barry Conway

Sorry, we were on different pages. I thought you wanted the owner of
domain, which was my speakeasy account. If you do a whois lookup on, you can see my address.

BTW, sending an email from an arbitrary address is easily forged, but
that’s what you said you wanted, so here it is. I would suggest writing
back to make sure that I actually receive mail to the
“” address.

Tom Albrecht III

Barry covered his ears and loudly shouted LA LA LA! I CAN’T HEAR YOU! LA LA LA! :

Subject:Re: [Fwd: [Fwd: StumbleUpon Feedback #82808]]
From: Barry Conway
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 10:03:44 +0000
To: Tom Albrecht


With respect, we are hearing from you – Tom – and the account is registered to Sarah. I’m sorry, but I regret that we are not going to be able to assist you further in this matter.


Barry Conway is an alternate email address for the site, but it is not listed on whois.

Tom showed me Barry’s witty reply.

“The account is registered to Sarah”.

I wrote to Barry:

Subject: Re: [Fwd: [Fwd: StumbleUpon Feedback #82808]]
From: Webmaster
Date: Thu, 17 Dec 2009 19:15:39 +0900
To: Barry Conway , Sarah Joy Albrecht , Sarah Joy Albrecht , Tom Albrecht ,


This is Sarah. Tom is my husband and my webmaster.

I am sitting on the couch in our living room, typing on his laptop.

I am CC’ing my email addresses, AND, and sending it from my webmaster account —
which you probably do not even have on file.

This is pretty frustrating. I hate having outdated information on my
stumble page, and would like to be able to use my account again.

You asked for information, to verify my account, and I had my
webmaster/husband send it to you.

If you want, you can call me at [home phone number].

If you do a “whois” for my website,, which
is listed as my homepage on my locked-out Stumble account, you can see
my phone number is listed as the contact, as is my husband’s email address.

Sarah Joy Albrecht

I still haven’t heard back from Barry.

I am still locked out of my StumbleUpon account.

I wonder if this post constitutes as a “strong identity claim” for “ownership of the domain” ?

Screen Shot Credit: D’Oh !!! by World Linux Traveler via Flickr

December Giveaway: Winter Blues and Things to Do


Winter is beautiful.

Colorful birds, Christmas lights and conifers are contrasted by a bright white canvas. Snowfall brings a natural, muted calm to the busyness of the season. Aromas like spicy cinnamon, pine and cookies made from grandma’s handed-down secret recipe bring back warm memories of parties past and being asked to read the story of Jesus’ birth from an enormous family Bible.

Winter is also harsh.

Snowy wind and freezing temperatures can be too bitter for little ones to play outside for long, and icy roads cause terrible things like church and playgroup cancellations.

On especially snowy days, when ever last piece of snow gear was soaked, my mom would bring out a big roll of newsprint and we’d make beautiful snowflakes to hang on the windows. Mom would carefully fold the paper to make more realistic, six-sided snowflakes, and would cut detailed diamonds, hearts and moon shapes. One year, we sprayed the paper snowflakes with gold paint and used them to decorate our Christmas tree. It looked amazing.

Finding fun things to do on bad-weather days is one of the many responsibilities that come with the territory of parenthood.

This month’s giveaway (sorry it’s late… went on a mini vacation to Tokyo by myself for a few days… thanks again, love!) is designed to make beating the winter blues a little easier. I’ve never seen origami paper so cool, and I had to share the crafty goodness with my readers.

What is your favorite creative way to spend bad-weather days as a family?

Maybe it’s using a calligraphy pen to write beautiful verses or poems over children’s watercolor paintings to frame and give as presents, turning household books into a library by using scrap paper date cards, rubber stamps and Polaroid photo ID library cards, or ordering from your children at their plastic food restaurant (my brother reminded me the other day that ours was called “McDonaking”) …I’d like to know!

Please share your best family-friendly activity tip in the comments of this post to be eligible to win this 11-piece origami prize pack:


(Click photo to enlarge)

Eight packs of Japanese origami paper:

  • Glow in the dark paper
  • Japanese floral print (3 variations)
  • Japanese fighting beetle printed paper
  • Waterproof boat making paper
  • Animal print (zebra, giraffe, tiger and more!)
  • Dinosaur skin-print paper
  • Two-toned paper for more dramatic origami
  • Colorful fish themed origami paper
  • Two origami folding instruction books

  • Easy “Level 1” book
  • Intricate “Level 6” book
  • One, 400 sheet capacity origami paper carrying to help make your creativity portable.

    From the list of comments (and yes, you have to leave a pertinent comment in order to qualify!) my children will draw the winning name.

    My hope is that this giveaway will bring some sunshine to the winter doldrums and inspire parents to help their children have fun, and make some happy life-time lasting memories together in the process.

    BONUS: If you mention this giveaway in your blog (send me a “proof” link) or Tweet (via @mrsalbrecht), you will get ONE extra entry. (C’mon! I know some of you get a little carried away with this stuff and I can’t keep track of THAT many tiny pieces of paper!!) PLEASE do me a small favor and post a “proof link” or copy of Tweet so I’m sure to not to miss your extra-entry qualification. (Thanks!)

    Please leave your comment by 9PM EST, January 8, 2010.

    The winner will need to provide their mother’s maiden name, social security number, and a valid US credit card number + three digit secret code. JUST KIDDING! I will, however, need their name and mailing address which will be kept strictly confidential.

    If they’re agreeable, I’d like to interview the winner and feature them in a future post. I would consider including links in the post to the winner’s blog, favorite cause, home business, etc.

    Winning contestants may not enter my subsequent monthly giveaway contests for a year following their win. In other words, if you win in January, 2010, you cannot enter again until January, 2011.

    Origami, Snowflakes and Other Paper-Related Pleasures:

    Origami USA

    Origami Club (English version)

    Origami Resource Center

    Robert J. Lang – Origami Artist

    How to Make a 3D Snowflake

    Paper Snowflakes

    Enchanted Learning : Paper Crafts

    Paper Crafts from Family Fun

    Photo Credit: Winter Cardinal by JMitaStudios via Flickr

    Be Strong and Have Faith


    Some things, although excruciating, really have nothing to do with us, but rather are for the growth and benefit of others.

    Be strong and have faith.

    Photo: Micah, age one, and Leah, newborn. When I set her in his lap, she started to cry. He firmly patted her on the head to comfort her… but that didn’t work too well. We had a “be gentle… like this” teaching moment, and they’ve been the best of friends ever since.

    Relationships: Hack Apart Your Frames to Unite Your Perspective



    Same picture (flowers in my front yard, taken with my cell phone camera), different frames.

    The dark, sleek frame would work in a modern, minimalist decor. The juxtaposition of the humble flowers, one fading, with the stark, white space matting might give the viewer pause for reflection about the deeper meaning in the picture. It would display nicely on a white, gray or crimson wall.

    The lighter, pastel frame would be better suited for more of a country or shabby chic, softly painted room. The (ahem) “art work” in this setting is more of a background, mood-setting piece. Its composition is not as distinctive and certainly does less to capture attention.

    Sometimes in our arguments, we frame our point in our mind’s eye to be like one of these photograph/frame combinations. Our opponent visualizes the point to be more like the other. Although the photo is the same, the perspective is not.

    When we communicate, how often do we ask questions to better understand how our intended audience defines their terms? How often do we stop to consider the way they are processing knowledge – their profession, their experience, their learning style, their priorities? When we do these things, we get closer to understanding each other. We get closer to objective truth.

    But, we don’t ask.

    Screaming crescendos ensue when we have taken the objective truth and framed it to suit our own interests.

    While it can be tedious work to deconstruct artwork that has been professionally frame by someone with years of experience in their technique, sometimes it’s necessary to do if you want to use the photograph in a new home with an incompatible style.

    Relationship maintenance requires that we go through this tedious assumption frame-removal process from time to time, in order to understand someone’s point, to come to an amicable agreement. ‘Thinking the best of someone’ is a great frame-deconstruction tool.

    When our perspective changes, our response changes.

    When our response changes, our relationship changes.

    Last night, my youngest child was gleefully playing with cups in the sink while the older children were clearing the table. My husband noticed another child pouring water from cups in the sink and scolded him for playing when he ought to be working. I said, “Honey, please consider that you might not understand what’s going on here. I asked him to get the cups from the other room. Some had water in them, and he was emptying the water into the sink.” My husband promptly apologized and thanked him for bringing in the cups.

    I am thankful my husband listened to facts and changed his perspective and with it his response – scolding to thankfulness. He allowed his frame (child has tendency to get distracted into play world when asked to do chores) to be deconstructed, and he was able to get to the objective truth.

    Not every conflict ends this way, but we can be thankful when they do.

    The goals of trust and honesty in a loving relationship dictate that we do not intentionally spin facts to win favor, but humbly present them as they are.

    Trust is built when we can we lay it all out on the table, and sort out information in a united way, asking questions and listening to the answers. Keep the truth in focus, and add a bit of each other’s perspective. Solutions are the result.

    When we are afraid, it is easy to slant and hide facts. When we cannot trust, we let our perspective get in the way of the truth. Habitually assigning motives and holding our perspective more valuable than the object says a lot about a relationship. Screaming crescendos, quiet bitterness, or both, are the result.

    There is no fear in love.


    Frames courtesy of Simply upload a photo and then choose the wall color, matting and frame. Enjoy!

    November Giveaway Winner / My Lost Passport & Wallet Story

    Elizabeth Hull from Binghamton, NY, is the winner! Congratulations!

    She is a mom of four, ages ranging from 15 to two newborn twin daughters. Her husband both plays guitar and sings in the band Old Friends. Elizabeth occasionally lends them her vocal talent.

    Elizabeth is currently on hiatus from her job as a nurse practitioner as she cares for her new babies. She recently decided to take up blogging and her debut posts at In Heaven, I Want to Be A Cowgirl are about the natural full-term homebirth of her twins!

    (The best part of the monthly giveaways for me has been getting to know my readers!)

    After the drawing this morning, I decided to share a “bonus” story about my passport and wallet — which were lost (and found) the night before my solo trip to meet Tom in Tokyo. Enjoy!