Heartwarming Christmas Stories, Vol. 1

We’ve been trying to really do up Christmas this year, so I thought I would share some heartwarming Christmas stories that show off what it is to have a toddler.

On Friday morning we took B to meet Santa. We’d been telling him about Santa and “prepping” him to say, “Hi Santa, Merry Christmas, this year I’ve been a very good boy and I would like __________.” (Whatever the blank happens to be: books, a puzzle, a dog, more letters, etc.) (Of course there was no chance he would say all that, but it’s fun to practice anyway.)

So we get there and we’re first in line, because I’m overzealous and I think that everyone’s going to the mall to meet Santa on a Friday morning. So without anyone to use an example, B was not happy to be sitting on a stranger’s lap (I can’t say I blame him) and he basically made this face the whole time:

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I love this photo so much.

And PS. he was totally fine once we got him out of there. Like, completely happy.

On Friday night, we finally cleaned off our kitchen table, which has been accumulating STUFF for, like, weeks. And somewhere near the bottom of one of the piles, Drew found a sticker advent calendar, which I think my parents brought over for us around B’s birthday. So Drew sat down with B to catch up on advent stickers, and we’ve never done stickers before, so neither of us was sure how it was going to go. But B patiently took each sticker that Drew handed him, and stuck it on (or near) the paper tree. Drew and I were all heartwarmed already. But it gets better.

The next day, we did one sticker (in classic advent style). Fine.

The next day, we did one sticker…and then B started saying, “More, more,” and I tried to explain the premise of the advent calendar, but that he could LOOK at the stickers. And then he took the page over to Drew and said, “Help” (which he has just recently started saying). And Drew was like, “Oh that’s adorable.” And then B said, “Peese?” And we both knew it was all over. Drew and I decided that since we had already messed up the first 12 days, what did the second half of the advent calendar really matter, when your toddler just asked you for help please? So they did the rest of the stickers, which was really one of my favorite things that happened this weekend.

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The third, and possibly most heartwarming, story is from Sunday. We were doing laundry at Drew’s grandma’s condo, where the laundry room connects the house to the garage, and has a door on either end. I was detained elsewhere for a minute, when I got a phone call from Drew. I answered and he said, “He locked me in the garage! And then locked himself in the laundry room!”

I opened the door to the laundry room, where B was just standing, looking around. And then I opened the locked garage door and found Drew cracking up. What would he have done if I wasn’t there?

So Merry Christmas everyone, and I hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, whether or not you have a toddler around to spice things up. =)

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Disney Project 2014: Tangled

Movie: Tangled

Release year: 2010

From what I’ve heard, this movie was originally titled Rapunzel – but they changed it to Tangled and made Flynn Rider more prominent, so as to not scare away boys. (BTW, I recently took a “Which Disney prince is your true love?” quiz, and I got Flynn Rider, so. You know.)

Tangled gives us the story of Rapunzel, but with a more elaborate backstory, and a more empowered title character (played by Mandy Moore!), a more conflicted love interest, plus some magic. Mother Gothel (pictured below) is a great villain with a couple great songs. Actually, all of the music is pretty good.

I’m guessing most of us have seen this one, so I won’t take up more of your time. If you haven’t seen it, it’s great! Even B liked it!

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Into the Woods: So Happy

We went and saw an early screening of Into the Woods the other day. When did we start hearing about this movie being made? A couple years ago? The first whisperings. Then you start hearing casting and concepts. What songs will they cut? What plot lines will they change? I remember there was rumor of one big change – which then apparently “fell through” because of “public outrage.” (I still think it was a publicity stunt.)

This show is so personal, to both Drew and me. Here’s the background: back in college, my two best friends and I decided we wanted to produce the show. We were young and reckless, and there was this student “production” group on campus, Studio 301, that at the time, was basically a campus organization that anyone could just jump on and do whatever show they wanted. (I actually think it was through Studio 301 that had presented Ivan on Ivan: In Reverb!)

So to make a long story short, we got together, got some early funding, got the royalties, got a production team, got a faculty advisor, got a space, got a cast, got some business cards to pass out to promote the show…and put on Into the Woods in the spring of 2005. I directed, and my friends played Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood.

Here’s the set – this is Wyatt Pavilion, the cattle show ring turned thrust stage.

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I literally still have a piece of the story book writing from the wall.

When we were doing auditions in the fall of 2004, Drew (then just a friend of mine) came in to audition for the part of Milky White, the cow. We hadn’t planned on casting a person – it just hadn’t occurred to any of us – and I think we were just going to use a plaster cow that we were pretty sure was in prop storage underneath the theatre department. But he’s a genius and so the musical director and I went with it. He played Milky White, and also Little Red’s Granny, which I actually still think was hilarious, because the costume designer really made no attempt to make him look old, or like a woman.

Drew is very creative, and he makes a lot of choices. I think having the cow be more a character and less of a prop actually adds a lot to the show. In our case, the cow did things like eat flowers, eat Cinderella’s hair at one point, and offer to play Clue with his bff, Jack.

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(On a completely unrelated note, here’s a tumblr of Low Budget Milky Whites. Completely unrelated.)

(Also – I so wish that cameras were better quality back then, that long long nine years ago. I took all these pictures with my digital camera, but it just didn’t capture movement well without the flash, and so most of the pictures are super blurry, and also far away, since I was running around in the house while taking these. I treasure them anyway.)

Anyway, by the time we started rehearsals, Drew and I were dating, which I think is partly why I thought all his choices were hilarious. So yeah, this show has a lot of emotion and memory attached to it for both of us.

Which is why we were both excited and scared to go see the screening. I mean, this movie could have gone really wrong.

But it didn’t! I am happy to say that we both liked it and I think that Rob Marshall and Disney did a good job of adapting it. I miss some of the songs they cut out – but I get why they did. I think the edits are good, and the Baker’s story is fleshed out in an interesting way you don’t really get onstage. It’s funny, poignant, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking. The parenting themes hit me harder than they have in the past, maybe because I haven’t seen a production in awhile, just listened to it, and it’s not the same. At any rate, I’m a big fan, and can’t wait to watch it again.

Happy now, happy hence, happy ever after!

(Oh, and yes, Tug was a decent Milky White, but I mean, she was no Drew…)

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The Correct Way to Work a Holiday Gift Exchange

Tonight is our work holiday party, complete with yankee swap gift exchange. In honor of this tradition, I thought I would reuse this blog post from a few years back, which basically sums up my priorities and my wisdom in one anecdote.

Originally posted on Dec 14, 2011.

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Alternate title: My Shameful, Gleeful Secret.

Despite knowing about my work holiday party, and the “yankee swap” type gift exchange, I didn’t remember to buy a gift until the day of the party. (Also despite browsing at Macy’s over the weekend, picking things up and wondering if they were appropriate for a holiday gift exchange.)

On my lunch break I ran to Target to pick up some boring stuff and also look for a gift. On the drive there I decided to buy a book, because I’ve talked about books with several other people here, and I thought that would be a nice diversion from the numerous bottles of wine that I was sure would be there.

I looked through the book section, but there wasn’t really much of interest. There was a wall of trashy teen romance, a wall of trashy adult romance, a wall of trashy thriller/suspense…and then I saw a single copy of Stephen King’s recent collection of novellas: Full Dark, No Stars.

I know of at least two other people in the office who like Stephen King, and he’s pretty mainstream, so I thought it would be a better gift than, you know, Twilight or The Chocolate Cat Caper or something like that. (Although, I also thought about getting Dollhouse, the book “written” by the three Kardashians.)

So I bought the book and wrapped it in a little bag, and told no one except Jonathan what it was. I deposited it under the tree at the holiday party and waited for the gift exchange to begin.

Soon I started feeling like I needed to leave the party soon – later that night Drew, Erin and I were going to a screening of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – and for a minute or two I wondered if I could get the present back out the door if I left before we started the swap.

But then we all settled down and the fun began, and I’m glad I stayed, because it was super fun. The entire thing (there were around 30 people participating) took about 90 minutes.

I was number 26 in the lineup and I had decided I wouldn’t just select my own gift, even though Full Dark, No Stars was one of the few Stephen King books I didn’t own. When my turn came, I stole a set of balsamic vinegar and olive oil from someone else, and I was very happy with that steal. After all, I could always go back to Target and buy another copy of the book.

In a few more turns, a girl sitting next to me selected my gift, and once she’d unwrapped it, she looked less than enthusiastic. No one seemed to want to steal it either. Perhaps I had completely misjudged this group – and neither of the people who I know like Stephen King were at the party.

In another few turns, the hostess of the party stole my balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and I made a snap decision to steal Full Dark, No Stars. Which I did. That girl opened another present and seemed much happier with it. No one stole the book from me after that.

When I got home, I told Drew the whole story and then displayed the book, and he said, “Well, I guess that worked out perfectly.”

And it did.

Merry Christmas!

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Disney Project 2014: The Princess and the Frog

Movie: The Princess and the Frog

Release year: 2009

Yay, another good old-fashioned traditional-animation princess movie! I really like this one, even if the music isn’t my favorite. This is a great twist on the classic Grimm tale, “The Frog Prince.” The main character, Tiana, is upgraded from a bratty princess to a hardworking young woman in New Orleans. The prince in this case is the spoiled one, and maybe sorta deserves getting turned into a frog. The villain, Dr. Facilier, is super creepy, but even creepier are all the voodoo masks that represent his “friends on the other side” and end up taking revenge on him for a broken promise.

(Side note: Listen, everyone. Don’t mess around with dark magic. Just don’t do it. It never ends well. No voodoo, no ouija boards, no summoning spirits. It MIGHT just be silly, but it also might not be. Why risk it?)

According to the internet, the animators said they modeled the animation for this film along the lines of Lady and the Tramp, which they said is “so classically Disney.” Maybe that’s why I like it so much!

Even B liked it – at least he watched more of it than usual.

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Disney Project 2014: Bolt

Movie: Bolt

Release year: 2008

Do you remember this movie? About the dog who thinks he’s a movie star? And his voice is provided by John Travolta? And his owner’s voice is provided by Miley Cyrus? And her name is Penny? Which is the same name of the girl in Inspector Gadget, who also works closely with a dog sidekick that’s smarter than a regular dog? And Bolt thinks he has to save her from the Green-Eyed Man’s evil henchmen?

Okay. So that is basically the rundown. Or at least, that’s what I know of the movie, because around 1:10 into it, the library DVD started skipping, then froze, and we feared it actually broke our DVD player. We did get the disc out eventually, and I wrote a note to the library about the giant gash in the DVD, and we returned it, and Drew just read the plot synopsis for the final half hour that we missed.

It was basically exactly what we had guessed it would be. Which wasn’t satisfying, because the whole experience was so frustrating…haha. So, this is just not one of our favorites. No recommendation!

On the other hand – look how cute!

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Disney Project 2014: Meet the Robinsons

Movie: Meet the Robinsons

Release year: 2007

This movie is always on the TV at the pediatrician we go to. (At least it used to be until Frozen came out on Blu-Ray and rendered all other movies irrelevant.) I had never seen it before, although I remember, back in 2007, seeing the commercial and thinking that the part with the T-Rex (“I have a big head and little arms”) looked funny. (I was right. It is.)

I was really impressed by this story. Drew called most of the ending, but I think it was still satisfying. There was a lot of heartbreak at the beginning – orphans are always heartbreaking, especially at the tricky age of 12 – and a lot of heart in the ending. I like really liked it. I even tried to pay really close attention so I would actually know if I liked it. I fully recommend it!

We definitely used the long holiday weekend to catch up on Disney movies – we watched three, so there will be a quick succession of posts about them. We’re in the home stretch now: just 4 more to go!

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