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Free Fiction – Her Path Lay Forward on Cast of Wonders

I almost missed this one, since it came out on Christmas day as a special Christmas episode! I am very pleased to present my story “Her Path Lay Forward” in the PREMIER young adult, audio fiction magazine, Cast of Wonders.

My story is the second story in the episode, starting around minute 14 (although I don’t recommend you skip my friend Dave‘s story in the first half, of course!)

Here is the “story behind the story” for Her Path Lay Forward:

My children were looking at the scorecard of the excellent game Dixit, and they were debating about the character facing down the dragon in the picture.

I overheard their discussion: “I think it’s an old woman,” said my daughter. “No,” said my son, “it must be a boy. An old woman can’t fight a dragon.”

An old woman can too fight a dragon! In fact the more I thought about it, the more I thought an old woman was the PERFECT person to fight a dragon.

Specifically my grandmother Agnes is one of the strongest, most capable people I have ever met, and no matter how difficult a task she has been faced with in her life, she always does what needs done.

Alex’s First Birthday

I don’t know if I should start by saying “my how time flies” or “look how far we’ve come”.

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Alex babbles basically non-stop. Whoever thought we could have a kid that talks MORE than the two we already have? He basically understands everything that you’re saying to him, even if he can’t answer back as much as he’d like. For example, he can point to every body part if you ask him, as well as basically everything in the house.

For some reason he can shake his head “no” just fine, but when he tries to shake “yes” he does it with his entire body. This makes for a VERY ENTHUSIASTIC yes, especially when you understand what he’s saying (usually by handing him something he wants or taking him somewhere he wants to go). If you ask him, “How old is Alex?” he will stick up one finger, he will make a goofy face on command, and he can stick out his tongue.

Okay, so here’s a list of things that he says. Some of these were actually after his birthday but before I wrote this post (there are pretty much new things on the hour these days):

“Na na” can mean many things: no, Nala, banana, or that emoji thing that Evelyn gave him for Christmas. “Da da” can mean me, or sometimes dog. “Da” (singular) means down. “Ma ma” means Sara, of course, but also sometimes more. “Ma” (singular) means cat (as in “meow”). He can say door, bird, apple, “vroom” (for car), “whoo” (for owl), up, “wa wa” (for water), bib, and book.

He also signs some additional words, like more, all done, eat, water, train, banana, book, bath, night night, “yummy”, milk, and book.

We were keeping track of how many steps he took in a row, but he’s pretty much just straight up walking now. He can also climb up the stairs, which makes it tricky for trying to watch him downstairs. His favorite toys are anything he can carry around the house while walking, but seriously, his all-time favorite toy right now is just the little cookies from the Melissa & Doug set play-kitchen set.

He continues to have strong opinions about food, and he definitely has a sweet tooth (bananas are still his favorite). We hadn’t really given him any dessert until the holidays, but now that he knows what it is, he absolutely flips out if we try to eat any without him. He doesn’t really like to drink anything.

All in all, Alex definitely keeps us on our toes! He is now officially a typical, talkative, opinionated one year old!

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12 Month Comparison Photos

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Moana

The day after Christmas, the kids and I went to see Moana (mild spoilers ahead).

Now, I’m going to start off by saying that I very much enjoyed Moana. I want to say that right off the bat, because I’m going to send some mixed messages in my review here.

Moana was perfect in every way. A little TOO perfect. Like, so perfect that it almost falls into the “Uncanny Valley:

the phenomenon whereby a computer-generated figure or humanoid robot bearing a near-identical resemblance to a human being arouses a sense of unease or revulsion in the person viewing it.

I don’t just mean the plastic-skin-eyes-too-big-for-the-head-Bratz-style animation, I mean everything about it. This movie is as formulaic as formulaic can be. I played this game with Sara:

Me: “I bet you can guess every single thing about the movie without me telling you.”
Sara: “Is there woman-empowerment?”
Me: “Plucky girl with a hilarious sidekick? Check!”
Sara: “Let me guess…she has to go on a journey. To find herself.”
Me: “Check!”
Sara: “And someone important to her dies, like maybe her dad.”
Me: “Her Grandma! Check!”
Sara: “And there’s a guy…”
Me: “…and they don’t get along at first! But they’re stuck together so they have to make the best of it!”

You get the idea.

It feels like every movie Disney has made for the past 20 years has been leading up to this. Each Disney Frankenstein has gotten closer and closer to fooling the Turing test, and now they’ve finally cracked the code. They took every good part of every Disney movie, learning each time what worked and what didn’t, and then somehow mashed them all together seamlessly.

And the worst part is? It works! It’s such a good movie! You would think that a movie that follows this closely to the script would have no heart, but it does have heart! And a great soundtrack! (yes, I am aware that Lin Manuel was involved, and I am not exactly an unbiased source, but) And jokes where there should be jokes and sadness where there should be sadness and not a single hair out of place.

And it totally works. I’m like one of those birds that can be tricked by a superstimulus into feeding some other hatchling while my own babies starve.

I know I’m being manipulated, and I still like it anyway. DAMN YOU WALT DISNEY!

Christmas 2016

We started out on Christmas Eve with the play at church. Evelyn and Oliver are both in the choir, Oliver was set to be a lamb, and Evelyn was set to be Mary. What we did not expect was that Alex got conscripted to be baby Jesus (which means Sara was conscripted to play the “Innkeeper’s Wife” and help on stage). Alex is a little big to play a newborn,but was absolutely slaying the audience with his toddling around, saying, “ma ma” and playing with the hay. It didn’t hurt that Evelyn is his actual big sis, so was much more comfortable around him than the typical Mary.

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Evelyn naturally nailed her big speech. That girl just has an absolute lack of stage fright, which means she is able to deliver her lines slowly and clearly in a way that most kids just can’t manage. Like, she would say it the same whether talking to me at home, or orating to 1500 people (yes, 1500 people! We always tell her she’ll probably never play to a bigger audience than the Christmas play!)

And for Oliver’s part, he was the most adorable sheep you’ve ever seen:

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Vania got all three kids matching pjs and they were THE BEST. There are little t-rexes with Santa hats on them! They are the exact pajamas I would have picked out (assuming I even knew such a thing existed!)

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Barb knit Alex some *adorable* hat and mitten sets:

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However, those pictures don’t really give the…flavor of the experience. Alex HATED having them on. You can see above that we had to constantly bribe him with raisins to get him to leave them alone long enough for the pictures. I would say this is a more accurate representation:

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In fact, Alex hated the hats so much, that after that he refused to open any more presents. He reached in, felt the tissue paper, pulled his hand back like he got burned and then just shook his head “No!” We had to open them and show him they were not hats before he would accept any gifts.

Other than that, though, Alex has a phenomenal first Christmas. He loved his car set from Santa, loved having everybody home to play with, loved all the boxes and wrapping paper, and most of all, loved the “na na” that Evelyn gave him. He hands it to you, demands, “Na na!” and then sticks his tongue out and goes “blubalubalubalub”:

Sara and I have officially been married too long, since we got each other the EXACT SAME PRESENT. Sara opened hers first, and since I wasn’t sure she would really like it I rushed to explain all the features that I thought she would like (Ceramic burr grinder! Doesn’t take up space on the counter! No batteries required!). Sara just kind of smiled and nodded through the whole thing, until Ollie said in a very confused voice, “Wait…I thought you got that for daddy?”

“It’s like Gift of the Magi!” shouted Evelyn.

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I thought it was such a unique gift! I didn’t even mean to get a hand-crank one, but when I saw it I thought she would like that one better!

Finally, there was one truly enduring gift that will be remembered long after Christmas is over…

I’m talking about Ollie’s fitbit.

Ever since last year when Evelyn got one, Ollie has been pining for a fitbit of his very own. And just like when Evelyn got one he is obsessing about it every. second. of every. day. Nary a step is taken without a full reporting. He spent the entire day yesterday pacing up and down the hallway. The number of times we had to say something like, “Oliver! If you don’t sit down and eat your supper I’m going to take your fitbit away!”

Naturally, Evelyn responded in the way any big sister would: by pacing up and down the hallway behind him, making sure he doesn’t get more steps than her. Just the two of them doing loops, all day long. Luckily it was like 60 degrees for no reason, so we did get them out of the house for a bit, and Oliver managed > 20k steps for the day (and that was with going to see a movie!).

Better that than another hand-crank coffee grinder I guess.

Quote Monday has a sweet Christmas quote for you…

Me, giving Sara a hug: “Merry Christmas.”
Sara, whispering in my ear: “I think you need to wash your wookiee suit.”

Alex, on stage as baby Jesus, signing: “All done”

Interview with me about writing and live theater

Hey everybody, check out this excerpt from an interview I did with The Pulp Stage as part of their (successful, yay!) crowdfunding campaign.

The question was, “What do our plays and genres mean to you as a writer?” (My answer is as long winded and as rambling as you would expect.)

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