the end of things: toy story 3 and knuffle bunny free.

this is my somewhat wordy review of the endings to two great trilogies: the knuffle bunny series by mo willems and the toy story series by pixar*. there are spoilers ahead.

is it the colors? the clearly written stories and relatable characters? i would like mo willems fine, but i like his work so much more than fine because my kids, especially g, adore his books. we had fun reading some elephant and piggy books from the library this year. g constantly wants to read knuffle bunny, the only book by willems that we own. after reading an interview with willems, i was especially interested to see how the series would come to an end. i read it in the bookstore, trying not to cry in public. it was so sweet and beautiful, and it reminded me of the end of another beloved series that drew to a close this year. apparently i wasn't the only one to see the comparison. more on that in a moment.

toy story 3 was a funny one for us because we saw it on dvd, not in the theater, after hearing it lauded by everyone we knew. the first time was a bit disappointing, though i did tear up a bit. then i rented it again this week, about two months after the first viewing, and have seen it more clearly in subsequent (read: three more) screenings.

toy story 3 had many challenges. first, it had to draw us in with a fresh approach. as a sequel it had the opportunity to build on characters we have come to love over the years, but had to resist overplaying certain quirks so that those characters don't feel overplayed or tired. and finally, because it's the last in the series, it had to give the audience some type of closure without negating the meaning from the previous two films. initially i was skeptical--it felt like a prison break movie, not wholly unlike chicken run. i also couldn't decide how i felt at the end. i cried, inevitably, but wondered at andy's ability to let everyone--including woody--go.
am i so materialistic?

this is what i thought was so interesting about both knuffle bunny free and toy story 3. in the end, both trixie and andy examine their attachment to their cherished toys, then let them go. both stories have other themes too, but the theme to hold dear to memories then pass on objects is very strong. i know i'm sentimental, perhaps overly so, but i was interested that both tales end with such unselfish gestures. these actions probably stood out to me more because at the moment i'm struggling with letting go of my children's baby clothes--and my oldest is just over five years old! what kind of mess will i be in thirteen years? the more i think about it, though, the more i see that this is a wonderful message to teach our kids--to hold onto memories, then pass on beloved things. i have always believed in donating rather than trashing, but i still hold on to my fair share of material possessions. i hope to teach my kids to let material things go easier than i do.

i could go on about the materialism themes in toy story 3--how lotso is a perfect foil for woody ("we're made to be thrown away!" lotso yells at the heirloom 1950s toy woody). and how horrific the scenes at the dump are. how could we not think twice about throwing things away after that? the film shows on many levels the ways that we should--and shouldn't do things. We see the toys--their themes of sticking together no matter what, never leaving each other behind, risking yourself to help a friend, sacrificing your own needs for the happiness of others--are among the good examples we see. on the flip-side, we see how a lack of respect (lotso's perspective that toys are disposible) and what following a selfish leader can lead to. in the people, we see that giving is good, even when it's hard, and that caring for things--showing respect--is a form of love. i'm definitely thinking about the latter as i look at the toys strewn about my house and think, are we taking care enough? it's an important value i want to teach my kids.

i also love how toy story 3 (along with the first two films) shows a special respect for childhood, especially the magic of play. i remember holding my toys and feeling that they could come to life. that's something i want my children to have, too. sometimes it's hard to give kids quiet space and free time to play, especially as the world grows more competitive and electronic. it was gratifying to see the way Bonnie took care of her toys, and how she played--all out, full on imagining, no television or video games played. it was also gratifying to see that the kind, imaginative andy grew up to be kind and imaginative. being in the phase i am now, it's always encouraging to see other kids go through the growing up process and remain relatively their same sweet selves.

both willems and pixar do a fine job of addressing children and adults. i cried at both because i'm understanding more and more what other parents say about how fast childhood goes, and i think pixar and willems illustrate this all too well. willems writes the loveliest message to his real-life trixie at the end of knuffle bunny free--more than her unselfish action at the end, it's these pages that made me cry. in toy story 3 i cried during the home-movie montage that shows andy growing up, and the scene near the end when andy's mom sees andy's room packed up and is suddenly struck that her son is grown up. parenthood is crazy that way--one moment you're humming along, lost in the daily routine of things, and the next moment you notice something that triggers the realization that your children are growing up.

as a writer and a parent i love seeing how closely these works parallel the lives of the creators. these stories are based in truth, and sincerely reflect their true emotional experiences with great characters and quality production. in the fifteen years since the original toy story came out, i'm sure pixar has seen its fair share of high school graduations.

finally, i wonder what it's like for younger adults/teens to watch toy story 3. i keep thinking of my cousins, for instance. when toy story first came out, they were three years old. six months ago they were the ones graduating high school, then preparing for college and post-high school life in the summer. i think about my aunts, and wonder how it felt to watch this film through their eyes--these kids grew up playing with toy story toys and games and watching the films excitedly in the theaters. now, the series winds up just as childhood does for their kids. it's quite poetic, really. knuffle bunny free and toy story 3 offer riveting stories for children along with entertainment and guidance for us grownups who are on the other side of the process. they are both poignant tales with themes of unselfishness and caring for others. i'm inspired as a parent and a writer.

*i'm using pixar as a collective for simplicity's sake since the film was a collaborative piece--including more than one writer.

favorite things from 2010.

somehow there are two days left of this entire year--did it sneak up on anyone else? before 2010 is completely over, i wanted to note some of my favorites from this year of wonder. it was full and lovely and i look forward to 2011, whatever it holds.
note: some of my favorites did not come out this year, but they're my favorite things from this past year.
album: broken bells by broken bells.
i listened to this over and over when it came out in the spring. james mercer (the shins) has such a great voice, and this pairing with danger mouse is pure greatness.
album: the suburbs by arcade fire.
musically there's a lot going on, and lyrically too. plus the songs will always remind me of wandering the streets of nyc with b--we traded off humming "the suburbs" and other arcade fire riffs while we waited for the subway or looked for cool buildings.
album: abbey road by the beatles.
i have to admit i always respected and admired the beatles, but i didn't really get it until this year. i didn't grow up listening to them, and hadn't listened much at all until we started introducing some beatles songs to the kids--fun early stuff like "twist and shout" (which g calls "shake it up baby now") plus later fun stuff like yellow submarine" and "octopus's garden"--b made some beatles cds for our road trip to utah, and that was it. the medley on abbey road is incredible. "golden slumbers" is probably my very favorite, but it's really hard to choose just one favorite beatles song.
children's book: knuffle bunny free by mo willems,
& film: toy story 3 by pixar. for more in depth reflections on both, see here.
film: inception.
i love movies, but find very few that i am willing to pay full movie theater price times 2 + cost of a babysitter for three kids, so i rarely see movies at the theater. the only movie i saw in the theater this year. we saw it on an imax screen, and it was well worth it. the visuals were stunning, the plot and characters were intriguing, and one of our favorite buildings made a cameo appearance.
film: 500 days of summer.
we finally saw it on dvd this past summer, and i loved it. something about it just stayed with me. i especially loved the dual-screen scene that showed how tom wanted the party to go and the reality of how the party went. i've always wanted to do a scene/short film like that, and they did it so wonderfully. it was also fun to see a film appreciate the architecture of downtown los angeles, because b and i share that appreciation.
film: scott pilgrim vs. the universe.
fun fun fun. that's what this film was. fun on so every level.
live concert: neko case.
she is incredible live. it was amazing to hear her in person.
sewing project: christmas tree advent.
inspiration from here (some of it very direct). i finally finished our advent. i'm pretty proud of myself because it was a big undertaking.
cookbook: cook 1.0 by heidi swanson.
swanson is the writer/photographer behind 101 cookbooks. this vegetarian cookbook is so wonderfully simple. i've really been inspired the recipes this week--we're due for a major detox around here after all this holiday bliss.
book: silas marner by george eliot.
it's a simple story, but so beautifully written it really left an impression on me. it took a bit for me to get into eliot's 19th century writing style, but once i was in i was spellbound. i recommend it to anyone.
children's book: iggy peck architect by andrea beaty.
the illustrations are fantastic, and the rhyming tale of the young architect is refreshingly tight and charming. i need to find more rhyming children's books that have the same respect for meter.
website: fabricworm.com.
i love looking at their wide selection of fabrics, from heather ross to japanese imports, and their prices are pretty reasonable. right now i'm loving this.
literary discovery: the new yorker.
two of my favorite authors are new yorker writers, and i finally started reading it online more this year. i'm very excited to start getting it in the mail (thanks, whit!)
treat: homemade strawberry ice cream (made with organic strawberries) and ginger snaps.
a friend gave us some organic strawberries, and using this recipe. if you haven't had organic strawberries you should. the difference is incredible. i'm afraid i can't go back to overgrown grocery store strawberries. i was also excited to adapt my great grandma's ginger snap recipe to make them gluten-free.
restaurant meal: curry dosa at hampton chutney company in new york.
it was so good we went back with friends. mmm.
in the kitchen: heavy aluminum round cake pans with removable bottom.
perfect for cheesecake, and great for regular cake, too. this was a favorite purchase this year.
from the market: arugula.
i hadn't tried arugula before this year. it's delicious in salad and on pizza.
first with lulu: evergreen city ballet's production of the nutcracker.
it was just my lu and me. she sat on my lap for a lot of it. we were both mesmerized. she loved the music/dancing/costumes/everything. i loved sharing a favorite (ballet) with her.
one of my favorite memories with g: jane's first day of school.
we went to get donuts at a nearby shop. we both missed jane terribly. he's my special little guy.
first with flora: trip to utah to introduce her to family and give her a name and a blessing.
it's fun to see the effect our calm, sweet girl has on everyone we love. she belongs.
memory with b:
i can't choose just one because b gave me a lot this year. he won a trip to new york so we could go together, and our time there was amazing. for our anniversary he surprised me with tickets to bumbershoot, which was awesome.
favorite colors this year: yellow, pink, and gray or light blue.
what are some of your favorites from 2010?


classic books

a few good girl friends and i formed a book club last summer. we met every other month to discuss the book and eat yummy food. i am hoping we'll pick up again soon. together we read:

persuasion by jane austen
hound of the baskervilles (a sherlock holmes classic) by sir arthur conan doyle
david copperfield by charles dickens
peter pan by jm barrie
silas marner by george eliot

our meetings were wonderful, from the company to the food and the discussions. i love having some kind of structure that encourages me to read "the classics"--books i have felt like i am supposed to read.

i also felt very fortunate to find this small collection of classic books for children at a nearby used bookstore. i got them for a steal, even if they need a little de-mildewing.

i am a sucker alone for the colors and illustration styles of the covers, but when i see the titles i become very excited for our kids to grow into reading these chapter books in a few years. we've started to get lulu's feet wet with the adventures of winnie the pooh and stuart little. i love hearing b's voice as he brings different characters to life. lulu giggles delightedly and never wants him to stop.

what are some of your favorite classic books? what classics do you enjoy with your children, or have you enjoyed sharing with your children?


mr. krueger's christmas.

one of my favorite holiday traditions is watching mr. krueger's christmas with the kids. the film is such a classic and it always makes me cry. i've been trying to figure out exactly why i cry every time.
*james stewart gives a beautiful, sincere performance as a man who is overlooked, but never feels sorry for himself.
*trivia: when the mormon tabernacle choir starts clapping and eventually gives mr. krueger a standing ovation. this was unscripted and the true reaction of the choir to james stewart. in turn the expressions on stewart's face were also genuine, and bring so much depth to the character.
*stewart's prayer at the manger of the savior is so tender. apparently he told the director beforehand that he would do it on the first take.
*i am overwhelmingly inspired when talented people come together and collaborate. in this case, james stewart, a masterful actor, and the mormon tabernacle choir with their beautiful music. i just have this belief that when you put together a group of super-talent, you will produce some form of greatness.
here is mr. krueger's christmas on youtube. you can also buy the dvd here.


darling cake topper.

meet this cute little peggie. i would love to put her on top of flora's first birthday cake.
images from and peggie here.