Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

We are nearing the end of awards season here in Los Angeles.  Los Angeles makes a big deal about movies year round, but this time of year award contenders have been released in hopes of big box office returns, solid reviews, nominations and awards.  I love this time of year because I love movies, always have and always will.  I grew up with them.

I don’t remember seeing my first movie.  I think I was 5 years old and my family and I went to the drive in to see a double feature of “Paint Your Wagon” and “Marooned.”  I remember bits and pieces of each, but slept through most of them in the back of my parents’ Volkswagen Bus.  Perhaps my love of movies started back then.  When I was 9, my folks took me to see “Charlotte’s Web” with Debbie Reynolds as the voice of Charlotte and Paul Lynde as Templeton, the rat.  I couldn’t wait to see the movie and even brought my E.B. White book with me to follow along.

Spider Web

In my teens, we had family movie night for opening nights of “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” and many others.  We arrived ridiculously early waiting in line to assure getting the best seats.  This was in the late 70’s well before the ability to order tickets and assigned seats on the Internet.  If memory serves correct, tickets were roughly $3.00 for children and $5.00 for adults for evening shows!

Star Wars - The Exhibition

We always had an amazing time on opening nights waiting in line for these blockbuster films.  We met interesting people like us who were crazy enough to wait.  It was fun eating pizza, playing backgammon and visiting to pass the time, awesome family time.  Even when my folks divorced we kids got the benefit because both parents loved movies so we got to see a lot more movies.

Now that The Littlest E is 3, he’s still pretty young to go to most movies, but I’ve taken him to a couple.  It’s not a secret that I hope he develops my love of film.  Our first movie-going adventure occurred last year.  We saw Disney’s “Chimpanzee.”   He didn’t understand the whole story, but had fun watching all the chimpanzees.  During the movie, The Littlest E sat on my lap the entire time, which I loved, and we only took 4 trips to the bathroom.  The film was roughly 90 minutes long, which was about all he could do.  It was the perfect first movie experience.  That night, he told his Daddy all about the chimpanzee.

Learning To Climb

This past summer, we attempted to see “Madagascar 3” in 3D, which I knew was an experiment.  Would The Littlest E like 3D animation?  Turns out, the answer was a definitive NO.  We lasted 10 minutes and he said he didn’t like the movie touching him.  I made a mental note of that.  No more 3D movies – revisit when older.

At home, he’s really gotten into watching “Toy Story” and “Toy Story 2.”  When he started watching them, he talked incessantly, asking questions about what happened and making comments.  It was wonderful to watch him watch the movies and then watch his wheels spin as he figured things out.  It’s one of the many great things about being a parent.  He even noticed that someone said the bad word “stupid,” in one of the movies, which we don’t say in our house.  My husband replied, “Yes, he said that, but that’s not a nice word and we don’t say that to anyone.”

We don’t watch movies all the time, but we do have a movie day.  The Littlest E is so active at preschool and with outside activities that sometimes it’s nice to sit and watch a flick.  I try not to use the television as a babysitter, though confess now and then it helps, especially since I started a part-time job and need time to do the things I used to do around the house when I wasn’t working.

Since The Littlest E is still so young, we occasionally refer to the website Common Sense Media to find out if the movie we want to see with him is age-appropriate.  There are many other parent movie review websites in the blogosphere, but we like Common Sense.  Sometimes we check with friends who have kids our son’s age to find out what they’ve seen.  The goal is not to let him see a movie that will upset him.  I’ve heard too many stories of children haunted by what seemed to be okay films for kids.

Found Nemo

I didn’t check out “Finding Nemo.”  My son and I watched it together one afternoon.  I was next to him the whole time and he didn’t have any problem watching the movie.  After the movie, I asked if he liked it and he said Yes.  A couple of weeks later, he watched it again, this time he was on the couch by himself while my husband and I were doing something else.  Suddenly he burst into tears and was very upset.  This was right when the scuba diver took Nemo.  The Littlest E freaked out.  We stopped the movie right away and talked about it.  He doesn’t like grown ups in costume, and didn’t like the scuba diver at all.  The big scuba mask on the screen scared him and he got scared when Nemo was taken.  He was afraid he was going to be taken.  I had no idea that would happen.

The first time he watched it he seemed perfectly fine during the movie.  That incident prompted daily discussions about why the scuba diver took Nemo and how Nemo’s father got him back.  We watched the movie a number of weeks later without the scuba diver scene.  Later in the movie, we learned the scuba diver (a dentist) thought he was rescuing Nemo because he had a smaller fin and thought he was helping him.  I explained to my son that the scuba diver wasn’t a bad man; he was someone who didn’t know Nemo had a father and was trying to help him.  That seemed to sit well with The Littlest E and he didn’t get scared.  It’s been quite awhile and we still talk about the movie and, when we watch it, we still fast-forward the scuba diver scene.  Lesson learned, look into a movie before watching; however, our “Nemo” discussions have also been beneficial.

Da Turma dos Smurfs

I truly can’t wait for The Littlest E to get older for many reasons, one of which is there are so many movies to share with him: old classics, sci-fi, fantasy, mysteries, romantic comedies, sports films, great dramas and so on.  We have yet to go to the movies together as a family and are waiting for the right occasion – possibly the 2nd Smurf movie.  We shall see.

© Melanie Elliott

Images: cybershotking, Andres Rueda, Eric Kilby, bandita, Happy Batatinha


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A couple of Sundays ago, our family went to our first ever concert for kids.  It was awesome!  The Littlest E is 3 years old and we figured 3’s a good age to do this.  We had the best time, all except for the parking, but I’ll get to that in a minute.  The band we saw was Justin Roberts and the Not Ready for Naptime Players at the Getty Museum.  The Getty has a free summer concert series for kids.

We have a number of Justin’s CDs and listen to his music often.  Many of the songs are catchy, high energy and fun to sing along and dance to.  They tell a variety of stories – A yellow bus that’s taking too long; Willy the whale walking in Nevada; a child eating one too many cookies before dinner; and a brother obsessed with trucks, to name a few.  There are poignant songs, too – Mama is taking off her ring; a child with a broken bone; and getting lost in the mall.

The Littlest E, my husband, and I were excited to see the show and had never been to the Getty Center for a concert.  We left our house with plenty of time, allowing 1½-hours for traffic.  Making our way down the 405 Freeway went well until just before the Getty exit.  The traffic was horrible, and wouldn’t you know it, our son had to use the restroom.  What timing.  We couldn’t pull over because there was no place for him to do his “business.”  Once we got close enough to the underpass, I got out of the car with him and rushed to find a bathroom to avoid any accidents, while Tom parked the car.  We made it to the bathroom in time.  Tom joined us shortly at the tram stop to take it up to The Getty.

The concert took place in one of their gardens on a grassy slope sheltered by a couple of The Getty walls, providing ample shade.  It was the perfect place for a show.  When we arrived, there were lots of families already settling in on the lawn.  We found a great spot and joined in the crowd.  People enjoyed snacks and kids ran around.  It was a bustling, happy, spirited scene.  We were meeting some of The Littlest E’s friends and they arrived shortly after us.

The music began.  Many in the audience knew the words to a number of the songs and the band members asked us to sing along or participate in various ways.  You could tell the musicians were enjoying themselves right along with kids and adults alike.  There was even a mild mosh pit of toddlers close to the stage.  The Littlest E has two friends who are twin boys and they found themselves down at the pit having fun, with their mom watching them closely.  Initially, my son was laid back, soaking it all in, enjoying everything from the comfort of our blanket.  After awhile, though, he was up and dancing, too!  In fact, the three of us found a place where we let loose.  Traffic aside it was a terrific concert and family experience.

I know in the Los Angeles Area and San Fernando Valley alone, there are a number of places that offer free concerts for kids and concerts at night.  The Grove Los Angeles and The Getty offer them.  There are also a number of list serves you can join: www.Redtricycle.com, www.mommypoppins.com, www.jenslist.com, and www.maccaronikid.com are a few of them in my area which all have a wealth of information on things to do with children.  I’m sure in other cities, there are similar lists you can join and venues that offer these types of concerts.  It may take a bit of digging, but they’re out there.  I highly recommend seeing Justin Roberts (www.justinroberts.org), if he’s coming to a city near you, and recommend taking advantage of concerts for kids.  It’s a wonderful way to spend time with your family, get out of the house and enjoy the day/night.

Images: dichohecho, Melanie Elliott

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As New Year’s Eve rolls around, I’ve been thinking about New Year’s Eves of the past and how they’ve changed over the years, especially since I have become a parent.  Last year’s evening was extra special.  We didn’t do anything extraordinary.  In fact, we didn’t really do much at all and even went to sleep well before the stroke of midnight.  What made the night special, after 7 years of marriage to my wonderful Tom, was it was our first New Year’s Eve as a family.  Our son had been home with us from Ethiopia for almost 5 months and we got to ring in the New Year with him in our lives.  He won’t remember it since he was only 17 months old, but I will.  First holidays as a new parent have a greater importance.

When I was younger, our family enjoyed the holiday evening watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Eve specials, although I honestly can’t remember the first time I was allowed to stay up until midnight and watch the ball drop.  I’m sure there were times my parents gave me permission, but slumber would inevitably creep in and I’d miss the moment.  The ball dropping in Times Square was an exciting event, not as anticipated as say my birthday, Christmas or the first day of school.  Still, it was a big occasion.

Many of my New Year’s Eves were spent as an older teenager at the home of one of my best high school friends.  She and her older sister would have an all night party – yes, their parents were always home.  We had a blast listening to music, dancing, going for late night swims in their pool and hot tub.  They were wonderful times.  One regret from that era, I never did muster up the endurance to stay up all night and then hike up Mt. Tamalpais in the morning, as many of the gang did.  They got the benefit of a solid hike, good company, and often a breathtaking view of Marin County, San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean at dawn.  I had the pleasure of a couple hours of sleep and a warm, toasty sleeping bag.

Other ways I memorialized the holiday over the years, dressing to the nines and going dancing, dining out at spendy restaurants, game nights, going to the movies with family, and parties with theatre friends.  One year, those same high school friends and I ate a late dinner at a restaurant on the beach, went walking on the sand in the dark of night, lit candles, and said prayers letting go of the old unwanted things and welcoming in the freshness of a new year.  To this day, that one puts a smile on my face.

In time, the “up all night” aspect of the Eve has dwindled more so since I’ve become a mom.  The later I stay up, the harder it is to be of any use the next day (and this is even without imbibing).  My husband and I usually opt for a New Year’s Eve at home avoiding the traffic, expensive restaurants and potentially drunk drivers.  This year with our son, we get to explain what the holiday is and spend an early evening with friends who also have toddlers.  Our son will be asleep by 8:00 which is midnight somewhere out in the Atlantic, and my husband and I will probably celebrate in Mountain Time and be in bed by 11:00.

One facet of the holiday that hasn’t shifted is the meaning of New Year’s Eve, the end of a year and the beginning of a new year and a new adventure in life.  It’s a time of reflecting, what worked, what didn’t, what can be improved upon, and formulating ideas of things to accomplish in the coming year.  If you take a step back and look at the night, the passing of one year to the next in a split second is pretty amazing.  In the blink of an eye we go from 2011 to 2012, a whole new year.

There will eventually come a day when staying up until midnight has significance again, and that will be when we are waiting for our son to arrive back home from his own New Year’s Eve festivities.  When that happens, New Year’s Eve will have come full circle.  Have a very happy and safe New Year!

Image: -JvL-

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