Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Watching My Kids Watch "Star Wars" For the First Time

A few years ago, our oldest daughter started to show an interest in Star Wars. She knew the names of the main characters, and often included them in her "Pretend World" activities. (Chewbacca was her favorite.) But, she hadn't seen the movies--and we decided she wasn't ready to see them yet. (She cried during Muppets Most Wanted because Kermit's evil twin was too scary.)

Several years have passed, and circumstances seemed right to end our Star Wars embargo. (We're stuck at home, and all the movies are available on Disney+.) My wife, who isn't too familiar with the movies, wondered which movie to show them first. I guess there are some people who would think it best to start with Episode I: The Phantom Menace, because it says right there in the title that it's the first episode. But, since I wanted our kids to actually like the movies, I started them out with the one that started them all, Star Wars!

[NOTE: In order to clear up and/or add to the confusion, let me explain. Star Wars, also known as Episode IV: A New Hope, was the first movie to come out, back in 1977. So, even though it's the fourth episode, it was the first movie, and since I'm old and grumpy, that's the way it's always going to be to me.]

As I sat down to watch the movie with my kids, I decided to take a few notes. I wanted to watch my kids watch Star Wars for the very first time. It was pretty fun! But first, roll call:
                                         Thing 1--11 year-old daughter
                                         Thing 2--9 year-old son
                                         Thing 3--5 year-old daughter
                                         Thing 4--3 year-old son

Her are there reactions.

*The Opening Note--That opening note from the John Williams score is one of the best opening notes in cinema history. I jumped a bit in excitement when I heard it, and my kids all jumped along with me, and laughed at me a little.

*The Opening Scroll--Thing 1, as many have done before her, felt the need to read the opening scroll out loud. Thing 2 observed that as the words faded out of view, it appeared that they were turning into little stars.

*The movie starts--"That is one big ship," says Thing 2. It's the exact same thing I thought when I first saw the movie in 1977.

*Darth Vader appears--"Is that him breathing? It sounds like someone slurping a straw."--Thing 2

*More Darth Vader--"He says 'I want them alive' right after he kills one of them. Doesn't make much sense."--Thing 1

*C3PO--"Is he always that bossy?"--Thing 1

*R2-D2--"Is R2-D2 going to die?"--Thing 3 asks. "No," I reply. "Okay."--Thing 3. (I don't think Kermit's evil twin would make her cry.)

*Jawas--"Oh, they're aliens. The sound a little bit like Minions."--Thing 2

*C3PO--"Is he always that bossy?"--Thing 1 (again.)

*Two moons over Tatooine--"The red one is for the aliens, and the other one is for the people."--Thing 3

A long time ago....

*The Sand People--"More aliens?"--Thing 2 (I remind him that this is a planet far, far away.)

*Luke gets his lightsaber--Luke lights up his lightsaber and is waving it around the room. Thing 1 warns him, "Be careful! Don't hit anyone with that!"

*Obi-wan uses Jedi mind tricks--Obi-wan tricks the Stormtroopers into saying, "These aren't the droids we are looking for." The kids love it!
"That was cool!"--Thing 1.
"(Excitedly) How did he do that?"--Thing 2

*In the Cantina--The camera pans around to the different aliens in the bar. "Some of those are definitely just people in masks."--Thing 2

*Greedo--As Greedo and Han Solo exchange words, Thing 3 laughs and says, "He talks really funny."

[NOTE TO GEORGE LUCAS: Look, George, you made a great movie back in 1977. Why won't you let us watch it? The changes to the Greedo/Han Solo shootout are bad enough, but the added scene with Jabba the Hut is preposterous because it a) is totally unnecessary; b) is actually harmful to the plot of this and the next two movies; and C) looks terrible--as if some 6th grader was trying to create a movie scene using Photoshop. It's too bad I couldn't show my kids the real movie.]

*Jabba the Hut--Thing 1 has a hard time understanding what Jabba is saying. "Did he just say, 'I'm a very happy cheese steak?'"

*On the Millennium Falcon--As Obi-wan trains Luke, Thing 1 says, "For a second there I thought he sounded like PopPop." (Interesting, because PopPop is not a Jedi master.) (At least, not as far as I know.)

*On the Death Star--As the action moves to the Death Star, the kids are too involved in the movie to make as many comments. But, as Han Solo "rescues" Princess Leia from her cell, Thing 1 observes, "Wow, he's very rude."

*Lightsaber fight between Obi-wan and Darth Vader--"They're fighting! That's a fun part!"--Thing 4, who has spent most of the movie up until now in wide-eyed silence and awe.

*Millennium Falcon shootout--As the heroes are escaping the Death Star, they get into a laser fight with some Imperial fighters. Han Solo and Luke each strap into moving chairs and fire at the enemy, looking as if they are playing a video game. Thing 2 stands up off of the couch in excitement. "This is good!!! Now I know why this movie is so famous!"

*The rebel forces prepare to attack the Death Star--Leia gives Luke a pep talk before he climbs into his X-Wing to face almost certain death. "Boy, she's wearing a lot of lip gloss!"--Thing 1

*Luke hears Obi-wan's voice--"I don't think he's really dead."--Thing 1, stating the obvious.

*Several rebel fighters fail to destroy the Death Star--"I think it's going to be Luke."--Thing 1, stating the obvious. (She's good at that.)

*Death Star blows up--"Woohoo!!!"--Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3, and probably Thing 4.

*THE END--"Is there a scene after the credits?"--Thing 1. (Today's kids have been spoiled.)

*Waiting for a scene after the credits--They're not sure if they should believe me, so they want to watch the credits. "James Earl Jones. He was really good as Darth Vader!"--Thing 2

*After the movie was over (with no scene after the credits)--
"That was the best movie ever!!!"--Thing 2
"No, Frozen 2 is better."--Thing 3
"Nope! Star Wars is the best movie ever!"--Thing 1
(Sitting in silence with a big smile on his face.)--Thing 4
It's official. Two out of four children think Star Wars is the best movie ever.

I asked the kids who their favorite character was.
"Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Darth Vader!"--Thing 1
"Luke."--Thing 2
"The big guy--not the one who lost his clothes."--Thing 3 (I'm not sure, other than that Obi-wan Kenobi is not her favorite.)
"The robot who says beep."--Thing 4
"--and the little aliens who sound like Minions, and C3PO!"--Thing 1, unable to limit her list of favorites to fewer than 13.

Later in the evening, Thing 2 is walking around repeating, "Obi-wan Kenobi. Obi-wan Kenobi."
"What about him? I ask.
"Nothing. It's just fun to say."--Thing 2

As they're going to bed, I play the song "Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band" by Meco for them.
"That's an old song!"--Thing 4
"Well, it was from the nineteen hundreds!"--Thing 2

Yes, it may be ancient, but that doesn't mean it can't be "the best movie ever!" (I'm so glad I didn't start them with The Phantom Menace.)

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Day I Made Chuck Norris Chuckle

Chuck Norris loves babies!

Sure, most people say they love babies, but Chuck Norris actually does something about it. Chuck Norris is an American hero!

It was a normal day. I was at home with my two youngest kids, Thing 3, the two and a half year-old girl, and Thing 4, the eleven month-old boy. (Thing 1 and Thing 2 were in school.) I was trying to figure out a way to entertain the kids without resorting to songs from Moana or Frozen when I got a text from my brother alerting me to the fact that Chuck Norris would soon be making an appearance in the town where I live.

My first reaction, as it often is, was to question my brother's sanity. Why would Chuck Norris be coming to small town Utah? But, my brother insisted he had seen this announced on the semi-reputable website for one of the local television news stations. I checked it myself and, yes, Chuck Norris was scheduled to appear at a convenience store/gas station less than a mile from my house in about an hour! (He was coming to promote his new line of bottled water, CForce.) And so I did what any responsible parent would do: I loaded up my kids for an opportunity to stand in line in the hot sun so they could have a ten second meeting with some guy they had never heard of!

When I showed this picture to my 2 year-old daughter she got excited and said, "It's HulkSmash! It's HulkSmash wearing pajamas!" 

As I approached the gas station, cars were lining up and parking along the side of the road. I got my kids out of the mini-van and plopped Thing 4 in the stroller so I could roll him the rest of the way to the convenience store. Because of all the Chuck-related traffic, I was holding Thing 3 in one arm and trying to push the stroller with the other. That's when my neighbor and his wife (and their young son) came along and helped me out. (Shout out to Aaron and Leah!) The neighbor pushed the stroller for me as we made the longer-than-it-seemed walk to the end of the line to see Chuck Norris.

Chuck Norris waits for no one, but everyone waits for Chuck Norris.
Chuck was meeting people in a tent in the front of the store, and the line to see him came out along the side of the building, out to the edge of the parking lot, around the end of a dead end road, and down along the side street toward the traffic light. It was a pretty long line. I had been in line with my kids and my neighbors for about twenty minutes when a bigwig from the convenience store (I recognized him from their commercials) came out to the line and announced, "Chuck would like anyone who has babies in a stroller to move right up to the front of the line. He doesn't want the babies to get dehydrated out here in the sun." Yes, Chuck Norris loves babies!

I looked at my neighbors, who had helped me out so much, and who were there with a young son who just as easily could have been in a stroller, too. Was I somehow more worthy to jump in the line than them just because I had a stroller? I felt bad...but I ditched them in a heartbeat. (Sorry about that, Aaron and Leah!)

I strolled up to the front of the line and there he was in the tent: the one and only Chuck Norris!!!

As I started to undo the straps to get Thing 4 out of the stroller, a small joke formulated in my mind. I walked toward Walker, Texas Ranger, carrying my baby boy. When I got close enough that I was sure Chuck Norris could hear me, I reached up to take the binky (pacifier) out of my boy's mouth and said, "You can't meet Chuck Norris with a binky in your mouth!"

And Chuck Norris chuckled. Yes, I made* Chuck Norris chuckle! (*NOTE: That's not true. No one makes Chuck Norris do anything. It would be more accurate to say that I said something that Chuck Norris decided to acknowledge with a chuckle.)

Chuck chuckled, and then quickly said, "No, no, that's okay." Because Chuck Norris loves babies, and he wants them to be happy, even if it means that baby is sucking on a wimpy binky. But, I defied Chuck Norris and took the binky out anyway, because I knew my son was tough enough he wouldn't cry in the presence of Chuck Norris. (He didn't.)

The next ten seconds are pretty much a blur. Thing 3 hid behind me because she was apparently afraid of this bearded stranger and foolishly thought I could protect her from Chuck Norris. So, I had to herd her around to the front of me, but she still was a little leery of him. I held Thing 4 up between Chuck and I. And, worst of all, I forgot to suck in my considerable gut. It's not a very good picture.

As my wife said, "Why look at the camera when you can look at Chuck Norris?"
A few things about the picture: 1) My daughter wanted nothing to do with Chuck Norris. 2) I think my son's forehead might be touching Chuck's cheek, and the boy is staring intently at Chuck's beard. 3) Chuck Norris is not a very large man. And D) I held onto my baby because I figured Chuck Norris wouldn't want to hold other people's babies. I was wrong. It turns out he posed holding a lot of babies. Of course he did, because Chuck Norris loves babies! (If I had known this, I certainly would have had him hold one, or maybe both of my babies. Oh well.)

After the picture was taken, I headed into the store, because if Chuck Norris is there to sell CForce Bottled Water, then by golly I'm going to buy me some CForce Bottled Water! I didn't do this just because I wanted the water. I did this because they were handing out "free" swag to people who purchased Chuck's water. (I'm always a sucker for buying stuff I didn't really want in order to get some free stuff that I also didn't really want.) 

So, I bought four bottles of CForce water and took two of them to my neighbors who were still in line. (Still feeling bad about ditching you, Aaron and Leah!) I then went to the "free stuff" line and got myself a t-shirt and a pair of fake wood sunglasses! 

I look much tougher and skinnier in a Chuck Norris t-shirt! (And when I suck in my gut.)
(I should mention that appearing with Chuck Norris was Truck Norris. Unfortunately, Truck Norris is not some muscle-man cousin of Chuck's, but a large, tricked-out truck.)

(Also, while standing in line the guy in front of me was whining because they only had shirts in sizes L and XL. The person handing out the shirts rightly called him out, saying, "Dude, it's free stuff. Stop complaining.") 

I then took my water bottles, t-shirt, sunglasses, and babies, and went home. I had a really good time. It's not every day you get to meet Chuck Norris and turn him into Chuckle Norris!

Edited from a post originally published in May 2017.