Holiday Adventure Box/Mailbox Update

So, I did it! I got our Adventure Box, what I am now referring to as the Holiday Mailbox- because, well, it’s in a mailbox- going! I have to say that I didn’t set it up well. They had opened their gifts, we were at Great Grandma’s house, and they were all wound up and overstimulated. The concept didn’t really stick.

And then time passed. And their central nervous systems began to return to baseline. Thank goodness! And they became more curious. And now they love it! Phew!

The first time the opened the mailbox, they read the letter and each got an envelope that they would be going to see a Wizard the Oz play (there is a related post). Nugget also found out he would be going to the Evergreen Air Museum. Which was a big hit, by the way! He went with his dad and some friends so I don’t have a personal review, but he came back convinced he had flown to space, repaired a rocket ship, and ready to be a pilot when he grows up. So a win!

Now they are itching to see what comes next. Even though the letter was signed from “mom and dad,” somehow Santa is getting all the credit. There are lots of questions about how practical it is for Santa to visit us this frequently, how Santa will let me know when to tell them to look in the mailbox, all kinds of things. I am being the bigger person and rolling with it in the spirit of Christmas fun. But I’ll be happen to take that credit right back given the opportunity. 🙂

They have even started making wishes, which I have to say is coming in handy. Some were already on the list- like Nuggets hope that he gets to go bowling. Others were not but likely will be now- like Chicken’s hope that she gets to go to the local art museum. Who knew that was somewhere my 8-year-old wanted to go?

Anyway, we are all excited about it and at this point it seems it will be a hit!



Adventure Box, Holiday, Theater

Wizard of Oz- Portland Panto Players

Portland Panto Players. Oh my! This was one of the first “tickets” the kiddos found in their new Christmas Mailbox. Portland Panto Players is a group that formed in 2017 to perform panto plays around the holidays. If you are new to pantos, like me, here is the scoop. (Thank you, Google!) Apparently Brits have developed this style of theater and it is a typical holiday family outing. A traditional panto takes a well known story, in this case Wizard of Oz, and tweaks it. Like, a lot. Every panto has a villian, a dame (an older female character played by a man), and incorporates modern music, pop culture references, adds new characters, and takes liberties with the story line.

In this case, Auntie was played by a man with a beard parted into pigtails. Beardtails? I don’t know. The flying monkeys rapped Ice, Ice, Baby. For reals. Glenda sang Popular (yay!), and Dorothy’s sister Hannah sang a line from Book of Mormon when knocking on the Wicked Witch’s door. We Are Family and The Lion Sleeps Tonight also made enthusiastic appearances. The Tin Man was still in search of his heart, but had been gifted a pair of silver balls on a string that he was told was his dingaling. Which resulted in the cast singing about how they want to play with My Dingaling. Yes, you read that right.

There is a lot more audience interaction than is typical of theater, which was a lot of fun. Characters spoke directly to audience members and incorporated the comments little kids couldn’t keep inside. You are encouraged to boo the villain (which Nugget did with gusto) and shout out warnings to the cast when the bad guys are approaching. Humor was over the top and very heavy on the puns. The set was simple but effective, and a video screen with prerecorded pieces was used when certain staging couldn’t be accomplished. The cast was clearly having fun and were decent singers and actors, although not necessarily professional caliber. Most of it was family friendly even if the humor went over the kids’ heads a lot of the time. There was plenty of funny in there for them, too. Depending on your sense of humor and propriety, the whole Dingaling song could have crossed a line for some. Chicken and Nugget knew they were missing out on something critical and spent a good bit of time this afternoon discussing what exactly it could be referring to.

I can honestly say I have never been to anything quite like it. Did I like it? I have no idea. I want to say no, but I laughed out loud multiple times so I must have, right?

Chicken loved it and said she would go to every single one they ever do. Nugget was a bit gobsmacked. I’m not sure he knows what just happened to him. I am pretty much in his camp.

Portland Panto Players indicated they are aiming to make this a yearly tradition and they are planning on putting on a 2019 show. Will we be there? Maybe. We will see how the mood strikes us and what else we have going on.

Tickets ran $8 to $12. More information on their shows and panto in general can be found here: https://portlandpantoplayers.com/


Ella Enchanted (Oregon Children’s Theater)

So this weekend was Ella Enchanted at OCT.  Nugget was in a cranky mood and said he in no way wanted to go watch a show about princesses.  I told him this was an un-princess story and to get his little tushy in the car (and be nice about it).  With a frown on his face, he got in the car and buckled up.  He even found a pair of headphones in the car and put them on so he wouldn’t have to be tortured with all the princessness.  I ignored him and acted as if everything was fine.  So it was one of those mornings.  Yay.

Ella Enchanted is the story of a princess who is given the gift/curse of obedience.  She has to do anything anyone tells her to, which has some obvious down sides.  Ella is a likeable young girl who strives to find her independence. She has a an endearing mother, a wicked step family, and a clueless step father who make her plight all the more difficult.  All the trappings of a classic fairy tale.

We got there and found our seats to be in the first balcony.  We had never had seats there before and they were pretty good!  Nugget kept on his cranky pants- and the headphones.  But he did subtly lift them up during the good parts and had a list of things he liked once the play was over.

Chicken did a lot of giggling and smiling.  The evil step sisters were a hit, and she loved the concept of the play.  She was able to draw parallels between Ella and other well known fairy tales.  She was even pleased to find the word “obey” on a vocabulary test at school a few days later!  Who says theater isn’t educational?

Overall, the talent was fantastic and the staging was beautiful.  There were a few parts that could have been cut out and I don’t think any of us would have missed them.  But even those parts were pleasant enough.

What it is: sweet, funny, with a positive female lead, and un-princess fairy tale, well produced,  and enjoyable.

What it is not: super fast paced, Nugget’s favorite

Would we recommend it:  Chicken and I would, Nugget not so much


Fall Activities, Spring and Summer Activities, Theater, Winter Activities

Northwest Children’s Theater

Like I said, we go to A LOT of theater.  Like, A LOT.  Sometimes twice in a weekend.  And we love every moment of it.  Of course, each of us has our favorite plays and our not so favorite plays.  Chicken and Nugget particularly love musicals.  They have been known to come home singing the parts of songs they can remember, make related costumes out of computer paper, post hand made posters about the play all over the house, and reenact their favorite scenes.  That’s some of the many reasons I love taking them to theater.  We not only have a great time together, but they learn from the plays and engage in creative activity related to it long after the play itself is over.

Northwest Children’s Theater is a great way to introduce your kiddos to the performing arts.  While I will post about individual plays we go to, the theater itself deserves a nod.

Located in Portland near Providence Park, prices are reasonable (and discounted if you buy a season subscription), and sometimes Gold Star offers even deeper discounts for specific performances.  Full price single tickets range between $16 and $25.  If you purchase a full subscription by the designated date- usually sometime in the spring or summer- an actor dressed as a character from the upcoming season will hand deliver your tickets.  They come in full costume, bring the tickets, balloons, and posters, talk with the kiddos and take pictures.  We have met the characters at the park and the kiddos have always loved it.  Well, except the time we got Cinderella.  Nugget is afraid of princesses.  I have no idea why.

They offer a wide variety of plays that are all family friendly.  Each season they offer a play specifically for the younger toddler crowd.   This year it is Elephant & Piggie’s We Are in a Play.  We saw it when they did it a couple of years ago and it is adorable.  These plays are generally 45 to 60 minutes with simple dialogue, silliness, and fun.  The remainder of the plays generally run 90-120 minutes plus an intermission.  Adults are often cast in some of the main roles, but there are always children in the supporting roles, and sometimes in the main as well.

The plays they chose are engaging for kids, and often fun for the adults.  Sets are colorful, costumes are tasteful, and it’s just a fun time.  Heads up for the nervous kiddos, it’s not uncommon for actors to come down the aisle.  It took me a full theater season to convince Nugget the characters would not eat him.

After the plays, families are invited to stay and have their programs signed by the cast and take pictures with the cast if they so desire.  Chicken and Nugget LOVE this part (although Nugget refuses to be photographed with a girl) and often give me the honor of signing a program they design themselves when we get home.

In addition to plays, they offer camps and classes.  Each of my kiddos has done a camp- Chicken did My Little Pony and Nugget did Elephant and Piggie.  They each had a great time and made new friends.  Camps vary from exploratory to skill based to putting on an actual play.  They also do school based programs and even have Girl Scout workshops.  Chicken did the Peter Pan Girl Scout workshop and really enjoyed it.  She definitely recommends it.

In summary, we love Northwest Children’s Theater.  We think you might, too.

What it is: fun take on children’s theater, affordable, creative, varied in what they offer, appropriate for many age ranges, a great opportunity to photograph your kid with some of their favorite characters without going all the way to Disney Land, a great way to introduce your family to theater without having to worry your kid will be the only kid there and will somehow ruin the experience for everyone else (come on.  You know you thought it as soon as I mentioned taking a young child to a play).

What it’s not: particularly comfy in terms of seating (seating is on old church pews, but they do have cushions available), a fancy pants venue

Do we recommend it?  1000% yes

You can get more information on their website:  https://nwcts.org/