R.I.P. Toys-R-Us

You may have heard the news. No, they’re not going out of business yet. But if you’ve heard the updates on the news, you know the end of Toys-R-Us will soon be upon us.

Because let’s be honest, if a kids aren’t getting their toys off of Amazon these days, they’re at the most going to go to Walmart or Target. They wouldn’t even recognize Geoffrey (geoffrey-the-giraffe-toysrus-5.42) if he had an armload of iPads shaped like fidget spinners.

But back in my day, Amazon was a river I misspelled on my geography tests and the idea of getting a toy from Walmart was beneath me. Toys-R-Us was a dream destination, and to say that I have extremely fond memories of it is a drastic understatement.

For example, I absolutely must start with the tale of the amazing

Child-Sized Battery-Powered Cars

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you’re either in your late 40’s, or you were one of those kids that watched PBS for fun. Toys-R-Us had a display of these cars that were…well, child-sized and battery-powered. They would go as fast as – what I thought at the time was at least the equivalent of a suburban speed limit – but what really was around 2.5 mph.

We never got one, no matter HOW many times we asked. But the second we walked into the store, my brothers and I would trample kids over and shove aside shopping carts just to get to the car section. Then when we had to leave, we would beg and plead and try to extend our time for as long as possible.

And as we were getting dragged out by our feet, we told our parents how lucky they were that they got their own car to drive whenever they wanted.

My second story is going to be an obvious one, because what “childhood memory of Toys-R-Us” blog post would be complete without a narrative about

Christmas Shopping

Certainly not this one.

Every year, a few weeks following up to Christmas, my dad would load me and my brothers up in the car for our sibling Christmas shopping trip. The sibling Christmas shopping trip would go like this:

  • We’d each go to our respective sections (me: the girl section for anything Polly Pocket or Beanie Baby, them: the boy section for dumb boy stuff).
  • We would then decide on a variety of toys suitable to open on the big day.
  • Our dad would come to our section, take notes on our selection, and find the other siblings to let them know.
  • The other siblings would then pick out what toy they wanted to give as a gift.
  • Then we’d all go do what we had wanted to since we arrived (the car section), and drive around until it was time to leave.

My dad, of course, paid for all of the gifts we gave to each other. Which is perhaps what I miss most about this scenario.

The next story is one of hope and inspiration. It’s a story about

The Time My Dad Almost Got a Job at Toys-R-Us

One evening, when I was in third grade, my dad came home after work and told us that his company had gotten bought out. That meant that everyone there was going to lose their job, including him. Not realizing the implications of a job loss (poverty, homelessness, us having to use our own allowance to buy Christmas presents), I deemed the announcement as fantastic news.

Now he could finally be an employee at Toys-R-Us like I had always dreamed.

I told him the good news, eager for this whole “job loss” to be behind us and the free toys to start flowing.

He appreciated my advice, but unfortunately never got around to picking up an application. Shortly after the company buy-out, he found another job at a nearby insurance company.

But instead of unlimited toys, he does my taxes, which I suppose worked out in the end.

So, in unrelated news, I don’t know how to do sidebars on this blog. But if I did, this story (well, less of a story and more of a “thank you, Toys-R-Us”) would be a

Sidebar

When I was an au pair in Australia, I had to find ways every day to entertain a three-year-old. When I ran out of ideas, or grew sick of feeding those scary ass ducks, we would go to Toys-R-Us. I could sit on my phone and text all of my cool Australian friends, while she would look at and touch all of the dolls and stuffed animals (that she didn’t know that were supposed to come out of the box). Thank you, Toys-R-Us. So

In Conclusion

Toys-R-Us, this one goes out to you. I’m eternally disappointed that one day soon (just being realistic here) you’ll be shutting your doors forever. I know I don’t frequent your establishment very often (well, since 1998), but it’s a shame all of my children that I don’t want to have will only see toy shopping through the screen of a computer and never know the joy of a Toys-R-Us trip.

Thank you for all of the memories.

And more importantly, the stuff.

toys-r-us-store

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Small Town Santa

movieposterThis week I thought I would find something a little less…romantic (which, you guys, is so hard when finding a Christmas movie. Something about this holiday sure puts movie makers in the mood).

But, I in fact, found one that has very little to do with romance and a lot to do with Santa going to jail.

Small Town Santa: On the eve of Christmas, Sheriff Rick Langston has lost his holiday spirit. But when he arrests a home intruder claiming to be Santa Claus, his world gets turned upside down.

Let’s go.

Beginning scene: A young whiny girl is on the phone with her dad, begging him to come over for Christmas. The dad, a handsome local sheriff, sits at his desk in the dark at the police station and gives her excuse after excuse about how “Your mom and I don’t get along too well.”

Then a bunch of stuff happens that doesn’t matter at all, like Young Whiny Girl having a dream about being in Santa’s toy shop, or a couple of naughty teenage hooligans coming into the police station after throwing eggs at a house.

A few hours later, a homeless man comes into the police station, turning himself in for stealing the local church’s baby Jesus from the nativity scene (oh no!!). Clearly he just wants a hot meal and a place to sleep, and that fact doesn’t escape the sassy black female cop (diversity!). She tells him no sirree! But the other two cops, Handsome Local Sheriff and this scrawny blonde cop, insist that she let him go to the jail cell. Which is for some reason located within their small office.

A bunch more unimportant stuff happens, like how we learn that Scrawny Blonde Cop has a toddler, a wife, and a terrible relationship with his trashy mother-in-law. The next few scenes are also laced with more witty comments from Sassy Black Female Cop, of course. And a scene where Handsome Local Sheriff yells at kids for throwing snowballs as he drives home.

When Handsome Local Sheriff gets home, he finds a jolly old man with a white beard and a red plaid shirt in his kitchen. He claims he’s Santa! Just looking for cookies! But Handsome Local Sheriff doesn’t buy it, and brings him to the jail with Alcoholic Homeless Man.

While they’re at the sheriff’s office, a hot blonde mom and her teenage daughter come to the station to deliver canned goods. Chimes play. Looks like there IS some romance in this movie! Unfortunately, the daughter is a sassy rebellious teenager. Ugh.

A bunch of other stuff happens that doesn’t matter at all.

Some more stuff happens that doesn’t matter at all.

Nativity scene with a stuff monkey (baby Jesus got stolen remember?)

In the meantime, Alcoholic Homeless Man and Jolly Old Man Claiming to be Santa have a lot of heartwarming interactions in the jail cell. Jolly Old Man Claiming to be Santa even convinces Alcoholic Homeless Man to stop drinking! It’s a Christmas miracle.

Some more scenes about the Hot Blonde Mom and Handsome Local Sheriff bonding.

Some church scenes.

Handsome Local Sheriff comes back to the sheriff station to check on his inmates. A lot of heartwarming conversation later, he lets them out. Another Christmas miracle.

The climax! At Scrawny Cop’s house (yes, his trashy mother-in-law is there! Drinking too much white wine as usual!) The whole town has shown up, and everyone is in the Christmas spirit. In fact, Alcoholic Homeless Man has decided to become a realtor again like he was before he became alcoholic and homeless.

He overhears a conversation about how a recently engaged woman (yes, we see the proposal!) needs to find a new house now that she’s getting married. He gives her his realtor card…guys, I think everything is going to work out for everyone.

I won’t spoil the ending or tell you about how Handsome Local Sheriff and Hot Blonde Mom kiss by the fireplace, but it’s surely a movie that will give you the holiday tingles.

A Christmas Kiss

kissChristmas is upon us. We’re past the beginning stages, and right in the thick of the holiday season. That means Christmas music on every radio station, tacky light tours everywhere you go, and a craving for Starbucks like you didn’t even know you could have.

It also means that it’s finally time for Hallmark to finally play its famous Christmas movies, FINALLY. Hallmark Christmas movies are the best film genre ever, and I look forward to them every year. They’re extremely heartwarming, nothing bad ever actually happens, and they all end really, really happily.

I have a new favorite, one I discovered on Thanksgiving, called A Christmas Kiss.

Here’s a brief synopsis of my new favorite movie. If this seems like a movie you might be interested in learning more about, read further. There may be spoilers.

A Christmas Kiss: A struggling designer is mortified to learn that the mysterious man she kissed in a falling elevator is her callous boss’s boyfriend.

Let’s go.

Beginning scene: Our main girl (let’s call her the “Struggling Designer” because I don’t want to ruin everything for you guys) is walking around on the set of The Nutcracker. In under a minute we learn that 1) she no longer is working as a set designer, which she’s done for so many years in the past because she’s 2) pursuing a job as an interior designer and she’s 3) gotten a job as the personal assistant for a famous, well-respected, well-connected, and not-well-mannered (her new boss is a huge bitch!) interior designer.

In this scene we also meet Struggling Designer’s roommate and best friend, who just got the job as a makeup artist for The Nutcracker. But she doesn’t matter because she’s just a side character. But she’s black, so she matters a little. So we’ll call her Token Black Girl, Who is Only There to Show Diversity Among the Cast. Isn’t it great that Struggling Designer has such a variety of friends?

Struggling Designer then gets a text from her White Roommate, saying that they need to celebrate Token Black Girl, Who is Only There to Show Diversity Among the Cast’s new gig as The Nutcracker makeup artist, by going “out on the town.”

In the next scene, we see the three girls in their apartment, getting ready for a night out. Struggling Designer is certainly getting glammed up, and boy does she look fancy! She’s got TONS of glittery eyeliner, ruby red lipstick, and a big, glitzy hairband.

I barely recognized her from before!

The girls exchange some witty banter about body glitter, and then Struggling Designer’s phone rings. It’s her mean boss! Who’s telling her that her flight is late and asks her to go to her apartment to turn the heat up and turn on a few lights.

“Yeah, that seems normal,” says White Roommate sarcastically.

After doing the chores for her boss, Struggling Designer gets into the elevator to go meet up with her friends. A handsome man gets on. They exchange some small talk WHEN ALL OF A SUDDEN THE ELEVATOR STARTS TO SHAKE AND THEY FALL INTO EACH OTHER’S ARMS AND THEY KISS.

And the movie begins.

In the next scene, we meet Struggling Designer’s boss, Not Struggling Designer. As promised, she’s a demanding bitch. But at the end of the scene, as Struggling Designer is being forced out the door, Not Struggling Designer’s boyfriend appears (from his 3-month long business trip in Europe), and GET THIS, it’s THE GUY FROM THE ELEVATOR.

I mean what are the odds??

Anyway, we find out that Hottie from the Elevator asks his girlfriend, Not Struggling Designer, to decorate his house for a Christmas party. This is a boring scene, okay, but important information for later.

Fast forward a few scenes with the roommates talking about Struggling Designer’s new dilemma (including a bunch of witty comments from Token Black Girl, Who is Only There to Show Diversity Among the Cast!)

And then a few more scenes about Struggling Designer and Not Struggling Designer working on the plans for the Christmas Party at Hottie from the Elevator’s Christmas party.

And then something huge happens…Struggling Designer and White Roommate are at Hottie from the Elevator’s house with Not Struggling Designer WHEN SUDDENLY WHITE ROOMMATE ACCIDENTALLY HITS NOT STRUGGLING DESIGNER IN THE FACE WITH A POLE AND SHE GETS A HUGE BLACK EYE. Obviously, no one can see her like this, especially her boyfriend, so she goes to New York to see her plastic surgeon and leaves Struggling Designer to finish decorating for the Christmas party on her own.

Fast forward a few scenes with Struggling Designer bonding super hard with Hottie from the Elevator (who somehow still doesn’t remember her from the elevator event, by the way).

Fast forward a few more scenes of them clearly falling in love over Christmas tree shopping and figgy pudding tasting.

Fast forward to one night when they’re decorating his house together and eating Chinese food takeout; they fall asleep while watching Christmas movies together on the couch.

AND NOT STRUGGLING DESIGNER WALKS IN ON THEM ASLEEP ON THE COUCH THE NEXT MORNING BOY IS SHE MAD.

Not Struggling Designer sends Struggling Designer home immediately. A few hours later, she calls her, demands that she come back over, forces her to clean up the Chinese food takeout, and tells Struggling Designer that, yes, she is fired.

Hottie from the Elevator is devastated when he finds out, obvi.

Anyway, his party happens and everyone who’s anyone shows up to it. Meanwhile, backstage at The Nutcracker, Struggling Designer, Not Struggling Designer, and Hottie from the Elevator get into a minor tussle because emotions! It ends poorly but the stage manager drops a cardboard-cutout Nutcracker onto Not Struggling Designer for a little comic relief.

In the next shot, Struggling Designer gets onto the elevator, and you wouldn’t believe who gets on behind her.

Yup. She and Hottie from the Elevator are back again. Then a kiss occurs. Then a smile.

Anyway, I can’t tell you the end but my gosh is it a heartwarmer. You wouldn’t believe the warm tinglies you’ll get from this movie.

All I’m saying is, don’t deprive yourselves of Christmas joy this season.

 

Madame Zola’s Spirit Room

Just a few days ago, my twin brothers took the plunge into official adulthood and turned 30.

My mom, always one to acknowledge big events, secretly invited our whole family to Richmond to surprise my brothers on their birthday. But she wanted to come up with something more exciting than the usual dinner and gifts and cake and ice cream.

So she came up with the idea to try an “Escape Room.” They’ve been popping up everywhere, and who better to try it with than your highly intelligent family?

(Completely unrelated sidenote: they read this blog).

We all met at the Martin’s next to Ravenchase Adventures to surprise the new 30-year-olds. Once they finally arrived and the “Oh, what! I had no idea you would be here!” was over, we all shuttled next door to our Escape Room destination.

We checked in and waited in the lounge for our room to be ready. The room we selected was called Madame Zola’s Spirit Room. Back in the 1892, Madame Zola, communicator of the dead, summoned a spirit of great evil to kill her lover’s mistress. The spirit, however, possessed great power and ended up killing them both. It became our job to free both Madame Zola and the mistress’s souls from the confines of the chamber.

So you know, just another Saturday.

Once we got there, they ushered us into the Room and gave instructions. Basically: try to find an alternative exit other than the one you came through, and don’t destroy our props. Also, there is a Ouija board in the middle of the room commanded by Madame Zola’s spirit that will answer your questions.

Okay good luck!

First, of course, we asked the Ouija board where to find the alternative exit. Tired of the same joke I’m sure, the person controlling the magnetic dial under the table (er, I mean, the spirit of Madam Zola) told us to search for the clues (you idiots).

So we set off. Throughout the allotted hour (which actually only took us 45 minutes because my family is incredibly smart), we solved puzzles, picked up keys, and put together word clues. We discovered that we needed to find five voodoo dolls to put on Satan’s altar (as you do). So we all worked in small teams or individually, unearthing keys to locked boxes and codes to safes to find our voodoo dolls.

Finally, with very little help from Madame Zola (listen, lady, we know that the clues are important), the secret passageway opened up and we were able to get out. My family members, if I haven’t mentioned it before, are very intellectually gifted (just a quick reminder to the aunts and uncles out there, Christmas is not that far away) and we were able to figure it out in a short amount of time.

They said our particular room has a 48% success rate. To be honest, I have a very hard time believing that only 48% of groups were able to decode all of the clues and puzzles that were not-so-secretly hidden. Unless the other 52% imbibed harder on the free cans of Yuengling than we did. Otherwise, I have to admit I think the company may be trying to make people feel smarter than other Escape Room consumers (which, by the way, my family is).

Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns of the Escape Room and would definitely go back. It’s great for families, groups of friends, corporate events, or to show off how smart you are. And they even have rooms suited for double dates (or just four people who enjoy each other’s company platonically).

And the best part is, you don’t have to be as amazingly cunning and clever as my family. Although it certainly helps.