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Alethea & Athena
Christmas escapades 
20th-Dec-2015 05:03 pm
happyday
We always knew refusing to see blockbuster movies on opening weekend came with some risks, but we didn't expect to be spoiled for the new Star Wars movie at church. We should have, though, because Athena one of the kids in Athena's class is a seven-year-old boy. Oh well, I'm sure the movie will still be fun anyway.

Anyway, I'm kind of at a loss because it's so hard for me to believe I can actually update about stuff, we've been so busy. And yet I updated just yesterday. Still, that Knott's trip was over a week ago, so maybe the confusion comes from being up-to-date. But we're not up-to-date yet, because I still have to talk about the ward Christmas party!


It all started a few weeks ago, when someone from the Relief Society (the Relief Society was in charge of organizing the party this year) called and asked if we would be in charge of the music for the ward Christmas party. I don't know if we were just too busy to worry think about it (if I remember correctly, we were in the middle of working overtime on something when the call came) or if we figured, "How hard could it be?" because we agreed and didn't think much of it at the time.

The next Sunday, Athena was trying to teach the Primary a song called Picture a Christmas, and we were playing a game where one child would come to the front and put a card on his or her forehead to signal to the rest of the Primary what lyrics not to sing, and the kid in the front had to guess the lyrics that were missing. One child got the card signaling "the little Baby Jesus", and she didn't know the song very well (she was a visitor), so Athena tried to help her out with hints. She asked, "Who do we always talk about at Christmas?" And the little girl lit up and said, "Santa!"

It's a pretty cute story, but kind of depressing, because kids in Primary will answer literally any other question with "Jesus!" For example, just last week, Athena read a scripture about tithing, then asked her class, "So what commandment are we gonna learn about today!?" And the answer came back, "Jesus!" Nice try, kid, but try to answer a "what" with a "what", not a "who".

So now we're thinking we need to remind the kids what Christmas is all about, and since we're in charge of the music for the Christmas party, we wanted to come up with a fun way to do that. After some consideration, we remembered Scripture Scouts. I may or may not have mentioned Scripture Scouts here in the past, but just as a reminder, the Scripture Scouts series is a series of audio plays starring three kids and their talking dog, who all meet in their tree house and act out the scriptures. I don't remember if there was any sort of trigger other than the ward Christmas party, but for some reason or other, we started thinking about the episode where they act out the story of the birth of Jesus. It has songs for the different people that tend to be represented in a nativity set, so I thought it would be neat to have some kind of nativity set, and sing the song that goes with each person (or donkey, as the case may be; Scripture Scouts has a song for the donkey, and it's pretty awesome).

There were two problems with this plan. First, Athena's the only one who knew any of the songs, and would have to sing them all by herself, which was not the most appealing of ideas. Of course, I could have sung them, too, but I would have to be playing the piano...which led us to the second problem, namely, we didn't have the music. I have the music for all the Book of Mormon Scripture Scouts songs, because once upon a time, they sold songbooks with sheet music for all of Scripture Scouts stories, but we had only bought the one.

I don't know why, but for some reason, despite our ridiculous everything schedule, I felt motivated to scour the internet in search of the New Testament version of these songbooks. I searched and searched...and I found the website of one of the Scripture Scouts creators, who also played the part of Boo the Dog. The really wacky part is that somehow I was motivated enough that I actually emailed this person and asked if he could help me out. That's why I was feeling extra nervous about meeting artists I admire, as I mentioned when talking about getting Disney autographs a couple of weeks ago.

So this guy was super nice, and he emailed back and was very friendly and non-threatening, but I was still terrified of the whole thing. And he said he had a copy of the songbook in question, and he took pictures of it with his phone so I could print out the music for the songs for that particular episode and be able to play them for the party. And I was super grateful, but for whatever reason (probably involving copyright and other creators), he had to point out that permission was granted exclusively to me to use the music, and that made me feel guilty somehow, so I didn't want to think about it anymore.

Fortunately(?), I didn't have to, because the very next day was the first day of our three-day escapism adventures. The next two days, we had to spend catching up on the work we had missed (ah, Noragami 12), and Saturday we finally bought the iTunes version of the New Testament Scripture Scouts plays and we listened to the relevant one, to see if we wanted to maybe grab someone from the ward and force them to learn a song for this thing. (For example, there's a young woman we thought might make a good Mary.) So we listened to it, and maybe that was a really bad idea, because as I was listening to it, I thought, "This is too awesome. We have to do the whole thing!"

And I think normally the idea would have died as soon as I realized how impossible it would be to cast it, but as we continued to listen to it, I thought, "We could ask the missionaries to be in it!" Our ward happens to have four missionaries in it right now (as I wrote about previously), a pair of sisters and a pair of elders. The next day, I didn't even have to seek them out; I happened to run into the sister missionaries in the hall. I told them what I was thinking, and they agreed right away! It wasn't even an, "Oookay, if you really want us to..." It was a, "Sure, we can do that!" They talked to the elders, and the elders were totally on board, too! Even when we said one of them would have to be the dog! While the dog is definitely one of the most fun parts, we somehow are under the impression that most people prefer to not play goofy characters. But one of the elders volunteered, and the talkative sister missionary said that was right up his alley. We never would have guessed, because he was so quiet when we had them over for dinner, but apparently he likes to do goofy cartoon voices and stuff. And to top it all off, he was not unfamiliar with the Scripture Scouts, so he was able to mimic Boo's voice! It all felt like it was meant to be.

The bad news about the whole thing is that now we had less than a week to prepare. I figured it would be okay to not memorize lines, as long as everyone could read the script with feeling. We took all of Monday evening to type out the script, then our first rehearsal was on Wednesday after a Book of Mormon class that the sister missionaries have been doing every week. On Thursday, we got a Pluto hat for Boo Dog, and on the way home, we stopped by a drugstore and found some CD-Rs, so we were able to copy the files to help everyone learn the songs. (Normally, I'm 100% against that, and I would have just made them buy the tracks on iTunes, but missionaries aren't allowed to use iTunes, and there wasn't enough time for them to learn the songs unless we could make a CD really fast.)

We had another rehearsal before the party on Friday, and I think everyone was reading their lines pretty well for the most part, so I was optimistic, but nervous because I hadn't had nearly enough time to practice the piano part. But one woman in the ward (who had come to the Book of Mormon class and heard us talking about it) asked if she could help, and so made a bunch of little paper angels with sparkly tape around the edges that we used as part of the background when we were singing the angels' song. (One of the kids' lines is, "The sky is exploding with angels!" and I thought, "All I want is an explosion of angels..." And we sort of got one, so I was happy.) And the elder who played Skyler (and therefore was the main angel) made an impromptu angel costume out of some extra plastic table cloth and a flashlight. It was pretty awesome, and I'm really glad we have missionaries in our ward who aren't afraid of doing silly things like that.

All in all, I think the performance itself went well. Unfortunately, there was a huuuuuuuge problem with volume. We were in the cultural hall (also known as the gym), so the acoustics weren't great for people with no microphones, and there was the inevitable gaggle of children running around instead of paying attention, and the whole time I just felt so sorry for the people who wanted to hear but couldn't. Afterward, if anyone showed the slightest indication of approaching me for any reason, I was already saying, "I'm sorry. I'm just...I'm sorry. I'm sorry." Now that I type it up like this, I feel like it really wasn't as much of a disaster as I felt like it was at the time. Anyone who wanted to hear could easily have come up closer. And the few people we did talk to about it were understanding and supportive...all except ONE guy.

This guy waited until the party was being cleaned up and he saw us standing around talking to some other people, and he came by and said, "I have speakers and microphones at my house." I said, "Thank you for that information that is oh-so-helpful NOW." Then Athena pointed out that unless he had headsets, it wouldn't have helped anyway because everyone had to hold their script, so he said, "That's why you memorize your lines," and Athena said, "We had a week," (which was actually not true; we had four days from when the script was ready, but if you WANT to be judgy, you could point out that we actually had two weeks from when we got the music, and a whole week before that, when we knew we would be doing SOMETHING, just not what exactly) and he said, "So memorize it in a week."

That's when I jumped on him. I locked my ankles around his waist and started pummeling him in the face. "DO YOU *punch punch punch punch punch* HAVE ANY IDEA *punch punch punch punch punch* HOW BUSY *punch punch punch punch punch punch punch punch punch* WE'VE BEEN IN THE LAST WEEK!? *punch punch punch punch punch*!!!"

...I didn't really. I just made that story up after the fact to amuse myself. But it certainly is amusing. And seriously, though, YOU guys all know how busy we've been, and missionaries aren't exactly known for having loads of free time, either.

Anyway. That's the story of our ward Christmas party escapades. After the show, we tried to get everyone interested in singing Christmas carols while we waited for Santa to come, but that didn't go over so well, either. People just weren't into paying attention that night, as indicated by the fact that despite all our trouble getting their attention, we actually succeeded more than anybody else who needed to say something to the whole crowd. Ah, well. We're told the dinner was delicious. (It was ham. Ham is gross.)


The next day, our Christmas responsibilities hadn't quite ended, and Athena had a nightmare that she would arrive at church early on Sunday to practice with the choir, but the choir wouldn't be there and she would be running around trying to make preparations, and to top it all off, for some reason another choir would be on the stand. Imagine her delight, her sheer joy, when we went into the chapel this morning and discovered another ward's choir in all the seats! They wanted to rehearse for the musical fireside the whole stake is doing tonight (which we are also participating in), so they were taking up the time that we needed to rehearse for our sacrament meeting, which was set to begin in less than an hour. And! the clock was slow, so we had less time than we thought even so! (I was just annoyed/amused because one of the women in the choir pleaded, "Can we just stay here for ten, fifteen minutes? We're practicing for tonight!" as if tonight was so soon and they were desperate. And I was like, "No sympathy from me, missy. We need to nail this thing in half an hour." So we let them practice (since, as per Athena's dream, her choir wasn't there yet), and to expedite the process, I stood in for their pianist until she arrived.)

But! the choir performance went really well, and the bishop said it was the choir's best performance ever! Even though the pianist distracted herself in the middle of the performance to the point of completely losing her place in the music. Apparently she was able to fake it well enough that nobody noticed before she found her place again.

After that, Primary went pretty well, and the Primary president gave us each a lovely Christmas card and a tin of cookies! She gave us each our own tin! Awwwwwwwww! (And we're pretty sure they really are filled with cookies and not sewing supplies.) And I think the first counselor in the Primary presidency is really in tune with the Spirit, because somehow she knew to ask us about our Christmas plans. I was kind of hoping nobody would so we could just hide from the world that day, but Christmas is about getting together with people and being friends and stuff, so it's probably for the best (although we didn't commit, so our options are still open). And since I haven't mentioned them here yet, our plans are as follows:

Originally, Steve's mother was going to come down to visit her son for Christmas, and she and Steve and Mom were going to come down here to take her to Disneyland. We even made reservations at the Blue Bayou! But Step-grandmother's health isn't what it used to be, and she'd been finding herself in the hospital. So instead, Mom and Steve are going up to visit her in her home in Washington. Meanwhile, the little sisters will spend Christmas with their in-laws, the step-siblings will spend it with their mother, and we will have "Christmas" mailed to us in the form of presents. On the one hand, I'm like, "Yeah, 'cause THAT's what Christmas is about," but on the other hand, I'm really grateful that they bought us presents. We're really not upset about the way things went down, especially because that gives us another week to get our work finished (<--because THAT's what Christmas is really about</sarcasm>, but seriously, it will be nice to be able to go at a slightly more leisurely pace). The point is, whatever we end up doing for Christmas, I'm pretty excited about it.

Today I'm thankful for being almost done with our Christmas responsibilities, the missionaries being kind enough to help us with our Scripture Scouts thing at the last minute, Boo Dog himself providing us with sheet music, the sweet gift from the Primary president (and here we were going to give her family a gift for driving us around all the time, but we didn't because we've been in too much of a whirlwind), and an explosion of angels.
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