Thankful for the Muppets and more

We said goodbye to Kates’ family about 9:30 this morning and capped a weekend of much joy, celebration, togetherness and thanksgiving.

We filled the rest of today with cleaning, watching Toy Story movies, and naps.

As I write this, Phoebe is napping in our bedroom closet. At about 4:30, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her carry a stack of blankets up the stairs. I figured she was doing something with her dolls in her room, but after 10 minutes of quiet I went looking for her and eventually found her cozied-up in our closet. “Dad, close the doors. I’m trying to take a nap,” she whispered. So I did, and Kates found her snoring away about 10 minutes later.

* * *

After Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day to Remember, we all got a good night’s sleep and rolled out of bed one by one. We treated Friday as we would have treated Thursday. The ladies took to the kitchen to prepare the Thanksgiving meal, while the men pitched in with the food when needed, between reading and romping around with Phoebe, inside and out.

The meal was served around 5, and it just might have been the best-tasting -- or at the least my favorite -- Thanksgiving meal of all time. It was Kates’ first-ever turkey, and she cooked it to perfection. The meat was tender and we loaded our plates with mashed potatoes and gravy, corn bread stuffing, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, almond-covered green beans, fennel salad, cranberry-orange relish and crescent rolls.

The men took care of the kitchen clean-up -- very efficiently, I might add -- and we settled in for the night cap. Phoebe put on her concert for the girls in the living room (In addition to “Deer in the Headlights,” she’s now added “Fireflies,” “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye” and “Now” to her repertoire.). Then Grandma S. got the honor of reading her bedtime stories and tucking her in.

Once Phoebe was asleep, we thumbed through our movie collection and broke open the pies -- apple-cranberry, pumpkin and pecan -- for a late dessert. “Juno” proved to be the popular movie choice, and it turned out that Kates and I were the only ones who had seen it. I certainly didn’t mind watching it again, and it got a thumbs-up all around the living room as the end credits rolled. … Afterward, we flipped through the TV channels in search of another good flick. We landed on “The Shawshank Redemption” and watched some of it before each of us headed for our beds, one by one.

* * *

The house didn’t begin stirring until after 8:30 Saturday morning. After breakfast, we bundled up -- the gusty winds made the 50-degree temperatures feel like 30 -- and we headed outside for a walk and tour of the university campus.

By the time we returned to the house around 12:30, the ’Cats football playoff game had begun. I got the game going on the radio, and we unloaded the refrigerator of Thanksgiving leftovers for lunch. … After that, I took Orrin and Kelli for a driving tour of The ’Ville, as we continued to listen to the game on the car radio.

About that game. Last weekend, the ’Cats played from behind for most of their first round game until the defense recovered a fumble at the opponent’s 8-yard-line and ran it in for what proved to be the game-winning score with eight minutes left in regulation. So this weekend, the ‘Cats headed to Texas, where they took on the No. 1 seed in the region. Again, they found themselves behind, by as many as 18 midway through the second quarter.

But as they’ve done again and again, the ‘Cats clawed back and tied the game at 31 apiece with under five minutes left to play. With 10 second left in the regulation, the ‘Cats got new life once more when their opponent missed a 27-yard field goal attempt into the wind and sent the game to overtime.

In overtime, the ‘Cats wasted little time scoring a touchdown and went ahead 38-31. That meant their opponent got an opportunity to match the score … It came down to a fourth down and a pass attempt. When the dust settled, the radio announcers shouted that the pass was incomplete and the ‘Cats had won, our house erupted. … Not that there was any doubt the ’Cats would win it. On to round three next weekend to avenge that loss at Arrowhead Stadium a couple months ago.

Once the excitement of the ‘Cats game died down, we turned our attention to the Wisconsin-Penn State game, which the Badgers won handily. … Better yet, I learned later that my high school alma mater, Olathe South, won the state football championship yesterday.

Before the Badgers game was over, everyone in the house retreated somewhere for a nap. The house was quiet until 5:30 p.m.

* * *

Finally, it was the show we’d all been waiting for: The Muppets. Aside from our Thanksgiving dinner, it was the most anticipated event of the weekend. But the plans were thrown into doubt when things went south Thanksgiving Day. Kates, Phoebe and I were readying to head out the door to see it Thursday night when Kates’ parents called with the good news that they were going to make it after all.

We saw it as part of the local movie theater’s dinner show series. Kates prodded me Friday night to make reservations for the showing, and it was a good thing because the place was packed. … The wait staff wasn’t exactly on their game either, which was an annoyance. First, we waited more than the average time for our food. Then, they brought the appetizers with our main course, and they messed up Kates’ dad’s pasta order by putting cheese on it, which he can’t eat.

The film, on the other hand, was pure movie magic. Whether Phoebe was sitting in Kates’ lap, Grandma’s lap, or Grandpa’s lap, she sat mesmerized, wide eyes staring at the screen, for most of the show. Interestingly, she never did make the connection of Amy Adams’ Mary character in the Muppets movie to Adams’ Giselle character in Phoebe’s beloved “Enchanted” -- which by the way, we also watched after we returned home last night.

The movie was a delight to watch from beginning to end. Jason Segel nailed it, and the casting was perfect, too. My biggest beef may be that I wanted more out of the cameos -- particularly Neil Patrick Harris and John Krasinski, who were relegated to pretty much answering phones. On the other hand, Jim Parsons as the human version of the newest Muppet, Walter, was pretty great; and when Emily Blunt appeared as Miss Piggy’s assistant at Vogue, you could hear whispers across the theater as people leaned into one another to acknowledge Blunt played the assistant to Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.”

There were moments the film dragged, but the plot always picked up with “gags like the “travel-by-map,” montages and other Muppet zaniness that helped make the puppets so popular in the first place. The movie also produced several smart and ironic one-liners that were easy to miss if your mind was wandering. (Mary, early in the movie after the quest to reunite the Muppets appears to be finished: “This is going to be a really short movie.”)

Of all the reviews I’ve read, Entertainment Weeky’s seems to align to closest with my thoughts. They gave it a B+.

Good reads ...
a The New York Times:
a The Kansas City Star: ‘The Muppets’ make a triumphant return
a Boston Globe: Pure fun, no strings attached: ‘Muppets’ revels in ingenious absurdity
a USA Today: Jason Segel's green with admiration for 'The Muppets'

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