Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Bollywood Reviews Part 1

I have been thinking a lot about my Bollywood movies lately.  I've really enjoyed discovering new movies to try, and as you all know, I have added some of my favorite songs to my blog playlists. 

I realized, though, that I felt obligated to give you a little more information on some of the movies I've seen.  I have a responsibility to my readers (especially my young readers) to bring to light anything that might be considered objectionable or too mature for some. 

Unfortunately, most Bollywood movies feature at least one overly-sensual song with very suggestive movements.  There are other issues that tend to come up as well, such as immodest dress and swearing.  As I was thinking through the movies I've seen, I realized that the only two I felt I could truly recommend were "Veer-Zaara" and "Vivah".  And even "Veer-Zaara" has a song with a very sensual part that I have to fast forward. :( 

That being said, there are several movies that have some great storylines or themes, that with just a bit of fast-forwarding (or to those of my older readers who don't care) could provide a very enjoyable movie night. 

The purpose of this post is to give you a very basic idea of the good and bad in some of the Bollywood films I've seen, so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not you'd like to try them.

A word of caution:  just like in Hollywood, you can't trust a movie just because it has your favorite actor in it.  Shahrukh (or Shah Rukh) Kahn is my absolute favorite Bollywood actor, but he has been in some films that I will never see.  One that comes to mind right off the bat is "Devdas".  This is often hailed as a classic Bollywood film (which it is), but it is not a film that I have any interest in.  Besides having a horribly sad ending, Shahrukh's character spends most of the time drunk, and a brothel and the characters there feature a large part of the story.

Also, for those of you who don't mind lots of spoilers, most of these films have an article on  Many times, if I'm unsure about a Bollywood movie that I want to try, I'll look it up on Wikipedia first.  Most of the storyline will be there, and by reading that I can usually tell if it's one I want to watch (that's how I decided on "Devdas").

Oh, and as an added bonus, I've decided to include links to my favorite songs from each of my favorite movies. :)

A few disclaimers:

1. I am not, by any means, a Bollywood expert, nor have I seen a vast variety of Bollywood movies. I am simply sharing my thoughts on some of the movies I have seen.

2. I am a Bible-believing Christian, and as such, this is going to affect my worldview. I understand if you do not agree with everything I say, but please be respectful if you have an objection to my opinions.

3. These are not intended to be extensive reviews. My goal is to give you a brief idea of what is in each movie so that you can decide whether or not you'd like to try them yourself.

4. I guess this kind of goes along with point #1, but you'll probably notice that most of the movies I'm reviewing have the same actors and actresses. That's because I specifically sought out movies that included the actors I enjoyed (especially my very favorite, Shahrukh Khan). :)

5. If you do decide to try these movies, don't watch them expecting Hollywood. If you think of them as old MGM musicals from the 50s and 60s, you'll be in just about the right mindset. Almost all Bollywood films feature big musical numbers, very dramatic music and sound effects, heightened emotion, and (sometimes) what we would consider corny humor here in America. Also, the Indian culture is central to most Bollywood films, so many holidays and aspects of Hinduism and Islam are often included in the storylines. I'm not stating this as a necessarily negative element, but I just want to forewarn my sisters in Christ that these films are usually portrayed from these worldviews.

6. Almost every Bollywood movie has at least one very sensual song that I end up fast-forwarding. As a result, I can't in good conscience fully recommend these movies. Many of them are great movies if you just fast forward one or two songs. I guess this reminds me of some of the old MGM musicals, too. You know how there's usually one song that's just completely random and out there? Like the whole "Gotta Dance" sequence in "Singin' in the Rain"? I'm sure someone sees the point of that part of the movie, but I usually fast-forward it. :} Or another example: the weird dream sequence in Rogers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma". I mean, did the movie really need that?

7.  Some of these movies I've seen recently, others I haven't watched in a while.  As a result, I may not remember every single thing I found objectionable when I first watched it.  I apologize in advance for this.  Ideally, I should watch each film and then sit right down and write a review...but I don't think that will be happening, especially since most of these are around 3 hours long.  :}

8.  I am pretty dense when it comes to sexual innuendo or hidden meanings, so unless something is pretty obvious, I don't always catch it.  I've tried to mention all of the things I noticed...just be aware that there may be things that I missed. :{  Please also be aware that there may be other meanings to phrases or gestures that I am not aware of because of the cultural difference.

9.  I'm still trying to figure out how I should respond to the use of God's name in some of these movies.  When it's inserted as a swear word in English, I don't agree with it. I believe God's name should be used with respect and reverence, not as a replacement for a swear word.  However, in a few of the songs, "Allah" is translated "God".  Allah is not the God I worship.  I especially struggle with this in "Yeh Ladka Hai Allah", my favorite song from "Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham".  Is it okay for me to enjoy that song, since the "god's" name they use incorrectly is not my God's name?  Still working through that with my conscience. :} 

Oh, and just so we're clear, I may include some links to songs in which I do not recommend the entire movie!  Some of these movies have great songs, even if the movie isn't so great.

And one more thing...if you don't like spoilers, skip this post.  I'll try to give a summary of each movie with as few spoilers as possible, but there's only so much I can do!  Major spoilers will be preceded by SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER so that you have plenty of warning. :)

   Synopsis:  I'll give a brief (or as brief as I can!) summary of what the movie is about.
   Positive Elements:  I'll share the things I appreciated about the movie.
   Negative/Intense Elements:  I'll talk about the things I found offensive or things I feel might be too scary or offensive for others.
   Overall Impression:  I'll give my overall opinion of what I thought of the movie.

This will be a two-part review (at least!) due to the length this post would be if I did them all together. :)  I'm going to start with my favorite films in this post, and then just go from there. :)


 Synopsis:  Veer Pratap Singh's life changes forever on the day he rescues a young Pakistani woman from a bus accident.  Though the two get off to a rocky start, they form an unlikely friendship.  They spend one day together in India.  Veer finds himself falling in love with Zaara, only to find out she is already engaged to a son of one of her father's fellow politicians.  Later, back in Pakistan, when Zaara comes to realize that she loves Veer too, Veer leaves the Indian Air Force and India, heading to Pakistan to declare his love.  What happens there is beyond anything that Veer or Zaara could have imagined.

Saamiya Siddiqui is a young Pakistani woman determined to become a lawyer, not just for herself, but for young women like her all over the country.  The first case she is given seems like an impossible one:  a man, known only as Prisoner 786.  He has not spoken since he was imprisoned 22 years earlier.  How can she possibly prove his innocence if he refuses to speak?  But Saamiya refuses to give up.  Her perseverance and bravery brings truth and justice to light.

   Positive/Fun Elements:  Veer's love for Zaara is a self-sacrificing love.  He is willing to put her needs and even her family's needs before his own because of his love for her.  Veer and Zaara both decide that it is more important to respect Zaara's parents wishes and keep her father from losing face than to share a life together.  Saamiya works tirelessly to help Veer's case, even when all hope seems lost.  She is determined to help both him and women everywhere who desire to break into the male-dominated business world.

   Negative/Intense Elements:  one sensual song, intense emotional scenes, Veer often displays a fatalistic attitude towards "god" and the way things happen

   Overall Impression:  This is my favorite Bollywood movie of all time!  Veer is an amazing character, sacrificing everything to ensure that Zaara is happy and safe.  It is a beautiful story of selfless, unconditional, cross-cultural, timeless love.  More stories need to be written like this. :)

Below you'll find a link to my favorite song from Veer-Zaara:  "Lodi".  This song takes place during the Lodi festival celebrated at Veer's parent's house.  It is a very fun, playful number between Veer's parents as Maati complains about things that her husband does.  We also see the beginning of a connection between Veer and Zaara.  This video stars Shahrukh Khan as Veer, Preity Zinta as Zaara , Amitabh Bachchan as Chaudhary Sumer Singh, and Hema Malini as Maati.

When you go to the link, you can click the "cc" below the video to include English subtitles. :)

I've also included a link below to the song "Aaya Tere Dar Par".  This song takes place after Veer arrives in Pakistan.  This is the first time Zaara sees him after their first parting.  I believe they are at some sort of engagement ceremony at a Muslim temple.  I absolutely love this beautiful scene.



   Synopsis:  Poonam has grown up in her uncle's home as his adopted daughter.  She loves him like her own father, and longs for the same love from her aunt.  But her aunt is jealous of Poonam's beauty, because Poonam is lovelier than her cousin, Choti.  When the time comes for Poonam to be married, she enters an arranged marriage with Prem, the son of a successful businessman.  What starts out as an arranged marriage turns to love, but an unexpected accident nearly destroys everything.  Will Prem and Poonam be able to withstand this testing by fire?  And will Poonam's aunt ever give Poonam the mother's love she desires?
   Positive/Fun Elements:  This was a sweet story about two young people falling in love.  I appreciated the character of Prem and his steadfastness.  I also appreciated Poonam's character:  sweet, loving, feminine, and very respectful to her adopted father and mother, even when her "mother" didn't deserve it.  It was also nice to see a Bollywood movie with a boy and a girl that were actually engaged to the person they wanted to be engaged to!  So many Bollywood stories revolve around one being engaged to someone but loving someone else.  Not that I mind that plot line (obviously, since that plot plays a major role in "Veer-Zaara"), this was just nice for a change.  Also, there were so many genuinely likable supporting characters in this one.
   Negative/Intense Elements:  Fire destroys a house and one character SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER receives severe, life-threatening burns (nothing is shown); unkind mother figure who is verbally and emotionally abusive

   Overall Impression:  This is my second favorite Bollywood movie after from "Veer-Zaara".  The first part of the movie was a sweet, innocent romance between two young people preparing for marriage.  The second part was a touching story of unconditional love and devotion against all odds.  What a beautiful picture of Christ's love for us. :)  I would highly recommend this movie.    

I've included a link below to my favorite song from Vivah, "Hamari Shaadi Mein".  Sorry, but I couldn't find one with English subtitles. :(  Basically, Prem (played by Shahid Kapoor) is on his way back home after being gone for almost a month.  He is very excited about his upcoming wedding and keeps thinking he sees his fiance, Poonam (played by the lovely Amrita Rao) on the plane.

Om Shanti Om


   Synopsis:  Om is a poor Indian actor, hoping to make it big as a Hero (star of Indian cinema).  He is head over heels in love with Shantipriya, a beautiful Indian actress who sees him only as a friend.  When Shantipriya is SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER murdered in a huge studio fire, only Om sees what happens.  He SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER dies trying to save her, and is reincarnated as Om Kapoor, son of renowned actor Rajesh Kapoor.  Thirty years later, Om is a huge movie star with an attitude to match.  But there are certain secrets to his past that he doesn't understand, such as his unnatural fear of fire.  Things slowly come back to him bit by bit.  Soon he remembers everything about his former life...including who Shanti's murderer is!  His name is Mukesh Mehra, and he has completely gotten away with his crime and moved on to a successful life in the movie industry.  Om cleverly devises a way to get Mukesh to confess his evil deeds...but will it work?

   Positive/Fun Elements:  I loved most of the songs in this movie.  Everything was colorful, playful, and over-the-top.  There were a lot of nods to old 70s Bollywood films and actors.  Most of them I missed, because I'm not familiar with that period of Indian Cinema.  It was still really enjoyable, though.  In "Dhoom Taana", clips of famous 70s actors were actually digitally added to the song so that Shantipriya could "act" with actors that would have been her contemporaries.  [Note:  Although I LOVED this song, I can't fully recommend it because of costume, suggestive dance moves, and possibly suggestive lyrics.]  Another really fun song was "Deewangi Deewangi", which featured around 30 famous Bollywood actors all together in one song.  It was great seeing so many familiar faces in one place.  [Note:  Once again, although I really loved this song, it also contained suggestive dance moves, immodest clothing, and iffy lyrics, so I can't really recommend it.]  I appreciated Om's love for Shantipriya and his desire to see that justice was done for her wrongful death.  And really, this movie was just overall a fun movie! :)

   Negative/Intense Elements: swearing, very sensual song, one song with possible sensual lyrics (and an immodest outfit), another song with lots of immodest outfits and some sensual dance moves, violent death scene, reincarnation, a ghost plays a small role in the film

   Overall Impression:  While I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it is not one I could recommend with a clear conscience.  This one had a lot more swearing than some of the other Bollywood films I've seen.  It also had several very suggestive songs and dance moves that I didn't care for (as opposed to the usual one or two).  I enjoyed the storyline, but reincarnation and ghosts played a pretty major role in the plot (not icky ghosts, mind you, just people coming back from the dead), so it is definitely not for everyone.
   I think one of the things I enjoyed about it was how much it reminded me of a combination of "Singin' in the Rain" and "The Phantom of the Opera", plus a few other stories thrown in for good measure.   

I've included links to two of the songs from this film.  I really enjoyed almost all of the songs from "Om Shanti Om".  There are actually a few that I liked better, but I wanted to show you what I meant about this movie reminding me of "Singin' In the Rain" and "The Phantom of the Opera".

First, we have "Main Agar Kahoon", which brings to mind "You Were Meant For Me" from "Singin' In the Rain".  Om (played by Shahrukh Khan) and his buddy Pappu (played by Shreyas Talpade) treat the beautiful actress Shantipriya (played by Deepika Padukone), whom Om is in love with, to a special night on a movie set.

Next, we have "Dastaan-e-om Shanti Om".  This has "Phantom of the Opera" written all over it.  Just think of "Masquerade".  This scene even concludes with a falling chandelier!  Just for a little background, this takes place towards the end of the movie.  SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Om is determined to avenge Shanti's death.  He is the only one who witnessed what happened, and through a clever stage production, acts out the entire occurrence of the front of Mukesh, the murderer!  Om has discovered a young woman who looks just like Shanti, and has interspersed her in the scenes to make Mukesh think she is Shanti's ghost.  Unfortunately, due to a mishap towards the end of the song, Mukesh discovers that "Shanti" is no ghost.  Mukesh is played by Arjun Rampal.

Rab ne Bana di Jodi


   Synopsis:  Surinder "Suri" Sahni has just gotten married to a woman he only met days ago, Taani Gupta, the daughter of his former professor.  Due to two unfortunate deaths, Suri and Taani find themselves in this quick marriage of convenience.  Suri has already fallen in love with his young, pretty wife, but Taani has given up on love after losing the two people closest to her.  When a group dance class comes to the city, Taani asks Suri for permission to join.  He agrees, and then secretly disguises himself so that he can attend the class and watch her without being recognized.  What starts out as an innocent plan swiftly grows complicated when Suri is mistaken for another member of the class...and assigned as Taani's dance partner.  With the help of his friend Bobby, Suri comes up with a name and personality for his alter-ego:  Raj.  He tries to impress Taani with his movie star-style "machoness", only to disgust her.  In time, however, Taani starts to enjoy his company.  Suri finds he can't bring himself to stop being Raj, because he can't stand the thought of not having that special time with Taani.  What will happen when Taani finds out the truth, though?  And would she choose Suri over Raj?
   Positive/Fun Elements:  Suri is a sweet, likable character.  A little clueless, but genuinely in love with his wife.  He honestly desires her happiness above anything else, and yearns for her love.  Unfortunately, he tends to be pretty misguided in his attempts to show her that he cares (so much so that my dad got really annoyed with him when he watched this movie).  Taani does her best to be a good wife to Suri, but is full of pain from losing those she loves.  She initially tries to keep Raj at a distance because she is a married woman.  For a time, she is tempted to leave her husband for "Raj", but comes to the conclusion on her own that this would be wrong.  Suri has always been there for her, and even though she does not love him, she wants to honor him and do what is right.  Oh, and it was really fun to see Shahrukh play a nerdy character, when he normally plays the hip, suave character in his movies. 

   Negative/Intense Elements:  repeated swearing, especially strong in one scene; sensual dance moves in many scenes and songs; intense emotional situations; drinking; one mild sexual innuendo; at least one suggestive t-shirt worn by Raj; Suri gets pretty beat up when competing in a Sumo competition; when posing as Raj, Suri encourages Taani to leave him (thinking she will be happier without Suri in her life); Taani spends a lot of time with Raj and gets emotionally involved even though she is married; there's a lot of talk about "seeing god in someone" and that's how you know you love them (I don't know if this is a cultural thing or not)...I suppose I can understand what they mean by this, but I would just point out that (from a Christian perspective) it's okay to see the character of Christ displayed in someone, as long as we don't worship the person instead of Christ.

   Overall Impression:  I really liked this movie...the second time I watched it.  The first time I saw it, I was just frustrated with Suri for his clueless behavior, and his Raj character was completely annoying!!  The second time I watched it, though, I was able to sympathize with the characters a little more.  While Suri was misguided and sometimes made poor choices in the way he tried to show his affection for Taani, his motives were honest and pure.  You can't help feeling for him.  Here he is, married to the woman of his dreams, and she's told him she will never be able to love him.  He was willing to sacrifice his own happiness so that she could be happy.  I also could imagine what Taani was feeling.  This was Anushka Sharma's first major role, and I thought she did a fantastic job in her portrayal of the character.
   Because of language and the style of dance in this movie, I would not recommend it to my younger readers or my sensitive older readers.

Below is a link to one of my favorite scenes in the movie.  This takes place towards the end of the movie, when Suri shows up at Taani's dance competition as himself, revealing that he was Raj all along.  As they dance, Taani thinks back over all that Suri has done for her, as himself and as Raj.  The music is a little more hip-hoppy than I care for, but the acting is phenomenal!  By the way, in some ways, this gives a little overview of the entire movie, so if you don't like spoilers, I'd skip this one.

Kahbi Khushi Kabhie Gham


Synopsis:  The Raichand family is a wealthy family living in India.  Yash and Nandini have an adopted son, Rahul, and a biological son, Rohan, who is nine years younger than his older brother.  For years, Rahul has been estranged from his adopted parents, ever since he went against his father and married Anjali, the girl he loved from a lower caste.  Rahul and Anjali are now living in London with their son, his nanny (who is Anjali's aunt and was also Rahul's family nanny), and Anjali's younger sister Pooja.  When as a young man, Rohan learns the truth about his older brother's move from India, he leaves for London himself, determined to bring his family back together.  With the help of Pooja, Rohan gets a place to stay in Rahul's household, keeping his true identity a secret.  Will Rohan and Pooja be able to reunite Rahul and Yash, or will the family remain separated forever?

   Positive/Fun Elements:  Rahul truly loves his father, and only goes against his wishes when SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER Anjali's father unexpectedly dies, leaving her and her sister alone in the world.  He is a good husband and father, but is deeply scarred by his father's hurtful words and refusal to bless his marriage.  Rohan's quest to reunite his family is noble and beautiful to see.  Unfortunately, he does stretch and withhold the truth to bring about this purpose.  Although, in this particular situation, I'm not sure how else he could have brought it about.  The importance of family unity and love of one's homeland are portrayed strongly in this movie.  People put aside their grievances to forgive and restore relationships.   

   Negative/Intense Elements:  one very sensual song, several songs with suggestive dance moves, one very annoying and immodest character, swearing, intense emotional scenes of rejection between a father and his adopted son

   Overall Impression:  I had mixed feelings about this movie.  I LOVED Shahrukh and Kajol in this movie.  Kajol was hilarious, and she and Shahrukh were a lot of fun to watch together.  This movie was also my first introduction to the amazingly talented Hrithik Roshan (my aunt has nicknamed him "Beautiful Man").  I was shocked to find out that he was diagnosed with scoliosis at age 21 and was told he would never be able to dance or act.  You'd never know it looking at him...this guy can dance!!!  Another interesting bit of trivia:  he has 2 thumbs on his right hand that are grown together.  You don't see them on this film because the child actor playing him in the earlier part of the movie doesn't have the same condition.
   I appreciated the themes of the importance of family promoted by this movie, and Rohan's determination to bring everyone back together.  I learned a lot about Indian culture in this movie, too.  Even though I don't share the same beliefs, I think it's important to learn about the background and culture of others.  If you have an understanding of where someone is coming from, you have a better understanding of how to reach them with the love of Christ. 
   Unfortunately, this was another movie with a lot of sensuality and some swearing.  Pooja's character, especially, was constantly wearing skimpy outfits and was a shallow brat for most of the movie.  Honestly, I could have done without her character completely.  One of the songs between Shahrukh and Kajol (it was one of the "dream sequence" ones where they were suddenly in a random desert somewhere, then on the coast...these are pretty common in these films) was so sensual that I was actually embarrassed.  So I can't recommend this film with a clear conscience, which is a shame, because it has some great positives mixed in with the negatives.  And talk about an all-star cast!  So many big names!

I've included a link to my absolute favorite song from this movie:  "Yeh Ladka Hai Allah".  This song is a classic example of why I enjoy Shahrukh Khan so much.  I love his mischievous looks and his endearing character.  While he's not the most talented Bollywood dancer out there, he brings so much to his roles that you can't help enjoying his performances.  There's something about the way he hams things up that reminds me of Gene Kelly.  He's another one of those actors that makes dancing seem so natural that you start thinking anyone could just get up and dance.  I also love the way he interacts with Kajol in this particular song.  Kajol is one of my favorite Bollywood actresses, along with Preity Zinta and Rani Mukerji.

In this clip, Rahul is confessing his love for Anjali...and she's not buying it...or at least pretending she's not interested too. :)  And yes, this is the one that refers to I don't really like the way it's translated, but I love everything else about the song!!  The first link is a high quality upload without English subtitles, and the second is a lower quality version with English subtitles.  Take your pick. ;)

Version 1:
Version 2:

And here's a link to "Bole Chudiayan".  This song takes place in London and has all of the siblings in it.  There are no subtitles for the first part of the clip.  Basically, Pooja (played by Kareena Kapoor) has challenged Rohan (played by Hrithik Roshan) to reveal who he is.  If he does, she has promised to tell him how she feels about him.  The first little song is apparently some sort of traditional song sung for a bride and groom, sung by the brother of the couple (if I have any Hindi readers, please correct me if I've butchered this explanation!). :}  So basically, by singing it, he's admitting he's their brother.  That's why he says "Your turn" to Pooja when he's done singing.  I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory.  This song also features Shahrukh Khan as Rahul and Kajol as Anjali.  You'll also see a clip where Yash (played by Amitabh Bachchan) and Nandini (played by Amitabh's real-life wife, Jaya Bachchan) enter the scene and sing.  This part is just in Rohan's imagination.  He's picturing his family all together again and is moved to tears by the thought.  Just thought I'd explain that, because it can be confusing...especially if you don't have the context of the rest of the movie to go by. :)

Oh, and a warning here, too.  This song features quite a few bare midriffs and hip movement.  Just thought I'd mention it for those who are not comfortable with it.

Well, that's all for this time around. :)  I'll be posting Part 2 soon! :)

P.S.  I know it's kind of annoying to have to follow all of these links, but I didn't feel right putting someone else's videos on my blog.  I think it's really fun to be able to see clips from the movies as well as read about them.  Be sure to tell me what you think! :)

It's My Anniversary! :)

Nine years ago today, I married my high school sweetheart.  I can't believe how the time has flown! 

My hubby and I grew up in the same church, but didn't really get to know each other until I was in junior high and he was in high school, when we started moving in the same circles.  Many times, the high school and junior high church youth groups would do things together.  I was his friend first, but towards the end of eighth grade I started developing a crush on him.

My wildest dreams came true in the ninth grade, when he asked me to the Spring Banquet in front of our entire youth group...right in the middle of a skit we were performing. :D

Throughout my high school years, we had our ups and downs.  The following year (when I was a sophomore), he told me he didn't want to be seen as a couple.  His idea was to wait on girls until college.  Something obviously changed his mind, though.  Perhaps it was the way I handled it (I honestly figured that it was the end of the road and I'd never hang out with him again.  Not that I didn't want to.  I just saw it as God closing a door.).  Perhaps it had something to do with all of my guy friends I made in drama class that year (not to make him jealous, there were just a lot of sweet boys that I genuinely became friends with).  And, the fact that he made me late to math class one day towards the end of the year, and it was my third tardy...and I ended up with a detention (my first and ONLY detention!) actually drew us closer.  He felt absolutely horrible.  While I didn't enjoy the whole experience, I'm thankful that it brought us closer together.  From that time on, we were basically a couple, whether officially or unofficially. 

After my senior year, I went through a period of doubt and pushed him away somewhat.  I was so overwhelmed by all of the changes in my life.  I'd been to the same school since Kindergarten, and now I was going somewhere else, learning to drive, and missing my beloved drama and choir classes.  It's really silly...I was pushing away the one thing that was remaining constant in my life.

During this time, I read this amazing book called "The Cinderella Syndrome" by Lee Ezell.  While not everything in the book applied to me, there were some things that really convicted me.  I realized that I was depending on my boyfriend to make me happy instead of leaving that to the Lord.  I also realized that I had filled my head with so many romantic heroes from literature and the movies, that there was no way my boy could compete.  That book really turned things around for me.  I stopped blocking my boy out.  Wow, I'm sitting here trying to remember if I apologized or not.  I think I did...but don't quote me on that, just in case. :}

We grew closer throughout our college years.  I remember that I was really stressed at this point about whether he was "THE ONE" for me.  You hear that all the time, even in our Christian circles.  I had a strong desire to follow the Lord's will in my life in every aspect.  I was so worried that I would get married and find out that my boyfriend wasn't the person I was supposed to marry.  I think I unknowingly added a bit of Disney and the know, the whole "true love", "he's your match", "soul mates" thing?

My mom really helped me during this time.  She explained that as long as I had prayed about it and didn't see anything in my boyfriend's character that was dangerous or directly violated God's Word (and of course, taking into account personalities and compatibility), I could marry him.  Once we were married, he would become "the one" for me, because divorce was not Christ's intent for the Christian.  [Side note here:  I realize that there are circumstances where divorce is necessary for a woman or her children's safety...what I mean is the current trend of getting "bored" with each other and divorcing, or deciding that your differences are too great to work out.]

I felt like a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders after this conversation.  I suppose it may sound naive to some of you, but it was something I really struggled with. 

My husband proposed to me on Christmas Day 2001, during my 3rd year of college.  He drove several hours to the house on the beach that my family was staying at over the holidays and called me from the beach.  It took me a while to realize that he was actually there...I could hardly believe it! 

As we sat on the sand, he gave me my gifts.  First was a Cracker Jacks box (he had always joked about giving me an engagement ring from a Cracker Jacks box).  Next, he gave me a beautiful bell jar with a wooden base and a little circular wooden box under the jar.  The box had a beautiful wooden rose on top.  When I opened it, I found my engagement ring inside.  Oh, and I almost forgot...the present was signed:  "To: Beauty  From: Your Beast".  :D  Of course, I said yes!  Later that night, we shared our very first kiss.

On June 29th, 2002, we were married in the same church we'd been attending since we were children.  Our pastor married us with joy.  It was a perfect day.  We were surrounded by our family and friends, and everything went without a hitch.  The video of our wedding is now one of my daughters' favorite movies. ;)

It's been a great 9 years.  We've been through a lot together:  moving, babies, job changes, financial changes, diapers, potty training, the first day of school...I could go on and on.  Through it all, my husband has been a constant source of love and encouragement.  He's always so patient with me, even when I'm not acting in a lovable way.  I am so thankful for the man he is, and all that he has done for me.  My life would not be the same without him.

Happy Anniversary, Babe!  I love you.  I can't wait to see what the next 9 years hold for us. :)

The beautiful roses Hubby brought home for me! :)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I'm Back! :)

Hi everyone!  I made it back from visiting my husband's sister and her family.  We ended up basically having a mini family reunion on my husband's side.  It was so much fun getting together with everyone! :) 

While I was there, I got some great photos of Emma.  The weather was perfect, and the scenery was breathtaking.  It was the perfect place for a photo shoot.  Enjoy the pics! :)  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Having Issues with Blogger's Photo Uploader

Hi everyone!  Just a quick update, once again.  I tried to do a post this morning and the Blogger photo uploader wouldn't work.  I could upload my pics to the tool itself, but when I clicked "Add selected", everything went blank but didn't transfer to my post.  I tried it again, and the second time it simply unselected my pics when I clicked "Add selected".  I tried switching from Internet Explorer to Google Chrome and it still had the same problem.  I am at a complete loss as to what else I can try.

Is anyone else having this problem?  There are blogs I'm following that did new posts with pics today, so obviously not everyone is dealing with this issue.

I'm trying not to panic here.  Without photos, my blog is nearly pointless.  So much of what I do involves taking photos.  I'm hoping and praying that they get this problem solved soon!

So, if I don't do any exciting posts for a while, you'll know why.  It's so frustrating...I had several posts I was going to do today, but they are useless without the photos to go with them.

I would like to take a moment to say thanks to my 81 FOLLOWERS!!!!  Wow!  Just 19 more followers and I'll be up to my goal of 100.  Thank you to all of you who have read and followed my blog.  I'm also amazed that I'm getting close to 31,000 page views.  That's just incredible!

Have any of you ever checked you "Stats" section on your blogs?  You might want to.  I found out that I have readers from countries all over the world!  I never dreamed that my little blog would find its way to places like India, Poland, Australia, Russia, Germany, Japan, and more!  I'm truly honored and wanted to thank all of my readers from different countries who have stopped by to take a look. :)

Well, I'll let you all know as soon as I'm able to post photos again.  Lord willing, this will be a short-lived problem.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day!!

Just wanted to give a shout out to the three wonderful fathers in my life. :)  Of course, first of all is my dad.  Dad and I have had a special relationship since I was small.  We are very alike in personality, so we really relate to one another.  Some of my fondest memories are the long talks we used to have together when I was growing up.  We would talk about anything and everything together.  Our talks are fewer and farther between now that I'm married and busy with my kiddos and he's retired and busy with his Veteran's Helicopter Group, but we still manage to find the time for them.  Whether it's things we're learning in our spiritual lives or our latest discoveries in our various hobbies, we can talk up a storm about anything.  I am so thankful for him and the role he has in my life.  Thanks for being there for me through all these years, Dad!  Thanks for taking the time to read to us as a family, for camping with us, for playing with us.  Thanks for all the time you devoted to making Breyer horse stables and layouts, school projects, and all sorts of other creative stuff.  I always knew how special I was to you.  Thanks for encouraging me in the Lord and being so understanding of my struggles and victories.  I love you. :)

Next I wanted to wish my hubby a Happy Father's Day.  I'm always so thankful for him when I watch him interact with the girls.  He is so patient and loving, willing to take the time to explain things.  He also is very in tune to their different personalities and how that affects their behavior.  It's nice they have at least one calm, rational parent! :}  I know that the girls will always be comfortable talking to him because of the way he kindly listens to them and encourages them.  He will also be the one they'll want to go to first when they get a bad grade or a detention, because they'll know that their mom will have a much more hysterical reaction!  Thanks, Babe, for being such a good Daddy.  You are so great with our girls.  I appreciate so much that you are willing to work as hard as you do so that I can stay home with them.  Thanks for being so loving and patient with me, as well, even when I'm not the easiest person to love.  Thanks for your desire to please the Lord and the way you build me up in the faith.  The girls and I love you so much. :)

Finally, I wanted to mention my wonderful father-in-law.  So many times, my husband and I have talked about how grateful we are for our families.  We see many examples of others who can't stand their in-laws.  Thankfully, we have both been blessed with wonderful parents who are loving and supportive of us.  I have really appreciated getting to know Dad-in-Law through marrying his wonderful son.  He and hubby are very alike, too, so hanging around with Dad-in-Law gives me a good preview of what I have to look forward to in the future. ;)  Like my dad and my hubby, Dad-in-Law is also such an encouragement to me in my walk with the Lord.  He is appreciative and supportive of me and treats me like his own daughter.  I am so thankful to be a part of my hubby's family. :)  Thanks for all of your love and encouragement, Dad-in-Law.  I am always blessed after our visits, and I hope I always make you proud.  I love you! :)

To all of you other dads out there, I hope you have a wonderful Father's Day with your families.  Thank you for all you do to support and provide for your loved ones. :)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Summer Updates

Hey guys!   Just thought I'd put in a quick post to say "hi" and make you aware of a few things.

First, I finally got my new header done (yay!!).  I had a lot of fun playing around with the scrapbook collages on  I'd only done regular collages before, so it was nifty trying something different. :)

Also, I've really enjoyed having music on my blog, but I may be removing my playlists, just to let you know.  I'm not completely satisfied with them.  Because the tracks are from Youtube videos, they tend to get disabled quite frequently (I'm sure some of you have noticed this).  It's frustrating when half of my songs don't work.  Also, it's next to impossible to edit my playlist.  If I want to get rid of the tracks that aren't working anymore, I'll have to start all over again and make a new playlist.  And honestly, I'm just a little concerned about the legality of everything.  I mean, some of my tracks are from videos that people have compiled using songs that don't belong to them, so how does that work exactly?  I just want to be above board (and I'd also rather not get in trouble or fined!). :}  I'm still deciding what I'm going to do...I just wanted to let everyone know what I was contemplating.

In other news, this summer has turned in to an absolutely CRAZY one!!  I know it's only mid-June, but I don't see an end to the current activity level until at least August! (And by then, it'll be time to get ready for "Back to School" with my oldest two girls.)  I'm heading up the music for our church's Vacation Bible School program again this year, which is a great ministry, but requires a lot of time, effort, and organization.  I'm also helping with the Wednesday night children's program that replaces AWANA during the summer.  Aside from that, I'm taking care of the kiddos while my hubby works 10-15 hour days.

These next couple of weeks will be crazy too, because my husband's sister and brother-in-law are visiting from South Dakota.  It's great to get a chance to catch up with's been about a year since we last saw them. :)

All that to say, I don't know how often I'll be posting in the next couple of months.  I've got so many other things I've committed to.  The blog won't be neglected, but just don't expect 3 big posts per week or anything. :)

I think that's about it for now.  Hubby has the flu, so I need to go take care of him.  I'll talk to you guys again soon. :)    

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Downy Dunk Party! :)

Hi everyone!  I've been planning on doing Downy dunks on some of my dolls for a while now, and finally got around to it two nights ago.  I decided to do all three ladies at the same time. :)

The lucky candidates were the Pre-Mattel Sam my mom gave me, Piper, and Rachel.  Of the three, Sam's hair was the worst.  It was dry, tangled and matted. 

Rachel's hair wasn't all that bad to begin with, but her hair had an unpleasant odor that I wanted to try to get rid of.  She didn't smell nearly as strongly of patchouli oil as when I first got her, but the traces were still there.  I hoped doing a dunk in scented Downy would help.

Piper's hair was the best out of the three, but she had lots of little flyaway hairs that were driving me crazy.  I couldn't keep them under control no matter what I tried.  I hoped that a Downy dunk would help with that.

Before I started the process, I wrapped each of the dolls in a dish towel, making sure their neck strings were tucked inside of it too.  This protects their cloth body from getting water stains.  You could also try this with a plastic bag for extra security.

I used clothes pins to fasten the towel together.  (Note:  Soon after I took this picture, I realized it worked better to put the clothes pins in the front, allowing me to lay the doll flat on her back while I was working!) :}

I taped cotton balls over their eyes to protect them from water or Downy damage.  Water can cause their eyes to rust, and Downy would most likely give them a bad case of sticky eye.

I laughed so hard when I saw this picture.  I must have been more tired than I realized when I did this!  For doll hair that seems dirty, I usually use baby shampoo to wash the extra residue out.  When I did this project, though, the only kinds of baby shampoo I had either smelled like watermelon Jolly Ranchers or sickly sweet fake strawberries.  Neither scent sounded great, so instead, I decided to use my Herbal Essences Totally Twisted shampoo...or so I thought.  As you can see from the picture, I used the conditioner instead!  The funny thing is, I didn't even realize my mistake until I was uploading the pics to this post.  How embarrassing!!! :}  So, if you try this on your own, try to remember to use shampoo, not conditioner.  And honestly, I would recommend baby shampoo instead, as it's milder.

So, here I am, getting ready to put "shampoo" in my doll's hair (good grief).

Working it into Sam's hair.

When I was done, I rinsed it out as best as I could.

I dried off as much of the excess water as possible with some dish towels. 

Next, I filled a big Tupperware with Downy.  (Sorry you can't tell it's there...I happened to use a white bowl and white-colored Downy.)  I did go ahead and use one cap full of water to dilute this since the Downy had a pretty strong scent.  Oh, and if you want to try this on a doll you'd like to fix up and resell, I would recommend getting an unscented fabric softener.  Some people are very sensitive to perfumy smells, and might be turned off by the lingering scent in the hair. 

If you're doing this for yourself and want to use a scented kind, make sure you choose a scent you can live with.  Even when you rinse all of the Downy out, it will still have faint traces of the scent you used.

For those of you who are curious, no, it doesn't have to be actual Downy.  I usually go for the least expensive and best-smelling brand of fabric softener I can find.  This time, I used Great Value "Mandarin Essence" from Walmart.

Once the Downy was ready, I put Sam's hair in to soak.  I've found that using a box or a stack of books to prop them up generally works best.  You want them to be stable enough that they won't slide, but high enough that as much of their hair as possible is submerged in the Downy.  I try not to have their entire wig cap soaking the whole time, because I'm not sure what that would do to the glue that holds their wig in place.

Sam in the Downy (BTW, I know it's not real Downy, but it's just easier to call it that!) ;)

After Sam was in place, I used a spoon to pour Downy over the parts of her hair that weren't soaking, such as her bangs and the sides of her hair.  I repeated this throughout the 24 hours she was soaking, whenever I thought of it.

As I was preparing to do Rachel's hair, I found to my unfortunate surprise that her wig is very thin in several places.  She may eventually need a new wig.  The above picture was taken right behind her left ear...

...and this picture was taken behind her right ear.  Strange that she went bald in the same spot on both sides.  I don't know if this is a common thing for the Julie wigs, or if my particular doll is just very well-loved.

She also has a very thin spot in the back, which I noticed when I did her hair in double braids at the coast.

Soon, I had all three dolls ready.   Rachel and Sam...

...and Piper, too.

I finally found a great use for the holes in the top of my orange boxes! :)

After 24 hours (more or less), I took them out of the Downy, starting with Piper.  I gently ran my fingers over the length of her hair to get rid of as much excess Downy as possible.  Then I brushed through her hair BEFORE rinsing the Downy out.  When her hair was tangle-free, I carefully rinsed it out.

This is a picture of all the hair that Sam lost during this process.  Her hair was so matted that even with careful brushing, it was coming out at every stroke.

The three girls, finished with their Downy and starting to air dry.  I always hang my dolls over the edge of my washer with a towel on the floor to catch the excess water while they dry.  This helps the underside of their hair dry as well as the top.  I rinse my brush carefully (since I've used it on Downy-soaked hair), and then take a moment to brush through the hair whenever I think of it.


Rachel (Why, Blogger?  Why must you persist in uploading my pics sideways or upsidedown?)


After a few hours or so, when their hair was no longer dripping wet, I sat them up to let their hair dry correctly the rest of the way.  This prevents the hair from being unmanageable and sticking up all funny. 

Oh, and for those of you that are wondering, the white stuff on Rachel's chin is Oxy cream.  I'm starting to work on that little blue spot she has. :)

I thought you might enjoy seeing the Before and After photos of each doll.  Here they are:

Sam:  Before                                                                              After

Rachel:  Before                                                                        After

Piper:  Before                                                                            After

All three gals together, feeling much better about their hair! :)

I'm not 100% pleased with how they turned out.  There is definite improvement, especially with Sam's hair.  Unfortunately, I think there is still Downy residue in Sam's hair, which leaves some parts looking greasy and stringy.  If you try this, be sure to rinse THOROUGHLY to avoid this mistake! 

Rachel's hair has greatly improved, but there are still a few spots that are a bit frizzy.  I'd like to see if I could get it completely smooth...but maybe I'm just being too picky! ;) 

I may do another Downy dunk eventually on Rachel, and try to rinse Sam's hair again, at the very least.  I'm not sure what my plan is yet.  For now, I'll see how their hair does once it's completely dry.  I'm also considering using curlers on Sam's hair so that I can attempt to get her hair looking more like it did originally.  I'll keep you posted if I do this. 

Also, I just want to say, if you are 13 or under, please get a parent's permission before trying this on your dolls!  It can be a great way to restore their hair, but it can also potentially harm your doll if it isn't done correctly.  If you'd like to see a video tutorial of how this is done, there is a great one on stephenswodadancer's YouTube channel HERE.  As an extremely visual person myself, I found this video very helpful the first time I attempted a Downy Dunk.

Afterwards, Samantha was so excited about her new hairdo that she let Piper and Rachel try on some of her clothes. Then we had a photo shoot. :)