Christmas Love/Hate

I have a love-hate relationship with Christmas.

I love setting up the Christmas tree, lights, and assorted decorations.

I hate taking them down just because they never seem to fit back in the boxes I took them out of!

I love looking out at the snow.

I hate driving in the snow.

I love giving fun toys and games to my kids.

I hate that nobody ever gives ME fun toys and games anymore.

I love listening to Christmas music.

I hate listening to Christmas music, ’round about midnight of December 25th.

I love the looks on my kids’ faces when they open their presents.

I hate having to figure out where to put all this new stuff they’re getting.

I love the cookies and treats.

I hate that my clothes won’t fit right for weeks after.

I love watching A Christmas Story, Home Alone, and Christmas Vacation with my kids. And, after they go to bed, watching Love, Actually with my wife.

I hate that there are so many horrible Christmas movies out there, like Deck The Halls and Jingle All The Way.

I love egg nog ice cream.

I hate peppermint ice cream.

I love forgetting about the world’s troubles for just a few days.

I hate that the troubles seem to always return in a worse way.

What do you love/hate about Christmas?

The Awesome Gift Guide For Dads

The season of giving and sharing is upon us. It’s a time of charity, of helping those less fortunate, and of extending a helping hand to our fellow man.

And when you’re done with that, it’s time to go shopping!

Whichever holiday you celebrate, from Christmas to Hanukkah to Kwanzaa to Festivus, my Awesome Gift Guide for Dads might help you find just the right thing for the dads in your life. Many of the items on this list were suggested by my fellow dad bloggers. Continue reading

Christmas DVD Giveaway

For anyone of my generation, one of our most cherished Christmas traditions is the annual viewing of the Rankin/Bass animated classics.

Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and, my personal favorite, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Back in my day, we had one shot at watching these shows. No videos, no DVD, not even 24-hour Rankin/Bass marathons on cable. They were broadcast over the air on one night, and that was it for another 365 days.

Now, it’s all different. Our Christmas entertainment is instantly available to us, and the communal experience of watching Bumbles bounce is a thing of the past.

I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

What is good, is that I have a couple of awesome DVD box sets to give away!

The good people at DreamWorks Classics have provided copies of some old classics and some new classics for my readers.

First off, the Original Christmas Classics, featuring Frosty, Santa, and Rudolph. You know these shows. They’re timeless. It wouldn’t be the holidays without them.

Next up are the new guys. Shrek, Po, and Toothless. These will be the timeless classics for my kids’ generation. This glittering box set includes Shrek The Halls, Merry Madagascar, Kung Fu Panda Holiday, and Dragons Holiday: Gift of the Night Fury as well as bonus features including games, music videos and more!

Some lucky winner will receive BOTH of these DVD box sets! All you have to do is leave a comment right here on this post. It’s as simple as that.

Once you own these shows, you never have to worry about missing out on the Christmas tradition!

I’ll pick a winner the first week of December. In the meantime, have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Worst Christmas Ever

If this was the worst Christmas ever, then I’m a very lucky guy.

The sense of impending suckiness began just after Thanksgiving, when I realized that my holiday plans and schemes were not going to have the needed financial backing to pull them off.

That was okay, though. My kids do not go wanting for leisure activities. They have enough toys, crafts, puzzles, and games to stock several aisles at Toys R Us.

I quickly realized that pouring my time and energy into a Christmas celebration would more than make up for a lack of presents under the tree.

But that didn’t really work out, as school and activities suddenly ramped up in the first few weeks of December to distract me from my reconfigured holidays plans and schemes.

By Dec. 21st, there were no decorations, no lights, no bowls of colorful candies. I felt like Ralphie in A Christmas Story, panicking at the top of the big red slide, as he realized he was about to miss his last chance to get what he wanted for Christmas.

At least our tree was up, but devoid of ornaments, and serving as more of a play toy for the kittens than as a point of festive cheer for us.

The weather kept me from stringing lights on the house. First time in 20 years I haven’t done that.

Then my insomnia went into overdrive and I’d lie awake at night worrying about my lack of Christmas spirit.

A few days before Christmas, I mentioned Santa bringing presents, and my daughter crossed her arms, raised one eyebrow, and stated, “I’m going on Wikipedia right now to look up this Santa character.”

To top things off, our oven quit working on the morning of Christmas Eve. Our holiday feast turned out to be Domino’s pizza and chicken wings.

Oh, and my big presents for the year were a set of new tires and a microwave. Badly needed, but akin to receiving underwear and socks from Santa.

But, you know what? The kids had a blast. They got the Lego sets they wanted from Grandma, and they were thrilled with the Harry Potter Lego Wii game I got them. And I believe they now have enough candy to last them straight through to next Halloween, skipping Valentine’s Day and Easter entirely.

More importantly, we spent the day together, at home and at peace. We had snow on the ground, cocoa in our mugs, and a pile of wrapping paper for the cats to play with.

No sweet rolls or candy cane bread, though. Stupid oven.

So maybe the day didn’t measure up to my expectations of awesomeness, but that’s my problem to work out. I have a little too much Clark Griswold in me, setting standards that no family activity can possibly live up to.

Far too many children and families in this world have so little, and suffer so needlessly, I really have no right to complain about anything.

Worst Christmas ever? I’ll happily take that every year.

Christmas Cats

We’ve had an infestation in our Christmas tree.

Our new kittens have taken kindly to the giant cat toy we put up in the family room last weekend.

It will be our barest tree ever, as the notion of hanging anything on it seems kind of pointless. We might as well just throw the ornaments on the ground, since that’s where they would eventually end up.

The kids think having kittens popping in and out of the branches of our Christmas tree is great fun. And I don’t disagree. They do make us laugh. Besides, who wants to spend the entire holiday season stressing over cats crawling around inside an artificial Fraser Fir?

At least they’re not climbing up the curtains anymore.

Cool Christmas Music For You

It’s that time of the year when the holiday music goes on heavy rotation in our CD players and iPods. If you’re like me, you add a few discs to your collection each year. Here are four kids’ CDs that will make fine additions to your roster of cool Christmas tunes:

  • The Hipwaders – A Kindie Christmas
    The Hipwaders have always been inventive and unique. Their fresh take on Christmas includes all original songs, written by lead singer Tito Uquillas, and performed in their usual jangly indie rock style. There are some new holiday classics on this disc!

  • Danny Adlerman, Yosi, & Kevin Kammeraad – …And A Happy New Year
    This is just a fun group of guys singing a fun mix of holiday favorites and originals. A bit of folk, rock, and pop, you can tell from the easygoing style and laughter that these three had a good time making this CD.
  • Various Artists – Putumayo Presents A Family Christmas
    The Putumayo World Music label has always stood for high quality, and they don’t disappoint in this wonderful collection of festive Christmas songs. Highlights include Martin Sexton’s “Holly Jolly Christmas” and Big Bad Voodoo Daddy’s spirited “Is Zat You Santa Claus?”
  • Paige Stroman – Christmas Lullabies To Create Memories
    Perfect for the quiet times this season, Paige Stroman keeps it mellow as she sings the old favorites, like “Away In A Manger,” along with five new tunes. A beautifully produced CD, this one sounds great all the way through.

You can find all of these CDs at online stores like The Pokey Pup, iTunes, and Amazon. Or click on the links in the above descriptions to get to the artists’ web sites and buy directly from them. I encourage you to check them out!

Disclaimer: Two of these CDs were sent to me by the artists for review.

A Family Carols Through It


Or, right-click here to download for later playback.

Welcome to the Christmas Edition of A Family Sings Through It. This time it’s a full hour of my family’s holiday favorites, with a decidedly mellow pop flavor.

You’ll hear songs from Rockapella, Pugwash, Burl Ives, The Lonely Hearts Band, Jason Mraz, and many more. Let me know if you’re curious about any of the artists. If you like what you hear, go to Amazon or iTunes and pick up some new Christmas music!

Happy listening!

Christmas LOLcats

My kids have struck again, with another photo of their favorite kitty.

This time we have competing LOLcat captions. One is mine, the other is my kids’, but I won’t tell you which is which.

Vote for your favorite in the comments. We have lunch at McDonald’s riding on the outcome!

#1

#2

Christmas Music In The Air

We don’t break out the Christmas music until about two weeks before the big day. And then we listen to it pretty much non-stop until the 26th.

Each year I try to add a couple of good holiday CDs to our collection. This year’s big winners skirt the edges of traditional Christmas music. Both of them are highly recommended…

Ranlom’s Going On Holiday is an upbeat mix of pop originals and classics, including one of the better arrangements of “Little Drummer Boy” I’ve ever heard. Ranlom is a group of talented musicians led by singer Matthew Molnar, and the playing and production on this Christmas CD is sparkling. There’s a bit of Ben Folds mixed with Harry Connick, Jr., in these seven songs, and that is a very welcome sound after the 19th heavenly choir singing “Silent Night” pops up on the iPod. You can order the disc through CD Baby, or download it instantly at Amazon. Listen to samples at both sites.

The GrooveBarbers’ Glory is an a cappella spectacular from some of the best vocalists in the genre, including three former members of Rockapella. One of them, Sean Altman, has one of those voices that I could listen to sing the phone book. On Glory, Sean and the other Barbers cover all the holiday favorites, from “Let It Snow” to “Jingle Bells,” with quirky arrangements and impeccable harmonies. This may be the most consistently pleasing Christmas CD in our entire collection. Download Glory at Amazon for just $6.99, where you can also hear samples.

Here’s The GrooveBarbers backing up opera singer Inna Dukach in a funny rendition of Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SiZcuzgJKT4]

Tree Cat

What is it about cats and Christmas trees?

Within seconds of setting up the tree in our family room, our cat Basil had firmly planted himself underneath it. And there he sits most of the day.

I don’t know what he’s doing. Waiting for Santa Claus? Maybe he thinks he’s in the great outdoors and is just enjoying the fresh air and nature. Apparently he hasn’t figured out that our tree is a fake one.

When Basil was a kitten, we would set up a real tree each Christmas and he would chew on the branches. His litterbox was always very interesting that time of year, with bits of green needles and silver tinsel mixed together in his waste.

The kids think he’s cute, sitting there under the tree and stubbornly refusing to come out for anything but his own basic needs. I suspect that he believes the tree is a present for him, one big pine-scented cat toy that we’ve placed in the house solely for his amusement.