5 Fun Ideas For New Halloween Family Traditions

5 Fun Ideas For New Halloween Family Traditions. The importance of developing traditions together as a family has really hit me again since Zoe (our tempestuous 8-year-old) started questioning our Halloween quirks and oddities.

“Why do we have a Halloween tree?  Jane doesn’t have a Halloween tree.”

“Adam and Peter across the street already haaaaave their pumpkins!  When do we get oooouuuurs?”



I forgot how important these moments were in cementing us as a family–how excited Zachie and MacLean still got even as surly teenagers when we started dragging out the fall wreaths.

If you didn’t have a lot of tradition growing up, or maybe you’re in a new relationship and want to begin to create your own, here’s some ideas to get you started:

(Editor’s note: looking for some new and quirky Halloween events along the Wasatch Front? Find them here.)


5 Fun Ideas For New Halloween Family Traditions

1. The Halloween Tree.

The Todd and I scout relentlessly for just the right tree branch to create our Halloween tree.  Plop it in a bucket of sand or Quick-Mix cement and you’re ready to decorate.  I found the perfect one from a hillside fire by our home – half-burned, eerie, awesome.  The kids create paper bats and spiders, and we string it with Dollar Store cobwebs and crows.  Throw on some purple and orange lights and viola! (If you’d like any of the items you see on our trees, you can find them here.)




2.  The Pumpkin Patch.

Yes, I know you can get pumpkins cheaper and faster from the just outside the grocery store.  But do not underestimate to sheer Awesome of taking the kids out to a farm where they pick their own…play with goats…get covered in dirt and hay…there’s really nothing better.  There’s an excellent, comprehensive list of Pumpkin Patches from all over the country as well.




3. The First Fire Of Fall.

HUGE around the Collard house and we often cave before it’s really, truly chilly.  We’re lucky to have a fire pit in the back yard, but a fireplace inside works just as well.  You need to have a good, chilly night, popcorn, apples and scary stories.  We try to make it on a weekend so we can all sleep around the fire that night.





4. Pick Your Five Favorite Scary Shows For Movie Night.

Here’s our “must-haves” and some thought starters for you.

  • It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
  • Edward Scissorhands
  • The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • The Corpse Bride
  • Ghostbusters
  • Addams Family
  • The Curse Of The Were Rabbit
  • The Wizard Of Oz
  • Beetlejuice
  • Frankenweenie
  • Monsters, Inc.
  • Monster House





5.  Visit A Creepy Old Graveyard For Some Tombstone Rubbings.

We’re lucky to live by the historic Salt Lake City Cemetery, home of the uber-scary Emo’s Grave (say his name three times and he comes out and chases you around his tomb.)  Take some paper and pencils to make rubbings of some of the beautiful old tombstones.  They make great decorations and the kids love to find “their” rubbings from years past.  As the twins get older, it’s been fun to spin stories about some of the tombstones there…what the people were like…what kind of lives did they lead?

(Cover image credit: Pixabay)

So…what are some of the traditions your family created for Halloween?  Spill!  Dish!

5 Great Water Games For Kids

5 Great Water Games For Kids

5 Great Water Games For Kids. Mr. Thermometer is finally cracking 90, and the backyard hose will be constantly running until the first freeze of Fall. Splash pads are out of the question, as are the neighborhood pools. So our backyard’s desirability has a sudden urgency. So, when the allure of our cheesy above-ground pool (my sister Jenne calls it the “White Trash Oasis”) runs thin, I’m placating my kids with these ideas.



Five Great Water Games For Kids

  1. Water Balloon Toss. In pairs, begin facing each other with one water balloon. Each time the balloon is tossed and caught, the catcher takes one step backward. Pairs can see how far apart they get. When the water balloon is dropped, grab another one and try again.
  2. Sponge Pass. Everyone sits down in a line facing forward. At one end is a bucket full of water with a large sponge. At the back of the line is an empty bucket. The object of the game is to get as much of the water from the front bucket to the back. Each player passes the sponge over their heads to the person next to them. When it reaches the back, the last person must squeeze the water into the bucket – hands still over his head – and pass the sponge back to the front.
  3. Duck, Duck, Splash. Just like the old school Duck, Duck, Goose, everyone begins by sitting in a circle. One person stands and walks around the circle tapping the shoulder or head of the other players and shrieks “duck!” Then that player gets to picks one person as goose- but this goose gets water poured from a cup poured over his head. The goose stands and chases the water offender one time around the circle. If she’s tagged, that person goes again. If the player reaches the empty spot and sits down before he gets tagged, the goose is passed the cup of water, which is refilled, and they become the new “it”.
  4. Cup Relay. Everyone stands in a line behind an empty bucket. A full bucket is placed further away. The first person in line runs to the full bucket with a cup in hand and attempts to get as much water into the empty bucket then passes the cup to the next person in line. You can also have two teams play to see who can get the most water in their empty bucket.
  5. Water Pinatas. Hang a large balloon full of water from a tree branch, blindfold the kids, and let them have at it. One child at a time with one stick! You might need to give the occasional helpful push to keep them from braining the other kids, but this one has been my kiddo’s favorite. The pinata isn’t pouring out candy, but the blast of water can feel like a water cannon, and it feels amazing.


Gentle Ways to Care for Yourself During the ‘New Normal’

Gentle Ways to Care for Yourself During the ‘New Normal’. Now that we’re adjusting – a little – to the reality that working from home, homeschooling, not working, missing friends, missing family, reconnecting via other ways, and thinking to ourselves “If my husband makes that noise one more time…” Wait. Is that last one just me? Never mind. But it all adds a slightly surreal quality to our navigation in the ‘New Normal.’ But it seems likely that you’re still the lynchpin that keeps everyone together. Are you feeling the strain?


I know, you’ve heard this before, but it’s true that if you don’t care for yourself, no one else will.  Then we either crash from exhaustion and stress or feel bitterly resentful that “we do everything!”  Here’s some simple principles to keep while battling a million different challenges.

Gentle Ways To Care For Yourself During Busy Times

Say no to anything that is not important to you

Laundry, phone calls with your mom, demanding girlfriends – this is not the time to be nice and “responsible.” Give yourself the permission to focus on what’s important. Getting the unessential responsibilities off your schedule will not only create some extra time and space, it will also lighten the burden you’re feeling to keep up with it.


Listen to your favorite music

I’m a little biased here, based on my career, but music can lift the spirit, calm the soul and cleanse anxiety.  Don’t underestimate the value of the right music to guide you through your day.


Ask for help

There’s nothing wrong with asking for help, and you’ll quickly learn that most people around you actually love to be asked! It makes them feel useful and important. What usually helps the most is to get help to do the normal things; cooking, shopping and regular everyday tasks. However, don’t underestimate how important the people in your life can be when it comes to feedback, motivation and supporting your self-confidence regarding the important work you’re doing.


Get enough sleep

I know you hear this so much that it’s likely really annoying at this point. But this old advice is not only essential when it comes to self-care, it is also absolutely essential when it comes to being able to do your best. Particularly important when it comes to exam periods and work stress. It’s easy to think that a few extra hours of work will do you more good, but it won’t. Sleep will.


Make a plan of everything that needs to be done

Instead of juggling all your to-do’s and must-remember’s, write them down on a piece of paper. Then make a plan of how you are going to manage everything before your deadline. Tackle the most stressful ones first. For me, that’s calling clients. I don’t know why, but I’ll avoid this extremely important element for as long as possible- while stressing about it the whole time. You may have to schedule a lot of tasks on certain days, and it may seem like too much to do, but at least you’ll know that everything will get done. Make sure you stick to the plan, every single day. Don’t fall for the temptation to start on tomorrow’s tasks today, trust that the plan will take you there, and enjoy some free time on the days when you finish your tasks early.


Write things down

I am of the belief that as adults, our brains fill up right to the top and stuff starts spilling over. This is why I can’t tie my shoelaces or remember how to work a doorbell. So I write everything down. On my phone, the back of my hand, it doesn’t matter. This way, I don’t have to carry the additional stress of remembering everything I need to remember.


Walk everywhere

You might be busy and think that every minute is valuable time to put into your work, but some extra minutes of walking might be a better way to spend some time. If you live close to where you’re going, it’s better to walk than to use your car. Not only will you enjoy a nice endorphin rush and the self-satisfaction of being all healthy, you also get some important fresh air and daylight. I have a few loops along the Bonneville Shoreline Trail (a wonderful series of trails and switchbacks only 10 minutes out of the city) that I plod along like a draft horse. I get so much thinking done!


Make sure you keep in touch with your friends

Just a few text messages, tweets or the occasional Skype session will make sure your friendships don’t suffer. You will feel much better when you focus on something else entirely, and it will prevent you from becoming a workaholic hermit. You don’t have to keep in touch with everybody, most people will understand that you’re having a busy period. Just make sure you stay in touch with the people that make you happy and inspired.


Make room for rest

This one’s important. Make sure that whenever you plan to rest – really rest. That means that you will have to make a conscious effort to push all work-related thoughts and worries away. It’s also important that you rest your mind as well as your body. 5 minutes of stillness is better than 30 minutes in front of the TV!


Surround yourself with inspiring photos

This can be a formal Vision Board if you have the room or the inclination, or simply photos that matter to you taped to a computer monitor, in a pretty frame or even a screen saver of all your favorite images from Pinterest- I love this option because I create a rotating series of inspiration boards to keep me going. 


Write a daily gratitude list

A daily gratitude list is really helpful to shift your focus and help you appreciate the situation. It doesn’t have to be lengthy, a few sentences will do. If you keep a gratitude journal, you can also look back on your previous entries whenever you need a little boost of happiness and motivation.


Wear your pretty clothes

Don’t save the cute new shirt for “something special,” you needing to feel good is THE “something special.” With your most powerful, wonderful and pretty clothes on, you’ll feel like a goddess for the rest of the day.


Take a hot bath

This is my go-to when it’s been a really rough day. I don’t know if I get any thinking done while I’m prone with a washcloth over my face and the bathroom door locked so my son can’t keep stumbling in. But after, I’m limp and relaxed enough to sleep, whether I want to or not. Plus, an evening bath may be the best way to relax because of this simple fact – you can’t take your work and your computer with you.


Accept a little clutter and mess

Some dust and a little dirt have never hurt anyone. Focus on what’s important to you, you can always clean up the mess later. (I would like to point out this bit of wisdom has a caveat: This only works if you can overlook it, like The Todd, I will only add the mess to my spiraling anxieties and it only gets worse. You know your comfort level.)


Do something silly

Most people would interpret this as an elaborate gag or practical joke. I simply learned a pile of really lame knock-knock jokes. They still crack everyone up, maybe simply because they are so stupid. (Editor’s note: there’s a big ol’ bunch of them right here.)


It sounds counterintuitive, but reach out and connect

There’s so many wonderful ways to connect with our neighbors and friends during times of uncertainty, find a list of ideas here.


(image credit: Pexels)



Kid-Tested (And Kid-Approved) Jokes

Kid-Tested (And Kid-Approved) Jokes. I’m not going to lie, I looked these up with my third-grader as self-defense. There’s only so many “jokes” that don’t go anywhere that I can take, and now that my Zoe’s nine, she is the Queen of Truly Terrible Puns- she can barely get the joke out before dissolving into hysterical laughter.  In honor of April Fool’s Day, if your little people are still open to the fun of the dorky joke, try these on for size…

Kid-Tested (And Kid-Approved) Jokes:

Why do bees have sticky hair?
 -Because they use honeycombs.
Why was the man running around his bed?
 -He wanted to catch up on his sleep.
Why did the chicken cross the playground?
 -To get to the other slide.
What do you call a pig that knows karate?
 – A pork chop!
What does a robot frog say?
 -Rib-bot. (Channeling R2D2)
Why is 6 afraid of 7?
 -Because 7 8 9!
What’s black and white, black and white, black and white?
 -A penguin rolling down a hill!
Why do cows wear bells?
 -Because their horns don’t work!
What does a snail say when it’s riding on a turtle’s back?
How did the barber win the race?
 -He knew a short cut.

Knock Knock Jokes

Knock, knock.
 –Who’s there?
Interrupting cow.
 –Interrupting c..
Knock, knock. 
 -Who’s there?
 –Boo who?
Please don’t cry. It’s only a joke.
Knock, knock.
 –Who’s there?
 –Nobody who?
(Stay silent)
Knock, knock.
 –Who’s there?
Little old lady.
 –Little old lady who?
I didn’t know you could yodel!
Knock, knock.
 –Who’s there?
Cows say.
 –Cows say who?
No silly, cows say moo!
Knock, knock.
  -Who’s there?
Owls say.
 –Owls say who?
Knock, knock.
 –Who’s there?
 –Tank who?
You’re welcome!

Even More Kid-Tested (And Kid-Approved) Jokes

What is brown and sticky? –A stick!
Why did half a chicken cross the road? – To get to his other side
How do you make a tissue dance? – Put a little boogie in it.
Knock, knock. – Who’s there? Smell mop. – Smell mop who?
Where do library books like to sleep? – Under their covers!
Why can’t a bicycle stand up by itself? – Because it’s two-tired!
Knock, knock. – Who’s there? Yourself. – Yourself who? Your cell phone’s ringing you better answer it.
What did zero say to eight? – Nice belt!
Where do sheep get their wool cut? – At the BAAAbars!
What’s mom and dad’s favorite ride at a fair? – A married-go-round!
Where do cows go on Friday night? – To the MOOOvie theater.
Where did the king keep his armies? – In his sleevies!
And my Zoe’s favorite…
Knock, knock. –Who’s there? Banana. –Banana who? Knock, knock. –Who’s there? Banana –Banana who? Knock, knock. – Who’s there? Orange. –Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say banana again?

Boost Your Business – Sign Up With The Shop Locally Utah Guide!

Boost Your Business – Sign Up With The Shop Locally Utah Guide! So … how would you like your locally-based product or service introduced to over 200,000 of our close, personal friends over the next 30 days? For as low as $100 a month, become part of our Shop Locally Utah Guide! Contact us at toddanderinshow@gmail.com to get started.


This is the year more and more Utahns are resolving to shop locally – to buy from businesses here – instead of a faceless conglomerate. Be one of the wealth of lovely locals to provide the perfect gift or service. Send us a message at toddanderinshow@gmail.com for more info. Jewelry? Clothing? Woodwork? Pet products? House cleaning? Quilts? Snow shoveling? Local eatery? This is your time to shine. You can see how you’d be profiled here and here.


Adding your local offering to the Todd & Erin’s Shop Locally Utah Guide puts you in front of over 140,000 of our Pinterest friends within every month, along with 110,000 of our Facebook buddies, and countless more on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, on the Todd and Erin Daily Stream show and on our email newsletter to 5,600 friends every other week.


Boost Your Business – Sign Up With The Todd & Erin “Shop Locally” Guide!

For an investment as low as $100, we’ll highlight your business and make sure that when Utahns are thinking shopping, they’re thinking you. You can find more information about our media reach here. It’s going to be a blast! Be one of the cool kids! Contact us at toddanderinshow@gmail.com to get started.


Bring the Joy: Because Nothing Makes You Happier Than Nothing Bundt Cakes

Bring the Joy: Because Nothing Makes You Happier Than Nothing Bundt Cakes. Starting this new decade was trickier than I thought. 2020 opened up with lots of turmoil, and if you’ve got someone in your life who’s struggling, sometimes a small gesture of kindness can make all the difference.

I’m thinking a glorious Nothing Bundt Cake with cream cheese frosting is a great start. So … maybe your cubicle buddy is having a hard time, your best friend, a neighbor. Send us their story – please include contact information, email, or a phone number please! We’ll be personally delivering a gorgeous cake to a new winner each week.

Look what a nice person you are!

Also… just a reminder that it’s buy one and get one free at the Sandy location of Nothing Bundt Cakes when you mention us, Todd and Erin. One for you, one free for someone you like. (Erin here: I’ll be honest. When it comes to Nothing Bundt Cakes, the someone I like best is ME. I don’t share.) 10389 South State Street in Sandy. Tell April “Hi” for us, would you?

Share the Joy: Give One, Get One Free Bundlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sandy

Share the Joy: Give One, Get One Free Bundlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sandy.

There’s nothing better to send a surge of joy through me than a mouthful of velvety cream cheese frosting. If it’s attached to a Nothing Bundt Cake, so much the better.

My beautiful friend April, who owns Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sandy, Utah is all about spreading the joy. So in the month of January, when you purchase a Bundtlet, you get one free to share with someone who needs a little joy in their life. It’s April’s way of rewarding you for spreading happiness. Stop by 10389 South State Street in Sandy, mention us – Todd and Erin – and your buy one, get one free Bundtlets are just waiting to leap into your hands. Or your mouth. I don’t care where I eat mine, I have zero self-control.

(Cover image credit: Pixabay)

An Exhaustive List Of Every Christmas Light Show Along The Wasatch Front

An Exhaustive List Of Every Christmas Light Show Along The Wasatch Front. I must hate myself. Really.  I do this to myself EVERY YEAR, but to my Littles, the light cruises are an indispensable part of the Holidays.  We circle city blocks for hours, marveling at the lights and amazing creations that people with more time, money and (clearly) intelligence can put together. Since the only thing it has to cost you is a gallon or two of gas, it’s one of the most affordable options. Here’s a breakdown by county along the Wasatch Front, including the wildly enthusiastic amateurs. You’re welcome.

(Editor’s note: if you’re looking for more ways to instill meaning and fun into the Holidays with the people you love, take a look at our post on “Creating Holiday Traditions” here.  And what about taking care of yourself, enjoying the Holidays instead of just “getting through another one,” by checking out our tips here.)


An Exhaustive List Of Every Christmas Light Show Along The Wasatch Front



Utah County:

6-10-pm: Spanish Fork Festival of Lights-runs every night through New Year’s Day. Tickets $7-30.

6:30-10pm: The Christmas Light Cruise on the Provo River-tickets are $8.00, children under 2 free.

5:30-10:30pm: Pond Town in Salem-a sweet light display on the pond at the center of town, free admission. The display runs through 1.2.15

5-10pm: The Shops At Riverwoods-is ablaze with lights through January 1, 2018.  There’s carriage rides Friday, Saturday and Monday.  Free admission, small charge for the carriage rides.

5-10pm: Provo Town Center-watch the free holiday light and music show through December 31, free admission. 351 W Center St, Provo

5-10:30pm: Christmas in Color– now at the Utah Lake Stake Park – Marina, 4400 Center St, Provo. $25-30 per car- no limit on how many passengers.


The Plucky Non-Professionals UC: free admission

936 S 200 E, Orem: 100,000 lights set to music

Adam says to be sure to hit the Fibernet building in Orem. The building is just East of the University Mall-they’ve added even more lights this year!


Salt Lake County:

5-10pm: The Lights At Temple Square-of course, the Grand MamaJama of all holiday lights is the heart-stopping display at Temple Square.  Open seven days a week through December 31, admission is free.  Be sure to stop by the reflecting pool.

6-9pm: Candlelight Christmas at This Is The Place State Park-discover the warm glow of a pioneer Christmas with dancing, crafts and a visit with Father Christmas.  Dude.  Hardcore…  Tickets: adults $11, kids $8, children under 2 free.  Runs December 8-27 Monday through Saturday, closed 24-25th.

5:30-9pm: Zoo Lights at Utah’s Hogle Zoo-I’m seriously considering putting sunglasses on the kids this year, it’s that wildly colored and bright.  Open through December 31st, tickets are $4-6 for members, and $7-5 for non-members.

5-11pm: Light Up The Night At The Gateway Mall-hundreds of thousands of lights. including a wildly rotating color wheel on their gigantic Christmas Tree.  Free admission, open through January 2, 2018.

Noon-6pm: Gallivan Center Ice Skating Rink and Light Display-gorgeous neon splashes of color all over the Gallivan Center, plus ice skating and a fire barrel! Check here for sudden closures or schedule changes.  Admission to see the lights is free, ice rink is a small fee.

5-10pm: The Lights At Gardner Village-there’s free admission and Elf Hunts!  Runs through December 31.

Dusk to 11pm: The “Tree Of Life” is a beautiful addition to the Draper City Park–thousands of white lights that have created kind of a draw for spiritual seekers to the tree.  Draper City Park, 12500 South 1300 East.

5:30-11pm: Christmas in Color – a high-tech animated display from the group that creates the Midway Ice Castles. $20 per car on weekdays, $25 on weekends. (No limit to how many per car.) Salt Lake County Equestrian Park, 11161 s 2200 W, South Jordan.



The Plucky Non-Professionals SLC: free admission

Christmas Street: 5400 South 3200 West, Salt Lake City.  Best seen on foot.

Christmas Street Sugarhouse: the oldest neighborhood to claim the title here in Utah. Glen Arbor St, Salt Lake City

Christenson & Hymas Light Display: tune your radio to 99.5 for the music that goes with the show. 11693 S. 700 E., Draper

Frosty’s Winter Wonderland: something new goes up every night, slow for a moment and Frosty or one of his kids will trot over to hand you a candy cane. 805 E 18th Ave, Salt Lake City

1528 W 8740 S, West Jordan:

Lights on Wakefield: if you’d like to donate, they’re raising money for the Mascot Miracles Foundation (pediatric cancer) tune your radio to 87.9fm. 6388 S. Wakefield Way (5885 W.)


Toole County: 

6-9pm: Clark Historic Farm, live nativity and luminary walk.  Tickets $2 per person, or $1 with food donation.


The Plucky Non-Professionals TC: free admission

Lights on 1310: Sunday-Thursday 6-10pm, Friday-Saturday 6-11pm

Wait!  There’s more from the Toole Transcript here.



Davis County:

Dusk-11pm: Layton City Lights In The Park-free admission, open through January 1.


The Plucky Non-Professionals DC: free admission.

1600 S 1100 W, Syracuse: 25 years of light display madness

2413 N 2100 W, Clinton:

1385 S 2600 W, Syracuse:

354 E 200 S, Clearfield

223 N 1400 W, Clearfield: Christmas lights dance to the music, set your channel to 93.7fm

The Lights On Sherwood Drive: huge display in Kaysville – 5:30-10pm


Weber County:

5-9pm: Ogden’s Christmas Village-free admission, meet with Santa, take a tour of the homes.  Crafts, photos with Santa and food available for sale.  Runs through December 31.



The Plucky Non-Professionals WC: free admission

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Exeter Dr, Morgan: admission is free, but they’re asking for donations for Primary Children’s Medical Center if you’re so inclined.


Box Elder County:

5-10pm: Fantasy At The Bay, Willard Bay State Park-my kids LOVE this wonderful display.   Take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the lights for free, but PLEASE tip the driver–this sweet man offers the service for free because he doesn’t want any child disappointed.  Admission is 50% off on Wednesdays, and get a $1.00 off coupon here.  It’s worth the drive.  Open through December 31, seven days a week.


The Plucky Non-Professionals BEC: free admission:

The Hooper Holiday House:  The Goodrich family is proud to invite you, turn the radio to 90.5 for musical accompaniment.

Tremonton-102 S Tremont St: lights synchronized to music, 5:30-11pm


Heading down south?

St. George has a huge collection of Holiday light displays, and the ambitious Braden with HedgeHog Electric compiled them all for you–it’s part of a fundraising drive for the Southwest Utah Habitat For Humanity.  You can find that excellent Holiday map here.

The St. George LDS Temple’s light display is back and exceptionally beautiful this year. Details here.


Okay, seriously, I can no longer feel my fingers.  I’ve been writing this post for the last 5 hours.  Yet, there are more! Be sure to check here for more enthusiastic amateurs.  There’s bound to be a house or two near you.  I’m sure that there’s great places I’ve missed.  Please add your two cents in a comment below.  C’mon!  It’s for the children…

Stuff I Do Not Get About The Holidays

Stuff I do NOT get about the Holidays. A few years ago on Christmas Eve morning, The Todd and I shared in something utterly amazing. Late the night before, I’d been on the phone with a frantic coordinator from one of the local community refugee services. Four families from the Sudan just arrived in Salt Lake City pretty much with only the clothes on their backs, family members lost along the way, but here. We had only a few frantic hours of social media begging and pleading before we (hoped) everyone would:

  • Spring into action on the busiest day of the year during our morning radio show which starts at 5AM.
  • Bring 4 families everything from boots and coats to microwaves and bedding.
  • Wrap and organize all the presents, remembering what sweater went to which kid in which family.
  • And.
  • Help us deliver everything.


(photo credit: Ridvan Yumlu)
(cover image credit: Dwight Burdette)

This is how made of Awesome our friends and listeners are: they did it. In less than 3 hours. With so much left to spare that we had to make another stop at the YWCA to drop off presents there, too. It was like the Attack of the Christmas Ninjas.

pile of presents

(photo credit: JustinRussel)

After meeting these little people, getting snuggles and dropping off the gifts, I don’t think I could be more in love with them. Their first Christmas. How do you even PROCESS something like Christmas when you come from war-torn Sudan? We tried to explain. But since there are things about the Holiday I sure as heck don’t understand, I’m not sure how well I did.

Stuff I Do NOT Get About The Holidays

elf on the shelf

(photo credit: Michael Kappel)

1. Elf On The Shelf:

Really? Where is he from? Why is he here? Why are parents required to spend hours rearranging him into thousands of different scenarios that would likely have gotten me spanked as a child if I’d tried them? Does anyone remember the last loveable children’s doll that started moving around by itself? Does “Chucky” ring a bell? Look at that face. The Elf on the Shelf is not your friend. Those beady eyes and that insincere smile are identical to those of the guys who roll tourists and steal their organs for the black market. Trust the Elf on the Shelf and I’ll bet you wake up in a bathtub of ice with your kidneys and pancreas missing.

santa radio

(photo credit: Don the up north memo)

2. The Mad Dash For Christmas Music:

This is the curse of my career. Listening to my Program Director fret. This conversation is precisely why I am so happy I don’t work in radio anymore.

Him: “Should we go All Christmas? Should we do it now?”

Me: “Don, it’s August 16th.”

Him: “Yeah, but the guys at KZOW will go All-Christmas before October.  You know they will!”

The true horror of this conversation? K-whatever likely will go All-Christmas before you’re even figuring out what the kids are wearing on Halloween. And then we’ll have to go All-Christmas. And guess what?  There are like, 3 Christmas songs you actually know, along with Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah” which we throw in for “diversity.” So, we have a playlist of maybe 30 songs and I am forced to listen to the Backstreet Boys sing “Jingle Bells” 3,912 times before the personal hell that the Holidays have become is over.

Which leads me to…

chriatmas shoes

3. The Christmas Shoes:

I recognize that anyone I haven’t managed to offend by thinking the Elf on a Shelf is creepy is going to hate me for believing with every fiber of my being that this Holiday staple is an abomination. Look, taste in music is subjective and personal. Like Patrick Henry and freedom … or … like … whatever he was defending, I will defend to the death your right to love this song as long as you know it is created from carcinogens, murder and the tears of children. You do not know what it is like having to hear the overwrought wailing of the singer from New Song caterwauling “Hiiiiit was nearly Chriiiiiistmus tiiiime” over and over and over again during the Holidays. I want you to be happy, I do. I want you to be sitting in your car gripping the steering wheel with a single tear coursing down your cheek as you realize the True Meaning Of The Holidays. I want you to be listening to our show when this happens. I just don’t you to be listening to “The Christmas Shoes.” Because that means I am being forced to listen to it, too. (Editor’s note: if you really, really hate “The Christmas Shoes” too, you need to watch Patton Oswald’s diatribe. You will laugh so hard you will sever an internal organ. (Be warned that it has naughty language. Like swearing and sacrilegious stuff. Very, VERY very naughty language. Very. Wait. Never mind. Don’t watch it.)

red kettle

(photo credit: 19melissa68)

4. Smarmy Bell-Ringers:

Dude, I am here for you. My kids save a portion of their allowance every year for the Bell-Ringers because they love to put the money in the bucket or boot or whatever you’re using. We have had the discussion of where their money goes. They know little kids like them need a nice Holiday, too. But while we’re doing it, could you avoid doing the following?

  • Hitting on me. Did you notice I’m wearing a wedding ring, Casanova?
  • Hitting on my underage children.
  • Commenting on the cake in my shopping bag, “Man, that’s got a lot of calories. You sure you need that?”
  • Yelling at my children when they drop the change and have to try it again. It’s windy. Your bucket is a moving target, brother. Chill out.

(Editor’s note: let me say that I was a bell-ringer once for the Salvation Army and proud to be so.  They are good people and an amazing organization. I cannot tell you what these people go through. During the course of one live radio morning show from my chilly corner, one kid stuck his chewed gum under my bucket like it was the underside of his desk. Several people flipped me off. One guy agreed to give a one-dollar donation but “Only if I could break a $100.00.” So I get it. I do. But maybe find a date on your time off, okay?)

bad christmas

(photo credit: Steven Yeh)

5. Spending The Big Day With People You Hate:

I learned this important fact a long time ago. Family is sometimes what you create, not what you were born with. I’ve heard unspeakable stories of abuse, (emotional, physical and more) during the holidays. I have friends who go into a deep depression this time of year because they can’t take another day of dreadful memories, but they feel obligated to revisit the House of Horrors. “It’s the Holidays!” family members hiss, “We’ll all be there but YOU!  What’s wrong with you!” If this is you, I want you to click on this link right now and listen to Dr. Julie Hanks talk about spending the holidays alone, rather than with a toxic family. It will change the way you look at the holidays.

I feel very lucky to have been blessed with a riotous, weird, wonderful family that I’m thrilled to see.

(Editor’s note: Not that it’s perfect. Last Christmas, my sisters and I actually invented a drinking game where we took a swig of eggnog for every time our Dad told us we were:

  • Fat
  • Had big feet
  • Had weird teeth–“Are those fake?”
  • Took away our dessert and ate it, saying “I’m trying to save you from those calories.”
  • Said… “Your child is badly behaved.”
  • “Is that the adopted one?”
  • “Where’s the smart one at?”
  •  “That one is too short to be related to me.”

All of us were three sheets to the wind by 10pm. Although my father has always done this, he now has dementia and we can’t do anything about it. Except smile vaguely and walk away. Sorry, that was a long Editor’s note.)

So, what do you do?

You didn’t get the good, weird, fun family? Gather with friends you like, change up the holiday and go bowling and eat Thai food. Do what makes you happy and honors a day where we celebrate something that is sacred to each of us. And if all else fails, come over to my house. There’s usually, like 256 of us and with all the add-ons, only half or so speak English. I’ll find you someone who speaks the words you understand. Unless you’re the annoying one.  In which case I’m sitting you next to my father.

What Makes a Woman Beautiful? Ask a Pin-up “Goddess” Photographer

What Makes a Woman Beautiful? Ask a Pin-up “Goddess” Photographer.

What makes a woman beautiful? It takes a lot of courage to pose as a luscious, pouting pin-up girl when you’re not a size 2. Who better to ask than photographer Alyssa Chambers, owner of “Bonnie’s Joy Pin-up & Boudoir.” While we’ve been sharing the gorgeousness of Alyssa’s work, the question I hear over and over (and from myself, trust me) is “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that! Maybe when I’ve lost 20 pounds…”

Instead of trying to explain it, I thought going straight to the source – to a photographer who has lovingly photographed women of all sizes, shapes, and ages and asked her what makes a woman beautiful. If you get a little verklempt watching this, maybe you’re ready to become luscious and pouting and book a session for yourself.

Want to know more about Alyssa and the process? Have a look here. This IS the perfect holiday gift, and there’s a special offer for supporting your local businesses. You can also find Alyssa on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her website here.