Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year's Rockin' Eve

I admit it -- I like Christmas music. I will listen to it on the radio, and I don't mind the fact two Salt Lake City stations start playing holiday tunes the first weekend of November. Usually, the week before Christmas, all I'm listening to is holiday music. But sometime on Christmas day (usually around noon), I turn off the holiday music for good and swtich to countdowns.

My first year-end countdown wasn't on the radio, but on TV in 1979 when "Solid Gold" premiered. Before it was a series, "Solid Gold '79" was a one-time syndicated special that aired on WGN in Chicago and starred Dionne Warwick and Glenn Campbell. A couple weeks later, I listened to the Big 89 of 1979 on WLS. My parents had gone out for New Year's Eve, and I listened to the whole countdown on the radio while a babysitter watched us.

Thus began an annual tradition of listening to the Big 89 every New Year's Eve. The next year, I camped out in my room with a Hardy Boys book and an old electric radio with fake wood paneling and with a penchant to buzz loud static on the AM dial. My parents eventually went out and left us with a sitter, and though I came out of my room, I kept listening the rest of the night until the new year, then listened to the WLS Time Warp -- a 20-minute montage of songs throughout WLS' history as a rock station.

Over the years, what we did on New Year's Eve changed, and I didn't always listen to the whole countdown, but the Big 89 was always part of my Dec. 31. But WLS was chainging, its FM station spun off and became more of a top 40 station I (and began doing it's own countdown during the day), and, well, as I got older, there were other things to do on New Year's Eve.

A couple decades later, the WLS end-of-year surveys made it to the Internet. I still had the Time Warp on tape and have converted it to mp3. I own a lot of '80s music (and a fair amount of '70s top 40 as well) and an iPod. All this translates to re-creating those countdowns as playlists on my iPod. I have assembled the countdowns from 1979 to 1986 (the last year WLS did a Big 89). I think of doing some earlier years, but it doesn't feel right to create a playlist of a countdown that I didn't actually hear the first time.

So the week after Christmas, I listen to these countdowns again. I'm going to culminate countdown week with 1980, 30 years after I tried to dial away the static while reading a Hardy Boys book. I remember the first song of that countdown: "Whip It" by Devo. Whip it good.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas present

Today was Christmas Eve, and it may have been my best Christmas Eve ever. It wasn't spectacular -- we didn't have anything spectacular planned or any trips to take. It was just ... nice.

We got out around 11:30 and went to lunch at Chili's with some gift cards we were given. The boys were starving and ate well. They would need the energy.

We went to the zoo next. This isn't the first time we've gone to the zoo on Christmas Eve. It's never that crowded, the animals are usually pretty active, and it's something to take our minds -- especially the boys' minds -- off the fact that it's Christmas Eve. The zoo didn't disappoint. Though the elephants were inside, we got to see lemurs being fed (they liked blueberries), the giraffes grazing on Christmas trees hanging in their indoor pens, a gorilla charge toward the glass at someone (not us, but it did scare the heck out of the couple) and the most active tigers I've ever seen at a zoo (ours has five, including three male cubs that aren't little anymore -- I swear one of them was eying Littlest and thinking "he's the smallest prey out there"). We stayed at the zoo for about two hours -- a long time, considering the train and carousel weren't open and we didn't let the boys play on the playground. It was just that good a zoo visit.

We came home but didn't have much time to relax, as our church's Christmas children's Mass was at 4 p.m. We got there just in time before it really filled up and we weren't stuck in back. We hadn't been to this mass in a couple years, and with a new pastor, it was better -- he invited the kids to sit up near the altar for the homily, then had them come up after Communion to sing "Silent Night" to the nativity scene and "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to their families. The boys did surprisingly well for a 90-minute mass, with the only blip being Littlest having to go potty near the end of the homily (I managed to get him to the bathroom, and rest assured, he wasn't bluffing ...).

We left Mass, came home, had some appetizer foods in advance of dinner and let the boys open their presents to each other. Each got a video game, and we played both (can I recommend "Just Dance Kids" to other parents with kids under 10 who like to move). We then ate dinner, watched "Year Without a Santa Claus," prepared stuff for Santa, got the boys into bed and read them "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and "The Polar Express." They eventually fell asleep, and Wife and I watched the second half of "It's a Wonderful Life" and prepared the house for the morning (including getting the presents out -- thankfully, we had everything wrapped already). Wife went to bed, and I'm here blogging and listening to Christmas music, hoping the boys don't wake us up at 6.

Again, it was nothing spectacular today, and nothing close to snow (high 30s and gray today; it's supposed to get into the 40s tomorrow). But it was just a nice Christmas Eve, one I won't ever forget.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas past

As I sorted through the boys' presents today in preparation for wrapping them for Christmas, I started thinking back to the Christmas holiday when I was younger and the presents I once got. Sadly, it's easy to remember specific Christmastimes in terms of what presents I received and less about the experiences leading up to and including the holiday. It's not all presents -- I remember not falling asleep one year, my dad watching "The Main Event" and "Alien" on video while I tried to sleep in my bedroom next to the living room, and the incredibly warm Christmas of 1982. All those memories are for another post; this one is strictly a look back at the presents. So here it goes, by year and what I remembered getting:

1977: Simon, Super Jock Football (I also may have gotten Super Jock Soccer this Christmas)
1978: Mattel electronic football
1979: Electronic Detective, Chutes Away
1980: Risk, electronic Space Invaders (which I own again, found one on eBay)
1981: Missile Command, Maze Craze, Video Pinball, Dungeons and Dragons basic set
1982: Atari 400
1983: Columbia 10-speed bike, Monster Manual II
1984: Dual cassette boombox
1986: A lot of clothes (including my only pair of suspenders), Bruce Springsteen Live 1975-86, Sears stereo w/turntable

1987: Ghosts and Goblins, Ikari Warriors
1988: Super Mario handheld game/clock
1989: Leather bomber jacket, brown fedora
1990: Gameboy


As I type these up (and I'm sure there's more if I really thought about it), there are a lot of electronics and video games. Things haven't changed much over 30 years.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The no-manic Monday

As promised in my last post, I took it easy on Monday, the first weekday of winter break. It was relaxing, to say the least.

The day wasn't completely lazy. We did make it to Smith's Marketplace to do some last-minute Christmas shopping. The trip there did bring the funniest moment of the day when I had Eldest try on a pair of pants (he's getting to tall for his current non-sweatpants). He's in the dressing room and taking a long time, and I asked if everything is OK. He says the pants are caught on something, and I go in to check and discover the pants are caught on something: the original pants he was wearing that he never took off! After he figured out his mistake, he started over, only to put the new pants on backward. Needless to say, we didn't buy the khakis that so confused him.

After finally getting our Christmas lights hung up on the porch, we took the boys to see Santa. This is the same Santa to whom we've taken the boys for six years running, getting a picture every year. Littlest was excited, but Eldest froze when he was asked what he wanted for Christmas. We met some friends at Santa and went to dinner across the street from his shack, then looked at some Christmas lights on the way home.

Things will get back on track a little Tuesday. They have to -- I have to work Tuesday night. But today was the uneventful Monday I'd been craving all football season (I've been working Sunday nights since September). I think the boys needed it, too.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Winter break

The boys' winter breaks have begun. It seems early this year for it to start -- I would have expected them to go through next Tuesday or Wednesday or so -- but they are getting two whole weeks before starting school again on Jan. 3.

I am looking forward to Monday. The whole month has been a jumbled mess of school, co-oping, biddy basketball, Little Gym, swim lessons, a birthday party, newsletters, freelance work and various other commitments that Monday, without any of it, should will be a welcome break. Tuesday should be nice too.

By Wednesday, will the boys start driving me a little batty? Will I miss all the driving and working? Will I be craving Jan. 3, agreeing with the reference of "Mom and Dad can't wait for school to start again" in the holiday song "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas"?

I don't know. I'm think Wednesday might not be my tipping point, but the Monday after Christmas. In the meantime, I need to plan play dates and activities out of the house for these two weeks. And I need to remember that come Jan. 3, the craziness starts again and I might be coveting these two weeks again.