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A Dad's Night Before Christmas

1Abridged and annotated, with all due respect to Clement Clarke Moore.

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, 2 not even a mouse.

2Not a creature was stirring? On Christmas Eve? You're kidding, right? My sons are too excited to sleep when they know that they'll be having frozen waffles in the morning. When they're aware that a certain someone with a humongous BAGFUL of toys is dropping by — forget about it! It will take a couple of reindeer tranquilizers to get these guys to bed.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads. 3

3OK, the reindeer tranquilizers worked (just joking). Still, I can guarantee that my boys are not dreaming about sugar-plums. They're envisioning trains, trains, and more trains. When Santa asked my five-year-old what he wanted for Christmas, he replied in a quick and steady voice, "GeoTrax trains, Thomas & Friends trains, HO-scale electric trains, G-gauge garden trains, and a real steam engine with coal." Santa said, "Let me get this straight, you're asking for coal? Hmm, I'll have to see if we carry that."

Note to all children out there: be careful not to focus too much on one type of toy. Back when I was a kid, my older brother took a liking to pigs one year. That Christmas, he received every pig novelty item available — pig board game, pig calendar, stuffed animal pig, pig slippers, pig-shaped candy, etc. Thereafter, my brother earned the nickname "Pigs." When my grandfather heard me calling my brother that one day, he sternly intoned, "Pigs? That's a heckuva name to call someone." It was hilarious.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,

I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter. 4

4 No I didn't. I stayed right there in bed under the covers. I adhere to a strict policy of ignoring late-night clatter from out on the lawn. "Why?" you might ask. Well, the last time I heard clatter and sprang from the bed to see what was the matter, I kneecapped myself on a dresser drawer that my wife had left open. Never again.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof the prancing and pawing of each little hoof.

5 As I drew in my head, and was turning around, down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

5 Oh, boy — that prancing and pawing on the roof is going to set the dog off for sure. She's old, but I'm telling you, she hears everything. If someone sneezes in the next county, she jumps up and her doggy anxiety kicks in. She pants and paces and starts chewing things up. Unfortunately, instead of seeing the ghost of Jacob Marley tonight, I'll be watching the ghost of Marley (that whacked-out dog from the popular book and movie) shred the bedroom carpet to pieces.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot and his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot. 6

6 Fur? Really, Santa? PETA is not going to be happy about that. And, I can tell you that I won't be too big on you dragging the ashes and soot all over our new, ivory-colored living room rug either. With two young boys, an old dog, and a Santa-who-doesn't-even-bother-to-take-his-boots-off-in-the-house traipsing around, why did we choose that ivory-colored rug anyhow?

He had a broad face and a little round belly 7 that shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

7 Every time I look in the mirror, I try to convince myself that a little round belly is cool. That it's hip. That it's the style. And a receding hairline — that's awesome, too, right? Come on, who am I kidding? Santa, I hope you brought me the will power to resist glazed doughnuts and a bottle of that fancy North Pole Hair Regrowth Formula for Men.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work and filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk. 8

8 OK, this is the stanza where you point to the jerk standing next to you. That was a classic gag when we were kids. Let's try it again, "Then turned with a JERK." Go ahead, point! OK, my wife didn't appreciate that as much as my little brother did 25 years ago.

But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he drove out of sight,

"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!" 9

9 Truly, the holidays are a great time of year, whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Festivus for the Rest of Us. Amid the insane hustle and bustle, make sure that you take enough time to enjoy the season with your children. These are times that get etched in a child's memory forever!

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