Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Familyman - A TOS Homeschool Review

Review Crew

Have you ever read or listened to anything by Todd Wilson, The Familyman?

Recently a select group from the Homeschool Review Crew received one CD"Cootie McKay's Nativity",  from The Familyman's Christmas Treasury - Audio Collection and all eight Christmas stories in the form of Digital Downloads.  "Cootie McKay's Nativity" was the first one I listened to, because I was able to play it in the van while I was out and about! 
Christmas will be here before you know it! This Treasury is the perfect thing to pull out right after Thanksgiving to get everyone psyched for the Christmas season! 

The Treasury includes the following stories:
  • Cootie McKay's Nativity;
  • Captain Chaos;
  • Gladys Remembers Christmas;
  • Harold Grubbs;
  • It's Called Christmas;
  • The Bishop's Dream;
  • The Secret of Snow Village;
  • The Stranger
The stories are all written by Todd Wilson and read by Jim Hodges. 

Over the weeks since I received the stories, I've listened to each one. What a great way to prepare mentally for Christmas! So, let me preface this by letting you know I tend to be a Christmas decorating humbug. I have a hard enough time getting normal cleaning done (dusting, sweeping, decluttering). Each year the idea of decorating for Christmas just about puts me over the edge. And hovering in my brain is the thought that each item taken out, in four short weeks, needs to be put away. And then there is the group of normal decorations that are stored in the attic for that month while the Christmas decorations are out -- one year my normal decorations were lost in the attic for a year because they were never found when it was time to put "Christmas" back into storage. So, yeah, I'm a humbug.

I really did welcome the opportunity to have my Christmas spirit softened, so I listened to Todd Wilson's stories with an open heart. Let me tell you about them.

The first story I listened to was Cootie McKay's Nativity, because I received a CD copy and was able to listen to it in the car. I wanted to share the experience, but my family wasn't ready to prepare for Christmas in September, so I listened alone. In this story, seemingly set somewhere in the middle states in the 1950's, the conflict begins when a loved older woman accidentally destroys the town's nativity by driving over it in her car.

Because it was tradition to have the nativity, they wanted it replaced, but they had no funds to replace it. The town had an eccentric man who lived there, had no job (lived off an inheritance), and liked to collect junk, which he turned into art. Someone decided they needed to ask this man, Cootie McKay, if they would make them a new nativity, to be on the Town Hall lawn the day after Thanksgiving. Cootie agrees.

Will Cootie get the nativity made in time? What will a nativity made out of junk look like? Will it be an embarrassment? The story is worth the listen, and I expected it would be my favorite story of the set.

Captain Chaos was an interesting story. A little boy, Jason, convinced that the Bible version of the nativity story is too boring, tries to embellish the story as he tells it to his sister, Martha Ann. Infusing scripture with adventure as a result of his super hero, Captain Chaos' presence, Jason gets in trouble with mom and is sent to bed early.

Lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, playing with his Captain Chaos action figure, Jason is suddenly transported to a parallel reality. Because of a comment he had made when with Martha Ann, Captain Chaos has made the nativity disappear as if it had never occurred.

Like a child's version of "It's a Wonderful Life", Jason sees what it would be like if Jesus had never come. It is a fun story for the children to listen to and will help them to appreciate the birth of our Lord.

Gladys Romembers Christmas should have had a "trigger warning" for me. ::sigh:: Gladys is in her 50's. Her mom died when she was six years old, and after that her dad never quite recovered his joy. He met his kids' needs, but Gladys never felt loved. And growing up, Christmas wasn't special -- no decorations, no tree, no church, no warm memories.

As Christmas approaches this year, Gladys's dad, aged 94, has just been moved to a nursing home and Gladys is cleaning out the family home. Her father has requested that Gladys locate some green box in the attic to bring to the nursing home to him. As she works on the house, she contemplates her childhood memories and compared her family's Christmases to those of others. Christmas was a time when everyone else was happy and she was not.

Then Gladys located the green box. Suddenly she was transported to her childhood, when her mother was still alive, and it was not like a memory, but she was actually there! This beautiful story tells how Gladys came to remember her past differently, which helped transform her future.

This story is hard for me for several reasons. First, I am a Christmas humbug in my 50's. Second, my mom has passed away, albeit not when I was six. Third, if my father were still alive he would be 91 right now. Fourth, sorting through the family home fell to me. Listening to this story, I cried. But it is a good story! It made me want to go bake cookies for my kids to have good Christmas memories!

Harold Grubbs was a fun, interesting story a dad tells to his kids about the Christmas vest he wears every year, how he came to have the vest and why he wears it. There is a meaning behind the  vest and the item in each pocket. Dad has a reason why he wears the vest. This story made me want to find the Christmas vest my mother-in-law gave to me and put it on! I don't think I have it any more, though. It never looked very good on me. It didn't fit properly. Maybe I'll have to make myself one!

It's Called Christmas gave me goosebumps! You know how some people seem to be trying to rewrite history? Christmas has been written out of existence! People celebrate "The Holiday" in winter, but no one calls it Christmas. No one even knows what "Christmas" means.

Then a boy at a store makes a purchase and wishes the checker a "Happy Holiday". The checker leans toward the boy, and with a twinkle in his eye quietly says, "It's called 'Christmas'!"

The boy heads home, but the comment is bothering him. "What is 'Christmas'?" He begins a quest to find out and learns the term has been wiped from history! This story smacks of erie, like the book 1984 and the old Soviet Union, with someone who says the "wrong" thing disappearing one night and never being found... A very good story!


The Bishop's Dream is an interesting spin of a way to tell the real story of "Santa Claus". I love it!


The Secret of Snow Village represents another story that shifts the space time continuum, as one little girl learns the story behind Grandma's snow village display and finds what she was looking for (even though she didn't know she was looking for something). Great story! Very fun.


The Stranger reminded me of the way, in some churches I have visited I have wondered if, if Jesus himself were to visit, would he be welcome? There is also that verse about, "Some have entertained angels unaware..."  How would you react if a stranger, seeking shelter, knocked on your door on Christmas Eve?


This is a wonderful collection of Christmas stories! I've downloaded them to my computer, but I don't know how to burn them to a CD that will play in my car. (MP3s won't play in my car.) But I did figure out how to play them on my phone and iPad as well. This set is reasonably priced, and I think you will like it. Consider purchasing to start listening to on the day after Thanksgiving. Start with Cootie McKay's Nativity!

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