Xmas Heroes – Parents

Xmas Heroes – Parents

What would Christmas be without parents? As much as Christmas has become a child-focused affair, it really depends on the parents to bring the magic to the holiday. Having been on both sides of the spectrum, I can say this is completely true.

My parents did such a wonderful job of making Christmastime special for my sister and me. My mother spent weeks ahead of the big day baking cookies. It was a great time for togetherness. She put on the Bing Crosby album and stacked up the Chipmunks behind it and we began making and baking the cookies that would go into Tupperware containers until family and friends came by. My father got out the electric racetrack and we raced our little cars for hours on end. We all sat together and watched Christmas specials and holiday movies on TV. We all got together and played board games and cards. Weather permitting, we went out and had snowball fights and built forts. It was such a wonderful experience and gave me a lifelong love for the holiday season.

On the flip side, as a parent I get no greater joy than burying my wife and kids in presents and watching holiday movies together. Creating a place where my kids can enjoy the magic of the holidays is an annual challenge and goal for me. If you’re anything like me, the thrill of finding a 24×7 Christmas music station is a harbinger of marvelous things to come. I’m no Clark Griswold, but I do like things to be a bit over the top for the holidays. I like having decorations in every corner of the house. I like having all the tastes and smells of the season available throughout the month of December and even the weeks before and after.

Honestly, I miss the days of counting down the days until Christmas and having a mountain of presents mysteriously appear beneath the tree. That was a real treat. It made the holidays genuinely magical for me. That being said, I never cease to be amazed at just how the magic continues to apply. As the parents, it is our job to make those presents mysteriously appear for Christmas morning. The amazing thing is that we actually put it together. Having slowly gathered and wrapped the presents for our munchkins, we tuck them away to await the big reveal. Stepping back from our late night Santa stand-in, we’re nearly just as thrilled and amazed as if we were the ones receiving the presents. It is a truly enchanting sight. The twinkling lights of the tree cast a special glow over the stack of presents we’ve assembled for the kids. It’s enough to give me a chill of delight just looking at it.

I’m so pleased to have shared this week of Christmas Heroes with you. Thank you for following our series. For the Twelve Days of Christmas this year, I have assembled a variety of obscure yuletide entertainments. I hope you will enjoy them as much as you have our Christmas Heroes and Historical Grinches.

We wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

An Important Question

Merry Monday

An Important Question

In 1991, Mark Lowry wrote the lyrics to a popular Christmas song and the music was written by his friend, Buddy Greene. It has been recorded by a number of famous stars over the years. The question posed repeatedly throughout the song is “Mary, did you know?”. Let’s take a quick look at the lyrics:

Mary, Did You Know

Mary did you know that your baby boy will some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when your kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.

Oh Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

To put it simply, the answer is YES!!!!!

How did she know? Let’s find out.

The answer is given in the Gospel of Luke:

Luke 1:26-38 King James Version (KJV)

26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.

29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus.

32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:

33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.

36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.

37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

38 And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

The Annunciation - Leonardo Da Vinci - Uffiizi Gallery

The Annunciation – Leonardo Da Vinci – Uffiizi Gallery

Basically, when an archangel comes to you and tells you that you will bear a son born of the Holy Spirit and destined to sit on the throne of David, you can consider yourself properly briefed on the details. It is also likely that Mary would have been familiar with the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. The high points are summarized by the genius of Handel’s Messiah in the oratorio HWV 56.

So, when writing a religious Christmas song don’t forget to check scripture to see if the answer is already there.

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Epiphany and Shortbread Day

Like the wise men of old, we have finally arrived at our destination. Here we are at the official end of the holiday season. I hope you enjoyed the ride!


Epiphany It’s generally held that the magi didn’t arrive until Jesus was about two, but that would make for a really long holiday season (fine by me). We’d also have to wait another thirty years or so for Easter to come around, so it’s nice to be able to condense it down to meaningful liturgical seasons.

Another thing that I’m pretty adamant about (given that I created a site on the topic) is keeping the season in the season. I’ve seen a number of things over the years that try to drag the symbolism of Easter into the season of Christmas.


There’s a reason why the seasons are separate. If you want foreshadowing, you only need to look at the lyrics of We Three Kings.

I guess I’m one of those guys who likes to keep his carrots from touching his mashed potatoes on the plate, but fair’s fair. Let Christmas be Christmas and let Easter be Easter.

National Shortbread Day

Is there anything more tasty than a rich Scottish shortbread? You can get so many variations of this classic treat online and from the stores, but you can go old school and make it yourself:

  1. 1 part white sugar
  2. 2 parts butter
  3. 3 parts flour

That’s the simple formula for a tremendous holiday treat that you can enjoy anytime.

Shortbread Day

Seven Joys of Christmas and Cotton Candy, Too

Seven Joys of Christmas and Cotton Candy, Too

We’re exploring the Seven Joys of Christmas today based on the themes represented in the choral piece of the same name.

The Joy of Love

snowwalk  There is so much love associated with the Christmas season. Parents’ love for their children. Husbands and wives love for each other. The love of humankind for each other through acts of altruism. The love of God for all of us.

The Joy of Bells

Hark how the bells, sweet silver bells / All seem to say: throw cares away
Christmas is here bringing good cheer / To young and old, meek and the boldWho doesn’t love the tolling of church bells in the evening? Marking the time. Playing hymns. Waking the neighbors. Bells are a potent symbol of the season. They announce the good news of Christmas with a joyous noise.

The Joy of Mary

adoration2  Mary, mother of Jesus, is revered the world over as a the embodiment of purity and spiritual sanctity as she has been for centuries. She’s got seven joys of her own that tell the story of how she fits into the Christmas story. Here’s the carol that counts them out for you.

The Joy of Children

So many of the Christmas traditions we enjoy are geared for children. Candy, presents, Santa Claus, TV specials… The list goes on and on. And why not? What is more delightful than bringing a smile to the face of a child? They are so full of wonder and excitement. To them, everything is new. That is part of the magic of Christmas. The joy and wonder of children at all of the sights, sounds and tastes of the season. christmascrackers

The Joy of the New Year

ID-100101086  Smack dab in the middle of the Twelve Days of Christmas, the new year begins. It’s a time of fresh beginnings and a chance to start new habits. The anticipation of Christmas throughout Advent is a great opportunity to think about what changes you want to make in the coming year. Is there something you can do better than you ever have before? Is it time to try something new? You have a couple of weeks to really ponder and plan out how you’re going to make next year your best year ever.

The Joy of Dance

Another joy of the Christmas season is that of dance. A splendid way to enjoy the season in dance is to see a performance of The Nutcracker Suite. If you can’t find a local performance, I’ve found a classic performance from the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow.

The Joy of Song

carolersBW Without a doubt, Christmas isn’t Christmas without the carols. There are centuries of music associated with the Christmas season that we still enjoy today. Modern renditions of carols from decades past, classical music from the great masters, timeless TV and movie tunes, church hymns and seasonal jingles are all part of the musical fabric of the Christmas season. From the joyous secular fun of Jingle Bells to the ecumenical expression of Handel’s Messiah, music is an integral part of the holiday. So, sing loud and proud throughout the month. Christmas is coming. Celebrate it with song!

National Cotton Candy Day

Cotton Candy or Candy Floss dates back as far as 1400, but the classic cotton candy machine that you see at carnivals was invented by William Morrison and John C. Wharton in 1897. The great thing about cotton candy is that, like popcorn, it is mostly air. The machine is a bowl with tiny holes where hot air melts the sugar and spins it into long airy threads. These threads are then wound around a paper cone to create an iconic and surprisingly low calorie treat. There are 110 calories in an ounce of cotton candy, but the great thing is that an ounce of cotton candy is half of a jumbo bag. That’s a lot of candy, but remember that the reason it melts in your mouth is because it’s mostly just air. That’s what I like to call magically delicious.

Random Acts of Christmas

Merry Monday

Random Acts of Christmas

It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercial side of Christmas that we forget that it’s all about giving and togetherness. It is best to instill good morals in children while they are still young and to teach them the practice of giving back to others. It’s a great way to keep Christmas in your heart any time of the year.

Explain to your children that there are so many people out there who don’t have a warm house to sleep in or presents under the tree.  Some don’t have family members with whom to share their holiday or even health to carry them to next Christmas.

You aren’t trying to depress your children with this message, but you need to remind them that there are always those worse off than us.  After you have discussed this as a family, tell them that you can and will help those in your community who aren’t as lucky as you are.

Teaching children the meaning of Christmas


Encourage them to list ways they can bring cheer to those that sorely need it. This list can involve anything from donating old toys to thrift stores, volunteering at your local soup kitchen or holding a canned goods drive for a food pantry.

When every family member has written their list, decide on those that you can do as a family every day. It can seem daunting because it seems so time consuming, but it doesn’t have to be.  I think we could all agree that helping others, as well as teaching our children to do the same, is far more valuable than the time it takes to do so.

Bring baked or canned goods to your local homeless shelter. Take your children caroling at your local nursing home or to elderly shut ins at their homes. Help a single parent in your neighborhood by cleaning their home, hanging lights or babysitting the children. Just get out in your community as a family and make it better in some way, whether big or small.

We only have our children for a short time. They will soon have children and homes of their own.  This way, you can pass on a tradition that reaches beyond the four walls of your home and embraces your community in a warm, holiday hug! I guarantee you will not regret it!


Flowers For Mom

Flowers For Mom

 Flowers For Mom

What is a holiday household without Mom?  She shops, she wraps, she hides. She makes sure everybody has their fair share. She makes it all better when something goes wrong. Mom is the engine of any family and when her special day comes around, it’s only fair to show our appreciation. Flowers For Mom

Let The Woman Sit Down!

What kind of heartless Philistine are you?  Take over the chores without complaint.  Get her breakfast in bed.  Let her watch her favorite shows.  Calm down and take a big family breather. Mother’s Day is a day to celebrate the most important gift you’ve ever gotten. Life!  She gave you life.  If she’s your wife, she gave you your kids.  Isn’t that enough of a chore to thank her for?  Some people…

Oh Yeah, Don’t Forget The Flowers

One of the great things about Mother’s Day being in May is that there are any number of pretty flowers blooming. My darling wife isn’t quite as fond of cut flowers as she is of living ones.  She’d rather have a potted plant that she can sit on the counter for a few days and enjoy the aroma and then take that thing outside and give it a place to live.  However, she won’t say no to a lovely bouquet in a pretty vase. I’m pretty sure your Mom is about the same.  If you want to get some really spectacular flower arrangements, there are florists locally and online who know just how to wow. Flowers For Mom

 The Best Gift For Mom Is You

When all is said and done, what Mom really wants is to be with her family.  She’s a sentimental softy and a natural nurturer.  Give her what she really wants and just be with her on her special day.  She spent nine months carrying you around!  Can’t you spend the day letting her know how much she means to you?  Just this once?
Flowers for Mom

Happy Mother’s Day from Christmas All The Time!

Wal-Mart.com USA, LLC

22 Is A Magic Number

22 Is A Magic Number

I composed this little poem to celebrate my life with my wife.  I hope you enjoy it!

She’s sweeter than cookies
More wholesome than milk
Her cheeks are like roses
Her skin is like silk
There are bigger numbers than 22
And I want to spend all of them with you!

Happy Anniversary, Kelly

Knowing you is the best present I’ve ever received.

Forever & Always

Christmas Shopping Alternatives

Christmas Shopping Alternatives

by the Elf Queen

Alternatives to shopping, what a crazy idea. But, Christmas shopping is so overrated. People running hither and thither to find just the right gift. Time spent worrying and fretting about whether they’ve spent enough money, or too much money, or did they buy evenly for the kids, or did they get a grandiose enough gift for the new in-laws.

An idea to this stress might be found in baking cookies and cakes for a home-made gift. Making candles or soap or knitting a cap are examples of time intensive gifts, but what is more valuable to the receiver than your time and thoughtfulness.

Perhaps instead of making candles or soap, your family could exchange names and buy a Secret Santa gift for one another. Our extended family did this a few years ago and it was fun to figure out who had your name, if you could. It is sometimes called a “pollyanna”. It is fun for the kids to yell “I knew it was you all the time!” after their Secret Santa comes forward.

A book of coupons for time spent together is another good alternative to the shopping trip. Coupons for yard work or a birdwatching walk or even breakfast in bed are great to have and can be redeemed through out the year. They coupons themselves could be a work of art.

Another idea for through-the-year gift is a homemade calendar. Calendar forms can be bought cheaply at local craft stores or you could even print blank months off the computer. Kids will love to get special calendars made by mom or dad just for them. Calendars made for parents or grandparents by children become special keepsakes in years to come.

More time to spend together can be experienced at a local dance class, or art class, or even a cooking class. What excitement to look forward to after a hard day at work, time spent learning something with a loved one.

You could mix a CD or MP3 of your family’s favorite music, listening to it in the car will be a great way to spend a drive. We made several CDs for a trip to North Carolina and the kids enjoyed listening to music without commercials!

When our daughter was younger we made her wooden blocks from downed trees in the back yard. A bit of sawing and sanding and voilà, terrific, fun blocks. No, they were not all the same size, but that was okay-much more imaginative play that way. We also made sewing cards for her that we still have. Another idea for younger children might be a photo book of familiar people and places-babies and toddlers love to look at books filled with loved ones.

There are endless possibilities for home-made and low cost alternatives to the Christmas shopping trip. The above are just a few ideas. I’m sure if you take a few moments, you’ll think of some fantastic ones of your own.

Email them to us, we’d love to read about them and incorporate them into our family’s treasure box of alternatives.

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