Christmas, Holidays, Sharing

The Real Santa

Today we have a guest post, from my daughter who is home from college for Christmas. I appreciate her taking the time to write this when she’s been overwhelmingly busy with finals, wisdom teeth extraction, etc.

I love you, Sarah!


By Sarah WorkmanSanta

“HO HO HO, Merry Christmas!” is widely known to be what Santa Claus says. Many people, especially children, love to learn about Santa, the jolly fat man in a red suit who flies with his reindeer all over the world on Christmas Eve to give gifts to all the good girls and boys.

As children grow older though, they stop believing that Santa is real. Some parents try to make sure the children believe as long as possible, while other parents think that they should tell their children the truth about Santa before a playmate cruelly dashes their hopes. But do parents even know everything about Santa?

The most basic and widely held view of Santa in my culture is that he is an old man who loves to give presents to good little girls and boys. He and his elves watch and make a list so he knows what to give to whom, and he knows when they are asleep so he can deliver the presents without being caught. He also loves milk and cookies. Many songs and poems have been written about this Santa.

My view of Santa, which keeps me believing (even though I know that some people put presents under the tree and label them From Santa), is that Santa is simply the spirit of giving and good cheer.

Think about it. Would you like to work all year long just to lose a night’s sleep flying in the cold air to give away all your hard work? And only get a few cookies in return?

One attribute of Santa is that he gives everyone gifts because he wants to give. He also gives to everybody, regardless of how rich or poor they are, and he does not justify not giving a gift on circumstances that the person cannot control.  He also spreads good cheer to everyone, even if they do not return the good cheer. Each time he does this, someone’s life becomes a little better.

I don’t know if there is a man in a red suit, but I do know that if people believe in Santa, the Santa that gives freely and spreads happiness, if we believe in him and follow his example, we will be doing what Christmas is about, and Santa will be kept alive.

Holidays, Sharing, Thanksgiving, Traditions

A Door Full of Thanks

Door decorated with "thankful leaves"What are you grateful for today?

Some days it’s hard to feel grateful. It’s much easier to focus on what went wrong:

  • You wake up to the clock blinking 12:00 over and over, and jump out of bed wondering how late it really is. (Late enough that the kids will NOT be taking the bus this morning.)
  • Your four-year-old decides to “help” with breakfast, dropping all the eggs on the floor, so you end up eating microwave oatmeal. Again.
  • The ice on the car was an inch thick and you couldn’t find the good scraper, so it took a half an hour to clear the windows. The kids, who sat inside the car jabbing and making faces at each other while you worked up a sweat in the 20° weather, were not happy that they were late for school–and made sure you knew it. While their complaints filled the air, you suddenly remembered that there is a bottle of de-icer in the garage.
  • After dropping the kids off, you make a quick trip to the store. After standing in line for 20 minutes the one person ahead of you finally finishes up. Then you realize that you left your purse at home.

Our family has a tradition of decorating a window or door with Thankful Leaves each November. We start by cutting out a number of construction paper leaves, and putting them in a basket near the door, along with a pen or pencil.

Each day of the month, each person in the family takes a leaf and writes on it something that he or she is grateful for. (Pre-writers can either draw a picture, or ask someone older to write it for them.) Then we either tape them to the window with clear tape, or use poster putty to stick them on the door. Family members know that they can add more leaves to the door at any time, as long as each leaf has something written on it.

It’s fun to watch the pile of leaves grow. Even better, is watching the attitudes change. Knowing that you will be writing down something you’re thankful for every day somehow gets you in the mode of thinking all during the day about what you want to write next, so you’re more aware of your blessings.

The electricity went out last night?

Bummer. Have you ever gone a whole week without electricity? A month?   How about a lifetime?  Electricity is one thing to be grateful for–one thing that we take so much for granted, that when it’s gone, even temporarily, we somehow feel that life is out to get us and forget how lucky we were to have it to begin with.

The car was covered in ice.

You own a car? And you not only know how to drive, but are physically able to do so? If you don’t think that’s something to be grateful for, try walking or riding your bike to school or work in that icy weather, or having to depend on others for rides every time you go anywhere, and you might just change your mind.

The eggs were ruined.

But you still got to eat. Right? Write “food” on your next Thankful Leaf.

We all have bad days. But we all, every one of us, have good things in our lives as well.  I’m not suggesting that you should never grumble or complain when things go wrong (I’d be a hypocrite if I did!). But we can all be a little more grateful for the good in our lives.

I am grateful for you, my readers, and for my dear friends and family. And I wish you all a very Happy (and thankful) Thanksgiving!

With love,

Aunt Alice

Family, Fourth of July, Holidays, Independence Day, Sharing

July Fourth Quiz: How much do you REALLY know about our Founding Fathers?

Happy Independence Day!

Do you and your family have fun plans for this fourth of July?

Photo by linder6580 at

I have two family members who avoid going outside during the fireworks due to asthma, but tonight we’re going to have homemade pizzas, red-white-and-blue Jell-o (whipped topping for the white) and an as yet to be determined desert (though it will likely involve something either frozen or chocolate, or both!). Then we’ll probably spend the evening playing games, and maybe watching  “I Dream of Jeannie” or a Rodgers and Hammerstein musical.

(Yes, I do realize what century we’re in. Thank you for asking.)

Fun aside, I also plan to take a few minutes tomorrow to remind my children of how the United States became a country, and of some of the sacrifices that many men and women made so that we could be free.

Have a safe, and happy, fourth of July!

(Note: the original link to the Founding Fathers quiz has been deleted,
due to complaints about the host site. Instead, you can find the original
questions and their answers below. I apologize for any inconvenience.)

For fun, see how many of these trivia questions you can answer correctly:

  1. Who convinced General Washington to attend the Constitutional Convention, even announcing his expected attendance before the general agreed to come?

    • Benjamin Franklin
    • John Adams
    • Thomas Jefferson
    • James Madison
  2. True or False: Even though Thomas Jefferson owned slaves, he was anti-slavery and proposed a bill in 1784 to avoid its spread

    • False
    • True
  3. Who was called “America’s noble patriot” by his contemporaries?

    • George Washington
    • Patrick Henry
    • Thomas Jefferson
  4. During the French & Indian War, George Washington

    • stayed out of the fray, and so escaped unharmed.
    • was injured severly, but miraculously recovered.
    • was unhurt, even though he had four bullets through his coat & 2 horses shot out from under him.
  5. At age 15, John Adams

    • met his future wife, Abigail.
    • entered Harvard University
    • became a schoolmaster.
  6. True or False: George Washington freed all of his slaves in his will

    • True
    • False
  7. In addition to authoring the Declaration of Independence, for which of his many accomplishments did Thomas Jefferson most want to be remembered:

    • Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom
    • President of the United States
    • Secretary of State
    • Minister to France
  8. Benjamin Franklin:

    • was an agnostic.
    • had a firm belief in God.
    • was an atheist.


  1. James Madison convinced Washington to attend the Constitutional Convention.
  2. True. Though  Jefferson did own slaves, he did make an effort to end the practice of slavery.
  3. Patrick Henry was called “The Noble Patriot.”
  4. Amazingly, Washington was completely unhurt during the French and Indian War, although in one of the worst battles every other mounted officer was killed. Washington himself wrote of this: “By the all-powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human robablility or expectation; for I had four bullets through my coat and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me!” (as quoted in “Founding Fathers, Uncommon Heroes,” by Steven W. Allen, p.51)
  5. John Adams entered Harvard University at age 15.
  6. More than anything, James Madison wished to be remembered for his contribution as Author of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom .
  7. Benjamin Franklin was not an atheist, as some have claimed but had a firm belief in God. (See his autobiography, as well as some of his other writings.)
Christmas, Gifts, Holidays, Humor, Sharing, Tips

Holiday Tip #3: Christmas Codes

Dear Aunt Alice,

I hate waiting until the last minute to wrap gifts and put them under the tree.  The tree looks so bare without them!  But if I do it early, my kids demolish their gifts trying to figure out what they are.  Any suggestions?

Smasher-shaker’s Mom

Dear Smasher-shaker’s Mom,

Have you tried padding?  The gifts, I mean, not your room.  To protect them.  If you use enough, you can also change the shape of the gift, making it harder to guess what’s inside.

Actually, I’ve found that while he won’t lose interest entirely, a child will poke, prod and shake a box much less if it doesn’t have his name on it.  So go ahead and wrap the gifts ahead of time, but wait until Christmas Eve to label them.  This may not work if you only have one child, as she will assume that all the gifts are hers (or at least the interesting looking ones), but if you have several children they may spend more time trying to figure out who the gift is for than what the gift is.

How do you remember which gift is which so you can label them later?  Come up with a code!

Label each gift with a code that only means something to you.  Not only will this (hopefully) cut down on the handling of gifts, you will have the bonus of driving your children crazy as they try to crack the code.

One year I labeled each present with a six-digit number.  All except the last digit was random, and that last one stood for birth order.  So, for my firstborn son, his gifts could be labeled 384991 or 273641 or 192281.  As long as the last digit was a one, I knew that it was for him.  Since no two gifts had the same number, the kids went nuts trying to decipher it.

Another year, I used a letter code.  My 8-year-old cub scout was C, my third-grader was T, etc.  The code was easy for me to remember, but random enough that they didn’t even come close to figuring it out.  Come to think of it, I don’t even remember what I gave or got that year, but I do remember laughing a lot as my children tried desperately to figure out the code.

Ah, the simple pleasures in life.

Christmas, Gifts, Holidays, Humor, Sharing

Worst Gifts for Students?

Last week I posted a list of some of the worst gifts a man could give a woman.  This week, asked more than 500 high school and college students the worst gifts they had ever gotten.  Their top worst make my list look like the best gifts a person could receive.  Here are a few of the “winners”:

•A wooden stick doll without any eyes.
• A used lead pencil.
• Toilet paper.
• A calendar for 2009 that was given in December 2009.
• A dead mouse.

I have to note (with relief) that the last item was not given by a husband to his wife.  Apparently a girl gave it to her brother as revenge.

Someone also commented that getting a bad gift is better than getting no gift, and except for the case of the lifeless rodent, I have to agree.  Feeling forgotten is much, much worse than not feeling special.

Book reviews, Gifts, Holidays, Humor, Sharing, Tips

How to Alienate Your Woman: Worst Christmas Gifts Ever

Even the most practical woman on the earth likes to receive gifts that are not in the least bit practical:  chocolate, jewelry, a gift certificate for a massage  (wait, that could be considered practical, couldn’t it? After all, it’s for my health.  So is the chocolate.  Ahem.), etc.  It’s not that we don’t like practical things, it’s just that we want a gift to make us feel special.

Most men don’t seem to understand the special principle.  It’s not what you give us that really counts.  Maybe not even the thought.  It’s how special it makes us feel.  The least expensive, smallest gift can make a woman want to give her whole life to a man (or at least her whole evening), if it is sentimental enough to make her feel important.

On the other hand, even the most expensive gift, if it makes her feel, shall we say, not special, can make a woman want to throw dog food at her man.  And suggest a nice, quiet place in the backyard where he can eat it in private.

In case you men are confused, here are some things you should give your woman only if she has specifically asked you for it, or you have a taste for generic dog food:

  • a weight-reducing gadget of any kind
  • a how-to-clean DVD
  • a dieting book
  • jumper cables
  • an appliance
  • deodorant
  • a hair-cutting set, so you can save money by having her cut your hair
  • your old, cast off _______, so you can buy yourself one that is newer & better
  • a light bulb (Of any color.  Really.)
  • a piece of construction paper crookedly folded in half, with a note quickly scribbled on it on Christmas morning (even if she did say she wanted something homemade)
  • a half-eaten box of chocolates
  • a box of chocolates that you proudly announce you found by the roadside (even if it doesn’t look like roadkill…)
  • address return labels you got for free from Easter Seals
  • mouse traps (even if she really, really wants to get rid of the mice)
  • a box of fabric softener (even if you wrap it in gold paper with a shiny, red ribbon)
  • tickets to see a sports event that you would kill to see, and she would kill to avoid
  • money, with the instruction to “get yourself a haircut”
    (no, this is not the same as a gift certificate to an exclusive hair salon)



So, what is one of the worst gifts YOU ever got?

Children, Christmas, Gifts, Holidays, Tips

Holiday Tip #2 – Save Your Child’s Hearing

I’ve shared this tip before, but it’s worth repeating. If you’re giving a child a toy that makes sounds (music, beeps, etc.) especially if it doesn’t have a volume control, stick a layer or two of packing tape over the speaker portion of the toy before you wrap it up.

Toys tend to be much too loud for a child’s sensitive ears. This simple trick can help save their hearing, and maybe save you a few headaches as well!