I caught Santa, and you can, too!

Can you imagine the look on your kid’s face when you show him a photo of Santa in your own living room?

When I saw this site, icaughtsanta.com, I smiled. What a fun, original idea! Best yet, I have a discount code for my readers. But more about this later.

Our girls, despite their being four-footed, got to see Santa. See for yourselves!

Santa was just reaching into his bag of toys when he heard a low growl come from behind him...

Santa was just reaching into his bag of toys when he heard a low growl...

Santa reaching for the puppies.

Santa likes his reindeer well enough, but he had to pet the sleeping puppies before heading back up the chimney.

Time’s a wastin’….Head over to icaughtsanta.com, upload your photo, and watch St. Nick appear. I have a coupon code for you, too: SANTA50 will get you half off your order. This is great fun!

Nothing says Christmas like turquoise owls, right?

I normally love Caribou’s Christmas displays and merchandise. But this year I really think they blew it. Turqoise, red and purple mice, rabbits and owls? They went for this “nature” themed stuff, which could be cute if done right. But these? I can’t think of the name of this style of comic art. Maybe someone can help me out. It puts me in mind of poorly drawn Flash animations that pop up all over the web.

Not. Christmas. Not. Holidays. I didn’t take pictures of the ornaments, but they’re either big styrofoam balls covered with knitted yarn or woodland creatures made from plant materials. The latter were actually kind of cute, but they were gone by the time everything was marked half off. There are knitted and presumably recycled coffee cup clutches for sale, too, but judging from how many I still see on the racks, customers didn’t much like them, either. Very little of it has any kind of holiday feel to it. I know they were trying to go for designs that didn’t necessarily bespeak a certain season, but they went too far and the result is shelves still full of merchandise that would, I think, be gone by now normally.

C’mon, you guys can do better than this! Past seasons’ POP and merchandise has been great! Please, don’t jump on the whole “go green” bandwagon just for marketing. It really fell flat this year. Other customers we know felt the same way. It’s just not up to past years’ standards.

Christmas dénouement

We had a good Christmas. Christmas Eve, my parents and two of Howie’s brothers came over to my mother-in-law’s (downstairs at our house). We had the usual ham, baked beans, macaroni salad, and desserts. My mom and I visited with Nancy while the guys played euchre.

Christmas day, Howie’s other brother and his wife came to visit in the early afternoon. We had leftovers, all the aforementioned stuff, only cold. Then we went to my folks’ house for Christmas dinner. More ham. I am hammed out. It’s safe to say we’re now retaining enough water, we could probably just roll from room to room. We were at my mom’s from 3-9:30pm and had a really nice visit.

Presents? Yes, there were presents. We got dad a gift certificate for a local buffet. There’s a group of senior citizens who play euchre there a couple Wednesdays a month and he really enjoys that. There’s a 98-year old lady there who told him his beret was sexy. 😉

We gave my mom some organizers for her scrapbook stuff, a cute little ceramic cup sculpted to look like an owl, a Fiskars fingertip craft knife, a Fiskars mini easy stamp press, some acrylic stamps, and various paper. I also gave her a dragonfly pin adorned with various rhinestones. Bling, don’t ya know.

She and dad gave Howie a micro-SDHC card for his phone and some Christmas ornaments. Mom gave me an ornament, some scrapbooking stuff, and a rubber stamp of an Itialian greyhound or greyhound which strongly resembles our Emma.

Howie’s present to me was one he touted was really for both of us. I could tell from its heft and shape that it was a book. I unwrapped it and saw it was Garrison Keillor’s WLT, A Radio Romance.

“Oooh, ummm, I think I have this one already”, I said.

“Yeah, considering I got it off our bookshelf”, he replied.

Just then I noticed something sticking out from the pages. Tickets! He bought a pair of tickets to the January 20th appearance of Garrison Keillor at the Midland Theater! I was so surprised – he really got me. I’d forgotten all about Keillor coming to our town. This isn’t a Prairie Home Companion broadcast, just a solo performance. I can’t wait!

I got Howie the season 7 DVD set of The Waltons and a neat little palm-sized mini remote control helicopter. He can’t wait to tease the cats with the helicopter.

Anonymous gifts that bless others: An angel among us

Have you ever been the recipient of an anonymous gift? Have you ever given one?

There’s no telling how your “small” and anonymous gesture may bring comfort and happiness to someone. What an encouragement to use our gifts to bless others. And to do it anonymously is the best because you’re not only letting God alone have the glory, but you’re building a sense of anticipation and mystery, which only adds to the fun. Whoever this family’s angel was, I salute you.

Whose angel might you be?

An Angel Among Us

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Cheer
BY: By Rita Hampton

I come from a large family of nine brothers and sisters, and all of us have kids of our own. On each Christmas night, our entire family gathers at my oldest sister’s home, exchanging gifts, watching the nativity skit put on by the smaller children, eating, singing and enjoying a visit from Santa himself.

The Christmas of 1988, my husband Bob and I had four children. Peter was eleven, Leigh-Ann was nine, Laura was six and Matthew was two. When Santa arrived, Matthew parked himself on Santa’s lap and pretty much remained dazzled by him for the rest of the evening. Anyone who had their picture taken with Santa that Christmas also had their picture taken with little Matthew.

Little did any of us know how precious those photos with Santa and Matthew would become. Five days after Christmas, our sweet little Matthew died in an accident at home. We were devastated. We were lucky to have strong support from our families and friends to help us through. I learned that the first year after a death is the hardest, as there are so many firsts to get through without your loved one. Birthdays and special occasions become sad, instead of joyous.

When our first Christmas without Matthew approached, it was hard for me to get into the holiday spirit. Bob and I could hardly face putting up the decorations or shopping for special gifts for everyone. But we went through the motions for Peter, Leigh-Ann and Laura. Then, on December 13th, something extraordinary happened to raise our spirits when we didn’t think it was possible.

We were just finishing dinner when we heard a knock on the front door. When we went to answer it, no one was there. However, on the front porch was a card and gift. We opened the card and read that the gift-giver wanted to remain anonymous; he or she just wanted to help us get through a rough time by cheering us up.

In the gift bag was a cassette of favorite Christmas music, which was in a little cardboard Christmas tree. The card described it as being “a cartridge in a pine tree,” a twist on the “partridge in a pear tree” verse in the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We thought that it was a very clever gift, and the thoughtfulness of our “elf” touched our hearts. We put the cassette in our player and, song by song, the spirit of Christmas began to warm our hearts.

That was the beginning of a series of gifts from the clever giver, one for each day until Christmas. Each gift followed the theme of “The Twelve Days of Christmas” in a creative way. The kids especially liked “seven swans a-swimming,” which was a basket of swan-shaped soaps plus passes to the local swimming pool, giving the kids something to look forward to when the warm days of spring arrived. “Eight maids a-milking” included eight bottles of chocolate milk, eggnog and regular milk in glass bottles with paper faces, handmade aprons and caps. Every day was something very special. The “five golden rings” came one morning just in time for breakfast — five glazed doughnuts just waiting to be eaten.

We would get calls from our family, neighbors and friends who would want to know what we had received that day. Together, we would chuckle at the ingenuity and marvel at the thoughtfulness as we enjoyed each surprise. We were so caught up in the excitement and curiosity of what would possibly come next, that our grief didn’t have much of a chance to rob us of the spirit of Christmas. What our elf did was absolutely miraculous.

Each year since then, as we decorate our Christmas tree, we place on it the decorations we received that Christmas while we play the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” We give thanks for our elf who was, we finally realized, our very own Christmas angel. We never did find out who it was, although we have our suspicions. We actually prefer to keep it that way. It remains a wondrous and magical experience — as mysterious and blessed as the very first Christmas.