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Happy Holidays from NFI and The 12 Dads of Christmas!

Happy Holidays from our famlies to yours! We've had a great time sharing stories of our most memorable holidays from across the entire nation. We hope you're taking time to enjoy your famliy and create more memories worth writing about! 

The 12 Dads of ChristmasFind our "12 Dads of Christmas" below and enjoy your holiday. Merry Christmas!

Dad 1: Jeff Land, A Generous Christmas:
“Christmas won’t be as big this year,” my mom’s constant reminder rung out in my mind. She and my dad were terribly afraid my brothers and I would be disappointed. She daily reminded us that this year was going to be different... Read more.

Dad 2: Ricky Choi, Holidays at the Hospital:
As a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind... Read more.

Dad 3: Madison Cowan, Christmas Every Day:
Christmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house... Read more.

Dad 4: Chris Read, A Canadian Dad's Christmas Story:
If I HAD to pick memorable moments, that I can remember at least, a couple come to mind. The first involves my father and my uncle, who decided to give us kids a Christmas treat by setting up an elaborate scene for us. They set it up so that we all thought Santa had visited while we were there for our annual Christmas dinner. They had set up reindeer prints outside and even created a loud thud on the roof to make us think Santa was there... Read more.

Dad 5: John Wilke, Church, Chocolate and Charlie Brown: How One Dad Makes Christmas Bright:
For many children, the Christmas season is the most special time of year. In their little minds, the holidays brings new toys, candy, cakes, time off from school, parents possibly off from work and maybe even playing in the snow... Read more.

Dad 6: Dave Taylor, Creating Holiday Memories:
I'll be honest. My parents weren't really into holidays, either for themselves or for us kids. We celebrated some American holidays, but as newly minted Americans (I was born in England and didn't become a US citizen until I was 16) a lot of those holidays seemed less than vital. Then there were birthdays, which just weren't much of a big deal, with frankly uninspired present exchanges. Finally, we also celebrated the main Jewish holidays (Passover, Hannukah) but, again, not with great zeal and enthusiasm... Read more.

Dad 7: Jason Bruce, Slowing Down Makes Christmas Memorable:
The Christmas season becomes more hectic as one becomes an adult and a parent. That’s why memories of my childhood always come to my mind first when I reflect on my most memorable Christmases... Read more.

Dad 8: Scott Behson, An Involved Father Shares What's Better Than Being Santa:
Like virtually every child, I LOVED Christmas, especially when I was young enough to believe in Santa. After growing up, Christmas is still special, but it is no longer magic. That is, until you have kids and can now pass the magic along to them- and even better YOU get to be Santa. As a dad, it is never more true than during Christmas that it is better to give than to receive... Read more.

Dad 9: Tim Red, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of my most memorable Christmases as a Dad was held on Thanksgiving in 2005 because two days later I was deploying for a year and would miss Christmas with my Family... Read more.

Dad 10: Erik Vecere, NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions:
One of the Christmases that I still laugh about occurred when I was boy back in the early 1980’s. I was so excited to get one of those football fields that you placed the little football players on and plugged it in... Read more.

Dad 11: Chris Delgado, First Comes Pizza, Then Comes Proposal: The Christmas She Said "Yes!":
My favorite Christmas marked a transition and a new meaning in my life. It was the year 2001 and this is when I proposed to my girlfriend who is now my wife... Read more.

Dad 12: Dave Sniadak, Reflecting on Christmas Past, Present:
For me, Christmas was always a magical time of year. Where I lived growing up, we almost always had snow - lots of it - but not bitter biting, freeze your nose off cold that kept you locked up in the house. I would spend hours rolling snowmen and exploring the backwoods behind our house, checking for tracks and remnants of elves sneaking around the yard. And while I never went into the holiday season with a set expectation of what I'd get from Santa, he certainly never disappointed... Read more.

The 12 Dads of ChristmasWhat have you enjoyed most from this holiday season and our 12 Dads of Christmas?

Continue connecting with us by sharing your most memorable holiday. You can record a video, share a picture, or post a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use #12DadsofXmas so we see your message!

Holidays at the Hospital

This is a guest post by Dr. Ricky Choi. Choi is a pediatrician and Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He serves on the Board of Directors for the National Physicians Alliance and is a national leader of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and two children. Find him at The Huffington Post and on his blogHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

Christmas Memories
xmasnewbornAs a resident physician I spent a Christmas holiday working in the hospital. Because illness and accidents didn’t take a break during the holidays, someone on the physician staff couldn’t either. But I didn’t mind.

One of the many reasons I chose pediatrics as a specialty was the value staff placed on those things that were important to children. And for most kids, Christmas is a big deal. Though the inpatient unit was typically busy during the winter the pediatric staff made every effort to get kids home for Christmas -even if it only meant returning to the hospital 24 hours later.

So the few days before the big day were filled with commotion and hustle in the air. Some of the children required significant accommodations to make sure that they were safe to go home.

My arrival on the pediatric floor Christmas morning was met with silence. Piled high in front of the nurses station were wrapped presents donated by the local fireman which arrived after the mass exodus. Gone was the chorus of monitors beeping and mobs of staff rushing from room to room. The ward was, however, not completely empty.

Scattered throughout the ward were a handful of children who had stayed behind. The children with cancer needed their daily chemo or were too immunologically defenseless to go home. Having endured so much pain and hardship from their illness and the brutal treatment they seemed especially deserving of a holiday. Their families were there bright and smiling, desperate for something to celebrate. They savored each moment knowing that the only Christmas they were certain to have together was that day. The eery quiet in the ward made the laughter seem louder, the wrapping paper shinier, and the celebrations that much more festive. It was a day those children dearly deserved and their parents hoped to never forget. 

New Traditions
After my eldest daughter turned 3 years old, I began taking her to newborn hospital rounds on Christmas morning. After the gifts were opened and the late breakfast eaten we gathered our things, me with my stethoscope, she with her colorful toy doctor’s kit. Then we hopped into the car with the hopes of seeing a Christmas baby at the newborn nursery.

During the ride we talked about caring for babies: washing hands and gentle touching. I described the joy that this family must be feeling to have such a special gift during the holidays. I recalled the immense joy I felt when she was born only a few years before.

This new tradition is a chance for my daughter to build a sense of connectedness with the lives of others. The most amazing part of being a physician is the privilege to be a part of peoples lives at the most meaningful of moments. Hopefully my children too will make caring for others inform their life choices. I can’t think of a better way to plant this seed than bringing her to a celebration for a new life on Christmas morning.

What's your most memorable Christmas and why?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

photo credit: brooklyn

Christmas Every Day with Chef Madison Cowan

This is a guest post by Chef Madison Cowan. Madison is a dad, husband, CEO of Madison Cowan LLC, author, producer, Food Network's Iron Chef America & Chopped Grand Champion. Find him at Madison Cowan, follow him on Twitter @Madisons_Ave and on Facebook. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

madison cowanChristmastime for most of us is full on with memories. Whether of religious observances or the thought of gathering with loved ones to share cheer and compliments of the season. I recall as a child the magic of the holidays: playing in the snow, picking out a tree, the joy brought on by an original Marx Rock`em Sock`em Robots game, or the tantalizing aroma of Christmas lunch wafting throughout the house.

These are just a few traditions I’ve held onto and now share with my own family. It is equally important we not forget all those less fortunate children and families, struggling daily to make ends meet or put food on the table, or who won’t have a Christmas…again. From the age of 2 I’ve exposed my daughter to a life of volunteering and service to others as the spirit of giving extends well beyond this time of year.  

That said, one of my favourite holiday memories is making a large batch of my mum’s 7UP pound cake with my daughter a few years back to donate to a food pantry in London. Buttery, crunchy topping and feather light texture, her secret was to weigh or measure the flour again after sifting then mix everything together at once. Swans Down cake flour, a vintage metal crank sifter and an egg cracking munchkin evoked warmth of Christmases past.

The power is in the present moment, so pop in that Rudolph or Frosty DVD, put on Nat King Cole’s "The Christmas Song" and get stuck in creating new traditions with your lil’ ones…this Christmas and always.  

Jean Bean’s 7UP Pound Cake
 
Unbleached cake flour 3 cups, sifted
Unrefined cane sugar 2 cups
Unsalted butter 1 lb., softened at room temperature
Eggs 6, room temperature
Pure vanilla extract 1 tsp.
Lemon extract 2 tsp.
7up lemon soda ¾ cup, room temperature   

Heat the oven to 375F. Place the flour into a large mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Add the remaining ingredients and blend with an electric hand mixer until smooth. DO NOT OVERMIX.  

Butter and lightly dust with flour a fluted cake tin or 2 to 3 loaf tins. Carefully pour the mixture into the tins as not to pack tight and bake mid-oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until golden brown and an inserted table knife comes out clean.  

Another tip is to keep the oven door closed and check doneness only after the first 50 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes and remove from tins. Serve simply with fresh seasonal fruit or berries, whipped cream or icing sugar. Serves 12 to 15    

12 dadasWhat family recipe makes the holiday special for you?

Join in and share your most memorable holiday by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor.

5 LEGO Inspired Foods for a Fancy Party

This is a guest post by Carlo Pandian. Carlo is a freelance writer based in London who writes on parenting, cooking and all things LEGO. If you would like to blog for us, email here.

Despite the global domination of the computer game, LEGO remains an eternally popular hands-on toy for kids. Of course it’s not just a toy, nor is it just for kids, and plenty of teens and adults have proved that sculpture is not confined to the world of bronze and/or structural steelwork. You can create some amazing displays in LEGO, and for those with a family obsessed with these diminutive plastic bricks the good news is that LEGO-themed foods are easy to create. Whether it’s a kid’s birthday or just for fun, these LEGO-inspired tasty treats are easy to, erm, construct. 

Basic Modelling
The shape of LEGO blocks is probably what makes them an ideal basis for a range of foods.  Forgetting the mini-figures for the moment, the basic structure is very blocky! The studs on the top are relatively easy to create with a range of ingredients and a little imagination. 

Let them Eat Cake
LEGO cakeAdmittedly, Marie-Antoinette and her family were not overly fond of blocks but, LEGO fan or not, who doesn’t love a cake or two? Sponge, of any variety, can easily be baked in the required rectangular shape or, alternatively, a large square sponge can be cut into a range of different sized blocks. Circular sponge sections can then be placed to mimic the studs and the whole confection covered in suitable icing colored in bright primary colors like LEGO itself. 

Made for Lego?
LEGO marshmellowIf bite-size Rice Krispie squares weren’t designed to be adapted into a LEGO-themed treat then I can’t image what was going through the head of their creator. Again, it’s easy to cut the stud sections and apply them to the squares using melted chocolate. If you use a basic white chocolate mix you can add appropriate coloring, to create the final constructed confection.  These are great served up on a plate or can be popped onto lollipop sticks – either way they tend to shift quickly, so make plenty. 

Helping Hands
LEGO lollipopThese are a combination of the above. Small pieces of cakes decorated with Smarties, to create the studs, can be covered in melted chocolate to create the desired form. Cake pops are not only popular at kid’s parties but also tend to be one of those activities that younger members of the family enjoy getting involved in. When preparing them you’ll need plenty of greaseproof paper to place the setting pops on, and plenty of kitchen-towel to wipe the kids with. A change of clothing is also a handy ingredient. 

Healthy Alternatives Kids Will Eat
LEGO watermelonFor those involved in the long-term battle of getting healthy fresh fruit and vegetables into smaller people, the watermelon is heaven sent. Sticky, juicy and tasty it appeals to kids in its natural form but can also be easily sculpted into melon-pops. Cut into squares and sculpt the Lego studs with an apple corer. It’s a good idea to chill these, to resemble lollipops, but also to reduce at least some of the sticky/messy content that develops when you add a child.  

Mini-Sculptures
LEGO breadMini-figures are not, it has to be said, the easiest object to sculpt in any edible media, but sandwiches can provide an excellent solution. These can be cut into mini-figurine head shapes and the tops decorated with a range of expressions, using a little of the filling of choice.

Mom and dad: What have you built with your kids recently?

Carlo Pandian is a freelance writer and blogs on free time activities, parenting and LEGO covering everything from LEGOLAND Discovery Center attractions in Dallas to teaching recycling to children. When he’s not online, Carlo likes cooking, gardening and cycling in the countryside.

Are Dads Really Clueless About Their Own Health?

I was doing some browsing on the Web when I came across a blog entry from Dr. David Katz, founder of Yale University’s Prevention Research Center. The entry focused on the fact that men, especially fathers, need to turn a deeper focus on health and weight control. At NFI, we’ve made several references to the importance of health in men throughout our variety of resources and content. However, the doctor’s blog featured a few sentences that made me question just how thickheaded are men about getting healthy.

“We know that women are the guardians of the family health. We know that women, wives, mothers tend to do the heavy lifting when it comes to medical care, preventive services and diet,” said Dr. Katz in his blog, no doubt sharing a sentiment long shared by many. However, I grew up around men like my grandfathers and uncles who were always on top of their health. I’m particularly worrisome about my own health for a variety of reasons, some of which are hereditary.

Much like the meme going around that fathers are clueless when it comes to caring for their babies, a lot of archaic notions about men continue to be perpetuated. I became especially aware of my health needs after becoming a father. In fact, my peers who became dads all followed suit. How some of us arrived to that point was actually simple: taking care of children is taxing! I remember feeling like everything was hurting while running after my toddler, saying to my doctor that I needed to feel whole again.

I do get Dr. Katz’s overall point. As a father of five children and the editor-in-chief of the medical journal Childhood Obesity, he has an obligation to preach to the masses the importance of health. His blog was more so a call to fathers to set better examples for their children. I truly enjoyed his stance on saying that men who find working out and eating better to be feminine traits are acting “un-guy like” – slamming the notion that men can eat and do whatever they want without repercussions.

Dr. Katz is simply urging dads to eat better so their kids will too. The rapid rise in stroke risks in children between the ages of 5 and 14 attributed to obesity is unacceptable. The old adage “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” certainly applies in this case. Good health has to start somewhere, and fathers have a responsibility to lead by example.

I may not have been exposed to many men or fathers who were reluctant about staying healthy, but I do know we can all do better in providing a pathway to healthier living for our children by starting with ourselves.

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