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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!

A Generous Christmas

This is a guest post by Jeff Land. Jeff is Editorial Project Leader for LifeWay Kids. He is married with four children and lives in Nashville, Tennessee. Find Jeff's personal blog at LandLife, follow him on Twitter @JeffLand and 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.

christmas giftChristmas wont be as big this year, my moms 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.

It was Fall in Mississippi, just before Thanksgiving break and I was in eighth grade. My big brother Trae picked me up from school and told me that we had to go to Jackson to the hospital. We picked up my little brother, Bobby, and then Trae explained to us that our Dad had to have open-heart surgery. We were scared, but didn’t quite understand the severity of the situation. Trae was very worried. He was the only one that really understood how serious my dad’s condition was. 

Dad came through the quadruple by-pass surgery just fine. He was recovering well, but in the midst of his sickness, he also lost his job. Our family of five was surviving on my mom’s schoolteacher salary. Because my parents had always given us huge Christmases, my mom felt the constant need to remind us that this year would be small.

Christmas morning came and we opened our presents. I honestly don’t think I noticed we had fewer than normal. I was just really thankful for the opportunity God had given us to keep our dad here on earth! We were headed out to my grandparents’ house for breakfast when I noticed a huge box on our porch. 

I yelled for my brothers and we opened the box. Inside was a new Sega™. Still more, our secret Santa had chosen specific gifts for my brothers and me. I got a new “ornament” for my prized aquarium. I don’t know if my parents ever knew who brought those gifts on Christmas Eve but I certainly know we were impressed by the generosity. 

Ive had so many great Christmases over the years, but this one has always stood out as pivotal. It was the Christmas that we were all together and things could have been so different. It was also the year that a generous friend took a few extra steps to make sure the Land boys had an amazing Christmas. 

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: allerleirau

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.

A Canadian Dad’s Christmas Story

This is a guest post by Chris Read. Chris is father to two young children. Read his blog, Canadian Dad, and follow him on Twitter @CanadianDadBlog, or on his Facebook PageHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in guest blogging for us, send an email.

12 dadsIf 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. To this day I have no idea how they did that but we were very excited about all of it and looking back, I really appreciate the effort they put into it. 

The other Christmas memory I have is of my father. Every year, we had a tradition of going for a family walk. We’d bundle up, drive to the local trail and walk for about an hour or so. As my brother and I got older, it became more of a forced walk than a voluntary one but we’d always end up going. It wasn’t until my father passed away, that I truly understood the importance of this yearly ritual; and it wasn’t a year later, when I had kids of my own, that I really understood the significance of the walks, to my father. I’m glad I never said no to his requests for a family walk but I wish I had shown a little more enthusiasm, in retrospect.

As far as my young family goes, with our kids being 2 and 4, we are still trying to carve out our holiday traditions. We have an Elf on the Shelf named Zerby and a 5 year old fake tree without a name, because naming it feels weird. We try to visit Santa at least once a Christmas season, we love going tobogganing and we have cheesy ornaments for our tree that we let the kids put wherever they want. 

I don’t know what the future will bring as far as family Christmas traditions but the one thing I am sure of, is that our Christmas Day walk will be the one that will always be there.

What's the one thing, like Chris' Christmas Day walk, that you must have in order to enjoy a bright holiday?

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: Marc Lagneau

Church, Chocolate & Charlie Brown: How One Dad Makes Christmas Bright

This is a guest post by Jon D. Wilke. Jon is the media relations manager for a major religious non-profit organization and a former U.S. Marine. He is a married father of two young daughters. Follow his blog at jonwilke.worpress.com or on Twitter at @jon_wilkeHe writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

12 Dads of ChristmasFor 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.

As Dads, this is our time of the year to shine. We can make lifelong memories, set family traditions and provide eternal perspective on this treasured time.

A few years ago, I read an article by a prominent Christian pastor that challenged me to become intentional about Christmas and not be a passive spectator. It challenged me to take charge of my family’s celebration and holiday schedule, set priorities and limits and focus on giving my time, my efforts and my love.

Last year, my wife and I started an Advent tradition that some call “The Jesse Tree.” Every night between Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, we gather our family around a small tree where I read or tell a short story from Scripture relating to the birth of Jesus. My oldest daughter gets excited, because every night she gets to hang a new ornament on this little tree. We end with a short prayer that’s connected to the Scripture and the ornament.

All this may sound costly, but our tree was about $15, and my wife printed paper ornaments from the Internet and laminated them. There are numerous guides online as well. While this may sound boring and rote, it’s simple. This 3-5 minutes a night routine has become the core of our Christmas celebration.

My kids will never forget the next tradition. On Christmas morning, after opening gifts and having playtime, we eat birthday cake for breakfast and sing “Happy Birthday” to Jesus. While we eat, we listen to a short reading of the Christmas story from the Bible. We talk about what happened in the story and reflect on the gifts given to the baby by the wisemen.

 Other family traditions include:

• Driving my family around looking at Christmas lights.

• Watching classic Christmas movies like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and "Charlie Brown."

• Drinking lots of hot chocolate.

• Taking my family to church.

• Giving back to community and global needs.

• Helping decorate without grumbling.

Many of the ideas above come from various places. My kids and wife don’t care where I got the ideas nor the motivation—they care about Christmas because I care about Christmas.

There’s more peace and joy in our house, my wife smiles more and my children are beginning to understand Christmas for what it really is.

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.

 

Creating Holiday Memories

This is a guest post by Dave Taylor. Dave is a single dad to three kids, writing about his experiences at Go Fatherhood from their base of operation in Boulder, Colorado. He writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

12 Dads of ChristmasI'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.

Of all those, I think Passover seder was the most memorable, and I have many fond memories of my cousin David and I giggling and cracking up as the ceremonial dinner proceeded, us often interrupting the readings with long portions of Monty Python dialog. I can only imagine how the adults dealt with it, but as a kid, it was definitely a fun holiday to celebrate with good food and favorite family members.

Now that I'm a single dad, creating holiday memories for my own children has become much more important. Whether it's my traditional Thanksgiving pot luck with friends and their children (my family lives far away, unfortunately) or hosting their birthday parties at our party-friendly house -- most recently my girl's sweet 16 sleepover! -- I have come to realize the value of celebration, the truth that without occasionally taking time out to be with the ones we love just for fun and social activity, it's hard to remember to be grateful and appreciative of the blessings we have in our lives.

And I can only hope that in ten or twenty years my children will be sharing with me their favorite holiday memories from when they were kids, whether it's the splattery mess of latkes for Hannukah and the gambling on which of the candles will burn out first on the menorah or my extraordinary ability to pick perfect presents for them, year after year. Well, maybe the latter's a bit much to hope for!

After all, holidays are about all of us, they're about our ability to stop and smell the proverbial roses, to enjoy and appreciate the amazing people with whom we get to travel through our lives. And if they're our kids, so much the better!

What's one thing you have to appreciate this holiday season?

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.

An Involved Father Shares What's Better Than Being Santa

This is a guest post by Scott Behson. Scott runs Fathers Work and Family. He is an Associate Professor of Management at Fairleigh Dickinson University and writes this post for NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." He lives with his wife, Amy, and son, Nick, in Nyack, NY. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

Santa 12 Dads of Christmas

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.

However, my favorite Christmas fatherhood moment came not when I gave, but when it became clear to me that my son, Nick, learned the joy of giving. Two Christmases ago, when he was 5, I had taken Nick to an art center a few weeks before Christmas—you know the kind, where kids can paint ceramics or make mosaics. He chose to make a small mosaic for his mother. I helped only a little bit, and the mosaic turned out great. Both the woman at the art center and I complimented his work quite a bit. He was very proud.

As Christmas approached, Nick kept talking about what he made for mom, and became increasingly excited about giving it to her. I had to keep reminding him not to ruin the surprise. Of course, he was excited about presents, too, but he was really focused on giving the mosaic to mom.

On Christmas morning, Nick wakes up, gets us out of bed and runs downstairs to the tree. There’s a tree full of presents, including some big impressive-looking boxes and a bike with a bow. But Nick hardly even noticed. He dug through the presents to find his gift for mom, and proudly gave it to her.

For me, this was a precious fatherhood moment, and was even better than getting to be Santa. At such a young age, my son learned the true meaning of Christmas. 

I hope all you fellow Santas out there have joyous holidays! 

Scott is running a promotion at his Fathers, Work and Family blog. He is donating $2 to the National Fatherhood Initiative for every new person who follows his blog by the end of the year. Please click here for details.

Question: What's one thing that makes the holiday season 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.

photo credit: JKleeman

NFI Staff Share Their Favorite Holiday Traditions

NFI staff were asked to share answers to two questions as part of "The 12 Dads of Christmas: 12 Dads. 12 Stories. 12 Memories" campaign. 

  1. What was your favorite Christmas (either as a child or as a parent)?
  2. What makes Christmas meaningful to your family today?
12 Dads of Christmas

Tim Red
Senior Program Support Consultant, Military
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. As I reflect, I remember how happy my oldest son was with his new laptop. And I got a laptop so I would be able to communicate with them—he then spent the rest of the day setting it up for me. It was a very happy day considering the circumstances.

One of my most memorable Christmases as a kid was the Christmas I got Major Matt Mason (an astronaut), his space station and his moon rover. I played with those toys forever.

And last but not least was the first Christmas after I got a full-time job. I had just turned nineteen and I surprised my family with some special gifts. My Family had lived in an apartment since I was in the fifth grade. The Summer after I graduated they bought a home. We had never had pets as kids but now we could and I got my Sister a puppy for one of the special gifts. She was so excited. I also got all of my family tickets to go to the Cotton Bowl. We were big fans of UT and they were getting ready to play Notre Dame for the National Championship on January 1, 1978. Just looking at my their faces was priceless when they saw those tickets.

What makes Christmas memorable for my own children? They cannot come into the living room on Christmas morning until their Mother and I are awake and ready. Then they have to line up in the hallway by age and then I “release the hounds, I mean kids” so they can charge into the living room to see what Santa has brought them. And those moments have been very frustrating for them sometimes as I tease them about when I will release them.

Erik Vecere
Vice President, Project Design & Consulting
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. I don’t know what I expected, but I thought the players would do more than just vibrate aimlessly around. I remember trying to have a thankful heart, but that made it really hard!

In my family now, we always go to church on Christmas Eve and then read the Christmas story from the Bible after we get back. We then open most of our gifts on Christmas Eve, but save a few gifts for Christmas morning.

Visit our "12 Dads of Christmas" and join in to share your most memorable Christmas by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #12DadsofXmas to connect!

A Macaroni Dad’s Hanukkah

This is a guest post from Eric Cohen. Eric is the Co-Founder of Macaroni Kid. He lives in Southampton, New York with his wife and two kids. Follow the Chief Dad at Macaroni Kid on Twitter @MacaroniDad. If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

hanukkah menorahAs a kid, Hanukkah was my favorite holiday. Of course the presents played a big part of it, but what made it really special to me was how for eight nights in a row, my dad was home to share dinner and the festivities. Most of us who are now fathers grew up in a time when dad was the breadwinner and worked long hours, and mom was home with the kids. Family dinners were reserved for Sunday nights.

But Hanukkah was a special time. Work for my dad eased off and he made it a priority to spend time with us. Sometimes we’d take a family vacation. I celebrated Hanukkah under palm trees in the tropics and at a ski lodge in Vermont. My parents would pack the presents, menorah and candles and we’d have Hanukkah “to go”.

With my own kids, I want to ensure that what they remember most is the time we spend together around the holiday, not the new iPod, Barbie or video game. So we have a few traditions of our own that put the emphasis on family.

We do this by “theming” several of the nights of Hanukkah. One night is always “book night” where we exchange books as gifts. Each child gets a book or two, and my wife and I exchange books as presents. This is a nice way to share the gift of reading and remind our kids how important reading is.

Another night of Hanukkah we declare as “sock night” where everyone in the family gets socks. Gym socks, dress socks, ski socks and more have made appearances on sock night. As much as this is something we need, it reminds our kids that not every present has to be about fun and games, and the important thing is being together. We probably laugh more on sock night than any other night.

The next themed night we have is “trip night.” Prior to Hanukkah, my wife and I plan a family trip sometime in the new year, and on trip night we share where we are going with the kids. It’s a way of extending Hanukkah and promising more family memories.

The last themed night and maybe the most important one is “charity night”. On charity night we give the children each a budget and package of information about non-profits that we feel will interest them. Then they pick which one they’d like to donate to. One year, they gave a goat and two chickens to a family in Africa. Last year my son selected Doctors without Borders and my daughter the World Wildlife Fund.

The other four nights are devoted to typical presents and Hanukkah fun. But we have seen that the true joy of Hanukkah is spending time together and celebrating our family.

Question: What's the one thing that makes the holiday season 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.

photo credit: oskay

First Comes Pizza, Then Comes Proposal: The Christmas She Said "Yes!"

This is a guest post from Chris Delgado. Chris is a facilitator in the Family Wellness Program through the New Mexico State University Strengthening Families Initiative. He lives in Las Cruces, NM with his wife and young daughter. Chris writes this story as part of NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas." If you are interested in writing for us, send an email.

12 dads

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.

We had been high school sweethearts since the 10thgrade and we were going to the same college. It was our first semester in college that fall—so talk about a major transition in moving away from home, being the first to go to college in my family, and deciding to spend my life with the most important person I know. 

But first, I had to get her parent’s permission before I asked for her hand in marriage.  

It wasn’t the most optimal way to ask her mom and dad but I did it over the phone. I was so nervous! My wife is their eldest daughter so knowing that added even more pressure. 

It was done, however, and I got approval albeit with some awkward pauses in between the conversation.

So that Christmas Eve along with a large pizza, a movie and the ring hidden under our couch,  I got on one knee, said how much she meant to me and the journey I wanted to share together and popped the question...she said yes! One of the best presents ever! We’ve been married eight years now and it’s still one of the most memorable moments in my life.

I think the most memorable thing we do as a family is order pizza (we have since 2001) and watch random movies along with Christmas movies. Some families may have Christmas dinner but we have pizza. It’s great. You should try it once. You don’t have to mess with cooking or cleaning.

This tradition for us has special meaning. The reason this started was because my wife and I were poor college students that couldn’t make the almost four-hour trip back home for Christmas. We had to do something. Since pizza was cheap and we could “rent” movies at our apartment for free, this became our thing to do.

Since 2001, you’ll find a pizza to eat and a movie with us. As it turned out, the pizza idea has worked and now we include our family back home now that mange to visit our family more often. Pizza is not yet as popular as the traditional dinner; but at least we have a small part of what my wife and I started back in 2001. 

Lastly, our 6-year-old daughter loves this idea! In her eyes, pizza trumps ham and stuffing any day of the week—especially during Christmas.

Question: What one thing makes the holiday season special for you?

Visit our "12 Dads of Christmas" and join in to share your most memorable Christmas by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #12DadsofXmas to connect!


Reflecting on Christmas Past, Present

The following is a post from Dave Sniadak, Minnesota-based award winning video and PR guy by trade and NFL videographer for fun, Dave is Creative Director at Axiom and writes at his blog HDHubby. Follow him on Twitter @DaveSniadak. Dave writes this story as part of NFI's "The 12 Dads of Christmas: 12 Dads. 12 Stories. 12 Memories." If you are interested in writing about your most memorable Christmas, send us an email.

12 Dads of Christmas

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. 

My favorite Christmas was the year I got two of my most memorable gifts - cross country skis, and a Nintendo Entertainment System. While most of my friends would have holed themselves up in their rooms playing Super Mario Brothers, I strapped on my skis and explored the great outdoors. This took my winter treks to a whole new level. That said, I did spend a lot of time playing Tecmo Bowl over the next twelve months.

The one thing that was missing during all this self-exploration and technological enrichment? My dad. He was around, don't get me wrong, and as I learned later in life, he was pretty much responsible for making sure Santa took care of me. But at 11, 12, 13, who wanted to play Duck Hunt with your dad? And when it came to carving out tracks in the yard with my new skis, well, that was a solo adventure all the way. For my father, I believe, seeing the excitement and joy we had in playing with the presents "Santa" left under the tree was all he needed. Or was it? I haven't broached the subject with him out of fear of what he might actually say - that I turned him away from opportunities to play with me because I was so absorbed in my own world that I couldn't let him in.

Now, as a father myself, I see the same joy and exuberance in my own children's eyes when they tear into a new present. But as my kids celebrate the carnage that ensues during Christmas Morning, I feel a longing to play, just as much as they do. I actively participate in the building of Lego sets, toast to the holidays during tiny tot tea parties, and race toy cars along the table top. During all of this, I can't help but think, "Should I take a step back? Do I need to lessen my role in their role playing to encourage self-confidence and spur imagination?"

The holiday cliche says 'tis better to give than to receive. Can this be applied to our interactions with our kids on this most magical of mornings? The memories we receive by giving our time to our kids should be a two-fold reward - good for us, but great for them, as it hopefully sets a standard for parent-child engagement. When it comes to Christmas, I don't ever want to grow too old to play - hopefully you won't either.

Happy holidays to you and yours! 

Question: What makes Christmas special for you?

Visit our "12 Dads of Christmas" page for more on connecting with your family and other dads like you! Join in and share your most memorable Christmas by recording a video, sharing a picture, or posting a comment on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #12DadsofXmas to connect!

5 Ways To Say Thanks By Giving

We're finishing up our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign this week. Through November, we’ve given you tips and advise for raising a thankful childshowing thankfulness in your home, creating a memorable Thanksgiving and now we want your family to cultivate an attitude of thankfulness that continues beyond the Thanksgiving holiday!

One of the best ways to express thankfulness is to give to others! Check out our five ways of saying thanks through giving and be intentional about teaching and modeling these ideas with your kids today.

give

  1. Give Your Time: Whether it's volunteering at the local homeless shelter, participating in a community clean-up day or taking an hour to make cookies for your neighbors, investing time to help or encourage others is a great way to cultivate a thankful attitude or to say thanks to those who have helped you. When you take time to get your kids involved in the process, they will have fun and you will connect as a family as well! It's important that you explain to our child what and why are you giving your time to help others. You can explain in more detail depending on the age of your child. The point here is to not only give, but to teach your child about giving in the process.
     
  2. Give Your Talents: If your kids have musical or singing talent, nursing or retirement homes always welcome having young people to play or sing for their residents. If you're a handyman, consider offering help a single mom in your neighborhood with seasonal "honey-dos" and bring your kids along to help. There's an opportunity to serve for every kind of talent!
     
  3. Give Your Things: A couple times a year, encourage your kids to sort their clothes, books, and toys and set aside items in good condition and donate to a homeless shelter. This will help your kids realize how much they have to be thankful for and to experience the joy of giving to others who have less than them. It will also provide you a way of getting your kids to clean their rooms; at least twice per year. Go ahead and mark two cleaning dates on your calendar!
     
  4. Give Your Thoughts: Giving doens't have to mean money. Encourage your children to take a moment to say something thoughtful to the people around them, whether it's "thanks," "you look nice today," or "I appreciate your friendship." Set the example by regularly saying thoughtful and encouraging things to your family members and others. Remember, this attitude starts with you--the parent! How you talk and interact with people teaches your children to react the same manner.
     
  5. Give Your Treasure: For those with more money than time, consider supporting charitable causes and organizations financially. Encourage your children to donate a portion of their allowance or income to a specific cause. Talk with your kids about the charitable organizations you contribute to and why you give to those groups. Again, it's important to give, but it's also very important that you children know the why behind the what. Use giving as a teachable moment for your family.

As you and your children give, you will find it easier to notice all the things you can be thankful for in your life. Start saying "thanks" by giving today!

What's one thing you could change in your weekly schedule to help you and your family show thanks through giving? 

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: Tim Green aka atoach

5 Ways to Create a Memorable Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is here! Yeah, I can’t believe it either. It’s been a busy month and December is almost upon us. This month, we’ve shared ideas for raising a thankful child, showing thankfulness in your home, and now we have ideas for creating memorable Thanksgiving traditions! Check out our ideas and then read Thanksgiving traditions that NFI staff share with their family. After you read our traditions, tell us yours in the comment section!

Be Thankful

Here are five ideas to get you started:

  1. Get Active: One of the things we often take for granted is our health and ability to engage in physical activity. Being active together as a family is a great way to create a memorable time together. You know you’re going to watch football at some point during the day. You also know you’re going to consume great portions of turkey and dessert. Consider getting outside and throwing the football during commercials or halftime to be little more active this year. You can always take a nap between games later!
  2. Get Creative: I’ve heard of families having their kids make handmade place cards for every person at the table or letting your kids act out a skit to say thanks to those who made the meal. The point here is to get creative and to get the whole family involved. Consider having everyone (parents and kids) draw a picture of the things they're thankful for this year and then post drawings in a high-traffic location. Make it competitive by offering two categories for best drawing awards; one for kids and one for the parents’.
  3. Get Alone: Okay, maybe this step is over-reaching, but if at all possible, try and get a moment to yourself…just to think! Yes, even if it’s only a few minutes, take time to reflect on what is truly important. Seriously consider the question: What do I have to be thankful for this year? If you can make this step happen, you’ll be ready to lead your family from a deeper perspective. Perhaps it’s your family’s tradition to spend a few minutes before or during the Thanksgiving meal to take turns sharing what you are thankful for or to express thanks for a specific person at the table. No matter your tradition, be sure you take time during all the busy schedules to be grateful!
  4. Get REALLY Traditional: There is no need to reinvent the wheel during the holidays. Keep it old school. You can learn a lot from your parents about traditions! What made the holidays special when you were a kid? Consider incorporating those traditions into your family’s list this year. Continuing traditions from the past is a great way to help connect your children with previous traditions that your kids may not have experienced.
  5. Get Your Mind Off Yourself: There’s no greater time than the holidays to consider ways you can serve and help others. Whether you spend time buying gifts or serving food, find a cause or opportunity to serve with your whole family. Serving as a family can make for a very memorable family tradition.

NFI Staff Answers: What Makes a Memorable Thanksgiving?
Now that you have five ideas for how to create meaningful family traditions, take a look at how some NFI staff answered the question, “What makes Thanksgiving memorable to your family?

 “We take out a bit of our furniture and lay 3 long tables end to end to accommodate about 18 people (in my small house). Everyone brings something and it is quite noisy. Before we pray we go around simply to say what we are thankful for. Many feel a little embarrassed to share- but everyone is smiling when done. This year for sure - we will think of my mom and how we will miss not only her, but her cole slaw!”  Ave, program support consultant

“The girls give the turkey a name and then break the wish bone together. Grandfather plays the piano and we sing hymns before sitting down to eat.” Kayla, project specialist

“Each family member has a wooden acorn at their place setting and we pass around a little basket for everyone to put in their acorn as say what they are thankful for. Mom often makes cinnamon rolls for breakfast and then we enjoy the traditional American thanksgiving dinner. Every year my family watches the Dallas Cowboys play football… another American tradition!” Renae, outreach manager

“Watching football. Roasting chestnuts.” Vince, vice president

“Sharing around the table what you are thankful for. Going to see a movie (Bond, this year) then dessert afterward.” Melissa, vice president 

“We like to watch ET after the dinner is finished and everything is put away. Its a good family movie that everyone enjoys.” Connie, senior graphic designer

“Each family member has three kernels of corn at their seat and shares three things he or she is thankful for, putting them into a basket as they share.” Michael, programming director 

“We have dinner, go bowling, come back for dessert, and then play a family game of Pictionary so that members of all ages can play.” Lisa, programming director

You can see by reading our staff traditions that creating memories means a lot of different things to different people! Whether it's the classic American festivities of food, football and movies, or something unique and special to your family, establishing traditions and creating memories are a great way to make the Thanksgiving holiday meaningful for you and your children. The most important part of the holidays is that you spend time together as a family. That's what will make the holidays memorable and special for your kids - time with you!

What traditions make Thanksgiving memorable for your family?  

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why the dad in your life deserves thanks!

photo credit: rustiqueart

5 Ways Your Family Can Show Thankfulness

Our "Thanks, Dad!" campaign is in full swing. We hope you're learning to be more intentional about creating an atmosphere of thankfulness in your home. We recently gave you helpful tips for raising thankful children. However, thankfulness isn't simply a nice idea to instill in your children - it's something to be acted out daily. If we're intentional and thoughtful, there are many ways we can show our thankfulness as a family each day. Check out our five ideas for how you and your family can show thankfulness. Then, tell us what your family does to model thaknfulness in the comment section below.
thanks dad
1) Do Something Nice: Doing something nice for someone else is a great way to show you are thankful. Be sure to talk with your child and explain that doing something nice for someone shows you are thankful. Consider with your child ways you can do something nice to help someone. Ask your son or daughter, "What do you think so-and-so would appreciate you doing for them?" or "What can you do to show so-and-so you're thankful for how they helped you?" You may be surprised at the answer you get from you child -- children have a way to being more thoughtful than parents in some cases. Be ready to listen and work together with your child to come up with something unique and thoughtful to do for someone else this week.

2) Write a Note: Make thank-you notes a habit in your house. I can't lie, this step isn't easy. I'm the worst at thank-you notes. I love receiving them so much, you'd think I would be better at writing them. In the midst of everything else on the family calendar, writing a note probably isn't near the top. However, as a way to help you, perhaps you can get your kids involved. Have them write thank-you notes after birthday parties or for Christmas presents -- let them use their creativity and create something special for their friends or teacher. Try and see this as a time to let them express their creative side -- not simply a task to mark of your growing to-do list. For instance, younger kids can draw and color pictures while older kids could write a note in their own words. It's never too early to start teaching your children the importance of thank-you notes. Don't think you have that kind of time? Try the cell phone apps that are available for download, you can still get your kids involved in the process by letting them pick the images and/or write the messages. You'll save a ton of time and still have something thoughtful to send someone.

3) Say Something Kind: From a young age, encourage your children to say "thank you" when someone compliments them, gives them something, or does something for them. Don't allow your children to shyly whisper "thanks" with their head down - make sure they look at the person in the eye and specifically thank them for the compliment/item/action. Help them understand that eye contact and a cheerful voice are an important part of genuine thankfulness. 

4) Help Those in Need: There's no better way to model gratefulness to your family (and others) than to do something to help others who can't help you back. Ask your children to pick out food to contribute to a local food drive, spend time serving at a homeless shelter as a family, or encourage your kids to rake the elderly neighbor's yard. The point here is to reach out to someone in need and together as a family to serve. If cleanliness is next to godliness, serving others is next to thankfulness! 

5) Give as a Family: Set up a large jar in a prominent place in your house, let the kids decorate it with stickers or ribbons, and label it "The Thankful Jar." Encourage family members to put extra change or money they earn from their allowance in the jar. When the jar is full, discuss and agree to a charity or organization for which to donate the money. Or, let each family member take turns choosing a different charity to contribute to each month. Explain to your children that part of being thankful is giving to others.

What's one way you and your family show thankfulness every day?

Thanks DadVisit our "Thanks, Dad!" page for more on how you can connect with your family and other dads just like you! Don't forget to say, "Thanks, Dad!" by recording a video, sharing a picture, or writing a short note on on this blog, Facebook or Twitter @TheFatherFactor. Use the hashtag #ThxDad to tell the world why your dad deserves thanks!

photo credit: mtsofan

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