Eight Stockings of Love

I learn so much from my children’s teachers by volunteering in the school classroom. In December, I noticed one teacher recognize and reward positive behavior by dropping a marble in a large Christmas stocking. The kindergartners responded with commendable behavior just to hear that marble drop into the stocking.

At home, we had eight empty Christmas stockings hanging from our fireplace. Inspired by the kindergarten teacher, I jotted down compliments for our children on slips of paper and secretly placed these notes in their Christmas stockings throughout December. I focused on positive qualities and service they performed.

On Christmas Eve, it was a sweet experience as each child read the notes in his or her Christmas stocking. I expressed my love and appreciation to our children and explained that their acts of love represented their gifts to the Christ child. As we placed the slips of paper near the figure representing baby Jesus in our nativity scene, we felt increased love for each other and for our Savior.Cailynn Brinkerhoff, Beaverton, Oregon

Is Your Family Fireproof?

Each year, more than 500,000 home fires occur in the United States alone, resulting in nearly 6,000 deaths and 130,000 serious injuries. These are sobering statistics—and ample motivation to assess your home for fire safety and to set up, with your family, an emergency plan to guide you in the event of a household fire.

There are several things you can do to make your home more fireproof.

  • Install smoke detectors on every level of the house, and in key spots such as the kitchen, stairwells, and hallways near bedrooms. Detectors are your first line of defense against fires; most fire victims die from inhaling toxic fumes rather than from being burned.

  • Make sure smoke alarms are in working order. Check each one every month according to the manufacturer’s directions. Replace batteries in smoke alarms (and flashlights) every October when you change your clock from daylight saving time. This habit can double your family’s chances of surviving if fire strikes.

  • See that flashlights are accessible and are in working order. They can help you escape through disorienting smoke and darkness (many home fires occur at night), or you can use them to signal for help. Keep flashlights in the kitchen, basement, family room, and near beds.

  • Make sure fire extinguishers are handy, especially in the kitchen.

  • Check electrical cords and plugs to make sure they are not frayed and appear solid.

  • Keep emergency numbers near all telephones in the house.

    In addition, you should regularly review key fire safety precautions with your family.

  • Map out an escape plan, then practice it periodically. Identify two ways out of every room, and select a central place outside where all family members will meet.

  • Sleep with bedroom doors closed at night. If you did have a fire, this would help slow the spread of deadly flames, smoke, and heat. In your fire drills, practice touching the door before you open it. Teach your family that if a door feels hot, they should use an alternate exit or escape out the window. If it feels cool, they can open it a crack to check for smoke. If they determine that they have a clear path from the room, they must keep low to the ground as they exit the house to minimize smoke inhalation.

  • Practice “stop, drop, and roll.” Teach family members that if their clothes catch fire, they should never run. Instead, they should stop where they are, drop to the ground, and roll over to put out the flame.

  • Teach children not to play with matches, lighters, or household chemicals.

  • Fan the air or open a window if cooking smoke or steam set your smoke detector off. Never disable your detector.

Spending a minimal amount of time assessing, teaching, and practicing may save your lives.

More Than Just Ornaments

About the time my husband and I were going to celebrate our first Christmas together, my grandmother decided she didn’t need her Christmas tree ornaments and gave them to us. My mother provided the tree and some garlands. I made stained-glass ornaments, tied some bows, and hung a few candy canes on our tree, and when it was ready I realized that several generations were represented in its decorations.

Since that first Christmas, our children, family members, and friends have continued to contribute to our cache of Christmas decorations. Each year as we unwrap our stored decorations, we also unwrap memories. Now our tree includes decorations from both my family and my husband’s family. We joke that in our home at Christmas, we have a four-generation family tree.

I have listed each decoration and its original owner, and I keep the list with the decorations. As our children grow up and leave our home, we plan to give them four generations of Christmas decorations for their own family tree. We hope it will help them remember that families are what is really important at Christmas and for eternity.Carolyn Johnston, Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada

[illustrations] Illustrated by Scott Greer