Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Cake Bandits

by Jo Robertson

Do you ever feel that the holiday season loses its sense of giving and love? Is it as hard for you to keep a loving spirit as it is for me? Rather like the cartoon below, do you feel you're being held hostage to the holidays?

My mother taught me an important message about the holiday season. Mom was a happy, optimistic woman who had the fortune or misfortune, depending on how you look at it, to marry a man who also was outgoing, gregarious, and very alpha.

All the years of my growing up, my mother took a back seat to my father. It wasn’t until he passed away that she blossomed. Now, don’t get me wrong. They were married fifty years and remained in love to the day Dad died.

But she didn’t become fully realized as a woman until she was on her own. I saw her, at the ripe age of seventy, become the president of her church’s women’s organization. Lest you think this is a small job, let me explain. She organized every single church dinner of the year; she visited the sick and poor, taking in meals, clothing, and whatever else she managed to scrounge up from the church members. She supervised dinners for family members every time someone died. She coordinated with her pastor to order food supplies and necessities for the indigent in their congregation.

Big, big job!

Added to that, she and her friend Ethylene, planted a garden every year that would rival any co-op’s. They had corn, tomatoes, all sorts of beans, lettuce, onions, carrots. They tilled the soil, planted, pulled weeds and harvested their crop every year, hundreds of Mason jars of veggies and hundreds of bags of frozen ones.

And then they gave it all away!

Amazing, isn’t it? What generosity of spirit, and what a good example to me! I wanted to pass on those same values to my children.

When my kids were small, I'd try every year to think of a new way they could learn to give instead of receive. And it wasn't easy! See the oldest five to the right. Do they look like they're in much of a giving mood?

One of the greatest lessons came from someone else and was a gift to us -- from The Cake Bandits. This unknown couple in our church delivered the most fabulously decorated cakes to various families in the congregation throughout the year. Every Sunday my children waited to see who'd get the next cake from The Cake Bandits.

Finally our turn came. See the picture of the railroad station cake at the left? It was delivered anonymously to our doorstep one morning right before Christmas. The note said, "Merry Christmas from The Cake Bandits." We never learned who these generous people were.

One Christmas our family chose an emotionally needy student, you know, the lonely kind who doesn't seem to have many friends. We bought several gifts and played "doorbell ditch." Except when we rang the doorbell and ran away, we left these beautifully wrapped gifts for the student. Of course, no one ever knew who'd left them, and my children speculated for weeks about how excited that student must've been to know he had a secret friend.

Another year each child chose a gift from among his or her wrapped presents under the tree and gave it away to a needy child in our neighborhood.

This one was hard because my children always considered themselves the needy children since we were a one-income family at the time and Daddy was a school teacher.

What about you?
Do you find it particularly challenging to help keep the spirit of giving within yourself during the season?
What special traditions do you or your family keep to make special memories?

Don't forget -- One commenter will receive the Bandita prize today as part of our Twelve Bandita Days of Christmas, so be sure to leave a comment!


Helen said...

Is he coming to meet the new grandsons

Have Fun

flchen1 said...

Woo! Helen, surely the GR has his own room now, doesn't he? ;)

Congrats again on the new grandbabies!

Helen said...

Thanks Fedora the house seems to be getting smaller at the moment instead a having extra room LOL

Thanks to everyone for the congrats they really are little cuties Corey and Brooke have just arrived home about an hour ago I do hope he sleeps tonight Nana is still very tired.

Jo Firstly huge congrats on the birth of Emma I am sure you are having just as much fun as me.
The post is beautiful I love how some people are just such givers and doers they deserve medals and there really should be more people like that in the world.

I always put a few presents under the K Mart tree for under priveledged children and my children have always done the same and still do.

I will pop back later I am off to the hospital to see Bec and Jake.

Have Fun

Louisa Cornell said...

Yes, he is rooming with the new grandsons, of course! He is Chookysitter in Chief! Congrats, Grandma!

What a great post, Jo! I love the Cake Bandits and the idea of doorbell ditch. I am sure your kids are fantastic people because of all you have taught them.

My niece and nephew spend their vacation every year in Guatemala at an orphanage. They teach the kids and help to build something the orphanage needs.

At Christmas they spend their own money to buy little gifts for those kids and send them to them. They love doing it - the managing the money, the list making and the deciding who will get what.

Of course they also love my Mom's Christmas Eve gifts to the local police and fire departments when they come around with Santa on a fire truck. Mom and the niece and nephews spend the day making divinity, fudge, and and potato chip cookies (and this year peanut butter balls too) and they are packed into those decorative tins and put into a big gift bag that the kids run out to the police and fire vehicles as they pass by. Trust me, those guys slow WAY down when they get to Mom's street as her neighbors have joined her in giving treats. The tins are always washed and returned to Mom by New Year's Day.

jo robertson said...

Oh, Helen, I heard your second grandson arrived. Hearty congratulations. Are you having lots of fun with them -- they're like twins!

I agree with Flchen1. The rooster must have his own very special place to stay at your house. Where will he go when the grandbabies come to visit?

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, Helen, you seem to have a fatal fascination for the chook at the moment! I think he must love babies!

Jo, what a lovely post. I love the idea of the Cake Bandits! I thought you were commenting on your lair sisters' propensity to eat junk food there for a while. I should have known better, shouldn't I?

I've just finally finished my Christmas cards! That's part of Christmas I still really enjoy although the job seems to get bigger every year.

jo robertson said...

I love the names Jake and Corey. Were they big boys? I hope all the moms are doing well.

Sandra had an amazingly easy time, and considering her age, delivered a wonderfully healthy girl who weighed 7 pounds and is 19 inches long. She's too lovely for words, but maybe only her Jammy Jo thinks that LOL.

jo robertson said...

Louisa, what a wonderful tradition your niece and nephew have of going to Guatemala.

My second son spent several years in that country working with the native Kekchi, not sure that's how it's spelled.

It's a beautiful country and the people are lovely and so giving even though they are very poor.

Thank you. My children are wonderful adults, but I'm sure it's something they were born with rather than much I taught them. You never know about kids, do you? You just do your darndest and hope for the best.

Loucinda McGary aka Aunty Cindy said...

SUPER CONGRATS Helen! On winning the chook and esp. on the arrival of Jake! Well, neither held out until my bday, but that's okay. I'll still gladly be honorary godmother/aunty.

Great post, Jo-mama! And what adorable pics of your kiddoes! Brings back such fond memories.....


jo robertson said...

Louisa, that's a great story about your mom's treats and the kids running out to give them to the fire fighters!

The fire truck came by our street just this night. What a coincidence! They were accompanied by six motorcycle officers and loud, wailing sirens. We thought someone had escaped from prison LOL!

Now, you have to explain what potato chip cookies are. The very name is making my mouth water.

jo robertson said...

ROTFL, Anna. Cake Bandits could certainly apply to Bandita, no? Not a one of us would pass up a big slice of, say, WEDDING CAKE like Suz brought to National!

I just heard of a great recipe for Red Velvet Bread Pudding today. Yummy!

jo robertson said...

Hi, Cindy, welcome back to the Lair! Are you going to blog about your visit to Turkey? I hope so!

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey everyone! Congrats Helen on the new grandsons, (hope they're both heatlthy and the moms are doing well), and on gaining the GR again!

Jo, your Cake Bandits sound like such a cool thing for the kids to speculate on! And teaching them to give to others at the holidays is such a good tradition.

We've done Christmas Angel gifts over the years. One year I had two from work, hubby had two from church and my kids each brought one home from school....uhm...we had to monitor how many the next year! But it really helped our Christmas spirit that year!!

Donna MacMeans said...

WOW - Congrats to all the new moms and grandmoms. What lovely Christmas blessings!

We've always donated new toys to the local toy drives, but never had the opportunity to actually know the receipient of the gift. I think that makes giving so special, the ability to know that your gift is appreciated.

Your Mom sounds like an amazing woman, Jo - just like her daughter. Blessings to you both for your generousity of spirit.

limecello said...

Congrats on the GR, Helen!

As for the post - I loved it! Cake Bandits! I've never been that ambitious/sneaky :X. My sister and her roommate in grad school "masqueraded" as the Easter bunny. They'd make baskets for their friends, and drop them off in the wee hours (late enough so the people would find them before critters would, but early enough so they wouldn't get caught). I think it's a great idea.

Jane said...

Congrats on the new grandson and the GR, Helen.

The Cake Bandits sound like great people. I remember when we were in school, we were encouraged to bring a new toy(not expensive) to class so that they could be collected and given to needy children.

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Wow, babies are bouncing out everywhere, so many congratulations are in order. And of course congrats to Helen for snagging the GR again as well as being a double grammy.
My mother taught me to give and I did my best to teach mine the same. We had a church that gathered every year for Christmas and mother was hard put to keep me from giving away everthing. Something my mother always did though was give food throughout the year. She just couldn't handle the thoughts of anyone going hungry. I think maybe because as a youngster she was often that way herself. I think that might be why we have a problem teaching our children because for the most part they have never done without.

Maureen said...

I enjoyed your post and the Cake Bandits are great. When my children in Sunday School they would get a candy cane with a name and age and gift ideas on a tag and then we would wrap up one of the gifts and put it under a tree to be delivered before Christmas.

PJ said...

Morning All!

Helen and Jo, congrats on the arrival of your precious grandbabies! What beautiful Christmas blessings.

Laurie said...

My SIL (1.5 years) has been raised to give to different charities in lieu of presents. We have all decided to follow his lead this X-mas.
Congrats on the new grandsons!

Happy Holidays!

PJ said...

Jo, I don't have any trouble at all getting into the Christmas spirit of giving. It's my favorite holiday and the giving is what brings me joy.

I have to leave in a few minutes to volunteer at the hospital then I'll be off to the stores to scour the aisles for Jonas Brothers/Hannah Montana/High School Musical goodies for my Christmas child, a 7 year old girl from a local family that's going through hard times and can't afford gifts this year. It fills my heart to imagine the surprise and excitement that child will feel when she wakes Christmas morning and sees what "Santa" has left for her under their tree. That's better than any gift I could ever receive.

Tiffany Chalmers said...

I like the idea of giving away one of the presents the kids receive. Right now, usually the weekend before xmas, we go through all the kids toys and make a nice pile that we can bring to Goodwill. That's as far as we've gone with that process. Of course that is two fold. Because I'm just a big meany mom and I HATE toys all over my home. Especially lego! So it's good for me, and it's good for the kids to share.

This year at work for our gift exchange we pulled a number from a hat for the age group we were to buy for, and an employee to match the personality. We were given a 25$ budget, and we will be donating all those toys to the WISH foundation in Toronto. They do an amazing job in collecting gifts for the less fortunate.
Helen, Congrats on the GR.

Buffie said...

Jo, what a lovely post! The cake bandits sound fabulous and I bet the children really enjoyed it.

Every year our family does the shoebox full of gifts for Samaritan's Purse. My boys love going through the store and finding just the right things to fill their shoeboxes.

Gannon Carr said...

Wow, Helen! The GR must have been wanting a peek at those new grandbabies!

Congrats on your new grandbaby, Jo. What a lovely blessing. I love your post. Your mom sounds like a lovely, giving woman. We need more people like that in the world. The Cake Bandits is such a fun concept!

We always donate toys to needy children and there is also a local organization that works in various third world countries to build wells and filtration systems so those people can have clean water. My kids are giving some of their own money this year. Like I told them, water is something we take for granted, so they should give that precious gift instead of worrying about another video game or toy.

Buffie, Samaritan's Purse is based in Boone, NC, which is 10 min. from my house. I know several people that work for them. It's a wonderful organization.

Margay said...

My main holiday tradition is getting together with family on Christmas day for food and presents and to just enjoy one another's company.

p226 said...

I'm not into receiving. I'm probably the most difficult person I know to buy for. Anything I want, I probably have. I think maybe that's why getting into the spirit of giving is a bit difficult for me. Sorta.

I said yesterday that I'm typically Charley Brown meets Ebeneezer Scrooge. And that's partly because of the "spirit of giving." And it's not that I have a problem with the "spirit of giving." It's because I have a problem with the "spirit of giving" being a one-twelfth anomaly. Yes, it's great that people get into this spirit for the holidays. But what about the other eleven months? What giving did we do in March?

This is something I need to explore, see. I'm quite likely to refuse to "get into the holiday spirit" so much. But I am finding it prompting me to ask myself "just exactly what did you 'give' in July? And to whom?"

It sounds to me a lot like Jo's mother and I would jive on this concept quite well. The only difference is that she actually did what I'm talking about, while I'm merely pondering the concept. It appears she worked year round in a charitable spirit, while I have a tendency to rationalize eleven months of the year. I come up with "other ways" in which I support my community. They're all indirect. I've been leaving it to people like Jo's mother to do the direct work. The grunt work. Being on the line and making it happen.

So this holiday season, I'm not thinking so much about the "Christmas spirit." I'm thinking a lot more about the "giving spirit," which is a twelve-month mindset. I might start looking for a charitable organization where I can donate my time and energy. And I don't mean for Christmas. I mean for the year.

p226 said...

Ok... I just... I'm laughing too hard to type... and I just have to share this...

Tears are streaming down my face I'm laughing so hard.

I swear that sitting here in my living room, I just heard the phrase "Who the hell would put a tube of Liquid Nails next to the tube of Preparation-H!?"

I now return you to your regularly scheduled blog post.

Susan Sey said...

Hey, Jo! What a great post today! I'm struggling right now with packing up Christmas to take it on the road & there is just so much stuff that's going to wind up under the tree for the kids. And we're going to my family this year, which means my kids are the only grandkids. Which means that what I'm trying to stuff into the car is only a tiny percentage of the vast number of gifts they will receive.

How do you make a kid grateful & humble when they get so darn much? There's no reining in my family when it comes to the babies, so what's a mom to do? Suggestions are very welcome if anybody has any...

Kirsten said...

Jo, that was a great post, and it really reminded me of my grandmother. My grandpa was a larger than life, amazing character, a pastor and a big story teller, and my grandmother really lived in his shadow. We all expected her to pass away when he did. But instead, when he passed away she grieved, but then had, like you described, a sort of second life, where she became a fully realized person who got to have the spotlight shine on her for once.

We used to joke that she started talking when he died, and didn't stop until she passed away, 10 years later. :-)

We adopt a family from my husband's school to give presents to every year, and dropping those off at their house is fun for the kids, but I'm not sure they really get what's going on. I wish it was that easy. I think I'd like to do a mission trip with the kids, like Louisa's niece and nephew. The youth group from our church did a trip down to Mexico this year and I think it really changed some lives.

Susan, I struggle too with how to teach my kids to be really grateful for what they have when they've never known want. If anyone figures that out, please let me know.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Suzanne. I'm intrigued by the Christmas Angel gifts. Sounds like you got deluged that year.

How does that work?

jo robertson said...

I love those new toy drives, Donna. I don't think people realize how many homeless and underprivileged children there are in this country. Kudos to your family!

Nah, I'm just a hard-headed old crochety woman (ask Aunty Cindy!), but my children do have generous spirits.

My mum had her faults (look how serious she is in the photo, makes me want to smile), but she was my mother, you know, and I was lucky to have her.

jo robertson said...

Limecello, I love that Easter Bunny idea. I'll pass it along to my daughters. I'll bet little kids would adore doing that.

After all, aren't college kids a lot like little children LOL?

jo robertson said...

Hi, Jane, yes the Cake Bandits were very kind people. And they must've been very talented to make such elaborate cakes.

We speculated a lot about who they were. We thought a childless couple because otherwise they never could've kept their secret!

jo robertson said...

Dianna, your mother sounds like a loving, generous woman. I think you may be right about children of the Depression (as my mother was) understanding what it's really like to go without.

And I don't mean like not having a cell phone when all your friends do!

It sounds like your mother taught you well. I can just see you as a little girl, giving away all your toys LOL.

jo robertson said...

Maureen, I like your church's method of using the candy cane. What a clever idea, and the tag is something your children could keep as a memento.

I'm sure the candy cane is quickly gone!

jo robertson said...

Thanks for the congrats on the babies' arrivals, PJ. They put a little Christmas hat on her.

My oldest daughter was born on Dec 27 and they sent her home in a little Christmas stocking (well, not so little -- she weighed 8 pounds) which I still have.

I think Christmas babies are some of the best gifts. And a great tax deduction for Mom and Dad; you get to claim them, but have the expense for only a short while!

jo robertson said...

Laurie, what a great idea! You're lucky to have such a generous son-in-law!

jo robertson said...

PJ, the seven year old you're playing Santa for is going to be so delighted! Hannah Montana treats, wow.

I love to be around people like you at Christmas because you help me remember that it's a holiday meant for kindness and fellowship.

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

Oh, I LOVE the Cake Bandits! What fun, Jo! I also loved the idea of the Nefarious Easter Bunnies dropping off goodies in the wee sma' hours of the night. :>

Helen, congrats on the chook...although I have a sneaking suspicion he's loving coming your way because everyone's distracted by those babies. He can pretty much have the run of the cupboards and no one the wiser. Bwah-ha-ha! He's sneaky, that chook! :> (Congrats again on the double fun of two Christmas Grandbabies!)

I'm with you Susan, on the multitude of gifts. I keep telling my family, BOOKS, CLOTHES - is that what they get? No. Toys. Urg. I'm going to float away on the sea of toys. ha!

Seriously, though, it's challenging when you are the only one w/ little ones and everyone wants to buy for them. Twice a year, in June and November, we round up the toys, clean 'em up, mend them if needed and make a run to the GoodWill or Salvation Army. I get the kids involved and get them to admit that no, if the box hasn't been opened in 6 months, it probably won't be. :> We've sent new, unopened toys to GoodWill. *shakes head, sighs* For us, living where we do and with my son being Mr. Popular, he wants to invite everyone to his birthday. They come and instead of bringing sports stuff, the only thing he actually seems to SEE, they bring Nerf and Bionicles and toys with small pieces, which he just doesn't see the point of. So, off to GoodWill. :> GoodWill loves us.

As to making sure they understand that there are plenty of people with less, we do the Christmas Angel thing and they help me package up their clothes to give away. They also get to clean their old shoes - yep, mean mom makes THEM clean 'em - and those go to a refurbisher that sends them on to needy families.

I used to do Tony Robbin's Basket Brigade at Thanksgiving, but it's harder when you have one under 5 to go out on the streets to give. We'll get back to that, 'cause I enjoyed it a lot.

P226, I have the same dilemma in the giving area. Rather than giving to something that just gives stuff away, I like to give to Heifer Int'l which "teaches people to fish" and makes them responsible for pulling up their own bootstraps. Those people take it more seriously, and they take pride and ownership, not just charity.

That said, I can't stand to see hunger or a kid without a stuffed animal, so I do Toys for Tots too and always drop something in the kettle at Christmas, even if it's just change.

Okay, that was rambling...better post it before I ramble on any more!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Tiffany, sounds like there's method to your madness.

With 15 grandchildren we have lots of toys scattered about our house. My daughters gave me the idea of buying those plastic shoeboxes and labeling them. Now when they visit, the grands know they must return the toys to the proper boxes.

P.S. It's much harder with your own children LOL!

Crianlarich said...

What a heartwarming post, Jo! Love the Cake Bandits! That reflects the true spirit of the season. Great big sigh. Myself, I enjoy food memories to keep Christmas special. I bake my grandmother's molasses cookies, my mother-in-law's gingerbread, etc. When the baking smells fill the kitchen, those loved ones are with me again and I love that feeling.

jo robertson said...

That's a great idea about your work gift exchange, Tiffany! I like the part about matching the employee's personality to the child.

terrio said...

Jo - This is a beautiful blog. Your mother is amazing and you're pretty awesome yourself.

I like the idea of teaching the children to give. I've always made sure Kiddo knows Christmas is about celebrating Jesus' birthday and not all about getting presents ourselves.

During Thanksgiving, we spent four nights feeding the homeless at the church. I didn't think much of it when I decided to do it, but by the 4th night, I realized how much Kiddo was getting out of it. (And me too.) She loved it and was so excited. She and her friend talked to the homeless and sat with them and I was so proud.

They gave people who are often treated as outsiders or unworthy the feeling of being important and cared about. And those people were so thankful and gave them love right back. It was a satisfying experience and something we'll do every year from now on.

jo robertson said...

Yes, Buffie, the children still talk about the Cake Bandits to this day.

I'm not familiar with Samaritan's Purse and the shoeboxes. How does that work?

jo robertson said...

Oh, good, Gannon, you answered my question to Buffie about Samaritan's Purse. I thought maybe it was an organization outside of the U.S.

Yes, we take for granted such basics as clean water so vital to health and happiness. It sounds like you're doing a great job of helping your children understand how blessed they are!

jo robertson said...

Margay, that sounds like my kind of get-together. Food, family, and presents!

My family is so large now that when we all gather in one place, it's like a soccer game or something equally rambunctious and noisy! Lots of fun.

jo robertson said...

Great thoughts, P226. It's good to see you here. Yes, I think you and my mom would've gotten on famously. She had a way of making everyone laugh and she was a little kooky too!

I have someone dear to me who is homeless and lives on the street. When that happens to someone you know well, it makes you so much more aware of the needs in our communities twelve-months-long, as you say.

You sound a little like Dr. Big. He's hard to buy for too. He has everything he wants. My baby daughter makes a point of giving him coupons for a foot rub. Which he LOVES and his wife does NOT give him LOL.

But, seriously, Boyd's always happy when people give him the gift of their time and energy rather than something that's bought.

jo robertson said...

ROTFLMBO, P226. That must be a line from a Seinifeld episode!

jo robertson said...

Oh, my, Susan, I feel your pain. I've often commented to my husband that one of the reasons my children are so grateful and generous themselves is that they got very little as children. It was out of necessity because we really were quite poor LOL, but still, a great lesson for them.

I look at my grands and see all the STUFF they get and realize it's quite a challenge for moms today to teach gratitude in the face of such abundance.

You modern moms have the greatest challenges!

jo robertson said...

Oh my goodness, Kirsten, your grandparents sound EXACTLY like my parents. Mom died 10 years after my dad passed away too, and she really did pack a lot of living in those 10 years.

I'm LOL about the started talking when he died line. Tooooo funny!

I think those Mexico-mission experiences are life-altering for some kids. Many of my students did those and they came back so shocked out of their upper-middle-class complacency and so sensitive to the needs of someone outside themselves.

And you know that's a big deal because by definite adolescents are egocentric!

p226 said...

ROTFLMBO, P226. That must be a line from a Seinifeld episode!

I swear it happened. She threw the tube of Liquid Nails at me. I don't know why! I haven't used Liquid Nails for anything in at least ten years!

jo robertson said...

LOL, Jeanne, I actually like the Easter Bunny idea better because that's something I could actually do! Decorating cakes? Not so much.

Great ideas for sharing, Jeanne, and teaching our kids the true meaning of Christmas.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Crianlarich! There's nothing much better than baking your family's favorite at Christmas time. Your house sounds yummy!

I think smells evoke memories more than any other sense.

jo robertson said...

Terrio, beautiful comments. The Four Nights of Thanksgiving that your church does sounds amazing. It's such a good lesson for our children to know that those who are less fortunate than them have the same basic needs.

Children are so non-judgmental, aren't they? We should all be so accepting.

catslady said...

Brownies and girl scouts were one way my daughters' learned the gift of giving. I belong to a women's group that usually does something once a month for a group or individuals. There was also this wonderful organization at their high school called the Girls Leader Association which was geared just for volunteering. Currently my husband and I volunteer at our local American Legion and even our daughters have dressed up as elves and the Easter Bunny etc. to help out. So I guess what I'm saying if you can't come up with something on your own, there are a lot of organizations out there that need help - especially in today's economy.

jo robertson said...

Clutching my sides laughing, P226. I don't even want to know about the Prep H. Or the liquid nails, for that matter :-D.

jo robertson said...

Thanks for the ideas, Catslady. There are lots of reputable organizations which we can donate money, time, clothing. And they always are happy for volunteers. Our local Salvation Army is excellent.

Michele L. said...

Oh how wonderful! Grandbabies! Congratulations!

What a novel idea, cake bandits! I love cake! I would think the hardest part would be leaving it without being seen. My luck I would be leaving and wind up tripping and falling.

My husband and I like to go to the Radisson Hotel theater and catch a concert every Christmas. Last year we saw En Vogue, Peebo Bryson, and James Engram. They sang Christmas songs along with their hits. It was fabulous!

Also, I love to bake cookies around the holidays. It wouldn't be the same without them! My mom used to make homemade fudge every Christmas that was so gooey and delicious!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Minna said...

How do you make a kid grateful & humble when they get so darn much? There's no reining in my family when it comes to the babies, so what's a mom to do? Suggestions are very welcome if anybody has any...

Susan, here's one idea:

Essi Wuorela - Varpunen Jouluaamuna

p226 said...

Clutching my sides laughing, P226. I don't even want to know about the Prep H. Or the liquid nails, for that matter :-D.

Me either! There I was, minding my own business, watching the morning news and eating some bacon and toast, and I get hit with a tube of Liquid Nails while hearing her say that.

I don't want to know either!

Jeanne (AKA The Duchesse) said...

P226 Said: Me either! There I was, minding my own business, watching the morning news and eating some bacon and toast, and I get hit with a tube of Liquid Nails while hearing her say that.

I don't want to know either!

SNORK!!! OMGosh. Now I'm ROFLMAO. The visuals that are coming to mind... Oh. My. Goodness.

Stephanie J said...

The idea of the cake bandits is fantastic! It's like having a secret admirer. :)

I don't have a lot of giving traditions myself. I went and helped wrap gifts for BlueSanta one year and I always make it a point to donate to the Salvation Army when they're standing outside of all the stores but I have no personal tradition. I suppose since I don't have a lot of money to donate, I could try to do something with my time!

Mmm, the mention of potato chip cookies making me crave the ones my Granny used to make.

Keira Soleore said...

Helen, yes! He definitely wanted to visit your TWO grandsons. Congrats on the second one.

Jo, is that your mother? WOW!! WOW!!

Every October, through my husband's company, we do our annual giving, but it's the personal, the in-person, the hand-to-hand that makes the difference to me. We focus on it during Hanukkah and Christmas, but it's something we do all year long, too.

Keira Soleore said...

I'm thoroughly mystified over "potato chip cookies." Whatever the heck are those?

Keira Soleore said...

I'm thoroughly mystified over "potato chip cookies." Whatever the heck are those?

Christie Kelley said...

Jo, I love the Cake Bandits. What a wonderful idea.

I'm a little overwhelmed with Christmas this year and just discovered I'm haveing company. So now I have even more to do.

Our church always has an angel tree but now they're looking just for gift cards. I understand the reasons, but to me it takes away the excitment. I also don't think my kids get the true meaning of giving something to another child when it's just a gift card.

And I love the snowman holdup. I copied it for my wallpaper.

Trish Milburn said...

Jo, this was such a heartwarming post. You mom sounds like such a wonderful woman, and I love the idea of the Cake Bandits.

Cassondra said...

Helen, I think the GR has found something to spy out at your house. Can you see any government agencies from your windows? Any top secret stuff going on in your neighborhood? Are you in view of any writers and their windows? That seems to be his fascination--infiltrating the houses and minds of writers.....

Jo I LOVE this cake bandit idea, and it makes me want to come up with something similar just for the fun of it. Every year we do the angel tree at the bookstore, but that's not as fun as the cake bandit or ringing the doorbell and running for cover. But think of the PLANNING that would take? The recon alone--figuring out how to get the gift to the person without getting caught! I can't believe all those years the cake Bandits were never found out!

I lose the fun of the holidays and the giving because of being so busy. It's a tired old theme with me of late, but I need the world to stop for about 30 days and I MIGHT get caught up a bit. I've made effort lately to slow down--picking and choosing what I attend or participate in, and also making certain I CHOOSE to spend some evenings sitting at home, watching movies and spending time with my animals and my husband.

One of my favorite parts of the holidays now is that my husband's office plays Secret Santa. They draw names and each day for five days you get a gift between five and ten dollars for your recipient. It's FUN to take the information sheets the participants fill out and try to find something they'll love, wrap it up, then get it to them without being seen. It's put part of the joy of giving back into it for us. I like these kinds of "sneak around and give something away" games.

Thanks so much for telling us about the Cake Bandits!

Helen said...

I am so glad Emma and Sandra are doing well Brooke and Corey are home know and he had a good night last night Bec and Jake are still in hospital both girls had major tears Bec had to go to surgery to be repaired and is still basicly in bed but Jake is doing well he was vacumn extraction and has a very big bruise but is sleeping and feeding well. We are going to have such a wonderful Christmas.

There really are so many ways that people can help other people sometimes small things like just calling in to see someone and having a cuppa and chat can make someones day and as P226 says it really should happen all year round but I think this is the season that makes everyone think about it more because of the yearning to be with family and friends.

Have Fun

Janga said...

What a warm, wonderful post! Your mother must have been a wonderful person, Jo, and how blessed you are to have such memories.

Congrats on all the new babies. They do make holidays and everydays brighter.

My church always does the Samaritan's Purse shoeboxes, and this year we have our own angel tree for children in the area shelter for abused women and children. They have become a year-long project for us.

There were lots of teary eyes (and not all of them female) the Sunday the director of the shelter spoke in our church and stressed that these children, and their mothers, often came in to the shelter literally with nothing but the clothes on their backs. She asked particularly for coloring books and crayons because coloring was a therapeutic activity not just for the children but for the adults as well. I think she now has a year's supply. :)

When I taught high school, the club I advised always did a Christmas coats project, buying coats for children who needed one. The hs kids also got great satisfaction from our adopted grandparents project, visiting seniors who were alone during the season. One of my best memories from my years in the classroom are the looks on the faces of the teenagers and seniors alike as they talked and sang together.

Nancy said...

Jo, what a wonderful tradition! We briefly had a Secret Snowman in our neighborhood--you'd leave a bag of candy on someone's porch along with a snowman drawing they could post to show they'd already been tagged once. Then you left a bag for someone else with a copy of the drawing, and so on.

Since we live in the city, I suppose we were pretty trusting in eating the candy, but we did. It was a nice custom.

Nancy said...

Helen, congratulations on your newest arrival! I'm glad everything went well.

Please do not give that bird his own room. He already pesters the cabana boys for privileges (he's scared of the gladiators, but I'm sure he'd also pester them otherwise).

Nancy said...

Jo, we participate in the angel tree at our local independent bookstore. We like the idea of helping children who want books.

On Christmas Eve, just about the time little ones are reluctantly going to bed, the guys from our fire station dress someone up as Santa and ride through the neighborhood with Santa up on the truck. It's really cool. They always welcome the neighborhood kids at the station.

Red Velvet Bread Pudding? Oh, my word! I can practically smell the calories.

jo robertson said...

Michele, what a lovely tradition going to a concert is!

I'd love to do that. As the Banditas know, I'm spending New Years Eve in New York with my daughter this year. We have a hotel right on Times Square so I hope to join in some of the excitement!

LOL at the idea of you tripping and falling as you left the cake. My problem would be eating it before I got it delivered! I do love me some cake!

jo robertson said...

Minna, Sponsor a Child is a good idea. What's the other one? I couldn't get the net to cooperate today.

jo robertson said...

Now, P226, you are personally responsible for Madame Snork destroying another computer monitor!

robynl said...

I love giving and for some years did up a box of presents for Operation Christmas Child; I sponsor 4 children in El Salvador so they can go to school; we donate items to The Salvation Army and MCC stores where needy folks can purchase at decent prices.

jo robertson said...

Stephanie, I think that's the cool thing about traditions. They're so personal and you can make anything a tradition even if you're short on money. Heaven knows, we've been throughout our lives. In fact, I think the best things are those that cost very little. I still treasure those silly gifts my kids made at school during the holiday.

Again with the potato chip cookies!! What are they?? We must have the recipe!

jo robertson said...

Absolutely agree with you, Keira, it's the in person gift that means the most.

Yes, that's my mom when she was in her late thirties. I love that dress she has on.

Let's track down that potato chip cookie person, shall we?

jo robertson said...

Louisa, it was you!!! You mentioned your mom's potato chip cookies and we MUST HAVE the recipe.

Can you share it or is it a family secret like the Colonel's chicken?

jo robertson said...

Ah, Christie, is anyone ever UNDER whelmed by Christmas? Hope you survive the extra company.

I still don't know what an angel tree is. I feel culturally deprived!

I know what you mean about the gift card thing. It does seem to depersonalize the whole gift giving idea, but many people actually like them.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Trish, glad you liked the cake bandit idea. I wish I could decorate. It'd be so rewarding to do that, I think.

Your post yesterday was so much fun. I love small towns and the memories people who grew up in them have.

jo robertson said...

Cassondra, I'm not surprised you love the "sneak around" games of Christmas. I love the secret Santa or secret pals too. We always did that in our English department and it's so much fun to fool people. Heeheheheh.

Hugs on this time of the year for you. It must be hellacious delivering all those cards and packages. I think I've mentioned that I have the best postal lady ever! She always delivers to the door and is so cheerful all the time. I don't know how she does it!

I think this time of the year is a good time for remembering persons who work in the service sector. Often we don't appreciate good service, we only notice bad service.

jo robertson said...

Ouch, Helen, so sorry about Becky and Brooke. That's no fun at all. Glad to know the boys are doing well. There're amazing creatures, aren't they? I could look at my babies for hours. I'm such a guber!

It IS the little things that count. I remember when I had my second baby. My oldest was 12 months and I was completely overwhelmed. Plus the baby spent 6 weeks in the hospital with bronchial pneumonia. My MIL came and took Lance to her (out of state) and kept him a week while I got back on my feet. So wonderful of her!

jo robertson said...

Wonderful ideas, Janga. Our high school did something similar and I firmly believe it's a wonderful experience for teenagers.

I always loved when the choir (especially the madrigals) came down the halls caroling that last day before the winter break! So beautiful. Good singing always makes me cry.

jo robertson said...

Hi, Nancy. I love that tag game. My daughters do it in their neighborhoods with Halloween, but it'd be fun to do at Christmas time. I think it helps build a sense of community in a neighborhood.

And oh yes, calories galore in the Red Velvet Bread Pudding. It's one of Paula Deen's recipes and always says everything's better fried LOL. Not the cake, of course. The topping is a cream cheese thingy, but I'd just serve Cool Whip probably.

jo robertson said...

Robyn, bless you! I fully believe in the concept of karma.

Salvation Army is one of the organizations we've gotten to know over the years. They do a terrific job of helping the homeless and needy.

Cheri2628 said...

I loved your stories! Being a cake bandit sounds like fun, doesn't it?

This year we were able to anonymously help a police officer co-worker of my son. He was injured on the job, so he could only perform ONE of the THREE jobs that he had. It truly does the heart good to help someone, especially when the person doesn't know who did it. It helps my Christmas spirit to know that this man and his family will have a better Christmas now.

Merry Christmas!

Minna said...

And Plan's Sponsor a Child isn not just the thing of Christmas, either. Not to mention that if that the amount of money seems too much for one person, you can for instance sponsor one child with your friends or collegues.

Did you mean you couldn't see this?
Essi Wuorela - Varpunen Jouluaamuna

It's an old -and very sad- Finnish Christmas song. Sparrow on Christmas Morning.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Hey Jo! Just crawling out of bed and look how busy y'all have been! We had an ice storm last night, so driving home from work this morning was twice as long, but it definitely feels like Christmas in Dallas!!

As for Christmas Angel trees, they're at work and the malls and chruches down here. A needy family can put their child's name on a paper "angel" and hang them on a tree. We pick one or two and then buy age appropriate gifts, usually what the child has listed in the way of toys or books (I'm a big one on books!) and at least one article of clothing. Then you turn the items in to the mall, church, work person in charge and they wrap and deliver them.

It was always a good way to get my kids and hubby into the spirit of giving to someone else.

flchen1 said...

Jo, I finally had time to read your post--how incredible! What a lovely generous thing to do, those Cake Bandits!

We do send support to several charities, but are trying to encourage our kids to be more active in giving. Their school holds several drives a year for various kid-related things, so that makes it easier to nudge them to share. We also sponsor a child (through Compassion International) who's the same age as our oldest, so they see through the correspondence how he's helped by our giving.

It IS fun to get to surprise people you know with some spontaneous generosity though--we'll have to think of something fun like that to do!

Hope the GR's having fun with your two new cuties, Helen! Congrats again!

Amy S. said...

My mom, my sister, and me usually make cookies, fudge, pies, and Christmas dinner together.

Pat Cochran said...

Your mother and mine were from an
era which saw many mothers caring
for family and community. Mother,
an at-home parent, gave much time
for many years to the PTA and to our church. She and her best friend headed up all the projects that funded the building of the chapel which our church built back in the late 1950s. Mother's PTA years were from 1947 through the late 1960s. My mother:Mary Louise
Castillo. Her best friend: Dora
Stokes. Thanks, Mother!

Pat Cochran

Tawny said...

Oh Jo, what a lovely and heartfelt post. This is truely what the spirit of the season means, isn't it?

We always participate in Toys for Tots, with my daughters using their own money to buy at least one of the gifts to donate. This year, a friend adopted a family in need so we chipped in with pressies to send. I got the books, the kids got the toys and we boxed them all up.

Kennan said...

i remember the cake bandits! and giving away stuffed animals at christmas time, and having students of dad's over for dinner. i'm trying to pass along those traditions to my children now. we are really having fun with the 12 days of christmas this year. i think gabe is especially excited about dressing in camo and doorbell ditching.
another thing we are doing this year is putting service ideas in our stockings. we each write our own service we'd like to receive from others and put them in our stockings. when somebody is feeling loving, they take a slip of paper out of the stocking and give that service. tonight we made a cup of tea for mike and gabe played a game with me. the kids actually think this stuff is fun!

traveler said...

Congratulations on the grandchildren. Our special tradition was to bake Italian goodies for families and drop them off for the needy fmailies.
We have our own Italian feast on Christmas Eve with family.

jo robertson said...

Traveler, your Italian sounds delicious. What kinds of Italian goodies do you take around? What foods do you serve?

jo robertson said...

Ah, Kennan, that service idea in your stockings is a good one! My other daughter is doing that too -- heehehe, she probably stole the idea from Kennan. It's a great thing and the kids seem to love it.

Glad you remember the Cake Bandit. It was a fun time!

jo robertson said...

Oh, and LOL at Gabe doorbell ditching in camoflague!

He should get together with our P226 and Cassondra who could reconniter for him!

jo robertson said...

Tawny, I love Toys for Tots too. Your children sound so amazing. I am sure you're very proud of them!

jo robertson said...

Pat, what a nice tribute to your mom and her friend. Those were special women, weren't they. My MIL was of that generation too. A real pioneer woman!

jo robertson said...

Cheri, how generous your family is. I can't imagine that poor man working three jobs and being injured. Wishing them -- and you -- a happy holiday!

jo robertson said...

Amy S. -- cookies, pies, and fudge -- I am SOOOO there :-D.

My hairdresser had a plate of fudge out today when I went. She said (modestly) that she whipped it up on her lunch break. OMG! My fugde takes much longer and isn't nearly as good!

jo robertson said...

Flchen, I think sponsoring a child is one of the most rewarding things you can do because you get to see the growth and take pleasure in that.

Yes, I'm worried about the GR and Helen's grandsons. I'm not sure he can be trusted around newborns.

jo robertson said...

Thanks for explaining the Angel Tree, Suz.

And big hugs on the ice storm in Dallas! Wow! Take care, Bandita, slippery roads are . . . well, slippery!

Joan said...

Crawling in late but wanted to say, great blog, Jo!

My actual CHRISTMAS giving waxes and wanes though this year it's on the upswing. Probably because of all the people losing their jobs. I did the Angel Tree (like Suz..sponsored by the Salvation Army)

Usually, I'm only able to get an outfit..maybe the shoes. But THIS year because of the generosity of this children's store "The Children's Place" which was giving an additional 15% off on clothes for the Angel tree I could get my 6 yo girl a beautiful coat (that had a fleece zippered lining), jeans, pink and green sweater, long sleeve matching tee, gloves, Sketchers slip on tennis shoes (pretty) AND a Ladybug game.


jo robertson said...

Oh, Joanie, that's going to be one happy six-year old!

Thanks for sharing your Christmas traditions, stories, and memories, everyone.

Check back to see who won today's prize!

Caffey said...

Its hard missing my mom during the Christmas time since we lost her between Thanksgiving and Christmas (December 1). I was visiting a friend after my mom passed and looking at her tree and chatting. I hadn't put up my tree yet and we spoke alot, but she gave me an angel ornament and for me that had me going home and putting up my tree and adding that angel. I just made the connection that she's watching over me. So each year now, and its now 8 years, I buy a new angel ornament for the tree. Gosh, you should see the beautiful different angel ornaments! We have a small tree now because my cats did quite a number on my big tree a couple of years ago (we laugh so hard now about that story). Last year during surgery, my son and hubby picked up the angel ornament for the tree, they did wonderful! This year my daughter asked if she could pick one out. So now we have another tradition within the tradition and we are taking turns picking out an angel ornament! I too have a couple of houses that light up and I so love to add more of them, so I hope to get more and kind of set up a little village under the tree we now have. Its smaller but its not a small table kind one but pretty much half of the usual size tree. We should be putting it up soon! So my point is that you can take the hard times and fill them with something you can look forward to! And too, to make it a family one!

jo robertson said...

Caffey, what a beautiful story about your mom and remembering her with the angels. Thanks for sharing your family traditions.

Christmas is an especially hard time to lose someone you love, but you've made a lovely remembrance for her.

Caffey said...

Oh I wanted to add more! We only exchange one gift now that we started to do a couple of years ago when my health got worse and I wasn't able to work. So it was just one gift exchange, but hubby and I don't exchange (our gift is having each other), and my two children are YA now so picking that one thing they want (and I always add a book to it, they hint to me what they want in book, cuz they know I will get that too). So with those changes we also added playing Scrabble and some other board games. Getting my hubby to play is hilarious! They call him a cheater, LOL. But too we always watch National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and add in another comedy one, usually rent a recent released one. So I'm looking forward to that on Christmas eve. I'm really trying hard to make it be fun since I had taken so much away due to my health, but laughter with us all together is a great feeling.

jo robertson said...

With the economic crisis, buying only one gift seems like a splendid idea. Most people way overspend, don't you think?

Your family sounds lovely and I'm sure they'd rather have their mom at Christmas than anything else.

Ellory said...

To try to remember the spirit of giving we traditional pick one night of Chanukah to make it a night when no one gets a present but each person in the family picks out a place to donate to.

jo robertson said...

Ellory, that's a beautiful tradition.

Thanks everyone for such great ideas!