Roanoke Valley Family Magazine December 2021

Page 1

December 2021

Volume 10 • Issue 4

From Our Family to Yours

Happy Holidays


leading off: publisher’s note It is truly our favorite time of the year! The Holiday Season! We cherish the time our family gets to spend together even more this year, after the passing of my mother in September. Time goes by too quick, and you never quite realize how precious it is until you begin losing those around you and the memories you have created together. This year, we will cherish the time we have together more, soak in the atmosphere and conversation and remember to hug a bit more and tell everyone how much we care at every chance we get.

Going for a drive with Ani, Evie and Bauer

Enjoy the holidays with your friends and family - and please remember to make the most out of every interaction you have with them!

The Eagan Family

Andrea, Josh, Anika and Evelyn

Proud Members of the Parenting Media Association since 2013! Learn more at 7

Co n t a ct Us: P.O. Box 4484, Roanoke, VA 24015 540-251-1660


Josh & Andrea Eagan • Anika and Evelyn’s Parents

Creative Director

Read Our Other Publications



Contributors Cristy Carr • Gene Marano • Sandi Schwartz Tani Haas • Rebecca Hastings Rachel Levine • Jacqueline Moon

Connect With Us


Tracy Fisher • Charlotte and Evelyn’s Mom

Community Relations Director

We welcome reader comments, submissions, and the support of advertisers. • Parker and Connor’s Mom

We reserve the right to refuse or edit any materials submitted to us as we deem inappropriate for our audience. Please include a self-addressed, stamped envelope with any submission to be returned. We do not accept responsibility for unsolicited materials.

Jeanne Lawrence


Jacqueline Moon • Elijah’s Mom, and Luke and Blair’s Stepmom

Sales Assistants Ani & Evie Eagan • Bauer and Chloe’s Owners


John Morris • COV Designs

Roanoke Valley Family and are published by MoFat Publishing. Roanoke Valley Family is published monthly. The views and the opinions expressed by the writers and advertisers do not necessarily represent those of Roanoke Valley Family, its staff, or its contributors. While multiple businesses, schools, and organizations are represented in our pages, and magazines are often distributed to students according to the policies and procedures of each school district, this is not a publication coordinated or endorsed by any public or private school district, nor is it a publication with any religious or political objectives. As a mass media outlet, it is our oath and responsibility to communicate with due diligence, through our content, the plurality of views and opinions reflected in our audience of Central and Southwest Virginia. Readers are strongly encouraged to verify information with programs and businesses directly. Parents are urged to thoroughly research any decisions involving their children. Copyright 2019 by MoFat Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved. All material, including artwork, advertisements, and editorials, may not be reproduced without the expressed written consent of the publisher.




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© Copyright 2020 Mofat Publishing

On the Cover Protect the ones you love,

get your flu shot today.


Joanna Kaydence Wood (8) Favorite color: Pink Favorite food: Chicken nuggets or pizza Favorite movie: Disney’s Zombies and Zombies 2 What she wants for Christmas: A Fitbit and LOL Dolls

Inside December

Create a Season of Joy

10 Ways to Stress Less this year!

Read on page 14

New Year, New Budget Make a resolution to stick to that budget in 2022.

5 Holiday Activities for your Family Read on page 37

6 Local Events & Fun At Home

We urge families to be safe and carefully consider as they attend holiday and community events this winter. We want everyone to be able to celebrate AND be safe.

22 Kids Eat Free 26 A History of Christmas Traditions

Read on page 28

24 Recipe of the Month

44 Snowy Book Guide

42 Santa Claus vs Single Mom

47 Crystal Snowflakes

Make a delicious Gingerbread Biscotti with ingredients from Oliveto in Roanoke!

Focus on Meaning over Make Believe

32 Holiday Home Safety

Curtis Burchett of Burchett Homes shares some tips on how to makesure your safe this holiday season.

We pick some of our favorite reads for this holidays gift giving season!

Have fun with this science experiment and learn how to make snowflakes inside your house!

DECEMBER Things to do

Roanoke City’s Dickens of a Christmas Celebration lasts all December long! On December 3, stop by Market Square to see the city Christmas tree lighting at 5:30 PM. Grab some classic roasted chestnuts and watch the city Christmas Parade on December 10 at 6:30 PM- rain or shine! Then, before jetting off to your family’s

Gingerbread Festival Dec 4 | Salem Library


Dec 3-5 | Virginia Children’s Theatre

Three weekends full of Holiday Magic in Downtown Roanoke this December!

holiday plans, stop by the Taubman Museum on December 17 for the Mini Carnival and Pet Costume Contest at 6:30 PM (Register your furry friend by 5:30 PM to participate!). Every night is free to attend and features classic holiday activities such as carriage rides, vendors, street performances and kids games!

Candy Cane Express Dec 4-5 | Virginia Museum of Transportation

Elmwood on Ice

Throughout December Elmwood Park

Jingle Bell Run

Dec 9 | Downtown Roanoke

Family • December 2021


Elmwood on Ice presented by WDBJ7 4-9 PM|Ongoing Event | Elmwood Park, Roanoke Illuminights - Winter Walk of Lights 5-10 PM|Ongoing Event | Explore Park, Roanoke The Salem Museum’s Christmas Train returns! 10 AM-4 PM|Ongoing Event | Salem Museum, Salem

Rail Yard Dawgs Home Games

7 PM | Berglund Civic Center, Roanoke Tickets are $11-$22

12/17 - Hockey is for Everyone 12/18 - Teddy Bear Toss 12/23 - Christmas Movie Trivia 12/30 - Office Trivia 1/31 - New Years Eve* *Game Starts at 6:05PM

For more information visit

The Salem Museum’s popular model train returns for its fifth Christmas season. Our vintage American Flyer train is back, so popular for the holidays. Travel back in time to visit the charming village of “Plasticville” set in the 1950s and ’60s. Star City Safe: Dinner and a Movie 5-7 PM|Ongoing Event | Melrose Branch, Roanoke When: Wednesday, December 01, 2021 - 5:00 PM - 7:00 PM Where: Melrose Branch Library at Community Room Join us for dinner and a movie.

Thursday, December 2 COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic--Raleigh Court Branch Library 11 AM-1 PM|Roanoke When: Thursday, December 02, 2021 - 11:00 AM - 1:00 PM Where: Raleigh Court Branch Library at Community Room The Virginia Department of Health is offering free COVID-19 vaccinations (Pfizer and Moderna) for ages 12 and up. Miss Tess 7:30-10 PM|Elmwood Park, Roanoke Miss Tess has always been known for creating an eclectic array of vintage blues, country, and jazz sounds. Currently residing in Nashville, she finds no shortage of inspiration in the roots scene there.

Wednesday, December 1 A Christmas Story Ongoing Event | Mill Mountain Theatre, Roanoke BACK BY POPULAR DEMAND! A Christmas Story returns to the Trinkle MainStage for the 2021 holiday season. This play is a witty adaptation of the classic movie we all know and love. Children’s Dance and Movement classes Ongoing Event | Elmwood Park, Roanoke Dance and Kids Yoga classes! Kinderdance Class for children ages 3-5, Kindertots dance class for children starting at age 2 Kids Yoga movement class, non religious, fun, mindfulness, age appropriate Ages 6-10 The Elf on the Shelf: A Christmas Musical 6 PM|Berglund Center, Roanoke This holiday season The Elf on the Shelf® Scout Elves return to center stage for the live musical that has captured the hearts of families everywhere.


Family • December 2021

Star City Safe: Letters to Santa 5-6 PM|Melrose Branch, Roanoke When: Thursday, December 02, 2021 - 5:00 PM - 6:00 PM Where: Melrose Branch Library at STEAM Lab Stop by the Melrose Branch Library and create your own letter to Santa before the big man comes by on Monday.

Friday, December 3 Art by Night 5-9 PM|Elmwood Park, Roanoke This is a free event from 5-9 p.m. On the first Friday of EACH month Downtown Roanoke Art Galleries are open late! ART BY NIGHT showcases Roanoke’s thriving arts community, featuring diverse galleries, museums and artist’s studios. Dickens of a Christmas - First Night 5:30 PM|Elmwood Park, Roanoke The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas - First Night December 3 - City of Roanoke Christmas Tree lighting on Salem Avenue in Wells Fargo Plaza.

Joe Bonamassa 8 PM|Berglund Center, Roanoke Market Gallery Origami Holiday Make and Take Event 6-10 PM|Ongoing Event | Market Gallery, Roanoke Come by the Market Gallery at 22 Campbell Ave in Downtown Roanoke during Dickens of a Christmas. We will be offering a make-and-take origami Christmas ornament activity each week. Roanoke Symphony Orchestra: Holiday Pops Spectacular 7:30 PM|Salem Stadium, Salem Storytime 10:30-11:30 AM|Ongoing Event | Gainsboro Branch, Roanoke When: Friday, December 03, 2021 - 10:30 AM 11:30 AM Where: Gainsboro Branch Library at Community Room Join us for storytime! Straight Street Youth Night 5-11 PM|Ongoing Event | Roanoke The mission and purpose of Straight Street is to provide a pos itive Christian environment where at-risk* youth can go and obtain the ne cessary skills and training needed to mature and to discover God’s Divine plan for their lives.

Outdoor Live Nativity -- walk thru 6-8 PM|Bethlehem Church of the Brethren, Boones Mill

George Thorogood 8 PM|Berglund Center, Roanoke Marble Eyes 7:30 PM|Elmwood Park, Roanoke You’ve seen members of Marble Eyes on the Sanctuary stage in the bands Kung Fu and Pink Talking Fish. Experience this collaborative effort born during The Great Pause.

Explore your

“Come to Bethlehem and See...” Experience an outdoor live nativity program at Bethlehem Church of the Brethren at 4250 Bethlehem Road , Boones Mill, VA 24065. This is a walk thru experience with music, readings, live characters and animals. Paint Your Pet Home Kits 10 AM-5 PM|Ongoing Event | Taubman Museum, Roanoke 10:00am - 5:00pm Register Now Those big, sweet eyes. Those lovable, furry paws. A long, swishy tail that instantly wags when you enter the room. You have the best pet in the world, don’t you?

holiday spirit through a dazzling world of over 500,000 lights. Journey at your own pace on a walking tour of displays celebrating nature, fantasy, adventure and Christmas traditions.

Sunday, December 5 Skate with Santa 1-3 PM|Ongoing Event | Elmwood Park, Roanoke Skate with Santa at WDBJ7’s Elmwood on Ice This event features Santa, Ms. Clause, and a few more friends from the North Pole! There is no extra charge to see Santa and friends!

Travel down our half-mile wooded path, and take in the sights and sounds of the season.

Learn more and purchase tickets at

Monday, December 6 Saturday, December 4


Adult Take Home Craft: Holiday Card Roanoke When: Monday, December 06, 2021 - All Day Where: Gainsboro Branch Library Stop by and pick up a fun adult take home craft! Roanoke County Annual Christmas Tree Lighting 6:30-8:30 PM|South County Library, Roanoke aspx?EID=13876

Family • December 2021


SANTA CLAUS! 6-7:45 PM|Melrose Branch, Roanoke Santa Claus will be visiting the Roanoke Public Libraries. Take & Create Craft Kits for Kids Ongoing Event | All RCPL Locations, Roanoke

Southwest Virginia Ballet The Nutcracker Storytime 11-11:45 AM|Ongoing Event | Melrose Branch, Roanoke

Thursday, December 9

Come see Southwest Virginia Ballet ballerinas from The Nutcracker and enjoy a storytime a craft!

Just how do Santa’s reindeer fly? While we can’t actually answer that question, we can have some fun with our holiday STEM challenge.

Stop by all RCPL locations for a fun weekly craft for kids. ht tp://

Wednesday, December 8

Tuesday, December 7

Just like the classic Nutcracker story, in The Hip Hop Nutcracker Maria-Clara and the Nutcracker prince go on a dream adventure battling a gang of mice, visiting the land of sweets, and learning the lessons of the holiday season.

Anticipating the Light 1-2:30 PM|Williamson Road Branch, Roanoke When: Tuesday, December 07, 2021 - 1:00 PM - 2:30 PM Where: Williamson Road Branch Library at Large Community Room December is the season when we are to let the light back into our lives. SANTA CLAUS! 11 AM-1 PM|Ongoing Event | Williamson Road Branch, Roanoke

Hip Hop Nutcracker 7-10 PM|Berglund Center, Roanoke

SANTA CLAUS! 11 AM-12 PM|Main Library, Roanoke Santa Claus will be visiting the Roanoke Public Libraries.

Flying Reindeer 4:30-5:30 PM|Roanoke

Holiday Chillax Paint Night 6-7:30 PM|Gainsboro Branch, Roanoke Join us for a paint night to end the year off right!

Friday, December 10 Dickens of a Christmas - Night Two 6:30 PM|Elmwood Park, Roanoke The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas - Night Two December 10 - The City of Roanoke Christmas Parade The City of Roanoke Christmas Parade begins on Jefferson Street at Elm Avenue, turning onto Campbell Avenue, going past Market Square, and

Santa Claus will be visiting the Roanoke Public Libraries.

Family • December 2021


Holiday Brass 7-8:30 PM|Cave Spring United Methodist Church, Roanoke

The Nutcracker at The Berglund Center LIVE! 3 PM|Berglund Center, Roanoke

Tickets on sale August 23! Just in time for the holidays, enjoy members of the RSO Brass section in concert – their brilliant sound will dazzle you and put you in the spirit of the season! Roanoke Symphony Brass Jay Crone, leader

Southwest Virginia Ballet’s 30th annual LIVE performances of The Nutcracker 2021 at The Berglund Performing Arts Theatre will be held on December 11 at 3pm and December 12 at 3pm. Select the best seats NOW! We look forward to seeing you there.

Saturday, December 11

Polar Express 11 AM-12 PM|Troutville Park, Troutville

Family Fun Day! 10 AM-12 PM|Taubman Museum, Roanoke Looking for something creative and handson that you can enjoy as a family? Join us for the Museum’s new Family Fun Days!

Hop aboard as we take a journey to the North Pole in this classic holiday book by Chris Van Allsburg.

Sunday, December 12 Salem Holiday Market 9 AM-4 PM|Salem Stadium, Salem NOW 2 DAYS! December 11th & 12th from 9:00 am - 4:00 pm each day Craft and Vendor Show will have unique crafters, artists, and direct sell companies.

Monday, December 13 Adult Take Home Craft: Snowflake Ornament Gainsboro Libray, Roanoke Stop by and pick up a fun adult take home craft!

Ice Skate & Slide at Elmwood Park Stop by Elmwood Park in Downtown Roanoke for Ice Skating and Ice Sliding! Monday & Tuesday & Wednesday - Closed Thursday & Friday - 6:00PM - 10:00PM Saturday - 11:00AM - 10:00PM Sunday - 12:00PM - 7:00PM Open everyday 12/20-12/31 11AM-10PM Except Christmas Eve 11AM-4PM CLOSED CHRISTMAS Skate Admission: $6 Skate Rental: $2 Putt Putt: $3 Combined Skate, Putt Putt and Rental: $10 Season pass available for $75. Private Rentals are available.

Visit for more information.

Tuesday, December 14

at 3:30PM

Dickens of a Christmas - Night Three 5:30 PM|Elmwood Park, Roanoke

Handel’s Messiah 7-8 PM|Shaftman Performance Hall, Roanoke

Hairspray 7:30 PM|Berglund Center, Roanoke

The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas - Night Three December 17 - The Roanoke Valley SPCA brings back its beloved Pet Costume Contest, taking place on Salem Avenue at Wells Fargo Plaza.

Tickets on sale August 23! Roanoke Symphony Chorus & RSO Virtuosi David Stewart Wiley, conductor Handel Messiah: Part One, “Christmas” and “Hallelujah” Chorus Star City Safe: Teen Anime Club 4:30-5:30 PM|Ongoing Event | Melrose Branch, Roanoke Stop by the Melrose Branch Library for some anime and snacks. Stargazing with the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society 6:30-7:30 PM|Botetourt Sports Complex, Troutville

Night Howls 5:30-7 PM|Mill Mountain Zoo, Roanoke Bundle up and bring your friends to the zoo to hear the wolves howl, the owls hoot and the big cats call! Participants will begin the night indoors enjoying hot cider and cookies while learning about nocturnal animals and the noises they make. SANTA CLAUS! 6-7:45 PM|Gainsboro Branch, Roanoke Santa Claus will be visiting the Roanoke Public Libraries. Star City Safe: Jewelry Making Class 5-6:30 PM|Melrose Branch, Roanoke

Join the Roanoke Valley Astronomical Society as we gaze into the stars over Botetourt. Participants will get hands-on experience using a telescope and locating important features in the winter sky.

Wednesday, December 15 Kids Farmers Market 3-4 PM|Melrose Branch, Roanoke Join us at the Melrose Branch Library for a Kids Farmers Market, sponsored by Feeding Southwest Virginia!

Foam Gingerbread House Craft 3:30-4:30 PM|Williamson Road Branch, Roanoke We’ll be making an easy (and much less messy!) foam gingerbread house here at Williamson Road, on December 16th, 2021,

The Nutcracker 7-8:30 PM|Ongoing Event | Sara, Roanoke Join Roanoke Ballet Theatre’s professional company and school in our annual production of the Nutcracker! This performance will take place at the Jefferson Center on December 17th at 7pm, and December 18th at 2pm and 7pm.

Join us for some jewelry making at the Melrose Branch Library! Bringing a group? Give us a call 3 days in advanced!

Saturday, December 18

Teen Takeout Book Club 5-6:30 PM|Roanoke

The Highlander Heaven 5K Challenge runs through and around the Glenvar High School Campus. The course was designed as part of an AP Government 20 Project by Carly Wilkes, a cross country and track and field runner at Glenvar.

It’s a book club with a bonus! Each participant will get a spe cialized bag with library books, snacks, activities, and goodies to ke ep. Library books selected are middle & high school reading levels.

Highlander Heaven 5K Challenge 3-6 PM|Glenvar HIgh School, Salem

Monday, December 20 Friday, December 17 Kids Take Home Craft: Pet Ornaments Gainsboro Library, Roanoke

Craft Your Own Pet Alien 11 AM-12 PM|Williamson Road Branch, Roanoke

Thursday, December 16

Market @ The Museum 12-3 PM|Science Museum of Western Virginia, Roanoke

Join us for an epic Alien craft event at the Williamson Road Branch Library. For more information contact us at (540)853-2340.

Surrogate Mothers Needed! Call for Information

Stop by and pick up a fun kids take home craft!

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Family • December 2021

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Create a Season of Joy 10 Ways to Stress Less this Holiday It’s supposed to be the most joyful time of the year, full of friends, family and festivities. But research confirms a different reality—most Americans have elevated stress levels during the holiday season. Instead of being full of good tidings and cheer, families often feel drained of time, energy, and peace. Stressors like crowds and lines, party planning, financial concerns, and trying to make the holidays perfect can make the end of the year feel hectic and overwhelming. These ten tips will help you simplify the season and make it merry and bright.

Focus on your reason for the season. Why are you celebrating? Is it for religious reasons? Maybe you want to spend time with friends and family, or enjoy the spirit of giving during the holidays. Keep what is most important about the

holidays at the center of your celebration. Reconsider any task or commitment that takes your time, energy, enjoyment, or finances away from your reason for celebrating in the first place.

Set firm boundaries around your time. With all the holiday volunteering, office parties, and family gatherings, it’s easy to overcommit yourself. This year, pick one project you want to volunteer your time to, or pick a variety of simple acts of kindness you can do with your family. Spend time with your friends and loved ones, but don’t feel guilty if you don’t go to every party or gathering.

Let go of Martha. One of the most stress-relieving things you can do at the holidays is set the bar a little lower. Martha Stewart is an elegant hostess, but you don’t have to do everything the way Martha would to have a beautiful season. Embrace simpler decorations, meals, and gift-giving than you have in the past. Try quick shortcuts or holiday hacks. If you let go of expectations, you may be pleasantly surprised to find yourself content with a celebration you hadn’t even envisioned.

Farm out your to-do list. By Janeen Lewis

At the beginning of the season, make a to-do list of the things you want to accomplish. If you find that it’s too long for the amount of time that you have, consider delegating some

of the items. If you contribute to a Christmas club at your bank, you might even consider setting aside some of the money specifically so you can hire others to help with your holiday tasks. Have groceries delivered and buy gifts online to avoid the holiday rush. Grocery stores also have a plethora of pre-packaged holiday foods that make delicious sides, cutting down on your time in the kitchen. Buy desserts from your local bakery, and shop at stores that provide wrapping stations. No time to clean the house? Hire a cleaning service just for the holiday season or ask for this service as a gift.

outdoors, away from screens, phones, and to-do lists, can clear your mind and help you keep what’s important in perspective.

Gift others with experiences.

Do something kind for someone else.

Shopping at the holidays can be timeconsuming and nerve-wracking with crowds and traffic. If you don’t start early, coveted items sell out, leaving you scrambling for another gift. Ask those to whom you give gifts if there is an experience they would like to have. Tickets to the theater? Family passes to an amusement park or aquarium? A relaxing day at the spa? Experiences give friends and family the opportunity to make memories and pamper themselves—unique gifts that are much appreciated.

Set a holiday tea time. Recent research shows that drinking green and black tea has many health benefits, including promoting relaxation. Herbal teas, while not true tea, still help with anxiety and stress. In keeping with the holiday spirit, sip some calming peppermint tea, or try chamomile, lemon balm, or passionflower.

Take a hike. One way to tell your stress to take a hike might be to actually take one yourself. When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins that trigger a happier, more relaxed mood. Aerobic exercise

Holiday Hacks


Reconnect with long lost friends and relatives.

If you have an artificial tree, wrap the center pole with a strand of lights. This will make the tree shine brighter.


Use egg cartons to store small ornaments and ornament hooks. Use wine boxes to store larger, fragile ornaments.


Spread a thick layer of whipped cream on a cookie sheet. Freeze it for several hours and remove. Cut hearts out of it with a cookie cutter and serve in hot cocoa.

You don’t have to overcommit yourself to a charity or fundraiser to be kind. Small, random acts of kindness can make another person’s day. Let someone in front of you at the supermarket line or let someone drive her car in front of yours in the parking lot. Send an anonymous Christmas card with cash or a gift card to a college student or elderly person that you know is struggling financially. Throw change in Salvation Army buckets when you pass them. Having a kind spirit chases away stress and keeps the season warm and hope-filled.


Put a ball of sugar cookie dough between two sheets of wax paper. Roll it out between the papers so the dough doesn’t stick to the pan. While it’s still in the wax paper, put the flattened cookie dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to cut cookies.



Store cookies in an air-tight tin with flour tortillas between layers to keep cookies from drying out.

Celebrate memories more than material possessions. Material gifts are nice, but most of us quickly forget gifts we have received in past years. The things we remember the most are the memories we make with friends and family. Make some happy memories this holiday season and bid stress good-bye. Janeen Lewis is a freelance journalist, teacher, and mom to Andrew and Gracie. She has been published in several parenting publications across the country and in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas Magic.


Use a wastebasket to hold rolls of wrapping paper.

Meet with an old friend you haven’t talked to for years, and catch up. Take some time off and visit relatives you miss seeing on a regular basis. Surrounding yourself with people you love is powerful when you want to combat holiday stress.

If you don’t want to put nail holes in your fireplace mantel, fit a tension rod in the wood frame and hang your stockings with shower hooks.



Hang lightweight ornaments on long ribbons from your light fixture or chandelier to make an elegant holiday decoration.

Add water and natural ingredients like apples, oranges, cinnamon sticks or cloves to a crockpot and heat. Enjoy holiday scents that aren’t overpowering.


To keep Christmas lights from getting tangled, wrap them around a clothes hanger or power cord holder.




through January 30

Elmwood on Ice presented by WDBJ 7 Ice Skating and Putt-Putt - Thursday - Sunday Elmwood Park

The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas

The City of Roanoke Christmas Tree Lighting - 5:30 pm Plaza behind Market Building





The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas The City of Roanoke Christmas Parade - 6:30 pm Downtown Roanoke

The Roanoke Times Dickens of a Christmas

The Roanoke Valley SPCA Pet Costume Contest - 6:30 pm, Coca-Cola Kids Carnival - 6:00 pm Plaza behind Market Building, Market St and Wall St



For details, visit

Reprinted from our December 2018 Issue INT. GRANDIN COLAB – EARLY EVENING A handful of students sits at tables scattered throughout a small conference room. Some tables have desktop computers on them, displaying video editing software. High schoolers mill about; TYLER LYON, the program coordinator of the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, sits at a table across from me. TYLER

The Film Lab is in its third year (Now 6th Year), but the idea was first conceived by the Grandin Theatre projectionist, Jason Garnett, ten years ago – back before we went digital. The idea stewed under the surface until Ian Fortier became the Grandin Theatre’s executive director. Ian ran with it – Film Lab was something he was very interested in. The Grandin Theatre of 2018 was on an exceptionally positive trajectory, and the staff hopes to make it a national example of what an independent theater can be. Creative ideas like the Film Lab are part of that goal.

RVFM Is this kind of program not something you’d commonly find? TYLER Not at all. It’s a very new thing for the Roanoke Valley, and there are no other program like it in Southwest Virginia at all. We really only know of a handful of programs like it anywhere. The high school students who participate in Film Lab are on either the beginner track or the advanced track. The beginner track is all about the basics of film production, the lifecycle of a film, coming up with an idea and turning it into a script, learning how to use cameras and how to record, producing a film, editing a film, postproduction, and sound effects. By the end of the year, every student will have been a part of a completed short film.

to do is extremely helpful. One of Tyler’s buzzwords is visual literacy - when you’re trying to speak or write, it’s good if you can visualize what you’re trying to say before you say it. Film Lab helps you take those skills not only to writing and directing, but also to the rest of your life. A film Nabeel directed last year, Freedom Abriged, was just screened in an Australian high school film festival. His film was also played at the Iowa independent film festival this year. Part of the program’s mission statement is that it exists to provide students access to cinema arts education who don’t receive it in school. There is a healthy mix of kids from public and private schools, as well as homeschoolers. RVFM

The advanced track is more project-oriented than topic-oriented. Instead of learning a new discipline, students learn a new format. Last year, it was documentary film; this year, Film Lab students are making music videos for songs created by the Jefferson Center’s Music Lab students.

What kind of student would you say Film Lab is for?

It’s for anybody who has an interest in how movies get made, and it’s definitely of high benefit to students who are interested in film as a career path. But mostly, our real focus is just on training talented, creative, thoughtful students, and cinema is just the way we approach that. The real goal is simply to have really awesome teenagers.


The program sounds amazing and pretty intense. TYLER It is both of those things! Both beginner and advanced students meet twice a week for three hours at a time. But kids aren’t each trying to make their own film. They break down to teams – it’s inherently a very collaborative, team-based program. It would be next to impossible to pursue anything in Film Fab as a solo endeavor - it doesn’t work because there are just too many things going on. From a table where he has been working on editing a music video, Film Lab student NABEEL RAZA speaks up. NABEEL Screenwriting is at the top of my list, but also filmmaking. I’ve always been kind of a bookknowledge person, and this has helped me expand my creative wings. Being able to think visually like film lab teaches me


Family • December 2021


Film Lab is a lot of things, but a movie club it is not. Students rarely watch a full movie, but rather watch clips to get examples and then talk about it. How did they do that? the students will inquire, and then will go out and do it. TYLER

We try to mix head knowledge with hands-on knowledge. That means some days are going to feel more like a classroom environment, where you’re learning about different topics, and other days have more of a lab feel, where you’re hands-on with equipment as you learn how to use it. Or you’re actually having to learn by doing. A student sits on top of a desk near the table where Tyler and I are seated. This is CARTER SCHAEFFER.

CARTER The number one thing for me is the access to equipment you wouldn’t have the opportunity to use in school - and along with that you get expertise from people who have spent years in the industry. RVFM

Is there a limit to how many students Film Lab can have per year? TYLER

There is, but it’s flexible we don’t want to turn people away. We do usually speak to applicants first and review things with them, because our current model is really rigorous. It takes a lot of commitment from students and families to really get something out of it. The program runs September to May, with an end-ofthe-year bash the week before memorial day. At the end of the program, students’ films are screened at the Grandin Theatre Film Lab Film Festival, followed by an audience Q&A session. It’s a complete red carpet affair. TYLER Ian says he’s never seen a bigger crowd at the Grandin Theatre than at the Film Festival. In addition to the Grandin Theatre Film Lab Film Festival, students have been accepted to multiple film festivals nation- (and even world) wide, and some have won awards! One film was recently nominated for the National Student Production Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It was one of the finalists nationwide. TYLER

We didn’t win, but that’s OK. We don’t put the pressure on for that kind of thing. I’m just super proud when they finish the film and survive the process, because it’s tough – really, it’s a minor miracle that any film ever gets made, from the lowest budget to the biggest, so just getting through the process is something worth celebrating. It’s always nice when someone on the outside recognizes your hard work, too.

The Film Lab program works closely with Joe Boucher, who is the director of student activities at Roanoke College – and, notably, was a Hollywood producer for twenty years (producing, among other things, The Simpsons and King of the Hill.) Tyler, with his expertise from a film and video studies degree, has taken a curriculum Joe developed in California and has molded and adapted it for the Grandin Theatre Film Lab, creating specialized lesson plans and activities for his students. In addition to student participants, interns may be involved with Film Lab for college credit. TYLER

Interns learn alongside the students. It’s pretty much a college-level opportunity, or like an AP class,

except we don’t do grades or an end- of-year-test.

At this point in the interview, IAN FORTIER enters. He greets the room with a pleasant smile; it is obvious that he is excited about the Film Lab program. RVFM

How many schools are represented in Film Lab? IAN Well, we have the homeschool community, North Cross School, high schools from as far away as Botetourt and Glenvar, Hidden Valley, Cave Spring, Bent Mountain Christian, Salem . . . I think the only schools we haven’t yet had a student from in the valley would be Northside and Bird. Film Lab is probably the most collaborative program that we have in the valley. I don’t know anybody else that’s sending this many kids from so far away. This is a niche program - there’s just nobody else doing this right now. Film Lab has summer programs, as well. Last summer was the first one, and it was a massive endeavor. A team of five professionals shot a short film with twelve Film Lab students. The kids worked side-byside with these professionals from the film industry to make a movie with them. It was a one-of-a-kind experience for students at the high school level. The school-year program tuition is $325, and scholarships are available for students who have financial need. The application for next school year’s program will be available on the Grandin Theatre website in April ( THE


Family • December 2021


Give an Experience

Don’t clutter up your house with more toys, books and gadgets this holiday season. Give the gift of togetherness and fond memories! Mill Mountain Zoo

$9/$7 Daily Admission $100 Annual Family Membership Our local zoo is wonderful for all ages, but particularly recommended for those 2 through 6 years old. The zoo offers great educational classes on a regular basis. The zoo is atop Mill Mountain, neighboring the famous Star outlook and playground.

Science Museum of Western Virginia $15/$13.50 Daily Admission $95 Annual Family Membership

Everyone can learn something at our local science museum! With interactive exhibits, classes and a large butterfly garden there’s always something new to do for all ages.

Virginia Museum of Transportation $10/$6 Daily Admission $60/$100 Annual Family Membership

Roanoke is well-known for it’s love of trains. The Transportation Museum is a must-have membership for the train fanatic in your life!


Family • December 2021

Kids Square Children’s Museum $9 Daily Admission

Since joining Center in the Square, Kids Square has become a favorite in any family. With exhibits appropriate for children ages 1 through 10, it’s a great option for a sibling gift!

Taubman Museum of Art

$5 Art Venture Admission $70 Family Membership

While many exhibits are open to the public for free, Art Venture holds themed events, crafts, and activities throughout the year.

O. Winston Link Museum

$6/$3 Daily Admission $60 Annual Family Membership Interested in our local history? Wondering which famous historical figures walked around Roanoke and the surrounding areas? O. Winston Link,the Roanoke History Museum, has exhibits on it all.

Mill Mountain Theatre

in Roanoke. You can also enjoy classes and summer camps with the Roanoke Children’s Theatre!

$20-$30 Average Ticket Admission

Riddle Me Roanoke

One of the largest local theatres in the area hosts several shows every year. Ranging from date nights to family experiences, musicals, plays, poetry and comedy. The theatre also offers classes and summer camps for children and teens.

$20 per person Can you collect the clues, solve the puzzle and escape the room in time? Perfect for families who love ot play games together!

Firehouse Skate-n-Play

Berglund Civic Center

Prices range from $4-$16 per person depending on chosen activities

Ticket prices vary Broadway comes to Roanoke at the Berglund Center! Touring shows from Disney, Broadway shows, magicians, comedians, PBS and more can be found here! Not interested in a show? Berglund also hosts festivals, expos, hockey games and open ice skating!

Need to get up and move during the holiday break? Firehouse Skate-n-Play has arcade, play zone and a roller rink to beat the winter cabin fever!

Launching Pad Trampoline Park

Prices range from $10-$24 per person depending on chosen activities

Virginia Children’s Theatre

$20/$15 Average Ticket Admission Looking for a family friendly theatre experience? The RCT hosts several shows a year in the historic Jefferson Center

Jump on massive trampolines, dodge ball courts and into foam block pits. Test your courage on the three story launch tower. Earn prizes in the large arcade! Launching Pad has something for everyone.

Reconnect with what you love. Plan your vacation at

Family • December 2021


l ley ’s a V e k o n a o R Pa r k e n i l o p m a r On ly T

or cheap Every Day

B o o k Yo u r rty Bi r t hday Pa To day !

• Mama Maria’s 11 AM - 2 PM • 3 & under free buffet with paid adult W. Main St., Salem (540) 389-2848 • Golden Corral All Day • 3 & under free buffet with paid adult 1441 Towne Square Blvd., Roanoke (540) 563-8826 IHop 4PM-10PM • 12 & Under All Locations • Shoney’s All Day • 4 & under, free kids meal with adult entree purchase. Drink not included 2673 Lee Highway, Troutville (540) 992-6400

Monday • Famous Anthony’s 3 PM - Close • 1 child per paid adult All Locations in Roanoke, Salem, & Vinton (540) 362-1400 1300 Intervale Drive Salem VA 24153


• Buffalo Wild Wings 4 PM - 9 PM • 12 & under, 1 child per paid adult All Locations (540) 725-9464

• El Rio Mexican Grill All Day • 10 & under, 1 child per paid adult 4208 Electric Rd., Roanoke (540) 6854343 • Firehouse Subs All Day • 11 & under, 2 children per paid adult combo,dine in Blacksburg (540) 961-0371 • The Green Goat All Day • 12 & under, 1 child per paid adult 802 Wiley Dr. SW, Roanoke (540) 904-6091

Tuesday • Denny’s 4 PM - 10 PM • 12 & under, 1 child per paid adult All Locations Roanoke & Salem (540) 389-5074 • Macado’s 4 PM - 9 PM • 12 & under, $1 child meal per paid adult All Locations in Roanoke & Salem (540) 776-9884 • McAlister’s Deli 5 PM - Close • 2 children per paid adult

2063 Colonial Ave., Roanoke (540) 204-4407 • Town Center Tap House All Day • 12 & under, 2 children per paid adult 90 Town Center St., Daleville (540) 591-9991 • Firehouse Subs All Day • 12 & under, 1 child per paid adult Colonial Ave, Town Square & Salem only (540) 345-3131 • Pizza Hut 5 PM - Close • 10 & under, free buffet per paid adult 1016 Hershberger Rd., Roanoke (540) 362-3834 • K&W All Day • 12 & under, 1 child per paid adult Hershberger Rd. Roanoke (540) 563-4977


& More!



• Dogwood 4 PM - Close • 10 & under, per paid adult 106 E. Lee Ave., Vinton (540) 343-6549

• Famous Anthony’s 12 PM - Close • 1 child per adult meal All Locations Roanoke, Salem, Vinton (540) 362-1400



• The Roanoker 4:30 PM - Close • 10 & under, 2 children per paid adult 2522 Colonial Ave., Roanoke (540) 344-7746

• Pizza Den 5 PM - 8:30 PM • 10 & under free buffet per paid adult buffet and drink purchase Salem (540) 389-1111

• Jerry’s Family Restaurant 4 PM - Close • 6 & under, 1 child per adult meal purchase 1340 E. Washington Ave., Vinton (540) 343-4400

• Local Roots 5 PM -7 PM • 5 & under eat for free, discount for ages 5-7 per paid adult 1314 Grandin Rd., Roanoke (540) 206-2610

Friday See Everyday Deals!

• T.G.I.Fridays All Day • 12 & under 1 with paying adult 4869 Valley View Blvd., Roanoke (540) 362-1475

• Moe’s Southwestern Grill All Day • 1 free per paid adult All Roanoke & Blacksburg locations • Firehouse Subs All Day • 12 and Under 1 free per paid adult Keagy Road, Roanoke 540-204-4471 • Rodeo Grande All Day • 12 and Under 1 free per paid adult Valley View, Roanoke 540-206-2296 • Lew’s Restaurant SW All Day • 12 and Under 2 free per paid adult Walnut Avenue, Roanoke 540-682-5925 Roanoke Valley Family Magazine publishes these deals for informational purposes only. A Listing here does not guarantee a discount at any of the mentioned restaurants. Promotions often change without notice and we recommend calling the restaurant to confirm any discount before arrival.

Bumper Cars Ninja Warrior Course Basketball Dodgeball Jousting Pit Fidget Ladder Airbag Pit Launch Tower Arcade with prizes Flight Training Wall Snack Bar 5 Party Rooms

Recipe of the

Gingerbread Biscotti Serves 8 - Prep Time 60 Minutes


¾ cup granulated sugar ½ cup Oliveto Blood Orange Olive Oil 2 eggs ¼ cup fancy molasses 3 cups all purpose flour 1 TBSP baking powder g 2 tsp ground ginger 2 tsp ground cinnamon ½ tsp ground or freshly grated nutmeg ½ tsp ground cloves ½ - ¾ cups melted white or dark chocolate, for coating


Family • December 2021

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a la large bowl, whisk together the sugar & olive oil until light & fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds after each addition. Add the molasses & beat well. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder & spices. Slowly begin to add the dry ingredients to the wet to form a stiff but sticky dough. Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap & wrap it completely. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill. Preheat the oven to 350. Unwrap the dough & divide in half. Place one half on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll it into a ¾ inch thick rectangle (for long biscotti roll it out to 6x2 inches; for shorter biscotti, divide the dough into 4 pieces & roll each piece out to 3x12 inches). Place on the prepared cookie sheet & repeat with the other half of the dough. Ba Bake until starting to brown & slightly risen in the center, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven & cool on the baking sheet, 10 minutes. Turn down the oven to 250. Pla the rectangles on a cutting board & cut them lengthwise Place into 1 inch wide. Lay the biscotti on the cookie sheet & bake for 10 minutes, turn them over & bake for another 10 minutes. Remove from the cookie sheet & allow to cool completely on a wire rack. Melt your preferred chocolate & dip one end of each biscotti into it. Allow to set on parchment paper. These will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.


This biscotti will pair well with coffee or hot tea. Put some in a holiday themed tin or bag for a perfect little gift for anyone on your list this year!

15% off Your Purchase! One Coupon Per Customer Cannot Be Combined With Any Other Discount. ONLY VALID AT OLIVETO IN ROANOKE EXPIRES 12/31/21

A History of Christmas Traditions

by Kimberly Emory


any Christmas traditions began long before the birth of Christ and Christianity. Various sights and events associated with the Christmas season began hundreds of years ago in ancient civilizations.

Christmas wreaths from fruit, nuts, and evergreens. Many across the country wanted the ‘Williamsburg look’ in their own homes at Christmastime, but this is not historically accurate to early American celebrations.

Winter solstice was celebrated by Celtic Druids in France, Britain and Ireland. This festival honored the sun on its shortest day in the sky, encouraging it to return for longer periods. In Persia, the god of light, Mithra, was born on December 25th and this time was accompanied by feasts and celebrations. The Roman god of agriculture symbolized by the sun, Saturn, was honored in a weeklong festival in Rome during this season, and in Scandinavia, yuletide was held as a 2 week-long festival for their god Thor. All of these festivals passed on holiday traditions through the years and as the world expanded. Immigrants traveling across Europe and eventually to America brought their traditions with them, which are still seen today.

In 1828 Dr. Poinsett returned from Mexico where he was ministering with the lovely red blooms on beautiful greenery we commonly see during the holidays today. This poinsettia flower was renamed for him. There is a Mexican legend about a girl who had nothing to give to the Christ child as a gift one Christmas eve. An angel appeared and told her to gather weeds and take them to the manger. While others laughed and scoffed at her gift, after she laid them down they miraculously bloomed the lovely red blossoms of the poinsettia plant!

Christmas Trees

Both the Romans and the Scandinavians used evergreens to decorate during their winter festivals. They felt that this plant was the most honorable because it stayed green through the winter when other plants did not. The Druids also believed that mistletoe was magical- that it brought love and good luck. They also wore holly in their hair during their celebrations.

Trees were first used during Saturnalia in Rome, when they decorated evergreen trees with candles and figures of Saturn. The Druids also decorated trees with candles and golden fruits to symbolize the sun during the winter solstice. Later, in the Middle Ages of Europe, plays about Adam and Eve travelled through northern Europe. One of the features of the play was called a paradise tree, often decorated with red fruits like apples. Since these plays were performed at Christmas time, the tree was linked with Christmas this way.

In colonial American times, decorations at Christmas were sparse, but holly was most often used, especially in churches. Later, during the restoration of Williamsburg, women created

Martin Luther is well known for having Christmas trees in Germany, where they hung cookies and candles on their boughs. Later, German professor Charles Minnigerode brought the


Christmas tree to America when he stayed with an American family while teaching at William & Mary in 1842. The early Americans decorated their trees with paper chains, candles, popcorn and cranberry garlands, and cornhusk figures.

Lights Since all of the ancient festivals had to do with the sun and light, candles were used frequently as decorations. After the arrival of Christianity, as Jesus declared himself the ‘light of the world’, candles and lights continued to be utilized during the Christmas season. In the Middle Ages candles were placed in windows as a symbol of welcome to the Christ child searching for lodging. Candles were also used to decorate Christmas trees, but as they were a very real fire hazard they were replaced with electric lights when available. Additionally, the Norsemen burned a Yule log on December 21st to encourage the return of light and heat on the darkest day of the year.

Food and Feasting All of the ancient winter festivals were a time of feasting. Often wild boar was eaten during winter festivals, which translates to modern day Christmas hams. The yule log of the Norsemen is often times now celebrated as a rolled ice cream or cake dessert instead of an actual log in a fireplace. In the Middle Ages pie and plum pudding was popular during the Christmas season. In colonial America, life was hard and there was much work to be done. However, at Christmas time the harvest

was in and the people could relax a bit more, which brought about the twelve days of Christmas. This was a time of much dancing, feasting, and fox hunting for the colonists. Their feasts were always laid out very symmetrically on the tables, and usually included 12th Night Cake, which was very much like fruitcake and was served on the culminating and most exciting day of the holidays.

Santa Most people know that Saint Nicholas was a real person who lived in Greece in the third century. A devout Christian, orphaned when he was very young, he gave away most of his inheritance and was well known for his good deeds. One of the best known stories about his generosity was providing the dowries for some young girls- some legends say he threw the money through a window and it landed in the girls’ shoes on the hearth (thus why the Scandinavians leave their shoes out on Christmas eve). Other versions say he tossed the money down the chimney and it landed in the girls’ stockings drying over the hearth (thus why the British and Americans hang stockings from the mantle). People in the Middle Ages began to give credit to St. Nicholas anytime they got an unexpected gift, but the legend really caught on in 1823 after the poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ was published. From there, the modern St. Nick was born and over the years morphed into the Santa Claus we know and love today.

The Spirit of Christmas Rome’s Saturnalia festival included gift giving, known as strenae, which after the birth of Christianity was later connected with the magi’s gifts to the Christ child and continued. In colonial America, Christmas was more a time of merriment for the

adults and not much gift giving was involved. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the holiday evolved into a time for children and families. This was the time when not only was the famous poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas’ was published touting the charitable legend, but also Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’, which included a general feeling of giving and generosity that became linked with the Christmas season. There are so many great traditions that surround the holiday season. Whether you enjoy caroling with your family (which was based on the tradition of wassailing in England, where people went door to door singing and given something to eat or drink in return), making gingerbread houses (which were romanticized and modernized from Grimm’s Fairy Tales), or helping others who are less fortunate (as so many have done for centuries on Boxing Day), make sure to focus on your family and making great memories- and maybe some new traditions too!





more information visit ForFor more info visit


Mill Mountain Theatre Presents

The Roanoke Star Our valley has a very unique Christmas historical artifact- our very own Roanoke Star! The star was sponsored by the American Merchant’s Association in 1949 and meant to shine during the holiday shopping season and then dismantled. It was first lit on November 23rd, 1949, and quickly became so popular it was decided to keep it lit all year. Though the star has become an icon of our area and often has reflected our valley’s patriotism by being lit red, white, and blue for 6 years after September 11th, or sorrow, such as turning red for traffic fatalities or darkened completely on the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shootings, its origins are in the festivities of the Christmas season.

December 1 -23 O n t he T r i n k le M a i n S t a ge

For Tickets Call 540.342.5740 or visit

Adapted by Philip Grecian; Based upon the motion picture A Christmas Story, copyright 1983 Turner Entertainment Co., distributed by Warner Bros., written by Jean Shepherd, Leigh Brown, Bob Clark, and In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd.

For more info visit

New Year, New Budget, New Memories! by Leslie Butterfield Harrop

New Year’s resolutions are undoubtedly filling up your newsfeed and taking front and center at the office water cooler! As a single mother, my resolutions are usually twofold: Make fun and lasting memories with my kids (yay!) and stick to a budget (nay!). Sometimes, these two goals can seem to conflict with each other: I would love to take my children on a world-class cruise to make amazing memories, but unless there is a cruise line that accepts Monopoly money, that won’t be in the cards for us this year. Is It Possible to Make Lasting Memories on a Budget? Yes, yes, YES! As a single mother, I am always looking for ways to save on expenses overall. I have used couponing apps, worked a side hustle, and even bartered for goods and services. To save in this day and age, you must be willing to ask, research, and get creative. Here is a breakdown of these budgeting basics:

Ask, ask, and ask again. It is amazing to me just how much it can help to ask for the best deal. Any time you are booking airfare, hotel, or lodging, or seats for the orchestra, call the ticketing office directly and speak to a live person.


Family • December 2021

Ask if there are any deals going on, if there a coupon that is current, and ask about upcoming promotions that can save you money! A personal connection is always beneficial. You do not have to give them your sob story, just be polite and courteous and genuine. I promise that a bit of kindness can be paid forward to translate into some good fortune that saves you the moo-lah! Pro Tip: Always ask to be put on the waiting list if there is an event you are wanting to attend but that is sold out. Oftentimes, prices are cut for tickets at the last minute.

Research. Budgeting takes time, persistence, and research! There is a trade-off giving your

time to save the bucks. In other words, put in the work and enjoy the payoff. When researching budgeting tips, it helps to learn about prime buying times and how variations on something like travel dates can impact price. For example, if you are looking to take a weekend trip, you can bet that airfare flying out on Thursday and returning on Sunday is going to run you in the red! But flex those days a bit, by trying Wednesday to Saturday or even Friday to Monday, and you’ll see a difference in price that is worth the wait. Know when specific retailers mark down their inventory. Pro Tip: Make friends with the sales associates at your favorite store and get even more of the insider scoop, like when sales are coming up and where the clearance items are stockpiled.

Get creative. Okay, this may be the most important basic tip of all. Think outside the box when it comes to budgeting those dollars! Is there a way to trade a service you can provide for a service you are wanting from someone else? Bartering is a two-way street, and you would be surprised at just how much it can benefit both parties equally. Remember to ask, offer, and get creative to find a solution that works. If it is a business that you frequent, offer to share and post about their services and do a social review for them. If you have your sights set on taking a special vacation but lack those funds, clean out your closet and take your discarded items to a consignment sale. There was even a time I gathered loose change from a Wendy’s parking lot, which bought dinner for all of us with those lucky pennies. There is no limit on creativity! Pro Tip: Work to partner with other like minds in your community to find ways to trade and barter services — this will build a network of savvy savers at your fingertips!

Memorable Moments Make Life Meaningful Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s get to the bulk! Building memories with your family that are beloved and treasured can sometimes be a challenge, especially if you have a pre-teen and a toddler in tow. Finding budget-friendly activities that sustain attention and offer enough stimulation for everyone at all ages is not always easy. There are a few rules that I try to follow when planning for fun with my kids. Namely, I try to aim for learning, incorporate sensory experiences, and strike while the iron is hot (don’t worry, I’ll explain below)!

Aim for learning. Look for activities that enhance learning opportunities for kids. Learning takes place at any age, so age does not matter too much when it comes to this rule. A toddler can learn just as much as a pre-teen at the same place, but what they learn will be different. For example, I took my all kids to walk through the art museum recently. We saw sculptures, paintings, impressions, and drawings. My older kids were interested in reading the titles of the artwork and finding meaning in the expressions, while my younger kids liked to point out what they saw within the paintings themselves. Pro Tip: Art museums often have free admission or discount days — find out when and plan ahead. Check out the art museums at local colleges, which are almost always free and offer artwork that is beautiful and always very inventive!

Incorporate sensory experiences I have an autistic child who has sensory processing challenges, but this is not the only reason why I focus our fun on things that provide sensory stimulation. My other

The Taubman Art Museum has free daily admission and their interactive children’s space, Art Venture is $5 per person and free for museum members! kids also have sensory needs — in fact, ALL kids have sensory needs. Kids can learn and engage best when their senses are stimulated. Their minds wake up! This primes minds for perceiving and brains for retaining. We routinely take nature walks around the beautiful sights we have here in Southwest Virginia. During nature walks, we engage our five senses by listening, seeing, smelling, and touching what nature has to offer around us. My kids enjoy the input that walking provides while learning about nature at the same time. You can do this at the beach, at arboretums, or even any neighborhood park. Pro Tip: The library has children’s adventure packs that can be checked out, which include landmark info, guidebooks and even free admission to national and state parks. Happy hiking!

not have to break the bank. No matter what your goals are this year, rest assured that you can have the best of both worlds and bargain that budget and make those memories!

Lesley Butterfield Harrop is a registered nurse, specializing in community health and mental wellness. Lesley is passionate about increasing literacy about emotional intelligence, and she has contributed to several websites, blogs, and national publications, including the Salt Lake Tribune, BYU Magazine, and She has certifications and trainings in trauma-informed care, disability advocacy, familial mental health, and resiliency. Lesley serves on the board of directors for NAMI-Virginia and is a single mom of four kids and a feisty Chihuahua named Chaos.

Strike while the iron is hot. Have a kiddo that cannot stop doing cartwheels? Take them to open gym at the local gymnastics arena for Saturday afternoon! Have a kiddo that sings Disney songs to her stuffed animals? Get tickets to a performance by the local children’s choir. Have a kiddo that is slightly obsessed with planes, trains, and automobiles? Go to the library and check out books, movies, and audio-materials on this topic. Have a kiddo that wants to be a vet? Go to the local animal shelter and talk to the vet techs and love on those cute and cuddly rescue animals. My point is that let your child lead the way when it comes to making memories together. When we as parents notice the interests of our children and provide opportunities to ignite that spark they already have, our kids feel special, loved, and cared for in a way that is as unique as they are! Overall, you can see that family fun does Family • December 2021


Fostering the Future article by Kimberly Emory

Fostering is a topic that is often very unfamiliar to people in the community. Most understand that there is a need for foster families, but don’t always know everything that’s involved, or what to expect. There are many organizations and individuals who want to make known what’s being done to help foster kids and the families that shelter them in our valley, as well as families that want to tell the stories of changed lives—including their own!

What kind of help does DSS want from the community? Steven Martin, director of the Roanoke City Department of Social Services, says that Roanoke City has the second or third (the number fluctuates) largest number of children in foster care in the state of Virginia. As of election day, there were 217 children in foster care in the city. Martin says the biggest need DSS has is for more foster families! Those 217 children need places to stay, and for the majority of them the best placement is in a family’s home. There are also therapeutic homes, which are for children who need a higher level of care due to the trauma they have sustained. Sometimes, because of a lack of foster family placements available, children who don’t need this type of care are sent to therapeutic homes, as well. If no placement is available locally (which is ideal for kids who have been removed from their home and their family, in order to maintain a sense of consistency and security), they may be moved to an entirely different part of the state to an open placement. DSS needs families to step up and be willing to take in these foster children and provide them with a safe and nurturing environment for however long is needed. Martin points out that many times, foster families end up adopting the children placed with them, which is

great (Roanoke City had the highest number of children adopted last year in the whole state!), but then they no longer have the room and resources to take in other foster children who come along. Therefore, the need for new foster families is constant. DSS is always looking for those willing to provide good temporary homes for these children.

How can the community help and support kids in foster care and the families they are staying with? Martin says the very best thing the community can do is show they care for foster kids and the families taking them in. Logan Walker, a foster parent in Roanoke, says, “The most immediate need for us was meals. When a child is placed in your home, it is a big adjustment for everyone, so having some meals already prepared was one less thing we had to think about.” Church ministries like Fellowship Community Church’s Empty Chair strive to support foster families in their church by providing a meal train for families with new foster placements. This can last up to a few weeks, and provides meals for the whole household, giving them one less thing to worry about while adjusting. Michelle Warren of Empty Chair says, “Get to know foster families and what their needs are, so they can focus on the new child and bond with them.”

be very helpful. Corinne Paxton, longtime foster parent in Franklin County, says, “These kids come to you with nothing. I mean nothing! So families are often in need of clothes, and for babies and toddlers, diapers, wipes, formula, and other baby equipment. And older kids need school supplies.” Basically, think of the things your own children need; foster children don’t have anything, but they still have the same needs as other kids. Matthew’s Child is an organization that provides a clothes closet, a first night meal/gift card program, survival kits for kids of various ages (and for foster families, too), and a car seat program for foster families. Paxton also reminds us that getting a placement around the holidays can be complicated because of the need to provide gifts for the child, so help in this area is also appreciated with donations of toys and clothes. Paxton also pointed out that for rural foster families, transportation can often be an issue. Many foster children have appointments and visitations they need to be taken to. In the cities, there is usually some type of public transportation to help with this need, but in rural areas this can be a burden. Helping out with transportation can be a huge benefit to these foster families.

“Be positive and supportive. It’s ok to ask questions, but know we won’t be able to answer everything about the kids. And if you know someone who is fostering or adopting, say something kind, get to know them, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help!”

This can include acts besides providing food, like mowing their lawn and helping with cleaning and other chores—any service to support the family during this time of transition can

Another need, especially for teenagers who are about to age out of the foster system, is for mentors who can help them transition to adulthood. Empty Chair is always looking for volunteers to teach a one-time skills class on topics pertaining to independent living, such

as cooking, budgeting and paying bills, and job skills. These kids, who often don’t have much of a family, need positive role models to bond with and look to when they need help. Paxton says, “They need to get involved in positive activities, because otherwise they remember and draw from what their parents did,” which oftentimes was behavior that led the children to be placed in foster care. Another way to get involved and support foster families is to train to be a respite family. This is a family that has gone through specific training and is able to watch all the children in a foster family so the parents can have a muchneeded break. Even offering to babysit for a few hours while the parents enjoy a night out can be a huge help to foster families. In general, Warren says, “be positive and supportive. It’s okay to ask questions, but know we won’t be able to answer everything about the kids. And if you know someone who is fostering or adopting, say something kind, get to know them, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.”

What do foster kids wish the community knew about them? Warren says the community needs to remember that kids are not in care because they did anything wrong—it’s that their parents can’t care for them. Her foster daughter added that she wishes people knew “it isn’t their fault that they’re in foster care.” Paxton’s experience is that “they want people to see they’re normal people— not crazy, not rejects. They’re not what they came from. They have issues, but they want a family. They want a chance to succeed. Even if they don’t realize it right away, they will get there.” Martin advocates for them, saying, “They’re not bad kids, they’re just coming from bad situations.” But Warren sums it up best: “They want to be like every other kid.”

Should I foster? “If you are on the fence about foster care, or have been thinking about how you could play a part in helping a child, you should definitely reach out for more information,” says Walker. “We feel like it is our duty to care for these children,

and we can’t ignore the need. We wanted to be a safe place for children to come and feel loved and cared for, whether temporarily or forever.” Warren points out that often people say they couldn’t foster because they would get too attached, but “that’s just what these kids need!” she exclaims. Walker states, “We love hearing success stories of families who are reunited and back together, and think there is something special about being a small part of that story. We were blessed to have a precious child in our home, and were also able to witness her returning to her family and the sweet reunion that was.” Warren also mentions that kids in foster care can sometimes exhibit some bad behaviors. However, Martin reminds us that these behaviors are the result of the traumas they’ve been through, and they just want to belong to a family. “People see the behaviors and want to see [the kids] as throwaways, and they’re not,” says Paxton about the children she’s fostered. She goes on to add, “For years, we had ten kids in our home, trying to keep siblings together. However, it’s not a business—it’s a family. Show them what a family feels like. Don’t do it otherwise!”

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Warren reminds us that “parenting is hard—all parenting is hard! Fostering has changed me and helped me prioritize what’s important. It’s also shown me that these kids are so resilient!” Paxton has fostered for 18 years. She speculates she’s had between 50 and 55 foster placements, 10 of which she has adopted. All of her adopted kids who are old enough to have graduated have done so with honors and are doing well in out in the world. Once or twice a year, she’ll hear from former placements who are now adults, or they’ll come to visit. “We know we’ve made a connection. We didn’t do a thing except give them food, shelter, clothing, and family. I don’t regret any of it.” Walker concludes, “Choosing to foster has turned out to be the biggest blessing in our lives. It is not easy by any means, but it is so worth it.”


As a community, let’s take care of our foster kids and give them a better chance at a bright future. “These are our kids,” says Martin.

Family • December 2021


Holiday Home Safety

From electrical safety to detering would-be bad guys, here are the tips you need for the holiday season.

The holidays are upon us and while we want to gather with friends, and enjoy good times and good food, there are extra precautions to take during the holiday season. With all the lighting, extra decor and activity going on, there are many opportunities for safety issues. Take a look at this list to be aware of any precautions you need to take to keep your home and family safe this holiday. Prevent electrical shock. Perfectly placed twinkly lights will make the outside of your house look ultrafestive. But the last thing you want to deal with is electrical shock due to a disruption in the wiring. Think twice before using tacks, nails, or screws to hang strands of lights. These are all sharp-edged bits that can easily pierce your electrical wiring, causing all sorts of problems. Use insulated hooks instead. Decorate with kid and pet safety in mind. If you live with small children and/or pets, you’ll need to take extra precautions to keep them safe around your Christmas decorations. Holiday decorations and lighting can be dangerous for small children and animals. Any light cords or decorations with sharp or small parts should be placed out of their reach. Also, place only soft, nonchewable ornaments low on the tree, to avoid choking hazards. Consider placing delicate ornaments higher up on the tree, so small children can’t reach for them. Give some TLC to your fresh Christmas tree. A fresh evergreen is a beautiful tradition but it requires maintenance so that it doesn’t become a fire hazard. Experts say using a fresh tree—one with vibrant green needles that don’t break or shed easily—makes it less likely to catch fire. Water real trees every day and keep them away from heating vent, radiators, fireplaces, lights, and candles. Mind your candles. Speaking of candles, did you know the top three days of the year for home fires

caused by candles are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and New Year’s Eve, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. And while candles can make any space festive, they can also cause a fire. If using candles, always place them on a sturdy base that doesn’t burn, away from anything that can burn. And never leave candles unattended, especially around children and pets. Do not use candles on bedside tables or near greenery, including a Christmas tree. Lock it down. Nothing too earth-shattering here, but it bears repeating: If you’re going to be out of town, program your outdoor lights to switch on at dusk and off at dawn, keep your doors and windows locked, and set your alarm system, if you have one. If you’re going on vacation, some experts recommend keeping a car parked in the driveway so it looks like someone’s home. To prevent your mailbox from overflowing while you’re away, have your mail held until you return. In other words: Don’t make yourself a target. Don’t use indoor lights outside. All Christmas lights are not made the same. When you buy Christmas lights to hang outside your home, don’t just grab the same ones you’d use indoors. Outdoor lights are designed to keep water from seeping into places and prevent the elements from causing a failure. Indoor lights aren’t designed to do that.

A native of the area, Curtis Burchett has more than 18 years experience as full-time Realtor. He currently lives in Southwest Roanoke County with his wife and 3 children.

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Holiday Activities for the Whole Family

‘Tis the season for baking and crafting - the perfect ways to feel festive and bond with loved ones of all ages. From trying new recipes to creating crafts that will be cherished for years to come, plan a date for some holiday fun and let the memory-making with friends and family begin!

PEEPS Snowy S’mores Classic s’mores get a holiday makeover with a tasty and adorable twist thanks to PEEPS marshmallow and its fun seasonal shapes. Just follow the simple instructions and everyone will enjoy a delicious treat. Don’t forget to make a few extras to give away! See instructions below: Servings: 3 Prep time: 5 minutes Cook time: less than 1 minute Ingredients 1 pack of PEEPS Marshmallow Snowmen 9 graham cracker squares 1 pack of mini candy canes 6 chocolate squares Directions 1. Turn on the oven broiler and place the oven rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with foil. 2. Arrange six graham cracker squares on the baking sheet and top each with a square of chocolate. Place a PEEPS Marshmallow Snowman on top of each chocolate. 3. Place the tray in the oven for 35 seconds. Check to see how toasted the Snowmen are - they should be slightly puffed, looked melted around the sides, and begin to form a goldenbrown crust on top. If they don’t look melted enough, leave them in for another 5 to 10 seconds. Keep a very close eye on them and use extreme caution when pulling them out of the hot oven.

4. Remove the tray from the oven and immediately begin to build the PEEPS Snowy S’mores by stacking two melted PEEPS topped graham crackers. 5. Finish off with a clean graham cracker and top off with a PEEPS Marshmallow Snowman. Adhere the Snowman to the top of the graham cracker with a dab of melted chocolate, and then adhere the candy cane to his hand with chocolate - to appear as if the Snowman is holding the candy cane. 6. Break up a candy cane and sprinkle bits to the melted chocolate and PEEPS Marshmallow Snowman.

Gratitude Tree The family tree gets a thoughtful update in this project that serves as a reminder of what matters most during the holiday season. Use cardboard or poster board to cut out a tree trunk and branches to hang on the wall. Then cut out leaf shapes with construction paper and ask each person to write down what they are grateful for. Then share with each other before adhering the leaves on the branches to create a one-of-a-kind family tree. For a holiday theme, place an evergreen tree on the wall and decorate with paper ornaments with notations of gratitude instead.

Gather everyone and paint the palms and underside of fingers and press each family member’s hand firmly on the canvas to create various prints in a beautiful wreath shape.

Cup of Joy Want a simple project that is as much fun to create as it is to give? From neighbors and the mail-carrier to teachers and school friends, it’s easy to show you care when you create a treat that lets everyone enjoy a cup of joy. Simply get packets of classic hot chocolate and PEEPS marshmallow in seasonal shapes like gingerbread men, snowmen and holiday trees. Tie together with a bow and add a tag with a holiday greeting or fun saying like, “You’re our favorite ‘PEEP’le, thanks for being great neighbors!”

Salt-dough Ornaments Kids love to play with clay, so they certainly will enjoy creating saltdough ornaments. All you need is flour, salt and water to get started. Look up “salt dough ornament recipe” on the internet and you’ll find quick and easy recipes. Traditionally, you’ll roll out dough and cut with cookie cutters before baking and painting. You can also make three-dimensional ornaments like snowmen or people, too. Get creative by using household utensils like a garlic press to create hair or beards. Spending time with loved ones is the best part of the holidays. Let these five DIY activities inspire your friends and family to get together and feel the joy of the season.

Hand-print Wreath Every person is unique and so is the size and shape of their hand. Outline each person’s hand on green felt and cut out individually. Then use glue to adhere the hands together in a circle shape to create a wreath, adding in a few red circles for berries or a bow if you desire. Alternatively get a white canvas and green acrylic paint from the local craft store. Family • December 2021


La actividad navideña más conocida de Roanoke es Dickens of a Christmas. Por tres viernes consecutivos (6, 13, y el 20 de diciembre), el centro de Roanoke se transforma a un festival de Navidad. Empieza a las 5:30 p.m. (y a las 6 p.m. el 13 y 20 de diciembre), hay varias actividades familiares incluyendo el encendido del árbol de Navidad (el 6), un desfile navideño (el 13) y una competencia de disfraz de mascota (el 20). Habrá mucha comida a la venta, como café y chocolate caliente, postres, artesanías, y música. Cuando voy con mi familia, nunca perdemos la oportunidad de pasar al Hotel Roanoke para ver los árboles (35 o más) decorados de diferentes temas.

El Significado de la Temporada por Paola Luna DeHart Para mí, esta temporada significa comer pozole, tamales, y abrir regalos. También significa estar lejos de mi familia. Cuando uno está a 2,000 millas de su pueblo, es fácil sentirse sola. Me imagino que muchas familias Latinas de Roanoke suelen sentirse igual. Pero, el ser los únicos miembros de nuestra familia que viven en el Este de los Estados Unidos me ha dado la oportunidad de desarrollar nuevas tradiciones y conocer y crear una nueva familia aquí. Me he esforzado en buscar eventos y actividades en las que puedo llevar a mi niños para pasar tiempo juntos y fortalecer nuestra familia. Me gustaría compartirles algunas actividades del valle que han llegado a ser parte de las celebraciones navideñas de mi familia.

Primeramente, el 23 de Noviembre a las 11 a.m., por la calle de Grandin Road, tuvieron el desfile anual de Grandin Village. El desfile incluyó muchas organizaciones del valle incluyendo iglesias, grupos de baile, y escuelas. Lo más emocionante fue que Santa Claus desfila al final. A mis hijos les encanta asistir (más que nada por los dulces que regalan) y nos gusta ver y saludar a nuestros amigos que participan en el desfile. Otra actividad a la que nunca faltamos es ir a patinar en el parque Elmwood Park. Por $9 (incluye patines y la entrada a la pista de hielo), pueden patinar por el tiempo que quieran. La pista de patinaje se abre al público el 27 de noviembre, de miércoles a Sábados.

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De verdad, hay más actividades pero se me esta acabando el espacio para describirlas. Por ejemplo, todas las bibliotecas del valle tienen su propia fiesta. Pero tal vez el acontecimiento más importante de esta temporada es encontrar una oportunidad de ayudar a alguien más. Al reflejar en mi niñez, no puedo recordar ningún juguete específico que recibí. Pero si puedo recordar las veces que mi familia ayudo a alguien que tenía necesidad. No tiene que ser un acto grande. Se puede preparar una comida para compartir o limpiar la nieve de la entrada de la casa de un anciano. Aun si eres religioso o no, todos admiten que durante el mes de diciembre, todos demuestran ser un poco más bondadosos y serviciales. No pierdan la ocasión de enseñarles a sus hijos el verdadero propósito de esta temporada lo cual es de cuidarnos unos a otros. Ojalá que disfruten mucho sus fiestas, que se diviertan como familia, y encuentren una oportunidad de aligerar la carga de alguien más.

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Family • December 2021

Celebrate the special times you’ve had with the person to whom you’ll present it.

As holidays and birthdays approach, are your kids scrounging to buy gifts they can hardly afford? Offer them these fun ideas for gifts from the heart!

Tell a story with photos. Create a memory page to add to a friend’s or relative’s scrapbook. Buy a package of blank scrapbook pages, then choose a theme like “my best friend,” “sports car shows,” or “when I was little.” Design each page using stickers, markers, colored pencils, construction paper, photos, magazine pictures, and fun sayings or descriptions that fit your theme.

Make service coupons. Offer a free evening of babysitting, a week of taking out the trash, making your sister’s bed, pet sitting, lawn mowing, ironing, or another task you can do.

Shape decorative soaps.

Personalized Affordable D.I.Y Gifts 38

Family • December 2021

Grate bars of inexpensive white soap. Then mix approximately one-half cup of warm water with a cup of shredded soap. Add food coloring to the water to create colored soap. Knead the mixture, adding additional warm water as necessary until it forms a kind of dough. Next, on top of waxed paper, fill cookie cutters with the mixture. Or, simply flatten the “dough” on a sheet of waxed paper and trim it into shapes. Let the soap dry slightly, then press it with small leaves or other designs. Allow the decorative soaps to dry for 24 hours, flipping them occasionally to help the drying process.

Design your own pens and pencils. Purchase sheets of large white labels and cut them into one-and-ahalf-inch strips. Decorate the strips with colored markers, then wrap the design around the length of the pens or pencils. Personalize them by adding a smaller label to the center of the pencil with “World’s Greatest Grandma” or another phrase. To protect your pencil design, wrap it with clear Scotch tape.

Make a placemat.

Choose a subject of interest to your gift recipient, such as model cars or Barbie dolls. Clip pictures of these things from magazines and catalogs, then glue them to an 11” x 17” (legal size) sheet of paper. Overlap the pictures to create a collage, or spread them apart and write details about each. When you’re done, laminate the design with self-adhesive laminating sheets, or have it laminated at a local office supply store.

Create bookmarks. Cut colored paper into 2” x 7” strips, then design the strips with colored pencils and markers. Find out your gift recipient’s favorite author, artist, or historical figure, and look up quotes by that person. Select a quote, type or write it out, and add it to the bookmark. Finally, laminate it

for protection.

Give magnetic photos. From a cereal box, cut a piece of cardboard that matches the size of your photo. Then glue the cardboard to the back of your photo for support. Last, glue a small magnet to the cardboard.

Fashion a holiday pin. Buy a package of large safety pins and a small package of multicolored beads from the craft store. Open one safety pin, then dangle several safety pins onto it through the eye at the bottom of those pins. Close the open pin. Then thread colored beads onto the dangling safety pins. You can design a Christmas tree, heart, flag, or whatever your imagination desires.

Construct a puzzle photo frame.


Cut a piece of firm cardboard to your desired frame size. Then ask an adult to trim out the center with a razor knife, leaving a 1” to 2” thick frame. Next, trace the outside edge of your frame onto another piece of thin cardboard, and cut it out. Place a sheet of colored paper between the two pieces of cardboard. Next, glue the paper and two pieces of cardboard together. Glue jigsaw puzzle pieces around the frame, overlapping each other to cover the entire thickness of the frame. Let the frame dry, then brush a layer of glue over the puzzle pieces to prevent them from falling off. Stick your photo in the opening of the frame with double-sided tape.

Make glittery pens. Buy a package of pens and different colors of glitter. Pour glue onto a sheet of waxed paper. Roll one side of the pen lightly in the glue, leaving one inch from the tip without glue. Coat the pen with glitter, and then let it dry. When the glue dries, repeat these steps on the other side of the pen.

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Santa Claus vs Single Mom 3 Reasons We Focus on Meaning Over Make-Believe by Lesley Butterfield Harrop


Family • December 2021

Having been a single mom for the past couple years after being married for the majority of my adult life, I have gained a new perspective on a lot of things that may seem rather ho-hoho-hum to others. Tasks as simple as hiring a home maintenance technician are all of a sudden not so simple. New requirements have surfaced; I only allow someone I can trust in my home and the person must call ahead. Getting new brakes on my car is another example; I must go to a trustworthy garage, knowing that a single woman can seem to scream, “Overcharge me, please, because I will never suspect it.” But it was a surprise to me when I suddenly felt . . . different about Santa Claus?! There are many reasons for the “it’s complicated” relationship I now have with ol’ St. Nick, but don’t judge just yet, because my reasons are as simple as safety, trust, and authenticity. Safety. As a single mother, I live alone with my four young children. The very fact that a man dressed up in a red suit is permitted to enter unannounced into our home while we all sleep is, well, disturbing. Think I’m overreacting? Yes, join the club. For an entire Christmas season, I tried to push away the feelings of discomfort while we decorated our artificial evergreen with hand-me-down Hallmark ornaments. But, finally, it came upon a midnight clear, and it was evident that I could not normalize this scenario for my kids. It may seem silly, but really, I am fully aware of my own vulnerabilities as a single mom and so it was necessary for our family in our circumstances. Trust. One thing that is important to me as a mother is building and enhancing the connection with my kids. I want them to feel safe and loved in our family no matter what. I did not want them to ever think I would intentionally lie to them. It stood to reason that I

had trouble purposefully perpetuating pretending over focusing on the magic of the season in ways that are based in truth, symbolism, and the true meaning of Christmas. Authenticity. My oldest son has autism spectrum disorder, a condition in which sometimes he has trouble distinguishing between reality and make-believe. Because of this, we aim for interactions grounded in reality and based on authenticity. That is not to say creativity and abstract thinking aren’t important — they are vital! We can instill all of these qualities in our kids while paying close attention to the specific needs of kiddos that have special needs. But before you think I have taken all the fun out of Christmas morning, let me explain how we DO foster hope, magic, giving, and surprise during the holiday season. Unpacking Santa Claus has been a process for me and for my kids. We have really navigated this together, and that journey has been truly memorable. I don’t NOT do Santa, but I don’t DO Santa in the commercial sense either. Instead, we focus on the three areas of meaning, miracles, and magic. Meaning. What does Santa symbolize to us? Giftgiving, hope, magic, and wonderment, along with many other amazing things! We’ve woven in new traditions that honor these values within our holiday celebrations. We know that the idea of Santa really means doing something for someone without letting them know it was you who did it. We look for opportunities to do this for friends, neighbors, and others within our community. We have a Secret Santa tradition in our own family that has become almost as beloved as Christmas morning itself! Miracles. If you are religious, focusing on the miracles of the season can be easily

incorporated into holiday celebrations with the reading of scripture or other traditions, like attending midnight mass. When I was young, my mother collected all kinds of Christmas books and would display them in our home at Christmastime. Books like Christmas Oranges, Polar Express, The Velveteen Rabbit, and The Tale of Three Trees were displayed in every room. I’ve carried this tradition on for my own kids, and it is truly full of miraculous joy! Finding and focusing on Christmas miracles can also foster hope and resiliency in kids. Magic. My kids know Santa as a fun, pretend character. We actively play makebelieve and engage in Christmas fantasies that involve a time-traveling Santa who must wear a flameretardant suit and is able to visit all the world’s children in just a single night! Kids love mystery and wonder. You don’t have to take that away just because of a break-up with Santa. When my younger kids ask about Santa, I of turn the question back to them, saying, “What do you think?” As kids grow, this kind of magic and mystery can grow with them, instead of being stopped and stifled as soon as they find out that big secret was a sham. We have found that there is something magical about stepping into the winter wonderland of Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, and Sinterklaas. We read all sorts of Santa stories, we explore the cultural folklore, and we honor timeless traditions that fill our hearts with warmth and joy. The magic is always there, even with a pretend Santa. And kids like presents no matter who they’re from! Regardless of what your particular family does to celebrate the holidays, it always helps to learn about the traditions of others and to take a look at our own! When we examine why we celebrate the way we do, we can often uncover core family values that have been passed down through generations, just like the stories of St. Nick!

Family • December 2021


Rachel’s Reads by: Rachel Levine

Whether we like it or not, winter will be soon upon us! Why not embrace the chilly weather coming our way and make some sweet memories? Grab a cup of hot chocolate, snuggle up with your little ones on the couch, and read some delightful snowy books together. Make sure to brave the cold weather and swing by a Little Free Library around Roanoke to find copies of Snow by Uri Shulevitz. Happy winter (and reading) to all!


by Cynthia Rylant All snowstorms have their own feel and personality. This poetic book celebrates snowstorms in all their wondrous variety. Is the snow coming down lightly in tiny, delicate flakes that barely leave a mark? Or are fat, white flakes swirling through the sky and leaving a thick blanket over everything they touch? Come and treasure these moments of winter beauty.

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

A thick blanket of snow has fallen overnight, and Peter can’t wait to explore the white, snowy world outside. Peter sets out in his deep red snowsuit, ready for adventure. He experiments with making silly tracks in the snow, knocking snow down from tall tree branches, sliding down hills, and making snowmen and snow angels. Fun is everywhere on this wintery day! Read this lovely Caldecott Award-winning tale aloud, and share in Peter’s wonder and joy.

The Big Snow

by Berta and Elmer Hader The geese are migrating south, and winter is approaching. All of the woodland animals are preparing for winter. Some animals are fattening up for hibernation, and others are building up stores of food for the long winter. When a big snow arrives, the animals that are awake have a hard time finding enough to eat, but thankfully, their human neighbors help them out. This sweet story gives families the opportunity to discuss how different animals navigate the cold weather and is also the perfect inspiration for putting out birdseed for your own bird neighbors.


Family • December 2021


by Uri Shulevitz Adults can be grumpy when it comes to snow. We don’t want to deal with snowy roads and school cancelations. Kids, though — they greet snow with the full enthusiasm it deserves. In Snow, join a young boy and his dog who spot an approaching snowstorm. The grown-ups around them are in denial, but the child and his furry companion see fantastic and wondrous potential in the falling snowflakes. Join these two friends in a merry dance of winter revelry.

Snowflake Bentley

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin Some individuals have the ability to see the world in such a new way that their viewpoint changes the perspective of the whole world. Willie Bentley was one of those people. Willie loved snow. He made it his life’s work to photograph individual snowflakes and share their exquisiteness with humanity. Photographing snowflakes was an almost impossible task in the 1800s, and it was only through incredible perseverance that Willie was able to document the unbelievable variety of snowflakes. This marvelous biography will inspire you to look at snow with a keener eye. 902 S. College Avenue, Salem



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Snowflak es Science Experiment


• Add 20+ drops of food coloring if desired.

• Large, hot-water-safe container • 1 cup of boiling water

• Place the snowflake into the borax water so that it is hanging and not touching any of the sides or bottom of the container.

• Pipe cleaners • ¼ cup borax

• Let sit in a warm place overnight, and then remove it from the container to dry.

• String • Pencil or popsicle stick that is longer than the mouth of the container • Food coloring (optional)


• Remove your snowflake to the side.

Try this:

Try experimenting with the places you leave the snowflake overnight to see if that changes the crystal shape. If you leave your snowflake in a dark place, are the crystals bigger? What happens if you leave it in a warmer place? Or a cooler place?

• Create a snowflake shape by twisting pipe cleaners together. • Attach your snowflake to the pencil or popsicle stick so that it is able to hang into the container without touching the bottom or sides of the container.

• Boil the cup of water and transfer it to the container you are using. • Stir in ¼ cup of borax until it all dissolves. If you are using more than 1 cup of water, add ¼ cup of borax for each cup you are using.

Share your results with us

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What’s happening? When you heat the water and borax, you are creating a super-saturated solution. Essentially, you put more borax into the water than it could normally hold. This happens because by adding heat, the water molecules move away from one another — creating more room for the borax.

However, when the water cools, that space goes away because the water molecules move closer together. This means that all of the extra borax will fall out of the solution as the water starts to cool. When it does this, the borax needs somewhere to go. Pipe cleaners have lots of places for the borax to stick, so it grows into crystals.

Experiment provided by

Family • December 2021


A lot of learning happens in the first five years. Text UWROANOKE to 274448

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