Elizabeth’s Christmas Eve Gift

Elizabeth’s Christmas Eve Gift is a vintage Christmas story by Chesna L. Smith.

As if they were playing a game of verbal tag, the members of the Miller family always tried to be the first to shout “Christmas Eve Gift!”

Spend Christmas Eve with young cowgirl, Elizabeth on the  Miller ranch in the 1920s to discover how in the midst of everyday chores, good ol’ cowboy humor and the ranch animals remind her of the true meaning of Christmas.

From the wide-eyed wonder of the little believer to the wiry grandmother with a sparkle in her eyes as she muses, “My dad told me that when I was little too,” the heartwarming story has generated responses from young and old alike.

Author Chesna Smith says:
The inspiration came from a story that my husband’s grandmother (Elizabeth Miller Smith) was told when she was a little girl.  Another family tradition was woven in when, after marrying my husband, I discovered that both our families grew up playing a peculiar game on Christmas Eve Morning!  Every member of the family would try to be the first to shout “Christmas Eve Gift.”  In theory if you “got” someone by saying it first, they were supposed to give you a present early.  However, no one ever got around to “paying up.”  The victory was in the thrill of knowing that they would have to wait a whole year before they had a chance to get you back. Neither family really knows where the tradition came from.

Chesna, who grew up in Oklahoma, says, “For as long as I can remember I wanted to grow up and be a cowgirl,  I don’t know if I will ever get there, but it sure has been fun trying.

Illustrators are Shawna Wright,  Clayton, NM, and Ben Miller, nephew of the late Elizabeth Miller Smith, who lives on the Miller Ranch where this story took place.

Come along with Elizabeth and see how in the midst of everyday life she discovers the greatest gift of all.

The Grandmother Who Flew as a Dragon

My guest today is Franses Hermann of Missoula, Montana, author of The Grandmother Who Flew as a Dragon, a delightful fantasy children’s book.

Where did your dragon stories come from?

Originally I started telling stories to my grandson Sean when he was very little. He was only a few years old, and like a lot of little boys, very interested in dragons. We used to take long walks, and he would point out various places where he thought a dragon might hide, and I would tell him about that particular type of dragon living there. Several years later, when his younger sister Rhyan was born, the stories became longer, and after I had my cardiac death it was suggested I should write. That is when I started to embroider a little on the basic tales and write them down.

Tell us a little of your background, where you came from, and if you’ve always been a storyteller.

I was born in Rotterdam, Holland’s largest harbor. There I lived for the most part in various foster homes until my mother came and picked me up, She had rented an apartment in a Jewish neighborhood and we lived there together till I turned six. I did not do well in school, and mother was not doing too well financially. Besides, Rotterdam was under attack continuously. Mother packed up a few of our belongings and we went up north to stay with my grandmother. It did not last either, so we went off to the Hague and moved into the same boarding house where my sister lived at the time. It was a bad experience for me, and was glad when we found a small little rowhouse and moved again. When I was eight, my father was back in the picture. We moved one more time before we made the big move back to my mother’s neck of the woods.

The Grandmother Who Flew as a Dragon is your first in a series. Are you working on a second book?

I am working on book two, wherein the second dragon head tells of his life as a horse in Ireland. Book three goes back to Rhyan, who is now a college student, while Sean is living in his grandmother’s cabin.

How did you find your publisher, Stoneydale Press?

When we (The Montana Writers Guild) did our first anthology, I was the one checking out various options and Stoneydale was one of them. I like Dale (Burk), and knowing that I would not be able to handle the business end, I chose him when I wanted to self-publish the book.

What do you do to market your book?

I wish I could say I have had a high pressure campaign going. I have done some readings. I am very good at reading, and have been told that I have a pleasant voice to listen to. I wish I could do an audio book.

Have you written in any other genre besides children’s stories?

I am writing my memoirs, and have written some stories where the center point is a run-down bistro that I bought on a trip back home. I had a short story, “Hometown” published in the Montana Writers Guild anthology, A Blend of Voices.

Why do you like writing for children?

I love children, and have always been able to place myself in their world.

What advice would you give authors who want to write for children?

I am hardly  in a position to hand out advice, but one thing people must understand, that is more difficult to write for children than for adults. Children know a phony when they hear or read one.

I see that the cover art was done by your niece. Is she a professional artist?

Yes, my niece, who lives in Amsterdam, is an artist. Check her out on the web. Ella Gersteling.

Getting Kids to Move: Martha Swirzinski

My guest today is Martha Swirzinski, who has written three children’s books focused on movement.

“More and more research is being developed about the rise of obesity in children,” notes Ms. Swirzinski, who teaches movement education in a local pre-school and offers teacher training workshops and customized consultations.  At the same time, numerous studies continue to link increased brain function and movement, she explains.  “Being active grows new brain cells!”

Brrrr….it’s cold outside!

by Martha Swirzinski

But that’s no excuse for your children to be sedentary or inactive. I know it’s hard in the winter to keep your children active: it’s cold, it gets dark earlier and, of course, there’s homework for older children and a long list of things that simply must get accomplished. However, we need to remember that our heart is a muscle and needs daily exercise to stay healthy and strong. Children as young as 3 or 4 years old may show early signs of changes to their arteries that could cause eventual heart attacks. Surprisingly, signs of heart disease can appear as early as ten years old, making regular exercise and health nutrition critical.

So what can a parent do?

Limit television and computer time.

If you do let them have screen time, mix it up with some kind of movement. For instance, if they are watching a show, have them run in place during the commercials. For every ten minutes on the computer, they owe you five minutes of dancing to music or running around the yard.

Park farther from store entrances and walk, run, hop, or skip into the store.

Take the stairs and count the number of stairs. Turn exercise into a learning experience.

Read a book and have them act it out.

Play games that encourage movement, like charades or follow the leader.

Hide items around the house and have your children go find them. For each item, have them move a different way to go find it. For example, you need to hop like a bunny to find the plastic egg or walk on your tiptoes to find your stuffed animal. This is also a great way to encourage them to pick up their rooms.

Get creative, have fun, and most of all, make sure you participate with them. A good role model is very important and will make a lasting impression. I know it can be hard, but in the long run it will create a lifetime of health and happiness for you and your child.

The holder of a Bachelor’s degree in therapeutic recreation from Clemson University and a master’s from the University of Maryland in Kinesiology, Martha Swirzinski has more than 15 years of experience working in the field of movement with children.  She is also a certified personal fitness trainer.  She currently lives in Virginia Beach, Virginia with her husband and two daughters.

Ms. Swirzinski believes that every child should be afforded structured movement opportunities every day to promote an active, healthy lifestyle and become part of a lifelong regime.

It is along this vein that Ms. Swirzinski has published three children’s books focused on movement.  Using entertaining rhymes and charming pictures, these developmentally based books offer fun and creative ways for children to move while also providing mind stimulating activities on each page. By following the suggested activities, children can engage in 30-60 minutes of their recommended structured daily movement, as well as enhancing other mind/body skills. Designed to be enjoyed again and again, the pages of these books are filled with laughter, learning, movement and more.

Martha’s books are: “Leap… Laugh… Plop,” “Guess… Giggle… Wiggle,” and “Kick… Catch… Buzz”






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