Favorite Family Traditions {Magic Gingerbread}

Once upon a time, in the not-so-faraway land of Shreveport, a young speech-language pathologist was waddling down the hall largely pregnant with her second child. She worked at a very special school called Alexander Learning Center, and was on staff with some very very special people. One of these kind souls specialized in teaching children with Autism, and this Mrs. Templin recruited the young speech-language pathologist in a little Christmas treat: The Magic Gingerbread Men. What seemed like an ordinary box of Little Debbie Gingerbread Men was opened by a classroom of very special children, all so very excited to receive their Christmas speech treat. Except, the box was EMPTY! All that remained were empty wrappers and a note with a clue as to where these wily gingerbread men escaped. That little, seemingly-always-preggo-SLP was me, and I will forever be grateful to Mrs. Templin for introducing me to this fun problem-solving activity, because …


I love Christmas magic, and my children do too. But y’all I cannot handle the Elf on the Shelf. It’s too much pressure on me at a time when I already feel like an Instapot prior to release. This is much more on my level. It takes a bit of prep work, but after the adventure I’M DONE! C’est tout fini!

I buy the cookies throughout the year, and each time my children see the box, they are SO excited! “Where will they take us this time?” “I bet we get to go back to the Festival of Lights” But alas, none of those boxes will be Magic. Not until after Thanksgiving can one of the boxes contain magic gingerbread. 

Our Magic Gingerbread Men leave a note with a clue, which leads to another clue, and another, and another (one clue for each child to read … gotta keep things fair or it gets bloody around here), and the last clue always leads us to a map! We stop whatever we are doing and get ourselves ready to leave the house to go on this special Christmas journey with the Magic Gingerbread Men, who just so happen to be waiting to be eaten in the car (morbid, I know, but those things are delicious!) And off we go!

They have sent us to Zoosiana for the Safari of Lights, the Festival of Lights in the Oil Center, and on a pajama-eat-in-the-car-ride to look at Christmas lights.

This year topped them all. We went to the Atchafalaya Christmas at McGee’s Landing in Henderson, and it was seriously great. 

To watch the madness that is our Gingerbread Adventure, click here.

Now this year our Magic Gingerbread Men wrote a little note on the map that said we couldn’t use it until 1:30. We had to reschedule our session because of some nasty weather, but the kids handled the delay like champs. 

We crossed the steep levee and arrived at McGee’s with a minute to spare. We slapped rubber boots and coats on everyone and checked in. Each guest received a wristband, and the elves showed us how to get to the dock for boarding. 

This was the first time my children rode on a boat! They loved it. It was a cold and wet day (classic Louisiana winter weather), but they were bundled and dry inside the boat. 

Papa Noel was our driver and he was PRECIOUS! He had a white beard, red overalls, white rubber boots, and his long walking stick decked out with jingle bells. He taught us the origin of the word Atchafalaya, the special bald cypress trees found in the swamp, and the various wildlife we might find there. He pointed out the nest of a river eagle, and told silly little jokes that kept us all giggling. 

When we got to our destination, we tied up and our elf handed out candy canes and sugar cookies shaped like alligators! Then Papa Noel read us The Cajun Night Before Christmas. After our story, we sang Christmas carols, led by our elf. Then, we untied the boat, and returned to the dock. 

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We disembarked, and followed our elf to a covered pavilion where the kiddos decorated their own ornament. There were many elves to help out, which is always appreciated by us outnumbered parents. 

After ornament making, we made hot cocoa, and took our picture with Papa Noel

The event went above and beyond any expectations I had. They were prepared for the weather. The facility was incredibly clean. There were plenty of elves to lend a hand or answer a question. Papa Noel was kind and patient. 

We are so glad our Magic Gingerbread Men decided to laissez-les bon temps rouler this year!

Sarah Keating
Sarah is a 30-something mom of four children under six and wife to her high-school sweetheart. She returned to Acadiana two years ago following her husband’s completion of medical school and residency in Shreveport. After the move, Sarah switched gears from full-time pediatric speech-language pathologist and working mom to full-time stay-at-home mom to her brood. Her current hobbies include “speech-therapizing” her children, re-reading the Outlander series, catching up on her Netflix queue after the kids go to bed, completing XHIT videos at naptime, and taking her medication every morning. She loves and respects the sacredness of motherhood, but sometimes you just have to let go and laugh it out. Motherhood has been the most humbling, and empowering journey she has experienced.


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