Take a deep breath. Smell that? It's the smell of Christmas. If I took my favorite memories and put them in a gallon jug, over half would have something to do with Christmas. The tickle of pine needles on my arm, the smell of musty old ornaments made from bottle caps and glitter, the crisp softness of construction paper, and a thousand other memories remind me of where I've been and what's important.

Memories are surprising critters, especially the Christmas variety. I should know. I've made it my passion to create and capture truckloads of Christmas memories for my kids. And they do have truckloads of memories, just not from the truck I delivered.

That's the weird thing about memories. We plan, make arrangements, and set a trap to capture them, and some other memory is caught instead.

Right now I'm looking at one of those memories. My oldest son collected it. It's a 10-ounce Sprite bottle. Yep, that's what I said, a Sprite bottle.

A few years ago, I thought I'd be a good husband and father and cart away some of our children for a little educational field trip. So, bright and early I loaded up the van, and we drove the 40 minutes to tour the largest Amish museum in the country.

Unfortunately, the brochure failed to mention their winter hours, which meant we had to kill two hours. Considering it was an Amish community, this wasn't good.

Luckily, we found an antique mall that was open, and I spent the next 40 minutes walking down aisles of priceless treasures with four fidgety kids and me repeating "Don't touch that," about every 20 seconds.

By the time we made it back to the van, we only had an hour left. Lucky for us, Amish people don't grow all of their own food. So we found a grocery store where we bought a box of Little Debbie snack cakes and several 10-ounce bottles of Sprite.

The rest of our waiting time took place in the museum's parking lot eating snack cakes and guzzling Sprite. Once inside, we spent two hours listening to multimedia presentations on the history of the Anabaptist movement and the differences between the Mennonites, Amish, and Hutterites … yeah, that's what the kids thought too.

Later that night, I was shocked when Ben displayed his empty Sprite bottle on his dresser as a reminder of the day.

It's funny. Over the years, they'll forget the tour, but they'll never forget the time Dad got them each a bottle of Sprite and they ate snack cakes in the parking lot of some museum.

That's memories for you. Christmas ones are even worse.

Last year, I was under the impression that to inject the true meaning of Christmas I needed to read a portion of the birth narrative before we decorated the tree. I chose for my text the announcement of John's birth.

We trudged through and then I proclaimed, "This year we're going to hang one ornament at a time, remembering out loud each one." A few minutes later, we were batting the kids away from the ornament box like flies from a cake. They'd reach in, snatch a priceless ornament; we'd gasp and threaten to throw away our Christmas tree if they didn't settle down.

We hung, they giggled, we hollered, and little by little they hung the ornaments in a two-foot square section of the tree, leaving the rest empty.

Up till that point, I did my darndest to take all the fun out of decorating the family tree. Fortunately, kids are resilient.

Next, as all Wilsons have done since the beginning of time, we watched a Christmas TV special. I was prepared, so before Thanksgiving I picked up the animated version of The Grinch Who Stole Christmas from our town library.

In the glow of the Christmas tree, we ate Christmas cookies, sipped sparkling grape juice, and watched the Grinch steal all the wazzbanglers and grimdinglers from those hard-sleeping Whos.

And somehow, in the midst of the soft-colored lights and fizzing grape juice, the fuss and tension vanished, and Christmas crept into our house.