Children are icing on cake at holiday parties

This is the morning after. My house is eerily quiet and fairly clean. My refrigerator has lots of odd food. I have four boxes of cream cheese, several bunches of green onions, two packages of wontons and a ham bone. Today is the day after my annual Christmas party.

For the past few years, I’ve opted to cancel our usual cattle call of inviting people I only see when I’m hosting the party. In days gone by, at these parties held after dark with lots of liquor, there was always at least one incident of someone becoming inebriated and causing a scene. So, I decided to host a party in the afternoon where children are the focus. I let my grown children invite their friends and their own children.

Angels spreading their voices

Twenty silver halos sit on the heads of the children at Sturgeon Baptist Church. Mary, Joseph and the three wise men look around the room nervously.

Kelly Reeves, director of the children’s choir, stands in the doorway. There are only 10 minutes until the start of the dress rehearsal for “Angel Alert,” the church’s Christmas play, she warns.

Christmas past

At some point every year, many of us see Charles Schulz’s “A Charlie Brown Christmas” make its annual appearance on television. In the midst of letters filled with detailed gift requests to Santa, a play that includes a Christmas queen and pink, metallic trees, Charlie Brown walks to the center of the school auditorium stage, throws up his hands and shouts, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

At Tiger Columns, a senior retirement community in downtown Columbia, a few residents discussed their favorite Christmas memories and the meaning of the season over peanut-butter cookies and coffee. Their stories might not explain everything Christmas is about, but they bring life to its definition.

Bill would make drug trial results public

Prescription-drug users and doctors soon could have greater access to information about possible adverse effects of medications after a legal battle over the popular antidepressant Paxil.

Six federal lawmakers introduced the Fair Access to Clinical Trials Act in October as part of an effort to make clinical drug trials more transparent to the public. The law would require drug companies to publicly release the results of such trials, positive and negative, on a government-run database.

Small-town Santa

Ron Wilcox of Ashland has been his town’s sole Santa for eight years.

“My son came into my life 10 years ago, and I started dressing as Santa for his day care,” Wilcox said.

Forecaster: Storm may bring Christmas snow

Some Columbia residents bracing for weekend temperatures expected to dip into the teens may find solace in the fact that current forecasts show the possibility of a white Christmas.

According to the National Weather Service, a storm is developing on the West Coast that is moving east, probably reaching Missouri by Thursday night.

Sapp’s joint approval plan fails for Harg

Billy Sapp’s hope that city and county officials could work together to zone a new 1,000-acre development east of Columbia has hit a roadblock, forcing Sapp to focus entirely on city annexation.

Sapp had asked city and Boone County officials to work together to make sure the development would be appropriately zoned even if city annexation does not pan out. However, legal consultants have said the county would not be able to work with the city because of its different zoning regulations, Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller informed Sapp on Thursday.

St. Louis schools, teachers pitted for contract showdown

ST. LOUIS — St. Louis teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against the state’s largest school district, the teachers union said Thursday.

Teachers also voted 1,574-110 to reject the district’s latest contract offer.

Decorations light up holiday spirit

For Bob and Sharon Emery, Christmas is a time for giving — to the electric company.

From the weekend after Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, the Emerys’ front lawn on Stirling Drive is illuminated by a display of about 16,000 Christmas lights.

Six arrested in pedophilia case

Six men, including two from Boone County, have been arrested as a result of a covert investigation into child pornography by the Boone County Sheriff’s Department. The suspects include a former youth ministry volunteer, a commercial airline pilot, a career military man and a business owner.

“It seems from this investigation that some of the people who are the greatest danger are not the people we tend to recognize,” Detective Andy Anderson said.

Prison staff uses video games to baby-sit inmates

JEFFERSON CITY — Although the Missouri Department of Corrections decided earlier this month to ban violent video games from its prisons, Missouri remains one of only three states that allows any such games at all.

A survey by the American Correctional Association lists Missouri, Maine and West Virginia as the only states that allow prisoners to play video games. All three permit inmates to play sports and science-fiction games.

Woman dies after fall from garage

A woman fell to her death from a parking garage on the MU campus Wednesday afternoon.

MU Police Capt. Brian Weimer could not say why the woman fell, but said MU police were conducting an investigation into the death.

‘Out in the cold’

Cries of outrage from residents of the Park Avenue public housing complex, who fear their homes might be razed in a redevelopment project, are a bit premature, city and housing officials said Wednesday.

“We’re not going to tell them to get out on the street,” said Doris Chiles, executive director of the Columbia Housing Authority.

Historical society eyes museum

Downtown Columbia could get another infusion of culture as talks for a new museum in the area continue.

The State Historical Society of Missouri recently asked the city and MU if they would consider allowing it to become a tenant of a proposed archaeology museum on city-owned land in the Flat Branch area.

Rivals ready for rematch over Supercenter site

With 4,600 signatures and the approval of numerous neighborhood associations, a community organization opposed to rezoning land for a Wal-Mart Supercenter on West Broadway is gearing up for a showdown at a public hearing before the Columbia City Council on Monday.

At a Wednesday news conference at the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center, members of Community First urged residents opposed to the rezoning to contact their City Council members and to attend Monday’s meeting.

School district waits for state budget data

The Columbia School District, it seems, is involved in a waiting game.

District officials must wait for information from the state before finalizing the 2005-06 budget.

Finding your own tree

Each year, in the days after Thanksgiving, families flock to the Christmas tree lots to buy the perfect tree.

For the past 14 years, Ann and Wayne Harmon have provided Boone County with a hands-on Christmas tree experience.

Don’t forget to stuff those stockings

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care … empty and cold with nothing to share.

Kind of puts a damper on the Christmas spirit, doesn’t it? Don’t let your stockings hang lifelessly from the fireplace this Christmas. With a wide assortment of great stocking stuffers available, there is no reason that those giant socks shouldn’t be stuffed to the fullest.

Local art a quirky alternative to prepackaged gifts

The day after Thanksgiving avid shoppers rushed to malls and department stores to find the perfect gift for the perfect price.

Vendors in downtown Columbia suggest there is an alternate route for these holiday shoppers.

Holiday Recycling

Bad gifts are as much a tradition of the holidays as mistletoe and menorahs.

Every year, as you eagerly rip open the brightly wrapped gifts in anticipation of the watch you wanted, you are met with an awful sweater, a pair of too-tight pants or a hideous homemade gift.