The Big Christmas Post

Every year I feel like I get a little better at the holidays. This year, we got our Christmas cards out before Christmas. We had our presents (for our kids) wrapped on time…and didn’t have to stay up until the wee morning hours on Christmas Eve to get it done. I made sugar cookies with the kids and we delivered them to friends. I helped Carter write and deliver his first letter to Santa. I started prepping for Christmas Eve dinner a few days in advance so it was less stressful on Christmas Eve. We started a new tradition of Christmas morning crepes because they’re soooo much easier than the cinnamon rolls I used to make. We did our first family reenactment of the nativity, and this was my favorite thing about our entire Christmas season.

And yet, there are so many things I wish I could have done better. I have a constant, nagging feeling that I’m not doing enough. I want to follow Light the World better. I want to tie Christmas more closely to the Savior, and make sure my kids know the true meaning of the holiday. I want to do more service with my family. I want to make more crafts. I want to help my kids make presents for others. I want to make gingerbread houses (we got some kits for my parents but they are still in boxes!)…and on and on.

I’m also constantly thinking about what I want to teach my kids and how the things we say or do will impact them in the future. There can be tension between traditions the spiritual learning. How do we balance the fun and wonder of Santa with the idea that Christmas is about giving, not receiving? How do we navigate the joy of opening presents with Christ’s teachings about treasures that are eternal? How do we serve without being perfunctory or worse, exploitative?

I wrestle with these feelings pretty much every day of the year, so this isn’t all that new. But, I want the holidays to be so special that the feeling of not doing enough, of wanting to balance the temporal and spiritual, is heightened significantly.

I’m grateful for a talk given by a woman in my ward on the Sunday before Christmas. She talked about these exact feelings and about learning to focus on the most important thing…Christ. She talked about finding balance and so much more. Her talk really spoke to me. I’m still learning how to focus on the Savior and make magic with my kids, not just during the holidays, but all year round. I have a feeling that by the time I finally figure it out, my kids will be grown and out of the house!

I’m glad I’m a little delayed in writing this post because looking back on the pictures and reflecting on all the things we did that aren’t picturedhelped me to realize that we are already doing so much. We had a beautiful, magical, spirit-filled holiday season. There are so many things I want to do better for myself and my family, but I think I’m doing a few things okay too.

CHRISTMAS TREE CUTTING: I loved that Thanksgiving was a little early this year because it meant we got to have a Christmas tree and listen to Christmas music even longer! We always cut our tree the day after Thanksgiving, and even though it was stormy and wet, we trekked ourselves up to the Christmas tree farm and got ourselves a tree…and some colds. It was actually pretty fun racing around in the patches of time in between rain.

Aila loved the rain so much, she kept trying to walk under the big water splashes from the tent.

A TRIP TO THE TEMPLE: We stopped by to see a dear friend’s new baby before heading to the Sacramento temple. We were so lucky there was a ward Christmas dinner next door at the stake center, so the building was open and we were able to play in the nursery while we switched off inside the temple.

This is how we passed the time while waiting for dad to finish up his temple time.

A FEW CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES: We had a little Christmas miracle at the Palo Alto Creche – we accidentally showed up an hour before it opened and because people thought we were with a youth group, they let us wander around unsupervised. We got to enjoy the exhibit alone, and were even treated to a private puppet show. It was the only time I could go to the Creche because I left for a work trip that night and didn’t get back until after the exhibit closed. We were so grateful for the time we got to spend surrounded by such beautiful artwork and reminders of the Savior.

Carter also “wrote” (he dictated and I scribed) his first letter to Santa. He was VERY excited to mail it to the North Pole (AKA, back to our house where I could then save it forever, of course!).


CHRISTMAS SHOPPING: I actually had all my kids’ presents purchased months in advance this year (gotta take advantage of those deals when you find them, amirite?), but of course, we had to pick up a few last minute gifts for others too. As you can see, we were not very focused in this endeavor.

CHRISTMAS CHURCH: Once in a blue moon, we make a little bit of an effort to get dressed up. But apparently, no amount of dressing up can hide the true nature of our family.

CHRISTMAS EVE, CHRISTMAS DAY, THE DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS: I tried to be more efficient about Christmas Eve dinner with my parents and dear friends, but this year, the food was no bueno. The desserts however, were pretty tasty…so in an effort to forget my cooking fail, I am only including pictures of dessert!

Christmas morning felt really special. We started the day reading scriptures about Christ’s birth and re-enacting it with random props we grabbed around the house. At first the kids were super confused, but eventually both wanted to be babies in the manger and the whole thing ended with Carter running around the house in circles while we chased him. Very spiritual. Then we made crepes and talked about the gifts of the Savior over breakfast. We didn’t get to presents until almost ten, and there were only a few for each person, so it was a short and joyful time of opening gifts, and a lot of time afterward to play together as a family.

We JUST took down our Christmas tree and decorations this past week. I am marveling at how huge our living room looks. Already, the kids are telling me they miss the tree and can’t wait for Christmas again.

The truth is, I can’t either.

Want More Diverse Books? Here’s What You Can Do

When marginalized children don’t see themselves represented in books, they internalize the belief that their stories, perspectives, and experiences are less valuable. They learn they do not matter. Conversely, when white children, straight children, able-bodied children and boys only see themselves represented in books they learn that their stories, perspectives, and experiences are “normal.” They learn they matter more than others.

ALL kids need to see themselves and others in books.

Here are a few concrete steps you can take to promote diversity in children’s publishing: Continue reading “Want More Diverse Books? Here’s What You Can Do”

A Word on Thoughts and Prayers

After every tragic – and preventable – mass shooting, the offering of “thoughts and prayers” via Twitter and other social media platforms has become customary. Following swiftly behind is the derision of these offered “thoughts and prayers.” While I tend to agree with the perspective that many of those offering these thoughts and prayers – particularly GOP officials and supporters – are dangerously hypocritical, I have also felt torn by the shredding of “thoughts and prayers” as political rhetoric with no inherent power or value. Continue reading “A Word on Thoughts and Prayers”

Pumpkins, Hay Rides and Sunflower Fields

Every year, we go in search of the best local pumpkin patches. Two years ago we went to Pastorino Farms in Half Moon Bay and Webb Ranch in Portola Valley. Last year, we went to Moore’s Pumpkin Patch in Dublin.

This year, we trekked down to Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch in San Jose. Far…near Coyote Valley. It was perfect. Not too commercial, not too much traffic (although I started working at 6 am so I we could leave in the early afternoon on a weekday), pumpkins laid out beautifully, an interactive learning center, a mini-hay bale maze, giant orange chairs, a sunflower field and of course, rides! Namely, a train, a hay-ride, and a barrel train ride. And this doesn’t even include the petting zoo or pony rides, which are weekend-only attractions. Continue reading “Pumpkins, Hay Rides and Sunflower Fields”

Hold Fast to Dreams (Or, How to Pursue Writing while Juggling Young Kids and a Full-Time Job)

Dreams
Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams
For when dreams go
Life is a barren field
Filled with snow.

Though I’ve always loved reading, I did not grow up with dreams of becoming a writer. Those dreams came as I explored my commitment to education, equity, youth, stories, and social change. Writing, like most things I’ve pursued with passion, sits at the intersection of these pillars. I believe that writing stories is one way I can make a difference in the world. And what else are we here for, but to make a difference in this world that sorely needs change? Continue reading “Hold Fast to Dreams (Or, How to Pursue Writing while Juggling Young Kids and a Full-Time Job)”