...is the process by which we create, discover, learn and grow with those we cherish most.


Christmas 2009

Last night, as I gave the kids their stockings to hang by the fireplace, I found myself saying, "you have to hang them up if you want to get treats from Santa." I'm not sure why I came up with that after my "there's no such thing as Santa" speech- but I did. And this morning the kids found their stockings filled with small toys and candy from "Santa" and wrapped presents under the tree from Mommy and Daddy...

Xmas 09

Xmas 09

Xmas 09

Presents were opened one at a time, and it quickly became clear how the joy of unwrapping a "surprise" was more thrilling than the actual gift itself. Still - they gathered their toys and started playing.

Xmas 09

Xmas 09

Xmas 09

Xmas 09

Every year, Aaron takes first prize for creatively wrapping his gifts for me. This one being a jewelry box inside a balloon - which was wrapped and actually pinned to the ceiling...

Xmas 09

and this one - where he put his carpentry skills to work and concealed another jewelry box inside this box he made from scrap wood screwed shut, with hand painted lettering, and then double-chained shut. [smile]

Xmas 09

The kids helped him pick out the jewelry and paint this box - and as I put them on and started the morning routine, Ava asked me, "Mom, did you get everything you wanted from Santa?"

Surprised - I answered with a happy yes and asked the same of her.

She didn't respond and I repeated my question to her several more times before I got this:

"Santa didn't bring me the Jasmine doll I wanted."

Yes - Aaron and I were crushed. The very single thing I was afraid of - happened. Ava's expectation from "Santa" failed her - we failed her. And I regretted not doing a better job of reinforcing what Christmas presents were all about.

Looking back, some of my most favorable moments of the holidays was when we first brought home our tree and decorated the house... sat around and made gifts for our family members - and then watching their faces light up bashfully as the kids gave them away. I loved how we ate snow... and sipped on hot cocoa overloaded with marshmallows. Made christmas trees out of toilet paper rolls, and painted ornaments... It is all of these moments that resonate best the joy of the holidays - and not what was inside a wrapped box. We've learned a lot this year - thanks to Ava and Noah who have helped us sort through this flurry and realize that we're so blessed - and the greatest way we can show our appreciation for one another - is the gift of time...

So we baked cookies... and ate more freezing snow by the fire... [smile].

Baking Cookies

Xmas 09

After all the anxiety that went into planning a traditional holiday for the kids - everything followed its own course today - simplified - and simply beautiful...

Xmas 09

twas the night before Christmas...

and all through the house... not a creature was stirring - because we were all so exhausted! The four of us have been combating the common cold for a few weeks now - each taking a turn to care for another, and on Christmas Eve, we were all yearning for a miracle. Poor Mom was so sick at our holiday party last night, that the flu flared up her arthritis and she could barely stand to walk. Among all of us celebrating last night, 3 of us were on antibiotics and we later learned that Mom had pneumonia! So we took it easy Christmas Eve, and spent some time curled up by the fireplace watching Christmas movies on TV.

And just when we thought we couldn't feel any worse, it started to snow! Snow! Snow! In Texas - where just yesterday we were sporting 70 degrees! Earlier in the month, when Ava kept asking me "when is Christmas?" I responded, "when it snows" - not giving it a second thought. And here we are, like a Christmas story miracle, watching the snow fall so delicately.... everywhere!


By sunset, I realized that I had forgotten about the snow. It had actually stuck this time, and I was saddened for Ava and Noah watching TV all day - not having the chance to "play" in it - and more than likely, by morning, it would be gone. So I mustered up some energy to salvage what was left of Christmas Eve, got dressed and Aaron followed cue. We opened up a personalized xmas package we received from our neigbors, which included 4 mugs and the makings of smores and hot chocolate - which hit all the right spots...

hot cocoa

Xmas 09



We did an art project with the kids - the holiday masks left over from the other night - and gave it a coat of paint... and cotton balls...

holiday craft

holiday craft2

Xmas 09 Crafts

Xmas 09

the penguin

Xmas 09

And then we headed outdoors to pay homage to the wonder of fallen white snow...



And just like the cartoon characters from her favorite shows, Ava fell to the ground and made a snow angel [smile].

Snow Angel

Noah brought out his fire truck - to free the rocks buried in the snow... and Ava nuzzled with a snow ball, realizing how cold she really is...

fire truck to the rescue

eating snow

We headed indoors shortly - much to the children's disappointment, but were able to enjoy the last of the roaring fire before preparing for bedtime... and Christmas morning.


holiday party 2009

My extended family planned a trip overseas over the holiday break - which plotted our "holiday party" a day early. The event was a hostess dream - But of course, that didn't stop me from pulling an all-nighter to make sure everything was perfect, including preparing a separate party for the kids to enjoy while we had dinner, catered by Macaroni & Grill - one of our favorite family-friendly restaurants.

Holiday Party4

Holiday Party3

In the art room, each place setting included an art craft (painting a mask), holiday cup and treats like animal crackers and a candy cane...

Holiday Party

Holiday Party2

And then each child opened their single gift from all of us - while Ava happily presented her handmade gifts to the elders...

Xmas 09

Xmas 09

Here we all are - once again propped in front of the annual tripod that takes our group photo - about a hundred of them - wishing everyone we know, a happy holiday season!

Xmas 09



Tired of looking at xmas lights, we decided to head North and visit Willow Bend, where a larger than life snow globe stands on display with fake snow blowing overhead.

Polar Express4

Polar Express

This year the attraction showcased characters from the movie, The Polar Express.

We've watched this movie several dozen times already (unfortunately it has some questionable dialogue) but still, it's entertaining and fun to watch - AND there's a train in this movie - and if there's one thing Noah has loved from day 1 - it's trains.

Polar Express5

Polar Express2

The Polar Express is a story about skeptical children who journey to the North Pole, get lost, witness tiny elves wrapping gifts for those on the "good list", and cheer for a Santa kickoff to fly around the world and deliver a toy for every child - and only through this myriad of adventures, do they come to believe in "Christmas." And how will you know if you're a believer? According to this movie, if you can hear Santa's sleigh bell ringing- then you are.

While this is a highly entertaining movie - there's a lot to draw from and put into perspective for the kids, especially now as they are absorbing insurmountable information from everywhere. Scary scenes (like the ghost on top of the train) initiate more questions - and this is when we reiterate how cartoons are make-believe. Pretend. Not real - Contradicting the movies' main point of - believing in what you can't see.

Polar Express is just one of many cartoons that portray Christmas to be a time to get gifts ("My favorite part of Christmas is gifts for me" - Ming Ming from The Wonder Pets), after all, Santa knows exactly what you want (Diego gets his telescope) and "naughty" kids don't get anything (Swiper on Dora the Explorer). So in other words - there's an incentive for being good. I have a hard time swallowing that - shouldn't kids strive to be good for no other reason than for themselves and the greater good?

So if we don't place gifts under the tree for them Christmas morning - will they think they are bad? Or what if we get them something they didn't want - because they secretly wished it from Santa?

While I love to live in a world with my children where we can make believe about anything - some things just jump the hurdle. This is one of them. So in the car, when Ava brought up Santa, I explained that he's just pretend like in their cartoons. BUT that it was based on a true story from a long time ago when an old man named St. Nicholas made gifts for children who didn't have any.

Ava seemed content with that answer - so I left it alone.

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And will let the magic of Christmas be what they believe from their hearts...

happy holidays!

Merry Christmas! Here we are at home after returning from a holiday party out in the countryside. The kids did great and I only lost sight of Ava once and Noah refrained from eating more than 3 brownie balls [smile].


Kids By Tree


hopping onboard with miniature trains

Northpark Trains2

For the second year in a row, we've been taking the kids to the Trains at Northpark Center, (now in it's 22nd year) benefiting the Ronald McDonald House. The children enjoy seeing the trains zoom through tunnels and miniature lifeforms depicting cities across America - even taking into consideration for subways, which I always get a kick out of since I grew up in NYC.

Northpark Trains5

Northpark Trains3

Northpark Trains4

Northpark Trains

The only challenge is leaving the display in tact, as it truly is a mesmerizing experience that beckons you to plunge forth and play!

Catch the trains now through Jan 3rd or watch the news clip video on YT.

the meaning of Christmas

As the kids continue to grow at an accelerated pace - I continue to panic around the holidays. It's never an easy conversation or decision - because we can't come up with what feels right until the holidays are long past us and we make note of what worked and what didn't. Questions surface like... Are presents from Santa? And is Santa Claus real? Do we buy the kids gifts with Ava's birthday trailing right behind just a week? What aspects of the holiday do we want them to remember and practice traditionally?

My parents embraced the holidays for my sisters and I since we were little because it was a fun way to end a great year. And in college, I attended midnight masses (thanks to the private Catholic school I went to) - to learn more about the meaning behind the celebration - and quickly realized how the purpose was greater than I could ever embrace. After getting married, we found ourselves tangled in a web of shopping and splitting time between households - that the holidays proved more taxing than spirited - so we had to decide how we wanted to carry and create the magic of the holidays in a way that did feel right to us... this special time of year for Ava and Noah...

I have to admit, there's no right answer - and I can only respond to what is happening around me each year - and interject some new ideas here and there. We're no longer celebrating "xmas" in the traditional sense with extended family because of gradual changes in our family dynamics, and repurposing them to reflect who we are today.

Starting with teaching the kids about the wonderful feeling of giving...

Santa's Elf

Santa's Workshop

A trip to the local craft store to pick out unfinished items Ava and Noah could embellish at the art table proved valuable - not just for the kids - but us grown ups too - as we watched how Ava artfully selected certain items for Aunt Roshana... Cousin "SuSu" and Grandma... and then getting right to work on personalizing it and making it beautiful just like the people in their lives... who they spend their time with throughout the entire year - growing up with and feeling so loved.

And that I would imagine - is the true meaning of Christmas.


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