17 Rules of Pregnancy for Husbands (updated)

Updated for a friend who’s wife is, well, confusing him . . .

In Forest at the Edge of the World Joriana Shin sends her son a list of how he should behave when his wife is pregnant. A few points are mentioned in the book, but some readers have asked me to post the full list.

Having been pregnant nine times, I feel I have a bit of experience with the topic. I will hand the list below to my own sons and son-in-laws so that they won’t accidentally destroy themselves with their own ineptitude.
(Heaven knows my husband could have had a list like this. I don’t think I’ll ever get over #3. Neither will he.)

15 17 Rules of pregnancy for husbands 

1. She will become irrationally testy at the most unexpected moments. Let her.  Remember, the reason she’s expecting a baby is, after all, your fault.

2. Remind her how beautiful she looks carrying your child. And be grateful you’re not the one that’s expecting, because you’d look ridiculous.

3. Never, ever use the “f” word; don’t even think the “f” word in her presence. If you say “fat,” is should be only in reference to something on your steak. (Also never say something such as, “Speaking of walruses . . .” when you see her roll over.)

4. Her vocabulary may change, including words you’ve never heard from her before, such as “weensy,” and “sweetadorableness” and “thatisthecutestthingever.”

5. When she can’t sleep, don’t attempt to give her any advice such as, “Just close your eyes and relax.” Instead kiss her on the cheek, tell her you’re so sorry, and then make yourself comfortable on the couch. For the next five months.

6. Do not attempt to bounce anything off her belly, even if you’re sure the pebbles would sail an impressive distance.

7. Accept the blame for everything. Everything.

8. Remember to look her in the eyes every now and then, before evaluating her bulging belly. And whatever you do, do not let your eyes bulge in surprise. Those changes are, after all, your fault.

9. No matter how tempting, do not use her belly as a shelf.

10. She will feel the need to reorganize everything. Help her. Remember: your fault.

11. Near the end of the pregnancy, don’t tell her it will all end, because she won’t believe you and may try to harm you.

12. Don’t try to poke her belly button back in.

13. If you absolutely feel you must say, “Whoa, is that normal?” do so in the kindest, most helpful tone possible. And try not to flinch at her answer.

14. When she goes into labor, do your best to comfort her: rub her back, massage her feet, tell her she’ll be just fine. She’ll likely be aggravated by every attempt you make, but still try. And don’t take it personally when she shrieks that you will never be allowed within twenty feet of her again. She’ll change her mind in a few months.

15. After the baby comes, she will cry and cry and cry. Your wife, that is. If she doesn’t stop in a few weeks, call her doctor. Carry her in to the office, if you must. She’ll thank you later, in a few months.

16. Early on, remember: food, your house, and especially you do NOT smell as bad as she claims. Probably. After the first three months her nose will recalibrate, and then she’s going to make up for everything she’s missed out on. Until then, shower frequently, carry mints, and don’t even THINK about fish.

17. Morning sickness (afternoon, evening . . .) is NOT in her head. It’s caused by massive surges in hormones. And so is anger, so if you dare suggest her illness is in her head–well, you’ve been warned.

What else should be on the list?

Four solutions to Christmas shopping

Because I read that blogs should have lists, I’ve written one about how to get your last-minute Christmas shopping done WITHOUT shopping. (Which is more appropriate than “Four ways to unclog the mess in the toilet,” because I have only three so far.)

So how do you finish shopping? With FREE Kindle DOWNLOADS!
(CAPS and bolding–classic advertising techniques. Yeah, I’ve got this.) Here are the top four solutions to typical holiday shopping problems, most experienced by me (and I’m still trying to get over #2).

4. ‘Tis the last Saturday before Christmas, Dec. 21, and all through the parking lots, not a space is open, not even if you idle your car in the middle of an aisle waiting, grumbling and cursing merrily, hoping for someone to get into their car.
But they don’t, because according to the Universal Law of Waiting, you’ve chosen the wrong row. Cars are moving on the other rows, but not on yours until mid February.

The Universal Law of Cars in the Parking Lot is that you will always forget what yours looks like.

“Crud,” you think. “I hate shopping as it is, and this isn’t even the parking lot for the mall, or Target, or Wal-Mart. No, this is the parking lot for Dollar Tree, and I’m not getting in here either!” That’s when you remember that there are FREE Kindle book downloads today: both of my books are available on Kindle, and it won’t cost you a dime or the last shreds of your temper. So drive home now and download Forest at the Edge of the World and Soldier at the Door for everyone you can think of, because you can also read them on your PC and cell phone. And today, the books even cheaper than plastic from Dollar Tree.

Let’s see–Mom says she always carries a black handbag.

3. It’s Christmas Eve, and you find out that your Great Aunt Martha is coming for Christmas! And you’re not even sure which one of these women she is!
And your budget is shot, because while you had those Kohl’s bucks burning a hole in your wallet, you spent them on your teenage son getting him a sweater the cat will likely use more than him.
So you need something for the sweet old woman (whichever she is) and you realize that a book with adventure, soldiers, a bit of romance, a bit of politics, and even a big drooling dog just might fit the bill. Besides, you know her son bought her a Kindle last year, and while she still tries to turn it on with her remote control (a device she learned to use two Christmases ago) you know she’ll enjoy an escape into a new and intriguing world.

And Grandpa, it didn’t help that you told her you tried it out first.

2. It’s Christmas Day, and your daughter got a new Kindle for Christmas. (Thanks, Grandpa. Much better than last year when you bought the poor 13-year-old an electric shaver. She’s still traumatized that you think she has legs like a male Bulgarian weight-lifter, but at least this is a step in the right direction.)
But now, what to put on the Kindle? Free books! And yes, both of my books will be available today as well, giving your daughter something insightful to read without vampires, werewolves, or broody teenagers (well, ok—there are one or two in there).
And while you’re at it, get a copy for Grandpa, too, because there are swords and fighting and what’s Christmas without a bit of violence?

It may actually have something to do with boxes.

1. Dec. 26th–It’s Boxing Day! Yeah, I’m not sure what that tradition entails either, but in honor of my first UK sale (UK is “England” and “a few other places” to the rest of us), I’m celebrating Britain’s Boxing Day by having my last free download day on Dec. 26. Jolly good and tally-ho and Top Gear. Boxing Day has something to do with rich people giving poor people stuff, but poor people can give other poor people stuff too. And if you didn’t get what you wanted for Christmas, get yourself two free books.

So have a great holiday season, on me! (By that I mean, given by me to you for free; I don’t exactly mean “have a party on top of me,” because I’m rather lumpy so the table would wobble.)

Log Jam recipe, from a not-normally-a-cooking blog

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She never understood her mother’s need to embellish everything, from her head to her food. Hycymum also insisted everything should be a meal. That meant taking three extra hours and twelve extra ingredients and stirring them into something no one would recognize anymore, then giving it a made up name like la-zhan-ya.  ~Forest at the Edge of the World

“I read your blog, but I didn’t see any recipes.”
That’s what my friend complained about the other day.

“Well, that’s because it’s not a recipe blog.”

“So? People LIKE to see recipes.”

“But I’m not exactly a great cook—”

“But people LIKE to see recipes.”

“But I’m trying to be a writer, and—”

“Cooking bloggers write, too. Usually stories about the recipe, or what event they made it for, or—”

“BUT IT’S NOT A COOKING BLOG!”

She stared at me, genuinely confused, and said, “You should put at least one recipe on it.”

“Will you read it if I do?”

“If you tell the story about the recipe, yes.”

That’s the story, right there. And the recipe, down there.
Seeing how it’s Christmas, I probably should share something Christmasy, and since my 10-year-old took a bite of my Log Jam and said, “Hey, this is good enough for Pinterest,” (which, from him, is about the highest compliment one can receive) here is my recipe from a blog not normally a cooking blog:

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(My little point-and-shoot camera got waaayyy close up for this shot. How in the world do real cook bloggers shoot their food?!)

Log Jam
(like those fancy dipping pretzels, but much easier, less messy, and nearly fool-proof. I’ve screwed it up only twice.)

1 bag of pretzel logs (12 oz.)

½ bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 1 cup; you’ll probably need the second cup later)

sprinkles (optional, but they shouldn’t be)

caramel, melted
*Note: Either unwrap a whole bunch of caramels until your fingers are chapped and melt those—look up on Pinterest how to do that, because I don’t know—or use this recipe that I stole from Marcie Bingham’s grandmother (yeah, nothing’s original in my cooking):

Perfect Caramels
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups sugar
1 cup butter (not margarine)
¼ tsp salt
1½ cup white corn syrup
2 TBS vanilla

Mix first five ingredients and stir constantly in a HEAVY pan until it reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer (about 20-25 minutes). Take off of heat and add vanilla. (*Note—I undercook it a bit, to about 220 degrees. That way the caramel stays soft and chewy, and your fillings stay in your mouth.)

While the caramel’s cooling, and your tongue has been iced down because you kept licking the spoon when you KNEW it was still boiling hot, get a large cookie sheet with sides, because you do NOT want these pretzel logs rolling all over the place. (Trust me—after the fourth time, it’s pretty annoying.)

Butter the pan heavily until it resembles a creamy yellow snow scene, then lay all the pretzel logs side by side on the pan. Go ahead and snap them in half, too. Most will already be broken anyway since you accidentally dropped a 20lb bag of sugar on them in the grocery cart; the beauty of this recipe is that you’ll chop them up at the end, too, so no need to be delicate. Hey, you can even toss in other kinds of pretzels as well to fill in all the little gaps. We don’t care.

Next, pour HALF of the cooked caramel recipe over the pretzel logs and other stuff you threw in there. You can try dribbling the caramel artfully, but it’s gonna goo all together anyway, so what’s the point. Pour the remaining half of the caramel into a heavily buttered 8×8″ pan, fully intending to cut and wrap them up prettily in wax paper but knowing full well you’ll stick a spoon in there “just to sample it occasionally” and blame the missing candy on the toddler who can’t defend himself.

Next, melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler until just starting to melt. Don’t let it get too hot or it will mysteriously burn and clump together into something no one will want, even if you slip massive chunks of it into cookie dough. If you mess up the first half of the bag, remember, you’ve got the second half, so try the melting process again with the remaining chocolate, but this time slowly, and take it off the heat as soon as half of those chips are melted. They’ll convince the others to join them in the mess in about 3 to 4 minutes if you keep stirring it.

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What’d I tell you? Artful!

Now, dip a spoon into the melted chocolate and whish-whish-whish it over the caramel layer. Go all in one direction, realizing that the chocolate you fling all over the counter will be licked up later by the cat or your 17-year-old son. This technique will actually make your Log Jam look a bit . . . artful!

But to make it really festive, pour some sprinkles over it. Nothing says “professional” like sprinkles. People will forgive just about anything as long as there are sprinkles on it. For an added splash of professionalism that will make your neighbor think you’ve gone all Martha Stewart on her, melt some white chocolate chips and do yet another layer as a highlight. (That’s too fussy for me; I was thrilled I found sprinkles from four years ago I could use.)

Shove the whole thing in the freezer for about half an hour, or outside on the porch if it’s cold enough and the neighbor’s dog is locked up. When solid, take a sharp knife and start chopping that slab of fantastic goodness into pieces, like brittle. (See why you could be sloppy with the pretzel rods? Next time I’m going to try using a sledge hammer, just to see.)

Remove the Log Jam pieces while they’re still cold, or you’ll have a horrible mess that will take you hours to lick off your fingers. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the children do get jealous.)

I’m not really sure how long it stores, because it shockingly doesn’t last until morning (but my stomach ache sure does).

Makes enough to feed your family, the in-laws, and maybe a few neighbors.

All right, friend–you know who you are. Here’s your recipe, now start reading!

I don’t like Jane Austen, and I’m so sorry about that

After years of shielding my pride, of trying to convince myself I’m of another persuasion, of losing my sensibilities in the attempt, I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I must, once and for all, admit the truth:

I don’t particularly care for Jane Austen.

Although the Regency-era submarine was a clever twist.

Oh, how it pains me to write those words!  I feel positively wretched because for years I’ve done my best to watch every movie adaption and read every book, including Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and now I must confess that I rarely finished reading any of them because . . . I got bored.
Oh, dear.

Oh, I’m so sorry Jane! I’m so sorry all of my dear friends who love, love, love the regency period!

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My darling daughter in her Regency-inspired wedding dress and hair, with my hunky husband.
(The only song he would willing dance to was “People Are Strange,” by the Doors. May explain a few things about us.)

I love it too. I’ve sewn empire waist dresses for my daughters as costumes, would wear one to church (the non-cleavage kind, of course) if I had the bosom to do it justice, and my oldest daughter’s wedding dress was obviously Austen-inspired.

But I slog through Austen’s books as if they are philosophy texts.
Actually, I’d prefer philosophy texts.
Oh, dear.

I came to this horrible conclusion as I tried to read one of my favorite authors about one of her favorite periods which was adapted into a movie that I thoroughly enjoyed: “Austenland.”
About one-third of the way through the book I found myself skimming—yes, skimming, as if I’m in college again and have to get through Thomas Hardy! How could I do this to Shannon Hale?

What’s wrong with me?!

I was hungrily looking, searching for the interesting parts . . .
And last night I nearly cried when I realized that the conversations, the nuances, the descriptions—all of that is supposed to be “the interesting parts”!

Oh, dear.

Where’s my romantic gene that revels in significant looks and subtle dialogue? I get completely lost in Austen-esque language, just like I was always lost in my college poetry classes.
(Hey, if your breaking heart feels the same way the stormy sky looks, just say so, ok? Don’t ramble on with images for three pages, because I have to write an essay on this, and my stupid grade depends on my inability to figure out a dumb puzzle written by a depressive dude hundreds of years ago!)

(Little wonder that when I pursued my graduate English degree, I shifted to rhetoric and technical writing.)

I have a sister who reads Pride and Prejudice every year.
I have daughters that do the same.
But I simply can’t. It took me my fourth reading attempt before I even finished it.
Oh dear.

I fear that I am alone in this I Don’t Understand this Madness for Pride and Prejudice (I-DUMPP).

It seems everyone else gets it.
“You’ve Got Mail” is essentially an adaption of Pride and Prejudice, and the book plays a part in the movie. Even if Tom Hanks’s character rolls his eyes as he muddles through the “hithers” and “dithers” he finishes it his first time around so he can discuss it with Meg Ryan.

Even Sheldon Cooper on “The Big Bang Theory” read and had to acknowledge that Pride and Prejudice is a perfect novel.

Except that I find it . . . dull.

I love the time period; perhaps that’s why I adore Terry Pratchett; all the stories of DiscWorld are set in a similar time. But maybe my I-DUMPP is because I’m no good with subtlety. Since Pratchett’s characters frequently have the delicacy of a sledgehammer, I can relate to them.

Or maybe I suffer from I-DUMPP because I don’t have a romantic cell in me. My book club read a nauseatingly sappy book which had me cringing for so long my face was cramped for a week. As we discussed it, I mentioned that the kissing scenes were a bit too detailed and long, and I was met with several blank stares as if I’d just said I don’t understand why everyone doesn’t have a third hand like I do.

My friend/editor said sweetly, “That explains a lot in the first book you wrote—you really don’t do romance, do you?”

(All I had to type into Google was “Colin Firth white” and it filled in the rest for me.
Popped this up all on its own.
Even Google gets it.
So why don’t I?)

Nope. I simply don’t get it.

I try to, though. I chuckled when Shannon Hale wrote, “Colin Firth, in a wet, white shirt,” was that all women would need to hear to understand the appeal of Mr. Darcy.

But I don’t understand.

The I-DUMPP in me rather preferred Colin Firth in “Nanny McPhee,” or even better as King George in “The King’s Speech.”

I just can’t explain why this is better. Maybe because those bizarre mutton chops are missing. And there’s something about a dark blue uniform . . .

That’s because in every screen adaption and in every BBC version of P&P I keep trying to understand why Mr. Darcy is attractive. He just strikes me as a moody, quiet man without much to say or do except to brood.

Brooding is . . . boring.
I’m so sorry.
Oh, dear.

A British literary character I do appreciate is Commander Samuel Vimes of Ankh Morpork: ragged, rugged, and using his sword for more than foil practice. Perhaps this is why I write stories about men in dark suits and uniforms who run after the bad guys, rather than reading about men who stand around in parlors saying underhanded yet witty things that go over my head. I get fidgety when I read such passages, and want to drag the men out of those stuffy rooms and over to the pond so we can do something more constructive, like chase geese.

My husband doesn’t understand this notion of romance either—and he’s dutifully watched nearly all of the adaptations with me—which is probably why we’re such a good match. He proposed to me off-handedly in a baseball dugout after a spectacularly embarrassing intramural game I played in college (my fantastically hit ball—intended to impress my boyfriend–instead turned foul, and also the umpire into a soprano).

Dave smiling

Yet another man more appealing than Mr. Darcy; notice the lack of bizarre sideburns, the dark suit, and the presence of a smile.

Sadly, this is always what I picture when I think about any of Jane Austen’s leading men.
I’m so sorry.

My husband doesn’t bring me flowers, nor do I want them. Instead, we buy each other fruit trees or berry bushes, because those are far more practical. Our idea of date is wandering around HomeDepot sniffing the lumber, driving up the canyon looking for moose, or sharing a slice of cheesecake while watching something starring Rowan Atkinson in something entitled “Sense and Senility.”

Oh, dear.

And yet, we have nine children, so something seems to work.

want to love Jane Austen.like and respect the woman, and all that she accomplished.
And I want to see the purpose of taking long turns about the park (what the heck does that even mean?) and gossiping about people (although I thought that was a socially unacceptable thing to do).
want to see the long dances as something more than dull exercise where you have to touch men you wouldn’t touch in any other circumstances.
want to see these people doing nothing more than talking, picnicking, talking, walking, talking and riding as something interesting, but I just can’t.

Commander Sam Vimes, awesomely armed with a swamp dragon.

Instead, I want to smack them out of their fretting and lecture them like Sam Vimes did in Snuff, (a book I just finished reading for the fifth time, in two years. Oh dear.):

“Ladies, the solution to your problem would be to get off your quite attractive backsides, go out there in the world and make your own way!  . . . Trust me, ladies, self-respect is what you get when you don’t have to spend your life waiting for some rich old lady to pop her clogs. And takers?” 

(Sledgehammer diplomacy; I understand that.)

So forgive me, my dear friends, for while I love the idea of Jane Austen and all that revolves around her, she has become to me like peppers: I thought I loved them, I know I like the idea of them, and I certainly see their value in so many dishes, but on the rare occasions I actually get to eat one, I find myself gagging at the rubbery texture, at the flavor that’s too piquant for my tastes, so I spit it out and think, “Darn it—I really wanted to like that.”

If anyone else is willing to come out of the closet and admit to I-DUMPP, I’m here for you.

She’d read a few silly love stories when she was a teenager, trying to understand her friends and their longings for admirers. Most of the secretive tales were slid from girl to girl under desks where teachers wouldn’t notice, and were so sappy that she was surprised the well-worn pages weren’t stuck together from the goo.
~ “The Forest at the Edge of the World”

We don’t do Santa

We don’t do Santa at our house.

anti santa

Now, before you label me a killjoy, call social services because I’m a terrible mother, or weep for my children because I’ve lost the Christmas spirit and am destroying the holidays, allow me to explain myself. Then you can start sending the critical responses.

I promise this won’t be a rant such as I once experienced delivered by a woman who was fond of pointing out that the letters in Santa can be rearranged into Satan. (She was also fond of roasting the opossums that wandered into her yard; I never accepted her offer to sample her stew.) This is an explanation of how we’ve chosen to do something more.

We used to do Santa for our three oldest children (who are now in their twenties) when they were younger, but over the years we’ve distanced ourselves from the magic, tricks, and well . . . deceit. Our six younger children never hear us mention Santa, unless we happen to be talking about a town in California.

As a child I dearly wanted to believe in Santa, despite the incongruities of his origin and abilities. I went to the point of analyzing, as thoroughly as my eight-year-old brain would let me, how he did everything in one night (magic dust, with some sort of cool physics involved), who all the other guys in Santa suits were (secret agents, bugged with mikes and recording devices to send the messages to Santa), and where he lived (under the ice cap—and this was many years before “The Santa Clause” movie; they stole my idea). I also concluded that the version of his origins, as told by the claymation TV show “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was likely the most accurate, primarily because I thought the name Burgermeister Meisterburger was genius.

Bmmb

(And I also suspected my ancestors looked like Burgermeister Meisterburger.)

I still struggled with aspects of Santa, such as why reindeer seemed a viable mode of transportation, and the fact that Santa’s handwriting looked exactly like my dad’s calligraphy. But I eventually decided that my dad simply changed the tags once the presents arrived because elf writing was illegible.

So it was with utter shock and dismay that I received this news at age nine, casually delivered by my mom: “You know Santa’s not real, right?”

No, I did not!

In fact, I’d wrestled with this so-called truth for years—since I was five, at least—to make sense of a man of magic when I knew—knew—there was no magic.
So the whole Santa-thing was really a trick?
And the entire world was in on it?
What was the point of that?!
Why did all the TV shows and movies and stores and schools and even church, of all places, perpetuate the mythology as truth only to eventually say, “Ha! Fooled you!”

I was devastated. Then I was furious.

What other cherished beliefs from my infancy would be revealed as also hoaxes? For many months I worried that something else, something far more important and vital to my happiness, would also be revealed as a scam.

Fast forward fifteen years, to when my husband and I have a child old enough to know about Santa. Suddenly all those feelings of betrayal rushed me when my husband asked, “So how should we do Santa?”

I didn’t want to! I didn’t want to expose my children to the same beloved stories only to find out later they were merely stories.

But, family and societal pressures told us our children had to have Santa, and who were we to buck tradition? So, for our first three children, we did Santa. Visited him, sent him letters, wrapped the presents “from” him in special Santa paper, and all was fine until those kids started asking legitimate questions about his veracity.

Now I had a problem. I had always vowed I would never lie to my children (that’s not the same as teasing, which is a completely different form of torture). When they asked a sincere question, I would always give an honest answer about everything, from the Tooth Fairy to what Daddy means when he waggles his eyebrows at me.
(“Um, that means we need to talk. In the bedroom. Choose a movie—any movie you want.” Ok, so my honesty is relative.)

But the Santa Really Exists (SRE) movement meant I had to lie to my children, if only to protect their innocent friends from the reality. And I hated that.

So, after a few years of this moral quandary, I told my husband I simply wanted to quit Santa at our house—who were we to buck tradition? Whoever we wanted to be!—and happily he agreed. Since then, we’ve never regretted the decision to focus on our family and friends, and not even bring up the old fat man in red with an odd laugh like garden tools.

What are the benefits of not participating in SRE?

First, Santa doesn’t come off as a jerk. Trying to explain to my children the disparagement of Santa in delivering toys made me feel like a fraud.
“Why did the neighbor kids get a lot more from Santa than you did? Uh, you see, Santa doesn’t actually make the toys; he’s like a Secret Shopper. He buys the presents, wraps and delivers them, then sends us the bill. Yeah, that’s right.”
That was the only way to explain why our budget for each child was $45, while the neighbors had a budget of $300 for each kid.

My children accepted that answer until the year we were in a position to do a Secret Santa for another family. They eagerly helped us choose and wrap presents, but then the unavoidable question arose: “Why isn’t Santa shopping for them and just donating the presents?”

“Well,” I invented wildly, “he’s asked us to help him because, um, he’s too busy—”

“What, buying presents for the rich kids?” my eight-year-old daughter asked cynically.

I didn’t have an immediate answer for that. No matter what kinds of stories and explanations I created, Santa came across as a self-serving jerk whose services were available to the highest bidder. That’s not the spirit of Santa.

Second, we don’t have to lie to our children. By not playing into the SRE game we don’t have to keep up the façade that, something that I’ve always taught my children isn’t real, suddenly is for the month of December. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy fantasy and magic—Harry Potter, Narnia, dragons and Merlin—we’ve got all the books, movies, costumes and games, and it’s fun and serves a purpose, but just not in the real world.

In our early parenting years we frequently struggled with juggling the mythology of Santa with the story of Jesus Christ, who we hold as reality. Once one of our children even said, “My friend at school said Santa is just your parents. So what is Jesus?” The notion of magic and miracles was so confused in her first grade mind she wasn’t sure what to believe.

And that bothered me, to my core. That was precisely what worried me as a nine-year-old. I had even decided, when I still believed in Santa, that on some level Jesus and Santa were related, and shared priesthood power and magic to accomplish Christmas.

Then Santa was revealed to be pretend, and so what about Jesus Christ?

For more than a year I paid very close attention in church each Sunday (well, it’s one way to get a kid interested about religion), waiting to hear something that would suggest that Jesus Christ and priesthood power were also just convenient and “fun” little lies. In fact, an acquaintance of mine who became disenchanted with all organized religion and the notion of God, told me the seed of that was planted when he learned Santa wasn’t real. It was society’s aggressive tactics to preserve this imaginary man, and the lengths to which everyone bought into the lie, that shocked him and led him to believe that everything is, at its heart, a hoax.

But I knew, in my heart, that Jesus Christ was not a hoax. After that year of deep ten-year-old introspection I developed a testimony of my Savior. I still believe in Him, and in my Heavenly Father, and in the Holy Ghost. I have felt them too many times influencing my thoughts and decisions to pretend my conscience is that clear and forward-planning. I have experienced miracles and even seen the laws of physics altered on two occasions to prevent potentially fatal car accidents. I have heard whispers, felt nudgings, and even once encountered a gentle cosmic slap upside my head trying to knock me into awareness when I was particularly hard-hearted.
God is real and involved and intensely worried about our welfare. Santa, however, is not.

I didn’t want my children facing those same troubling questions about what is real and isn’t, especially at such tender ages, so we quietly abandoned Santa a dozen years ago. When my children ask me the hard questions, such as if the Tooth Fairy is real, I answer with, “Is the Tooth Fairy magic? Remember what I’ve told you: magic is only pretend and for fun, but the power of the priesthood in Jesus Christ is very real and very powerful.” They don’t worry about magic anymore, because they have something better.

But, you may fret, what about the Spirit of Christmas? The Spirit of Santa?

Someone once remarked that Santa is the Savior in costume. That got me thinking: why not cut out the middle man and get straight to the Savior? We don’t need to be “Secret Santas”: we can be something grander, realer.

In other words, why not let Christmas be the time that we try even harder to be . . . like Christ? It’s His birthday we’re celebrating, after all. Why not celebrate it by doing what He did?

When you think about it, much of what we do in the name of Santa is what the Savior did and taught. Want to help that single mom down the street? Do so, and in the right spirit. Think about what the Apostle James wrote in describing pure religion: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. (James 1:27)

Want to bring clothing and gifts to those in need? Visit those who are ill or lonely? Go ahead, and remember who suggested it first (hint: wasn’t Santa). Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. . . . Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. (Matthew 25:36; 40)

Let’s donate, share, encourage, serve, and love in the name of Christ, not Santa.
Yeah, Santa’s a good guy and all, but not nearly as great as the Savior of the world. 

So don’t feel sorry for my children because they don’t have Santa. Oh, they’ll get plenty of presents on Christmas Day from their parents and siblings, along with stockings full of candy and Pringles, and there will be a few surprises snuck in after they’ve gone to bed on Christmas Eve, but if they happen to leave out a plate of cookies, they’ll know they were eaten by Mom and Dad while we put the candy canes on the tree.

Our kids don’t have Santa, but what they have instead are parents that don’t lie to them (well, not about anything important) and a truer sense about the meaning of Christmas.

After all, it’s Merry Christmas, not Happy Santa Day.

“I don’t hold with traditions just for tradition’s sake. I’m rather progressive that way.”
~Perrin Shin, “The Forest at the Edge of the World”