This year we celebrated early so that some of us can hit the road for Utah and celebrate with the rest of the family.
2019 was a great year for the Symonds family! I thought it would be fun to share a little bit of our lovely chaos with you. Funny, when the noise in the room is made by people I love, it is music to my ears.
I was raised in a large and very close family. We are still very connected through Lassie Hame, our family home on the beach. We text, chat and visit often. Christmas was a time of chaos, good food, and cousins everywhere. I loved it.
Then, later in life, we moved our family to our first home on the Oregon Coast. Although we were just down the road from the beach house, we had quiet Christmases. Traveling to the coast from Utah and even Portland is difficult in winter. Even though we had six children, I missed the constant party atmosphere of my youth.
As we celebrated our early Christmas, I realized I had recreated the big family of my youth. Even though we only had half of our grandchildren and four of our children, it was – in the words of little Maddy, “Glorious Chaos!”
Whether you have a small family, chosen family, a church family, or spend your Christmas in the service of others – I wish you a day of glorious chaos and love!
For those of you who are thinking life at the beach is sand and sun, I thought you might enjoy a little authentic Seaside, Oregon travel conditions! We started out for the airport yesterday! After a three hour drive, a night with my cousins (the best!) we arrived at the airport this morning. Here is a little peek at our drive. Please don’t judge the backseat driver in the passenger seat (me) wearing her lucky Uggs and giving the driver absolutely sound advice.
Shannon’s List of Favorite Holiday Reads, Fun, and Family Stuff!
Here are a few things I am LOVING this Christmas season.
Each morning, I love to ground myself by starting the day with quiet study. I highly recommend the non-denominational group, Multiply Goodness.Their current study, Advent, O Come Let Us Adore Him
I am a huge fan of, Don’t Miss This, with Emily Belle Freeman and David Butler. They have partnered with LDS Living to provide daily video inspiration and study ideas for families. Do you want to introduce your children to the characters in their nativity scene? Check this out!
#LightTheWorld Check the Hashtag! The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has created some beautiful content to help you and your family feel closer to Christ during the Christmas Season. You can find #LightTheWorld here. Here is a beautiful video of the nativity.
I have also been enjoying Emily Belle Freeman’s, Inklings, studyguide for women who want to know more about their role in the Priesthood in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Last of all! Have you ever wanted a Life Coach? Meet Lisa Lewis. She has been guiding participants through their 40-day Journey to the New Year. It still isn’t too late to take the journey with us.
Favorite Christmas Movies in 2019
Take a look inside my head! This movie tells the story of how Charles Dickens wrote the Christmas Carol. It is like taking a walk through an author’s mind. I LOVE it! The Man Who Invented Christmas on Amazon.
REVIEW COPIES FREE. For reading all the way to the end of this LONG, LONG, List, if you would like to join my review crew and receive a free copy of Safe House and Finding Hope for an honest and fair review on Goodreads AND Amazon, email me at email@example.com. Put review crew in the subject line. I will reply ASAP with Kindle versions of my books for the first 20 people who ask.
And don’t forget! My birthday is coming! So until then, I am giving away 100 Kindle Copies of Finding Hope on Goodreads. No hook and a great chance of winning since I am a small town beach author who knows almost no one! Enter here.
Every Thursday, I feature authors who are committed to writing clean fiction, like Calie Schmidt, the author of, The Drummer Boy, published by Cedar Fort.
I asked Calie why she was committed to writing only clean or inspiring books. She said:"My kids are the reason I am committed to write clean, inspirational books. I want there to be more content in the world that parents do not have to worry about. Also, I want my kids to understand...
My oldest daughter, nicknamed E.R., lives in Farmington, Utah with her husband and 4 children. A few days ago, I called E.R., and she answered the call on Bluetooth in the family car. The call went something like this:
"Look! It's a fender bender in Bethlehem! You see, everyone is so excited to see baby Jesus, so of course there are lots of cars," Elliott said, as he proudly showed me his arrangement of our Nativity scene.
I have been gifted with some of the best friends an author could have! We have a critique group of geeks who happen to be authors. We work hard together. Okay- we also laugh and chat about kids, cats, books, jobs, and a few other things. The best part of our little group is getting to preview some very talented author’s current works in process while wearing pajamas and eating pancakes. Several of us will be launching our books over the next few months.
Deb Goodman is launching her new book, The Billionaire’s Christmas Fling: A Sweet Christmas Novella (The Billionaires of Gramercy Book 1).
Meet Deb Goodman, Sweet Clean Romance Author, and one of my favorite geeky authors.
I asked Deb to share 10 things about herself. I love this list and getting to know Deb.
Ten Things You May or May Know about Author Deb Goodman:
*She must have missed something in kindergarten because she can’t cut a straight line to save her life.
*Some of her favorite authors include Lucy Maude Montgomery, Josi Kilpack, Emily Dickinson, William Shakespeare, Barbara Kingsolver, Shannon Hale, Jane Austen, Jerry Spinelli, Gail Carson Levine, and Heather Vogel Frederick. But, come on, who doesn’t love them?
*She is 4’10” tall. She has to use an actual hook to grab the laundry out of the bottom of the washing machine and ask random strangers to reach items on top shelves in stores. It’s embarrassing.
*She just published her first book, The Billionaire’s Christmas Fling, and has written three more that are in various stages of development and will be out soon. She knows you’re dying to read all of them.
*Her household consists of four terrific kids, one top-notch husband, a little dog, and balls and other sports equipment (depending on what sport is in season) that fly past her at all hours of the day and night.
*She thinks the secret to becoming a better writer is to join a critique group or two. They force you to pay attention to deadlines, take constructive criticism, and better analyze what works and what doesn’t in your own and your partners’ texts. Plus, they help you grow great relationships in this often solitary writing life.
*Cooking is one of her hobbies, but her fear of undercooked meat means she burns things way too often. Sorry, kids.
*One of the things she wishes she could change about her writing habits is her propensity for procrastination. She’s working on that, though.
*Because she grew up in Idaho, she got to take two weeks off of school in the fall and work long days in the “spuds.” The summer after high school, she worked in a potato processing plant where she spent eight hours a day cutting rotten spots out of potatoes. Good times.
*She’s wanted to be an author for as long as she can remember. Writing makes her happy. And writing romance makes her the happiest.
Thank you to everyone who nominated Safe House for a Whitney Award! Wondering what a Whitney Award is? Look HERE. And yes- it is for my book! I am so relieved you can’t see my dance of joy! What a gift it is to have you all in my life. I love every person I have met on this journey including Cedar Fort staff, the critics, the other authors, bookstore family, and bloggers.
Okay, there is another Safe House, which came out later by everyone’s favorite author, but she is nominated too! Wouldn’t it be fun to actually make it to the finals and sit together? I would lean over and say, “Hey, nice title,” real smooth and casual like I wasn’t jumping out of my skin to be at the Whitney Awards by Traci Abramson. Then I would say, “So, I hear we share a shelf at Deseret Book.” Do you think she would sign my copy of her book?
Well… a nomination is just the first step. It is such an honor to even be listed. To be in the same room as the people I read and respect would be like Christmas times ten!
This is the happiest photo I own. This is my face one second after finding Safe House in the Deseret Book Catalog. Trust me – you don’t want me to video my dance of joy!
Over the years my little family of 8, now 8 plus spouses and 9 grandkids have lived in a little town called Seaside about a block from the Pacific Ocean. When the sun shines, family visits us, coming in and out like the tide. Then in winter snowy mountain passes keep visitors away.
I want to share some of our Seaside Christmas traditions with you. As a young mother, I wanted my kids to have great Christmas memories and so I chose a few traditions we have maintained over the years. These silly traditions are now part of the glue that brings us back together each year.
Christmas on the Coast
Christmas pajamas from the Elves:
Christmas pajamas from the elves is a tradition I borrowed from my belove Aunt Joann Sappenfield. On Christmas Eve the elves “magically” deliver new pajamas to the kids. They put them in their stockings. This is a brilliant tradition for two important reasons.
The kids get all excited about the most practical gift I buy them – Pajamas!
The kids look great in all the family movies and early morning pictures. When my son Joseph grew to 6 feet tall at age 10 he was sleeping in a onesie with the feet and arms cut off. Boy! I was so happy to see him in pajamas that fit Christmas morning.
Early in the morning on Christmas Eve I sneak downstairs and set up 4 or 5 little tables around the house. I decorate them all with bright Christmas colors. I make a batch of cinnamon rolls and keep them on the kitchen table.
One table has hot Wassil or my recipe for “Stephanie’s Cider,” in the crock pot with mugs.
My favorite table has my great aunts Chex mix by the gallon with paper cups.
There is a table with veggies and dip, cheese balls and summer sausage.
Then I mix in some small tables with homemade sugar cookies, peanut brittle, fudge, and other treats.
The gift to my kids is a whole day and a half without me telling them what to eat or when to eat. The gift to me is letting go. Paper everything and no dishes. The house is ready for friends to stop by and the kids all get their favorites.
1/2 Gallon Apple Cider
1/2 Cup Brown Sugar
3 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon Allspice
dash of cinnamon
Simmer for 20 min – place in crock pot on warm with floating orange slices
On Christmas Eve we open the packages from Grandma Bev and Granpa Jeff, but not before we are grateful. Annually, we dress up in sheets, towels, and wings to act out the Nativity. I wish I could say I sewed amazing costumes, or that we sang in harmony, but this is a Seaside Christmas and we spend our money on wetsuits and kayaks – not costumes.
As the years passed, everyone settled into their roles. Now new generations join in and we have to get creative. A few years ago I heard one of the kids tell the missionaries who were celebrating with us, the only role left was a donkey. And so she rode him around with her doll as Baby Jesus.
The Symonds are a silly bunch, who laugh a lot when they are together. However, year after year, even the toughest of the Symonds can’t help but feel the spirit when we read the Nativity. Even if we wear old sheets and towels. It truly is the greatest story ever told and our testimony brings the brightest spirit to our paupers play.
After our first meager and difficult Christmas, when all the toys were brought by someone else, I realized what a great blessing it was to have Christmas at all. We began my favorite tradition. The toys and packages left on Christmas all say, “From Blessings.” Even though we let the kids believe in Santa, we could never take credit for a single gift under the tree or give the credit to Santa. We recognize where our blessings come from and in our house, Santa does too.
We are grateful
Before we open a single gift Christmas morning we have a prayer of gratitude.
I don’t want you to think we are perfect. We are most definitely not. Over the years some of our little family has had their own struggles. Some go to church and a few choose not to. But they have all told me they recognize their blessings. I am grateful we have kept this tradition. It may not seem like much, but it is my favorite. It is a sweet moment in the midst of holiday chaos.
The Christmas Elf
When we were a new family, we weren’t able to buy many gifts. This tradition began as a way to make the moment seem a little sweeter. One person wears the elf hat and passes out the packages one at a time in order of age, youngest to oldest. The bonus to this tradition is I can actually see what all 6 kids and their kids think of their gift and take a few pictures!
We don’t have a lot, and yet every year we manage to find a small way to serve. This year we are focused on the light the world campaign. I have shared a few giving traditions. But the best gifts, are given in secret. #lighttheworld
I am donating to Operation Underground Railroad because I heard Tim Ballard, the CEO speak and I knew he was a good man doing great things for children. And let’s face it, I believe i have proven I am a, “kid horder.” Six kids was not enough!
This Christmas give gifts with a deeper meaning. When you purchase from the O.U.R. catalog funds go to end sex trafficking and save children. Learn more HERE.
What is your favorite way to serve at Christmas? How many secret Santa/Angel missions have you pulled off? This year our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, invites you to do MORE! Learn more about the “Light Up The World Campaign” Here.
We had the gift of being near enough to Leavenworth Washington to finally stop and see the Christmas lights in the beautiful Bavarian town. I wondered why so many of us love the lights at Christmas. And then I remembered, Heavenly Father used light, a single star to announce the birth of his precious son.
This Christmas be the light. Light up the world the way the Savior did, with personal service to others. How will you light up the world? Please comment with ideas. I need them!
I will be donating a few of my signed personal copies of Safe House to Operation Underground Railroad for a Holiday Catalog giveaway. I am already donating a small portion of the proceeds from every single copy of Safe House sold to O.U.R. to end sex trafficking. Shop the Catalog and donate HERE.