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You never know who you will influence. Make it for the better.

Christmas planning was done. We finished wrapping presents. Our inflatable Boston Terrier sits out front, frost covering his shrunken black body to make him look like our old Artie before he passed. We tipped the paper deliverer and the garbage men. I baked cookies. Other than the bike I need to assemble, we were done. The presents are hidden in our closet and the kids (so far) follow the rules to stay away. We're ready. Or so I thought.

"Why is there a red table (with plush red pleather chairs) in the shed?" Ella asked in the afternoon. "Did that used to be ours?"

"I didn't get Lucas anything," Brooklyn announced a bit later. I discovered Lucas in his room last night, sitting on his knees with his hands on the windowsill as he peeked out after bedtime to see Santa coming on a fire truck. This kid needs a little more magic. The Luke Skywalker figurine went into the cart.

It’s been crazy but some of the stress is ending soon.

But then again, who knows what 2021 will bring?

I have one thing I'm excited about—my book launch! As we close out 2020, I received my first endorsement from a fellow author:

Passports and Pacifiers is an impossible-to-put-down book that is part travelogue, part advice column for would-be jet setting parents. Kaitlyn Jain is a talented storyteller who takes us on journeys from the gelato shops of Italy to the beaches of San Diego, from Mayan ruins in Guatemala to cruises to Helsinki. For parents wanting to raise their kids with memories and meaningful encounters with cultures from around the world, this is a must-read.

- Jason Farman, author of Delayed Response: The Art of Waiting from the Ancient to the Instant World

Wow! He called me talented! It also made me think about the talented people who have inspired me.

One key person was my freshman creative writing English professor I credit in my book acknowledgements. I was in her inaugural class at Davidson College and loved it. She helped me gain confidence in my abilities and brought out key skills to assist in my storytelling. When I reached out to her a few weeks ago, I wasn't sure if she'd remember me.

Sure enough, she didn't.

At first.

However, thanks to AJ and the kids keeping me (somewhat) fit, a fellow mom-of-three selling me wrinkle prevention cream, and those gray hairs not arriving until AFTER those trips (and this pandemic where I'm trapped with the kids inside every day), my professor said she recognized me from this website.

It's always great to hear from someone that you made them a better person or inspired them in some way. Especially those people from twenty years ago who carry around a small part of you or memory about how you improved their lives. I bet my professor didn’t think, I’m reminding this math nerd about her passion for writing. I have dozens of people like that in my life, probably more. I choose to remember the good.

Thinking back to that email, I wondered. Have I inspired anyone? Do I live my life in a way that I could? And so I came up with a new mantra. Or really, a mantra, period, since that's not really something I do.

“You never know who you will influence. Make it for the better.”

I’m influencing my four kids at home. I know that. I strive to be a positive parent in their lives. We are just a couple of days away from our Big Christmas. For the past few weeks, that means we’re not overthinking our purchases and really trying to engage with the kids. It also means doubling our gifts to the essential workers this year. I felt good about it.

But then, as I collected for the teacher gift, I was overwhelmed with generosity of the other parents. Ella’s class had nearly 100% participation with many (many!) giving a lot. Those people are inspiring me. Doctors and nurses sharing themselves shots of themselves getting vaccinated make me tear up. Seeing Jupiter and Saturn together for the closest in 800 years with my kids. (This is a lot of emotions! I better not be pregnant...)

It has been a crazy season and an even nuttier year! We may down a job; stuck at home; and trapped with four kids who act like squirrels, bouncing around the house, eating peanut butter, and climbing everything in sight; but we are blessed.

The kids had five consecutive days of sledding this year. No matter that the last day was basically sludging through mud and leaves since it’s Maryland and that’s pretty much the best this state does. The kids have amazing teachers. My friends are supportive and inspirational. I have this incredible network.

Clearly, I’m not the only one in my community who feels that way. If you can, be like the parents in my daughters’ second grade class and give a little more this holiday season.

If you can’t, let me know, and I’ll help you how I can. Or, if you have a favorite charity, please share it below. Our family is here for you!

Peace and love,

Kaitlyn and the rest of my zoo

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