Travel, Treats, Tips, & Traditions

Holiday Highlights of 2017

Posted on: by Kate

This year was weird, but we love Christmas time and it wasn’t even hard to find good stuff to celebrate. While it would be so easy to focus on and write a post about disfunctionality, we thought it would be great to focus on the good. This was honestly probably the best holiday season of them all, here are some of the highlights. Was there some shade thrown this season? Absolutely, but this is the highlight reel.

Puerto Rico captured our hearts. The kids spent many days at the neighbors houses packing aid boxes for people who live in the same town as their Abuela in Puerto Rico.  Bureaucracy has kept Puerto Rico in a devastated state. It has kinda shook my kids up to hear the list of things they were sending. Beef jerky, dried fruit, Baby Tylenol, diapers, plastic gloves for clean up, batteries, tea candles, soap, underwear…..  They loved packing boxes. They loved going to Walmart and spending my money on contributions; which of course we were happy to do.

woven wall hangings

My oldest found a tangible way to make a difference. This is something we have always encouraged, but it really was kicked up a notch this season Once after a delivery of $100 or so worth of donations, my oldest said “I just wish we could go and buy a bunch more stuff right now.” to which I responded, “Well then you should probably get a job, because we are out for the month.”, to which she responded “I could get a job, I can make crafts and sell them.  Will you share them on your Facebook and blog?”  And I was like “Sure.” assuming this idea was fleeting.  She got on YouTube and legit learned a new skill; she started weaving with some random yarn we had around the house. She signed herself up for a school craft fair and asked me to share pictures on Facebook.  I never even got to sharing on my blog (that may be coming later).  She had so many orders just from sharing on personal Facebook. She went back and forth on pricing and how much she wanted to contribute. She settled on using 50% of her profits either on supplies to donate or shipping.  She says she wants to keep it up even once there isn’t a need in Puerto Rico; “There is always someone who needs help.”

Signed our Science Nerd up for Astronaut Camp! Another highlight to her new business was that she also made a bunch of money for herself too and she bought something she really wanted. She learned that hard work can sometimes result in big bucks. While this kiddo is a great saver, she doesn’t typically have high dollar amount earning opportunities. Even after her donations were made, she had nearly $200 to her name before Christmas came around. She was so proud of herself and asked if she could spend some of the money on a school trip we had already told her was just not in our budget.  She was thrilled to pay for half of her astronaut camp.  She felt empowered and proud as she handed over a little over $100.  We were happy to pay the rest because we knew it was worth it to her.

So Many People Supported her Cause! I bought her a couple skeins of yarn to get started, her dad helped her build a loom. She made a couple learning wall hangings and then got ready to sell. I crossed my fingers that maybe a couple people would buy from her.  They were very nice crafts, but I know as a former crafter for money myself that sometimes this falls flat.  People were so supportive!  Friends donated their left over yarn to her and many friends purchased woven wall hangings from her.  Not only that, but many people added a little bonus into her payment because they said they loved what she was doing. People told her in notes and in person that they were so impressed not only by her talent, but by her willingness to help others with her talents. Will a couple hundred dollars remedy the major problems in Puerto Rico? No.  But small good acts that are encouraged turn into more good acts.  She will help a few, and she has been so encouraged to keep going.


My son was inspired too. Because of his sister, he asked if he could start knitting or crocheting. I said I was concerned he might not be able to sell things as quickly.  He is not quite as coordinated. He is also not nearly as hyper focused on things like his sister.  While his heart is good, his execution is not quite as strong when it comes to crafts.  “Well, I was thinking of another things I could do. I can make scarves, but instead of for Puerto Rico I can donate them to people here.  I want to make them nice and we can give them to people who are homeless or don’t have money to buy scarves.  We can bring them to Fill – a – Belly.” (Fill a Belly is a charity we have volunteered at a bit that feeds folks that show up at a park in our city). His reasoning was that it is cold after Christmas time, he can keep making them throughout the break. He isn’t even trying to make money for himself. The entrepreneurial spirit isn’t quite as strong in this one, but the heart is.

Friendsgiving. We enjoyed “Friendsgiving” for the first time as a family with kids. We weren’t invited anywhere else, and we thought this Friendsgiving thing was kind of a pity party being thrown in our honor.  We were wrong. It was nothing short of awesome. Just a group of good friends and their kids enjoying traditional Thanksgiving foods. We all held hands and said Grace. We all went around the table and said something we were thankful for. These are things I had only done at the in-laws and another Friendsgiving from before kids.  I was told “That is just something they do on TV shows, we don’t do that.” when I asked to do it as a kid. I love that our kids had the opportunity to do this. I think we were expected to stay at home and think about our bad behavior instead of attending the only Thanksgiving that would have us. I think I was supposed to feel all rejected and feel a big void and then meekly ask forgiveness for daring to speak out of line and disrespect the king.  Hard pass. I hope everyone that didn’t invite us to Thanksgiving had a better time without us, no hard feelings. We had a great time too. We learned no lessons other than that people love us and we can have a more meaningful celebration if we don’t buy into the narrative that we are bad people that are lucky to be put up with. We choose to continue to be who we are, if people don’t like it, then we won’t trouble them with our presence. We pray for those who need to be top dog, and for those who feel the need to defend the top dog. We pray for people that need to make things about sides rather than reconciliation. The further we get from that sun, the sadder it all seems. Seriously, no hard feelings.

Our kids filled out their four present Christmas list. Something they want is from Santa. Mom and Dad get ‘something you need, something to wear, and something to read’. We have been doing this for about five years now and it is kinda fantastic.  We actually gave them a few extra gifts, but this is all they asked for.  Our oldest asked for Santa to bring her ice skating certificates for her, her family, and one friend, she asked for us to surprise her with any book, she needed off white yarn, and she wanted footie pajamas.  Our son wanted Santa to bring him a family trip to Boomers, he wanted a pair of Vans shoes and a Family Circus comic book; he said he doesn’t ‘need’ anything so just surprise him.  Our littlest asked for a Singing Miguel doll (yay because I got one in a goody bag at work!), a watch to help her remember to use the potty, a Coco shirt, and ‘any book that is good for reading when you are little’. Because it was a weird year, and because they were so modest in their requests we actually kinda went a little nuts. Santa actually brought them two gifts each, an experience gift and a toy. Blogging brought some wonderful ‘samples’ to our door in the form of a perfect extravagant gift for each kiddo and it was nice to see how they lit up! We also splurged on a family trip to Great Wolf Lodge (hashtag not sponsored) because I found a really awesome deal and I know they wanted it.  They were all over the moon with every gift, even the little ones.  We didn’t have many extra gifts outside of our nuclear family, and that was OK.

We all picked ornaments to help kids in our community. Our church has trees filled with paper ornaments with needs that we can meet in our community.  Each kiddo picked an ornament. We bought a new toaster for our friends at Downstown. We bought an etch a sketch for a kiddo who has a dad in jail.  We bought scarves and hats for kids who have parents in drug treatment programs.  The kids helped pick them out and package them, it was nice to hear their hearts think about someone outside themselves.  They are starting to understand that things are not so black and white. They prayed for the parents and the kids, that this warms their hearts and that hopefully next year would be better.

More Giving Back. Our oldest went to a couple parties that centered around giving to others.  I am thankful for a middle schooler who spent a bunch of time wrapping gifts for orphans and bought some farm animals for a family who live in a country with a struggling economy. She came home beaming from both parties. She shared how they prayed for the people that would get the gifts. At only eleven she understands that new pajamas will not end an orphan’s plight, but she knows they will be cozy, and she prays for better tomorrows for them.

A New Tradition that I Never Wanted to be a Part of. I became part of a new tradition that nobody in attendance really wanted to be a part of.  A good friend I met in college passed away a few months ago.  A few friends and family members decided a Christmas get together at Kelly’s favorite restaurant was a good thing to do.  It was nice. We all ate more chips than we are proud of and enjoyed a Margarita in Kelly’s honor.  This was the first holiday season without her and all of us feel an aching void.  We all talked about memories. We all cried and expressed how much we missed her. It was bittersweet for us all to hear one another’s grief, to be one another’s emotional safe place to share. Feelings are good.  It’s OK to cry.

The kids played for hours together by choice.  They migrated from one kid’s room to the other. They built with LEGOs, they dressed up American Girl Dolls, they read quietly all together. These three like alone time, but they also love time spent together. I am so thankful for the relationships they have with one another. We’ve got such good kids.

We decorated gingerbread men.  Our kids typically do this every year with one loved one in particular.  They were so sad to not do it with her this year.  I said I was sorry as I passed out cookies. “I know this isn’t exactly the same, I am sorry.”  “It’s OK, Mom.  I wish she was here, but I know you tried. Maybe next year we will get to see her.” So, bittersweet I guess.

christmas carols

On Christmas Eve we were invited to a big party from friends at church. The tradition has been going on for decades, most in attendance were family members but many were just good friends. We were welcomed with hugs, warm wishes, and a glass of wine. All the wins.  There were so many kids and so many nice people. There were lots of different backgrounds, political beliefs, and stages in life, and people were chill. There was drinking and people were chill. The TV was never turned on. A traditional Christmas dinner and more treats than we could imagine.  We all sat down to sing Christmas carols and then listen to a super cool Grandpa read the story of Jesus’ birth. There were probably 60 people, men, women, and kids all packed into and spilling out of a large living room.  After we listened to the reading, everyone was invited to share something they were thankful for.  What a blessing it was to hear dozens of people of all different ages and backgrounds sharing what they are thankful for.  We sang “Happy Birthday” to Jesus and the littlest kiddo got to blow out the candles.  The kids loved it. We loved it. Nobody even asked if they could open a present early. The kids literally skipped to the car and as we drove home they said so many nice things. “I think my favorite part was they were so nice, nobody was in a bad mood at all.” “I think my favorite part was that the guy who said he was thankful for getting married this year looked exactly like Luke Skywalker, if I was him I would be thankful that God made me look like Luke Skywalker.”  “My favorite part was everyone being thankful, it took forever and sometimes I even got bored, but I thought that was so nice.” And they were right, that guy looked like Luke Skywalker and everyone was nice.

Health. So many people take being healthy for granted.  When someone did something intentionally unkind to me, and showed favor to another a few months back I questioned it. The answer I was given was that the other person had a dangerous job “I can’t have him wondering why I did something, I can’t have him being distracted and getting hurt.” My response was “I mean, I think you should be nice and consider feelings even if danger and sickness isn’t involved.” We never take our health or well being for granted.  We know that tomorrow isn’t promised. Physical, emotional, and mental health are for now in check. We have watched too many people struggle, and we know that simply being healthy during this season is something to be thankful for.

Last but not least, my son wrote me this epic rap.

Did we miss out on some things? I mean, yeah. If your family of origins are alive it is the natural order of things to hang out with them during the holidays.  Even if you disagree on some things, basic levels of love should be there.  This year we had mostly silence, that’s sad.  But there has been good in that too. I think I have spent a lot of years trying to reconcile two things. First, accepting the ‘fact’ that I am not very likeable and I don’t know how good I have it.  Second, that deep down I think I have something to offer. Those two things couldn’t occupy the same space. The good in this season seems to be that when we were shunned from the people who kept the unlikeable Kate narrative going; we stopped hearing it. I was removed from the negativity. Guess what we heard?  We heard that we had value from others. Real people, not just the internets. All of us. Even me. That was somewhat unexpected and a very welcome surprise.

When we stopped directing as much attention on trying to convince people we are worthy of favor, we found more positive outlets for that attention. We found ways to help in our community and even people we will never meet.  We met new friends and worked on strengthening relationships with those who reciprocated. Our kids have grown more compassionate. Our kids have grown more confident.  I think we have too.

We went places this year where people wanted us to be, all of us, even me. I think I made it through the whole holiday season without one condescending remark in my direction. People looked us in the eye, asked us how we were, hugged us, said it was nice to see us. They meant it. Literally all I ever wanted. We know our value, we know what it feels like to be valued, and we won’t take less than that in the future. It took me decades to ‘get over’ that feeling of not being cherished for who I am. While I don’t care for the delivery, and while I am sure it was not intentional, I think that this season without the people who consistently treated me like a bad seed was 100% the best gift I have every been given. Maybe next year they will dole out unconditional love, affection, a listening ear, a safe conversation …. one can only hope. But if our only choice is what we had before this year, and this year, we will take this year every time. It was healing and beautiful.  I feel like we have plenty to complain about, but so much to be thankful for.

“It’s funny how some distance, makes everything seem small, and the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.” Yeah, I just quoted Frozen, so maybe I am crazy after all.

Until Next Time ~ Kate
Comments: 5 Responses
  1. Kimberley says:

    Hey Kate,
    I meant to send a note earlier. This is the best thing you’ve written. It’s powerful, poignant, raw, and full of hope and self realization for you and your family. It may not have been the easiest thing to share, but you did a beautiful job. I only knew you in high school, but I absolutely identify with much of what you shared. I’m profoundly glad that you found your village/your tribe that appreciates all you have to offer and the compassionate way you live your life.

  2. Stacie says:

    Best writing yet. Please write more about this topic. Many can relate.

  3. Jennifer Minor says:

    I don’t know what experiences have happened that have caused you pain, but it seems like you and your family are on the road to healing. Enjoyed learning more about your family and I LOVE the color of your piano! I’ve been thinking of painting ours but I’m such a scaredy cat! Did you do it yourself? Any advice?? Blessings do you! Jennifer

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