Festibond 2013 – Kirsten

On Sunday the 29th of December our family celebrated our seventh Festibond. This is a tradition we started as a way to celebrate and strengthen our bonds with each other every year. We love this tradition, and I hope the girls continue it after they grow up and move away.

Within the week prior to Festibond, Brent and I each take each of the girls out individually for a date. The girls get to choose what they want to do. We still seem to come up with new ideas every year. We have each written a post on our blog about the dates. I love having that special one-on-one time with each of my wonderful daughters. They all change a little every year (obviously), each one unique in their own way. I thoroughly enjoyed every one of my dates!

The Danler family on Festibond.
The Danler family on Festibond.

Jenna suggested this year we go on a trip for Festibond. Brent asked the girls if they’d like to simply spend the night at a hotel with a pool. They all very enthusiastically supported the idea, so I made reservations at the Sable Oaks Marriott hotel in South Portland.

On Saturday, the day before Festibond, we prepared the various snacks we were going to munch on throughout the day. This included lots of raw vegetables, fruit, beef stick, cheeses, crackers, nuts, pear cider, homemade fudge and gingersnaps. We packed our overnight bags for our hotel stay the next day.

We start out every Festibond morning going out to breakfast. This year we decided on Sea Dog Brewing Co. The restaurant was previously Eggspectations, which we really liked, and they were supposed to have the same menu. Our waiter was very nice, but the food was not. I didn’t really care for my Farmers Benedict. We won’t be going back. Sorry, Jenna. You warned us. Aside from the less-than-awesome food, it was nice family time, and we got some good photos.

The girls at Sea Dog Brewing Co.
The girls at Sea Dog Brewing Co.
Brent gives me a kiss at breakfast.
Brent gives me a kiss at breakfast.

After we left the restaurant, I called the Marriott to see if we could check in. Fortunately it wasn’t a busy time for them, so we were in luck! On the way we stopped at Toys R Us to pick up a couple new games, as playing games is one of the activities we enjoy every Festibond. We decided on Monopoly and Yahtzee.

The girls were in awe at the quality and elegance of the hotel. We went up to our room and settled in. Brent first wanted to take a family picture, but he’d forgotten his Gorilla Pod (tripod). Being very creative and resourceful, however, he fashioned a make-shift tripod on one of the beds to hold his iPhone camera out of several board games, a plastic display stand, and one of my socks. He positioned us on the opposite bed, set the camera timer to take multiple shots, then ran over to sit with us in the spot he’d reserved for himself. It was quite comical, but brilliant…and we got some good family photos.

Brent constructs his tripod.
Brent constructs his tripod.

In preparation for Festibond, we each write heartfelt letters to each other, with the intention of reading them to each other on Festibond. This is the main part of our tradition, and everyone’s favorite. We always gather together and read our letters out loud to each other after we go out to breakfast. This time we sat on the beds in the hotel room as we prepared all our Apple devices in order to read them.

I love that the girls get so excited about and look forward to reading their letters to each family member, as well as hearing what each person has to say to them. Every year it seems that the letters are longer, more thoughtful, and more well-written. Skye started out by reading her letters to each member of the family. After each letter she read, she and the recipient would give each other a hug. Then Hayley moved to the spotlight seat (where the lighting was best for pictures) and read all her letters, hugging each recipient in between. Jenna followed, then Brent, then myself. The letters were all so meaningful, touching, and sometimes funny. The love and excitement were palpable. I could tell that everyone put a lot of thought into their letters, and it was fun to hear recounts of particular experiences had from the past year. Brent’s and my letters to each other made us both cry. It’s been a tough year, particularly because of my failing health; he has had so much to deal with, yet has been my rock the whole way.

Skye and Hayley hug.
Skye and Hayley hug.
Skye and I hug
Skye and I hug
Hayley reads her letters on her iPod
Hayley reads her letters on her iPod
Skye photo-bombs a picture of Jenna.
Skye photo-bombs a picture of Jenna.
Hayley and I hug
Hayley and I hug
Jenna reads her letters on her iPad
Jenna reads her letters on her iPad
Brent and Jenna hug
Brent and Jenna hug
Brent and me
Brent and me

With the girls’ permission, I’ve included some excerpts from the letters they wrote:

Skye’s letter to Brent:

One of my favorite experiences with you this year was volunteering at TEDxDirigo. I relished the time we spent sitting together while watching the talks and discussing them. Not only did I love hanging out with you; I appreciate that you provided me with that amazing opportunity. I met some incredible, smart, talented, and creative people because of you. I love that you are so proud of me and think I’m mature enough that you told Adam Burk about me. It makes me feel great about myself.

Skye’s letter to me:

An example of trying to expand our knowledge of the world and the places in it was when you took us to hike Picket Mountain. It was a beautiful trail, even though we did spend more than half the time just trying to find it and running into obstacles along the way–going onto private property, hiking the wrong trail, and stopping for directions multiple times. It was great to spend time with you and the girls.

Hayley’s letter to Brent:

You are so intelligent! I would never have gotten this smart without the lectures from you! You’ve probably read an article on every subject we talk about! Whatever the question, you seem to have a good answer, and I love that about you! I love the way you have guided me and parented me. I’m so glad that many times when I have a question, you don’t just answer it; you give a whole lecture about it which leads to other questions and turns into a long, nice conversation. It truly is awesome that I have a dad like you.

Hayley’s letter to Jenna:

I love your beautiful singing voice and the passionate way you use it! It’s truly outstanding and often times I think you’re much much better than the original singer that made the song. I sometimes listen to you singing and wish I was as good at it as you. I also love your violin! You have climbed to spectacular grade level and only continued climbing higher.

Jenna’s letter to Skye:

You are not the average teenager, Skye. You are kind and caring to your family, you’re creative and funny. Most teenagers lock themselves up in their rooms and only care about their friends. You spend a lot of time with your friends, but it is awesome because you also find the time to spend time with us too.

Jenna’s letter to Hayley:

You go to the beat of your own drum, and I say that because you are unique and true to yourself, more than most people I know. You don’t spend hours to take care of how you look, you have a very open personality, and you are not afraid to be weird (especially around me). Generally people are attracted to peers that stand out, and that’s how you make friends. Would you want to be friends with someone who is conforming with everyone else?

Skye and Brent
Skye and Brent
Hayley and Jenna hug
Hayley and Jenna hug

We ended our wonderful letter-reading activity with a family group hug. The girls were then eager to suit up and head down to the swimming pool. The pool area was warm. The pool water was nice, and the hot tub water even nicer, in my opinion. The girls were having a fabulous time; it was fun to play with them in the water and to watch them swim and play as well. The girls don’t get to swim (in a pool) often, and they’ve never had lessons. Skye is confident in the water, though, and has learned how to swim.

The Danler girls in the pool.
The Danler girls in the pool.

Neither Jenna nor Hayley have been very confident in the water, and avoid the deep end of the pool. However, during our stay at the Marriott I noticed that Jenna and Hayley were both perseverant at mastering the back float, and then began swimming on their backs. They were both so excited and proud (as I was) as they continued to improve and get from one end of the pool to the other. Skye took the initiative to help and guide both of them, especially Hayley. She’s an amazing big sister!

Skye and Jenna floating
Skye and Jenna floating
Hayley and Brent had fun in the pool together.
Hayley and Brent had fun in the pool together.
Skye and Jenna enjoyed their pool time.
Skye and Jenna enjoyed their pool time.

When we returned to our room, I laid out the food along the window sill. We broke open Monopoly and began playing while we snacked. We played for a while, then decided to post-pone it and play a different game. (After all, how many times does anyone ever get through an entire game of Monopoly?) Skye loves Yahtzee, and Jenna, Hayley, nor I have ever played it before; so that was our next choice. I thought it was fun once I got the hang of it, but Jenna didn’t care for it at all.

Skye and Jenna playing a serious game of Monopoly.
Skye and Jenna playing a serious game of Monopoly.

Although we enjoy playing games together, the girls really wanted to swim some more, and they don’t often have that opportunity (except for the beach in the summer). So the girls suited up again. Brent and I went down to the pool to watch them. He went to the bar and got us some cocktails. I think it was called “Christmas cookie.” It tasted like a mudslide which includes Baileys Irish cream, Kahlua coffee liqueur, and vodka. Brent knows I like those, and it was sweet of him to order it. I enjoyed hanging out by the pool with Brent, drinking my cocktail, and watching and listening to the girls play. Jenna came over to us at one point and began strutting back and forth and flipping her hair around, as if she were a model parading down the catwalk. It was so funny! She’s very dramatic…she’s a natural.

Jenna prances back and forth in front of us, stopping occasionally to strike a pose.
Jenna prances back and forth in front of us, stopping occasionally to strike a pose.
Hayley floating/swimming across the pool on her back.
Hayley floating/swimming across the pool on her back.
An interesting view of Skye in the water.
An interesting view of Skye in the water.

I asked at the front desk for a roll-away bed so all three girls wouldn’t have to share a double bed. When room service brought it up, it was standing on it’s end on wheels with a strap around it to hold the mattress on. Hayley was excited to sleep on it. When I looked over at her after she’d gotten in bed, I saw that she had buckled herself in the bed, the strap wrapped snugly around her waist. I couldn’t help but laugh. If she had a problem rolling out of bed, this would certainly solve it. :-)

Hayley buckled herself in the roll-away bed.
Hayley buckled herself in the roll-away bed.

The next morning Brent left the hotel to go to work. We had taken separate cars so that the girls and I could leave later for home. We ate some more of the smorgasbord of snacks for breakfast, then headed back down the the pool for the last time. I was going to swim with them; however Skye had torn her bikini bottoms, so I let her use my suit instead. I didn’t mind sitting and watching the girls enjoy their precious time in the pool and hot tub. Skye, Hayley and I tried out the dry sauna, but it didn’t heat up very fast, and the girls soon became bored with it and returned to the pool. Jenna and Hayley were doing just swimmingly (get it?) as they improved on their back float swimming back and forth across the pool. After a nice long time in the pool, we went back up to the room so the girls could shower and we could pack up our things to go home.

Hayley pumps some iron in the fitness center after her swim. Double workout!
Hayley pumps some iron in the fitness center after her swim. Double workout!

Festibond was absolutely amazing. It seems to get better every year, and we’ve discussed having one in early summer as well. It’s so much fun, and beneficial to strengthening our relationships with each other and our family bond as a whole.

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