Ten years ago Kirsten and I decided to stop celebrating Christmas with the girls. We didn’t like its symbolism, religious heritage, and most of the ways people celebrated. However, we did like the idea of spending time together with intentional focus on strengthening our relationships. We created our own traditions and called them, collectively, “Festibond.” Our Festibond celebration, in which we go on dates, write and read letters to each other, play games, put together puzzles, and eat way too many snacks, has always been my favorite day. Festibond 2016, our tenth, was Saturday. It was my favorite day of the whole year.
Kirsten died in May. Every day since has been, to some degree, more prosaic than if she were still here. I was concerned that Festibond this year would be somber instead of happy and joyful. Indeed, we missed her as we do always, but our celebration was wonderful, happy, heart-warming, and close, as I’d hoped. The girls have embraced the spirit of Festibond from its inception. Squabbles that would happen on other days don’t. Everybody pitches in to make it all happen. We smile, we laugh, there may be singing, and we give each other lots of hugs. It’s impossible to describe just how special and penetrating it is, but I am always moved and wish every day in our house could be more Festibond-like.
For nine years we lived in an apartment on the third story of a brick building in Maine. Before that we lived in a house in Kansas, but we moved shortly after I turned four, so I have no memories from it. This September we began to look for a new home. Our apartment was familiar to me after living there so long, but I was thrilled by the notion of moving, for not only a change, but because the apartment had many little cons. Things like doorknobs being loose and falling off, or doors not closing right.
Before this move I knew nothing about the process of moving, so was a bit disappointed that we wouldn’t be officially moving for at least over a month. There was also the problem of where the house would be. I defiantly wanted to stay in Saco, and I didn’t want to move too far away from The main area. There was also the problem of how many bedrooms it would have. At our apartment we each were able to have our own room, which was great, but it was unlikely we would find a good four-bedroom house that we liked at our price range. I agreed to share a room with my oldest sister, Skye, if needed, because I knew it would be worth it to be able to move to a nice place, and she would be leaving for college in about a year anyway. When it did come time to start viewing houses, though, I felt beyond excited and optimistic. The first house we viewed still had some furniture and everything in it, but as we walked through it, I gradually grew less and less excited. It seemed to be a bit of a fixer-upper and felt old. There was a huge garage (full of clutter) and a basement, but there were also windows on bedroom doors that had been painted over and many little things that would also need replacing. I didn’t like it, but I did do my best to stay positive. The next house we viewed was better, but it felt cramped in places and I did not like the kitchen at all. There had been a garage separate from the house, but the previous owner had connected them with a room. It also had a very large open basement. Both of the houses had been close to the high school and my best friends house, which I liked, but the houses were not as I had hoped. Again, I felt a bit discouraged.
Once again, our annual family holiday tradition of Festibond was outstanding. This year we celebrated on December 27. For those who are unfamiliar with this tradition we started several years ago, its purpose is to create and strengthen our family bonds, both individually and as a unit. Festibond actually encompasses a month or so beforehand with our writing meaningful and thoughtful letters to each other. Then about a week prior to Festibond Brent and I separately taking each of the girls out on one-on-one dates, and the girls and I bake sweets. On the day of Festibond we go out to breakfast, come home and read our letters to each other, spend time together playing games and doing other activities, and snack throughout the day on a light buffet and baked goods the girls and I previously prepared. We’ve changed and added a few things over the years, but our dates and the letters to each other are the primary focus. Continue reading Festibond 2014: Kirsten→
Jenna has been asking me all summer to take a family camping trip. It seemed that there was always someone who was busy (with work or other summer activity). Realizing school would start in only a couple of weeks, I decided I needed to plan something very soon, so I began preparing for a camping trip to Bradbury Mountain State Park for the 3rd weekend in August.
Together the girls and I decided on the menu and purchased all the necessary ingredients. I searched for foil dinner and breakfast ideas, and found a couple winners. I prepared the individual foil dinners ahead of time, but because I was working the two nights prior to our departure, I didn’t have the time I needed to get everything done that I wanted to. As it turned out, I did forget a few things, but we made do. The girls and I drove up to Bradbury Mountain State Park (only about a 45-minute drive north) Friday afternoon after I slept a few hours. My car was packed full, and the girls were good sports about the small amount of room they had. Fortunately my new Subaru Crosstrek has a bit more space than my old little VW Jetta! Brent planned on meeting us there that evening after he got off work. After the girls and I secured our spot and set up camp, Brent arrived…with the firewood and some newspaper. He got a nice fire going. He’s a regular boy scout. ;-)
Skye is an environment enthusiast. She especially loves marine biology and has done much reading and research on the subject. It disturbs her to find trash discarded carelessly, especially plastics washed up on the beach. She has been conscientious about recycling, and is often frustrated by all the plastics being used excessively and unnecessarily, or to see people not bothering to recycle.
Several months ago, Brent and Skye attended a lecture by Waynflete about plastics. There they learned about a program called Rippleffect. Its purpose is “to promote youth development and leadership through adventure, healthy communities and living sustainably.” Skye was very enthusiastic about it, and proceeded to apply for the CELP, the Cow Island Environmental Leadership Program for high school age teens. She was accepted into the program, and excitedly made preparations for her 4-week stay at Cow Island.
Skye wanted to go to a Portland Pirates hockey game for our Festibond date, which made me happy because, you know, it’s hockey.
So I wouldn’t have to leave work early and drive to Saco to get Skye, Kirsten brought her up to my office. It was the first time either of them had seen my new digs at Auto Europe since I started there in August. It was pouring rain out, so it’s good we didn’t plan to fly kites or something.
Portland had water mains break, and was on a “boil all your water” restriction. When we were seated at Otto Pizza on Congress, our waiter apologized for not bringing us water, and said they couldn’t serve fountain sodas, either. So, I ordered a delicious Otter Creek Black IPA instead. Problem solved. Skye and I ordered slices of fresh pie. She got her favorite Baked Potato, Bacon, Scallion. No surprise there.
Skye and I went to Otto’s Pizza and a Portland Pirates’ game for our Festibond date. It was her idea, and I was pretty excited about it.
During the drive to Portland we talked about Skye’s relationships with her sisters, Festibond, homeschool and what it’s like to be an adolescent girl. It was nice to get to know Skye better and have some exclusive time with her.
Otto’s was good, as usual. Skye ordered her favorite slice: mashed potato, bacon, and scallion. I got one of those and a pepperoni (the sauce is crazy delish). We continued our conversation from the drive, which was nice.
Today on my date with dad for Festibond we went ice skating and we went to lunch. I had a great time.
First we went ice skating at the Portland Ice Arena. They only take cash but dad only had two dollars in cash so we had to find a ATM machine. It was hard finding a ATM machine. We had to walk a long way to find a ATM machine and it was cold. ‘Fun’ can not possibly be the correct word for finding a ATM machine. When we found a ATM machine we went back to the ice skating rink and rented some skates.
Once we got on our skates we went out onto the rink. I held my dad’s hand tightly so I wouldn’t fall. Daddy seemed to just be pulling me around the ice so I was just gliding around. I enjoyed ice skating a lot. I asked dad many questions about hockey, like where they put the net, if he played hockey as a kid, and if he ever saw his friends fall on the ice while they were playing.
This year Hayley wanted to go ice skating for our Festibond date. Which was great, because I wanted to go, too.
Unfortunately, when we arrived at the Portland Ice Arena we discovered that it’s a cash-only operation and I only had $2. We walked down the hill to a credit union with a drive-up-only ATM. So we walked a bit further and found an ATM that would dispense the cash we needed. It was a chilly walk that took time away from skating, but it was nice being together. I gave Hayley a piggy-back and shoulder ride much of the way, which she enjoyed.
Skye went skiing! Her school had a “BAM Day,” in which students were able to choose activities to expose them to new and fun physical activities. Although skiing was one of the more expensive of the many choices, I encouraged her to do it because I not-so-secretly want her to be my partner on the slopes. As the day approached she was nervous, but excited. I was, too.