The Unabridged FamiLee Holiday Letter

Dear Fam,

We cheaped out on the Christmas holiday letter, reserving only a few lines on the glamour card for an update, so I thought I would harness the economy of this world wide interweb for the purpose of updating you on the FamiLee goings-on here at fiscal year-end. Do you like how I just referred to our family unit like it’s a limited liability corporation? Do you think we should probably get a tax cut? Do you think I can write off my blog for these purposes? I have questions.

But before Kanye grabs the mic from me, I want to first say very emphatically that the best album of the year was Lady Gaga’s Joanne (Deluxe)” Buy. Listen. Love. For best books, I’m putting Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body and We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy as my favorites. The latter I have not yet read but I ninja-dropped it into my dad’s basket when he was buying Christmas gifts, so I’m sure I’ll love it. For movies, pssh. I paid to see “The Emoji Movie” so you should for no reason be taking film notes from me.

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Now that we’ve got that out of the way, the news.

In the early part of the summer, we joined John’s family in Vancouver to see his grandma who is 90 years young. If you want the curated version, see my Instagram feed. If you want what really happened, you can consult my Google searches during that time. They include:

“MY+KOREAN+IN-LAWS+ARE+DISAPPOINTED+MY+KID+WON’T+EAT+RICE+AND+WHAT+TO+DO+ABOUT+IT.”

“I+JUST+REALIZED+I’M+A+DIVA+IN+CANADA+I’M+SAD+NEAREST+SUPPORT+GROUP.”

“DIRECT+FLIGHTS+VANCOUVER+TO+CHATTANOOGA+THIS+AFTERNOON.”

After we returned to Tennessee from the trip, the kids spent two weeks at their grandparents’ homes in Ohio. It was epic! We missed them terribly but are so grateful for Grandparents Camp because it allowed John and me to pack up our earthly possessions for the big move.

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That is probably the biggest news bulletin–not in the world obviously because North Korea is up to somethin’ and obviously Chip and Joanna Gaines are in their last season so the world might actually end any second now–but in our world, moving back to Boston has been the biggest news.

Especially since it doesn’t make a whole bunch of sense. Why would we leave Tennessee where we both had great jobs that we loved, where the kids were in a great school, and where we didn’t even need to own a snow shovel? Well, my friends. Like Al Gore gesticulating the ebbing of global climate change, the Lord moves in mysterious ways. We moved back to the same street we used to live on, not far from the house we had to short-sell because we thought we were going to be in Tennessee until the Lord returned or until “Fixer Upper” stopped releasing new episodes. So here we are back in a city that we adore, where we get to show the kids things we’ve already done with them, of which they have no memory of doing the first time. It’s like that part in “National Lampoon’s European Vacation” where they keep circling Big Ben except our kids are legitimately impressed to see Big Ben again. We found an apartment in the Athleisure Capital of the World. Even the yoga pants are fancy here. It is exciting to go from renting in ruralburbia to renting an apartment just steps away from Dunkin’ Donuts. John’s working as a counselor at a boarding academy for which people seem really interested to know the tuition. I guess that is more important than whether or not he’s happy. Ohh! Burrrrn! The answer to tuition and happiness, though, is the same. A Lot. I’m doing the freelance thing. Mostly putting the “free” into freelance but having fun as I write with my calligraphy pens or this here laptop.

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As for the kids, they are mostly amazing and teaching us about resilience through this transition. We lost a hamster just as school started, and the kids showed us that we had not failed entirely as parents, so we were grateful for that outcome even if we the kids miss Doris something fierce. RIP Dodo.

Madigan, 9, is still the delightful optimist you remember, now with tween mood swings! She has not had an easy adjustment to school. Going from a small Christian school where she knew everyone to a much larger public school has been overwhelming at times. We think this to be true, but obviously, she is a tween so she only answers in one-word answers like “cool”and “good” and “maybe.” We are proud of the way she is staying on top of her studies and making kind friends, too. She started guitar lessons this past fall and she has better musical timing than I could hope to have. Again, I paid to see “The Emoji Movie” so my artistic opinion is null and void but really, she is good.

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Tatum, 7, is still the goofball you recall, now with a whole suite of fresh dance moves. He is crushing the first grade and is taking karate. He has a vast knowledge of YouTube Gamers, so if you were ever wondering what kind of hypothetical Minecraft moves you could make over the course of the next seven lifetimes, just give our boy a call.

As we settle in to Boston Life the Remix, we miss our Tennessee church most of all. We are a part of a body here in Boston and we are trying to find on-ramps for involvement, but it is not the same. We are grateful for the experience we had as part of a healthy church family and are using that experience to help us believe better things are to come. I think this is a sound reminder of the way our Savior came to earth: vulnerable and with parents in transition, cloaked in beauty and filling us with hope. We remember Jesus who came and saw and loved and conquered and we are encouraged to do the same.

Wherever this holiday finds you, in a place of landing or a season of transition, we pray that peace will reside within you, and wish an abundance cookies, covfefe and good cheer to you and yours.

Love,
Kendra…and John, Madigan, and Tatum

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Sharing Walls and Moving House

Loverpants and my story is well-documented. We met as Resident Advisors in college. Sharing Walls, aka Building Community was the nexus of our romantic relationship. It is all we have ever known. Even when we have purchased a home, we have shared walls with other condo association tenants. We have lived in the country, in the city, and we have always had people living either above or below us.

It is not the life I thought I wanted, but it’s the life that I would not trade.

Our two children have only ever known this life. They came home from the hospital to a beehive of activity. We actively feared that if we employed the Ferber-method, we’d have some explaining to do to our neighbors. (We promise! We’re not neglecting them by letting them cry! We’re just trying to get more than 20 minutes of sleep at a time! Fingers crossed, hey? {Insert maniacally hopeful eyebrows raised in pleading hope that this works}).
We have experienced all the benefits and the drawbacks of living in close community with people whose blood we do not share which have included: feeling like a constant disruption; dealing with near-constant disruption; getting contact high from the weed being smoked downstairs; sharing holiday gatherings; never truly feeling alone; being able to call upon built-in babysitters; having an extended family.

In fact, we just moved to live at a boarding academy. We are off-campus now until housing opens on campus. We may live here for the rest of our careers, sharing walls with sweaty teenage boys. For us, the expense of living at a boarding academy is second to none. We have all the access to a city, take many of our meals in the school dining hall, and get to enjoy close proximity to brilliant people. Also, we have no house payment. Kerchingaling.

When we were searching for our temporary housing, though, we relied on beaucoup online resources since we were not able to fly to prospect apartments. That’s right, we had to ferret out housing from afar and hope that it would be as described.

We used all of the usual online resources to browse apartments online and even benefited from the new venture of Cara Concierge who put boots on the ground when we couldn’t otherwise be there. We couldn’t have landed in a better place, with better landlords and better location. Most of all, we’re glad to share walls once again with non-family. We may not be the HGTV poster family, but we’re grateful for our grown-up life that makes us feel like young RAs.

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Starbucks Red Cups and Choosing the Good Portion

As November 1st has become synonymous with Red Cup Season for vapid people who have embarrassingly frivolous priorities such as being the first person to show-and-tell a paper cup to the people who live in their phone, HAPPY NOVEMBER 1ST, FAM!

Okay but for real, I enjoy the advent of the Sixbucks festive cup almost as much as I like someone else, especially a barista (they’re always named Brad, aren’t they?) making me a chai almond latte.

This morning, I noticed the new mug warmer gripper thing said, “GIVE GOOD.” The grammarian in me paused for the flash of a moment. Don’t you mean, “Give well”? But then I understood the sentiments. Don’t just give well. Give the good, be a good giver, give the thing that is hard but oh-so-good to give.

It reminded me of the story of when Jesus visited Mary and Martha in their home. Martha, as we know, was fussing and Swiffering and freaking out that the popcorn burned again even though she knew not to press the auto-popcorn button on the microwave (why is it always wrong?). But Mary, Mary just chilled in her Snuggie and offered Jesus a Capri Sun and asked how his day was going. She hung on his every word.

And Jesus said Mary chose the “good portion.”

In fact, when you read the account in Luke Ch. 10, Jesus told Martha to knock off that martyr crap and to take a break. He specifically told her to stop spazzing because “few things are needed—or indeed only one.” Of course, we know by the light of the year 2017 that Jesus was talking about himself as that one Needful Thing. Martha was cleaning the dickens out of her house when she had the Savior sitting right there on her sofa.

It reminded me of the frantic gifting season upon us. As a creative entrepreneur, I have to ramp up my production and I already feel behind. I go on Instagram and see the feeds of every other Etsy shop owner and I start to sweat. It’s like they’ve all gotten their Red Cups and I’m still trying to download the Starbucks app. They’re already listing holiday items and I’m still circling the aisles at Michael’s wondering if I have a coupon to get both the glue sticks and the paint markers. Gah!

But that’s just some Martha wheel-spinning. She’d be the one queuing up the Pinterest projects because she felt she needed to make the holidays spectacular. Whereas Mary found the best presents of God’s presence.

In this way, we can choose to Give Good by first choosing the Good for ourselves. As we embark on a season of inevitable consumption, I know we all try to do our best to avoid register rage and parking jackassery. Yet, choosing to avoid is not always an option or even advisable, especially where holidays are concerned. Hashtag I live with a therapist. Trust.

So I resolve to Give Good, Seek Good, Pray Good. I know this is possible not in total resistance to the season of consumption but in carrying the goodness and light of the season, right in front of me, like a Red Cup warming my hands and reminding my heart to Give Good.

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