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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5 things I am hearting right now

I am in a season of massive clean-out. If I were pregnant, I’d call it full-on nesting mode, but nobody preggo here. Except for maybe my garage (recently purged of students’ hockey sticks stored for the summer and other detritus). My garage might be pregnant with possibility. Yikers. I’m also cleaning out my office at the university–more on this later.

Marie Kondo (Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up) told us to examine the joy that sparks from our possessions and I imagine like most folks, it’s a whole lotta junk. The following, however, are a few of the things that are sparking joy in my life. Some affiliate links may follow but this is in no way a paid post. Kendraspondence is merely a wannabe lifestyle blog, just waiting for Gwynnie’s goop level status.

1. The famously oh-so-buttery LulaRoe leggings. I was skeptical about the one-size-fits-all leggings since my stubby legs result in a BFF relation$hip with my tailor. Color me surprised when the LLR leggings my friend Kimberlea sent me fit perfectly with a delightful cuffing at the ankle. If you don’t have a LulaRoe consultant yet, consider joining my friend Kimberlea’s FB group. Shoot her an e-mail (lularoekimmy at gmail dot com) and she may add you. She does Pop-Up shops on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Thanks for the butter legs, Kimberlea!
Thanks for the butter legs, Kimberlea!

2. The First Five App. Lysa TerKeurst just wanted her kids to dig into the Bible first thing each morning. Her daughter, a new college student, told her mom what a difference her Bible study mentors made in encouraging her to spend the first five minutes of the day in the Word. TerKeurst was inspired to create this app that serves as both an alarm and a five minute-ish devotional on your phone. The devotionals are very focused and the app itself is aesthetically lovely as it is functional. Available on Apple/Android.

3. Pley.com – This service has saved summer. Parents, you know how Lego sets are uber spendy and the proprietary pieces are all very clever but half the fun is just putting it together for the first time? Pley.com lets your kids “test-drive” just about any awesome toy under the sun. Then you send it back and get another. The website reads, “It teaches children to share and conserve the planet by reducing the amount of toys that ends up in landfills.” Obviously we had the most noble of interests at the fore of our reasons for queueing up this subscription-based “service” for the wee ones this summer and it has been a huge hit. Hat tip to Loverpants who was all over this biz.

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4. This recipe. It was just so stupid delicious. Even though it’s 104 degrees with 500% humidity right now. It’s worth turning on your oven.

Feta Sweet Potato Quiche

5. The Shalom in the City podcast with Osheta Moore. I met Osheta at a conference this past fall. Her heart for shalom–creating wholeness where there is something lacking/hurting–is sincere. The guests she interviews are chosen carefully and the questions she asks are erudite. I’ve learned about so many things anyone can do to bring shalom to his/her community. One takeaway has been that if you are a parent who cannot always serve as a room parent, you can offer to help with auxiliary tasks for your child’s classroom or for an under-resourced school. Examples include cutting out letters for a teacher’s bulletin board during your weekend free time, or offering to do any outside-the-normal-business-hours chore that a teacher needs for his/her class.

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And you? What are you loving lately?

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Crafternoon with findings from The Refindery

I have a penchant for trolling shops and other emporia that stock old timey estate sale things. Bureau drawer knobs and big slabs of slate. The things I could do with them! The junky things I can make using mod podge and dryer lint!

My personal kryptonite are planks of wood, though. I love a good solid piece of wood that cries out to me, Paint me! Gold leaf me! Take me home!

The Refindery
The Refindery

My virgin visit to Chattanooga’s The Refindery afforded me the ultimate souvenir. A wood plank that was…you might want to sit down for this and grab a paper bag in which to breathe…hand-carved. I know. It was like winning Powerball or giving birth to an heir to the throne and not having to tell the media right away. At least, that’s how I imagine it would feel. Finding your handcut wood and the salesperson at The Refindery saying, “How ’bout $12?”

Boom. Sale. Done and done.

She said it was probably a remnant from someone’s fireplace which was lovely to think about this being a literal part of someone’s hearth.

Here is what happened when I got home:

1. Sanded wood to clean off any excess crud.

The Refindery

2. Painted with acrylic paint and then covered bottom half with chalkboard paint.

The Refindery

3. Allowed to dry and posted some kendraspondence in chalk on my new fireplace fixture.

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I think it looks quite fetching and will definitely return to The Refindery for more woodchips from the Planet Krypton.

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