Experience 37 of 52: Christmas

The fall presents us with a series of holidays to celebrate and bring family together.  From birthdays in August/September, Halloween in October, Thanksgiving in November and finally Christmas in December, we have opportunities to celebrate and enjoy time with family and friends.

Our Christmas celebration this year continued our yearly tradition of visiting with Paul’s parents on Christmas Eve followed by a visit to Sue’s mom on Christmas day.  As always, the Anderson Christmas celebration provided plentiful provisions and generous gifting.  The gals were inundated with gifts from Paul’s parents, brother and three sisters.  Hopefully the crew found the gifts given by us as thoughtful and as appreciated as the gifts given to us.

On Christmas, after opening the generous lot of presents left by jolly old St. Nick, we spent the day with Susan’s mom, brother and sister and their families.  Once again we were treated to a grand meal and generous gifts.  We followed up our gift exchange with a game of Catch Phrase which was uproariously fun.

We also enjoyed a white Christmas this year that allowed us an opportunity to do some backyard sledding and to build a snow woman.  Life usually seems to be too full to enjoy days outside in the snow with the kids so having this day free to have fun with them was most enjoyable.  Our snow woman “Sally” didn’t last long, however, as the day warmed and the snow began to melt almost as quickly as it had arrived.

As always, the time with friends and family went by too fast.  We really should find more excuses other than holidays to spend time with family and friends.


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Experience 28 of 52: Thanksgiving

This was the third consecutive year we hosted the Thanksgiving meal for Susan’s family.  Hosting is an experience in and of itself and requires the help of everyone.  We definitely have a new appreciation for the work our parents did hosting the meal in years past.  Lucky for us, from cleaning to cooking and baking to basting the entire family prepared and produced a feast fit for a king.  Thanks to everyone who set the table, brought sides to share and helped to clean the dishes we were able to spend more time visiting with our family than in the kitchen.

Added to our typical crew from Susan’s family (dad and step-mom,  mom, sister and brother-in-law with a niece and a nephew, and brother and sister-in-law) this year allowed us to enjoy the holiday with the addition of Susan’s Aunt Pat and cousin Lauren.  Pat, it turns out, is quite good at ping-pong and Paul very much enjoyed the competition.  We also had unseasonably mild temperatures this year that allowed us to spend time outdoors.

This experience was all about family, being together and, of course, appreciating all that life has brought our way.

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Experience 27 of 52: Halloween

I was never a big fan of Halloween – it always seemed to me that it was all about greed and gluttony rather than generosity and goodness. M&M’s, Reese’s and Candy Corns fly off the store shelves and into the bags of salivating children holding out sacks for no other reason except that the calendar tells them it is the day to extort sugar from the neighbors. Minute after minute, for two hours, every October 31st, children dart across lawns and trample flower beds, say words they don’t really mean (at least I hope mine don’t mean the part about the trick), follow it up with a polite thank you and then move on to educe more sweets from the next neighbor. Are these really values I want to teach my children?

But this year I had an epiphany.  I realized that, as with everything in life, Halloween is what you make of it.  You can see the greed, gluttony, ghouls and ghosts and decide to participate half-heartedly (as I’ve been doing) or to ignore the holiday completely by turning off your porch light or going to an alternative gathering of like-minded families.  There’s nothing good, bad or wrong about any of these approaches.

But what I discovered this year is that Halloween is more than an annual sugar extortion festival – it’s an opportunity to step away from the daily grind and to spend time with my children, with the added bonus of doing so within the context of a community – greeting my neighbors and their children, chatting (if only for a short time) and seeing folks I rarely see because of my hectic life.

Maybe Halloween is to community what Thanksgiving is to family – a reason to take time out of our lives, spend a few moments together and to catch up on our comings and goings.  Maybe this year’s Halloween experience was a cultural experience for me more than for the gals.

As shown in the pictures, our Halloween experience this year included a local corn maze, carving pumpkins and participating in the annual sugar extortion festival.  It also included seeing the neighbors and feeling a sense of community as folks camped out in their driveways, fire pits blazing, happily passing out candy and kindly greeting the costumed community.  Family, fun and community – couldn’t ask for anything more.

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Experience 22 of 52: The Giving Klub Birthday Parties

Giving Klub Contributors

The Giving Klub is an informal club created by Grace and Kate to help provide opportunities for other kids to give to others.  Past projects have included packing Hygiene kits (as discussed below), packing lunch bags for the homeless, assisting with the setup of the Holiday Shop sponsored by Neighbors in Need, creating Christmas cards to send to soldiers stationed overseas, having a lemonade stand and donating the money to charity and sponsoring a family with both food and gifts for the Christmas Holiday.

More Giving Klub Contributors

For their birthday parties this year, each girl chose to spend half of their party time continuing the Giving Klub by inviting their friends to pack Hygiene kits for those in need in response to the damage incurred on the Gulf Coast during Hurricane Isaac.  In addition, the girls decided to assist local families by asking each friend to bring a canned food item to be donated to a local food bank.

Packing kits in groups of 2

Although not affiliated with a church, we took our cue from the Church World Service organization that facilitates delivering the kits to those in need.  As stated on its website, “In the face of natural disasters, violence, or grinding poverty, Hygiene kits can mean the difference between sickness and health for struggling families.”

In teams of 2, Kate and 22 of her friends packed 100 Hygiene kits containing a hand towel, a wash cloth, a comb, a nail clipper, a bar of soap, a toothbrush and 6 Band-Aids.  Each team had a bagger and a selector and sequenced through each station to collect contents for each kit.  Parent helpers verified the kit contents and the packing continued until all kits were packed.

The gals with the donated food

Grace and 24 of her friends followed Kate’s party repeating the process until another 115 kits were packed and ready to donate.

In addition to the 215 total kits packed, friends of both girls contributed a total of 53 canned goods and 23 dry goods to contribute to the Salvation Army Service Center pantry.  We couldn’t ask for a better group of friends for each girl and the willingness of each friend to enthusiastically pack the kits to help those whose situations may be less fortunate than their own was truly a sight to see.

Categories: Celebration, Volunterring | 2 Comments

Experience 9 of 52: Fireworks

We Love Catonsville!

If you are looking for a Fourth of July celebration Catonsville, Maryland is the place to go!  Although the focus is less on Patriotism than perhaps some historical sites, we are partial to Catonsville since most of our extended family lives there.  There is so much energy throughout the day which started with the Catonsville parade.  This was the first year we skipped the parade in many years so that Paul could visit his aunt in Pennsylvania.  We did, however, manage to make it to two great cook out parties before the fireworks started.

Did you know these facts about the Catonsville Celebration:

  • Catonsville has been hosting a fireworks show for the past 65 years?
  • the fireworks are held rain or shine (but we had perfect weather this year)?
  • Catonsville holds a pre-fireworks fun fest with live music before the fireworks show?
  • each year there is a different theme to the parade/fireworks show?
  • volunteers raise over $100,000 per year to cover the costs of the event?

As always, Catonsville has shown us an awesome time with great events, crowds and great company!  I highly recommend spending the day in Catonsville on the Fourth of July where you can feel the unity of our countries citizens.  You may also get a glimpse of my-brother-in-law wearing a purple skirt as he walks with the Raven’s Roost!

Time spent: About 4 hours (we usually spend a good 10 hours there) – prepare to walk a lot

Cost:  Free (but donations are accepted)

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