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Friday, December 4, 2009

Affiliate Friday: Karrie McAllister on Making Traditions to (Unfortunately) Last a Lifetime

Before I introduce our Featured Affiliate, I must tell you that our DVD Giveaway Extravanganza is still going on and you can still win awesome titles like "Night at the Museum 2" and "Ice Age 3." So click here and enter. Chances are very good that you will win something.

The blogospshere never ceases to amaze me with the quality of writing I can happen upon out of nowhere. That is exactly how I felt when I happened upon Karrie, our featured affiliate, who is a "Mother, Writer, and Dirt-Lover." She, like other affiliates, somehow found us and emailed me about joining forces. Whenever I get those emails, I click on over to check out the blog that is mentioned, and when I first visited Karrie, I was struck by her crisp style of creative, intelligent writing. And when I spent a little more time checking our her space, I learned that not only is she an engaging, interesting writer, but she can also....shoot a gun. And once you see this gorgeous, sweet-looking mama, you will be just as amazed as I was. Check her out.

Enjoy this quintessential Karrie holiday piece!

Once, just once, I’d like to sit Norman Rockwell, Martha Stewart, and Mrs. Claus down at my kitchen table. I’d give them a five-pound bag of flour, a pound of butter, three bottles of tacky glue, and enough glitter and yarn to sink the Titanic. Along with them at the table sit my children, all dressed in special holiday sweaters. They have exactly 20 minutes.

Their only instructions: MAKE MEMORIES.

I have come to learn the hard way that children, no matter how we try to squeeze them into last year’s shoes and pants, continue to grow at incredible speeds. I’m quite certain that if I blink just a little too long they’ll be asking to bring their boyfriends and girlfriends to our Christmas Eve dinner, so I try, with all of my might, to make each and every holiday special.

This means wearing myself to near exhaustion in attempts to recreate even the first draft of any Norman Rockwell piece, which I’m pretty sure had a little kid throwing a temper tantrum in the corner and the dog’s ears glued together. (That’s why he probably did a second draft.)

There is something to be said for tradition. Tradition is the name we give to activities and events that are really a pain in the neck, but we force ourselves to do them because of tradition. Somehow, in our delusional holiday minds, we think that we need to provide our families with ever-lasting memories and these traditions so they can relish the nostalgia when they torture their own families with the same stuff in years to come.

For example, when I was little we had our own set of traditions. We always listened to Bing Crosby while baking Grandma’s butter cookie recipe, the one with the candied cherries in the middle. Another tradition was the crafting and gifting of a special ornament each and every year, so that by the time I was in my teens, my poor parents and grandparents had so many gooped up ornaments on their trees that they tended to pull the entire tree over. Then, on Christmas Eve, we would gather with the extended family and all partake in Wigilia, a Polish Christmas Eve dinner and celebration with its own set of quirky rules and traditions, not to mention less-than-tasty food. After dinner, the opening of one present (always a pair of pajamas), and the reading of The Night Before Christmas.

But as it is when two families unite, we’ve also adopted the traditions of my husband’s family. There are tree decorating parties, and game night sleepovers. There’s a brunch here, and a ladies lunch there. There are Santa hats to wear during opening presents on Christmas Day, and a ton of cut-out cookies, the kind with the four pounds of frosting on the top.

Put it all together, and the only time we might actually sit down during the month of December is during my dreamy get-together of holiday greats. Mrs. Claus could supervise the baking, Martha could improvise glue, glitter, and probably some paper scraps stuck under the table into a few marvelous and memorable ornaments, and Mr. Rockwell can sit quietly by, sketching while he rubs the glue out of the dog’s ears, humming a Bing Crosby tune.

However, here’s an update. I ain’t any of those people. I have yet to create a cut out that isn’t an undistinguishable blob of rock hard cookie, which I attempt to disguise with bright green frosting and sprinkles, and when my children were very young I could get away with gifting a mere pair of popsicle sticks glued together. But now that they’re older, the bar has been raised and soon will no doubt require [gulp] permanent paint. Thankfully, no matter the chaos we can still manage to turn on a favorite Bing album now and then. The tricky part is actually hearing it over the commotion and yelling when I force my kids to eat those Polish delicacies.

They may not be up to some standards, but we are indeed carrying on traditions. Not because we have to, but because it just feels like the right thing to do. We’ll spend the entire holiday season happily and wearily MAKING MEMORIES, because even the best parents know that come January, we will be MAKING A DRINK and putting our feet up, resting, and dreaming up new and fancier projects for the next year.

Karrie McAllister writes and mothers from Northeast Ohio. Contact her and read more at


  1. I like the making a drink part!

    We also celebrate Wigilia - but we have eliminated a lot of the yucky food and stick to the aplotek and honey.

    We started a new tradition last year: staying home on Christmas Eve - no church (gasp!), no guests. We get into our PJs in the late afternoon and I cook each of us whatever meal we want, which can mean five different meals. That's not something I normally do, so it was a huge deal. My kids LOVED it and during the dinner last year, which included steaks for me and hubs, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, chili spaghetti for the kids, they asked "Can we do this again next year?"

  2. Oh, of course I said "YES" and the kids are already talking about Christmas Eve!

  3. Like Under the Influence - I'm all for the making a drink part (in January though)? I'll be making a drink well before then, but I guess you're right about the putting the feet up and resting parts ... those will have to wait until January.

  4. Traditions can be the yoke that drags down family fun - believe me, I'm feeling the weight.

    My choice to unshackle. This year might just be it.

    Pass the booze.

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  6. thank goodness for digital photographs and photographic memories...otherwise, I'd be S.O.L. in the memory making department.

    signed, not crafty mom who can't carve a turkey, draw a straight line, and is too anal retentive to get dirty.

  7. Wow! I'm so impressed that other people:
    a. pass the oplatkek
    b. find solace in christmas cocktails
    c. know that kicking back and spending time with the fam in your PJ's is worth way more than a manger scene constructed out of popsicle sticks and pipe cleaners

    Amen to all that!

  8. The older I get, the more I feel like lightening the load. Sometimes, less is more! Christmas Eve in the jammies sounds way more appealing than making the rounds with all the relatives!
    Peaceful moments for me include wrapping to Manheim Steamroller while Dad takes the kids to Grandma's!

  9. After a few years of totally overwhelming holidays after my husband and I got married and subsequently had our daughter I just had to lighten our load of the traditions that we were trying to fit in from both sides of our family.

    It ticked some people of when we said we were not going to be at one family gathering or another because we were stream lining to save our sanity, but I'm happier, my husband is happier and my daughter isn't subjected to hours and hours and hours of overwhelming events(only hours and hours instead:)).

    Traditions can be good if we can recognize if/when it is time to let them go.

  10. Tradition. It's a powerful word in my family. Especially the family in which I was raised. My family is Polish so Wigilia is ALSO a huge deal in our home and it's a tradition we are continuing with our kids although my husband is Dutch/German/English. His family was not big on tradition so my side wins out mainly for holiday stuff. BUt we have modified it a bit to suit our taste buds....I spent a year in Poland and eating a true Polish Wigilia dinner is yikes.

    I love the tradition that we are carrying on because it was a cornerstone of my upbringing. And I do want my kids to have the kind of warm holiday memories that I had. Sometimes I worry too much about the fact that I'm not good at creating new memories or traditions...

    My parents get very upset when they see any of their kids letting go or softening the traditions they started or continued or simply gave to upsets me because it seems unreasonable but as a parent, I can kinda understand why traditions feel important to them.

    This is a fascinating topic - worthy of further analysis for sure....thanks Karrie!!

  11. Just when you think a tradition is a waste of time you hear your child reciting everything they love about Christmas and you know you'll try to re-create it once again. That's the beauty I guess.


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