Celebrating the Holidays After Adopting

An IAC alumni, Heather Cuillier, talks about what the holidays mean to her and how it’s meaning and traditions have changed since adopting:

How have holidays changed since adopting your daughter Kendall?
Our families have always gotten into the holiday spirit – decorations, trees, parties, food, eating, baking, big family gatherings; so I think having Kendall in our lives magnified it a bit more. I’m not sure we can say it changed anything, but it’s definitely better and has more of the child magic that seems to come around this time of year. Kendall is my helping buddy when it comes to decorating of course, and my shopping buddy to go get a “few” more decorations for the home. Everything we do, she is included and a part of, from putting up the outside lights, to putting decorations on the tree. She just makes everything better!! And our hope is that she will have some same great memories that both Danny and I did when we were growing up!!

I definitely take more photos. A ton. Like over 500+ just in a 10 day visit to Washington. Kendall has been photographed EVERY day of her life since she joined our family.  So I guess during the holidays I just take a few more. I know, I just can’t get enough of her and I just want her to remember.

How has it’s importance grown?
The holidays are very important to our family. Living far away from most of our family (our parents and most of our siblings live in Washington) is hard, but we have managed to go “home” for Christmas every year since Kendall’s birth. I would like Kendall to be around as much family as possible during Christmas so that she can build memories with some of the BEST people in the WORLD!! We typically spend 10 fun filled days in Washington, hopping from house to house (which is how it was before Kendall) visiting, eating and catching up. Kendall has 3 sets of grandparents whom I feel she is very close with all of them; a true blessing (and thanks to Skype). Christmas is a chance for Kendall to be around most of her extended family and I truly LOVE watching her interact with her grandparents, cousins and my best friends’ children.

What new traditions have you created?
This is our first year with Elf on a Shelf, his name is Blitz and we have enjoyed having him in the family this year. Kendall seems to like him too and usually finds him all by herself. It’s been fun sharing something completely new to all of us this year!! We find Blitz adorable and very helpful.

So, Danny’s family and mine have always driven around in the cars at night looking at Christmas lights when we were young, and even maybe a bit when we were older and in college. And it has been an absolute joy to take Kendall around each year to look at lights. Terms such as “Oh. My. Gosh. That’s beautiful” and “That’s amazing” are commonly used as we hit up different neighborhoods a couple of times a week. So although this may not be new, it is very special.

Finally, our family started participating in “Light em’ Up,” random acts of kindness to do in your community to light it up!! You can visit the site here: http://lillightomine.com/light-em-up-12—the-back-story.php. I found it on Pinterest and Kendall and I have had a TON of fun doing this project!! Kendall isn’t the typical kid (yet?) who wants everything she sees, so it wasn’t about getting HER to focus on giving to others, but more about teaching US how GREAT it can feel do to simple gestures of thanks. This has become a teaching tool in reaching out to those around us who make our lives better EVERY DAY!! From the guy that gets the stranded carts in the parking lots, to the firefighters, by simply letting them know we appreciate them. We make it a teachable moment as well and get to have a lot of fun doing it!!! We have emailed it to our family and friends, along with posting it on Facebook!! We are hoping that it inspires others to join in and “Light Up” their communities as well.

Obviously these traditions are special to our family because we are all participating; we discuss with Danny when he gets home and share the experiences we have had. We will all get to participate when we do a little sharing once he is off of work and we are on our way to Washington, and when we are able to be together. So much fun!!!

Share what celebrating the holidays means to you and your family:
All the holidays are so much better. Kendall has made the holidays more special because we get to see her face light up when we decorate. She lights up seeing Christmas lights, Santa at the mall, and all the great Christmas shows during this time of year. We watch the classics such as Rudolph, to the fun new shows like “Prep & Landing.” She lights up when we go into stores and sees all the twinkly lights and sparkly decorations. These are the things that make my heart happy. I am also a picture-taking freak, so with the billions of photos I take, we get to relive them and laugh, and relive all those special moments. It’s amazing to see how she has changed and grown. AMAZING!!

The holidays are a chance to share special traditions with her that our parents did with us. It’s also a chance to get together with ALL of our family once a year and make new memories. It absolutely is the BEST TIME OF YEAR!!

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