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Loved Ones

Flexibility is key for Hart-Pearson blended family




to give an experience – instead of more stuff There are many ways to make this holiday season less about material presents and more about family experiences that will be remembered long after packaged gifts are forgotten. Here are a few ideas: 1. Lessons. Match them to your loved one’s personalities and interests, such as cooking lessons in a foreign cuisine, ski lessons, language lessons or guitar lessons. 2. Tickets to a live performance. Try a play, comedy, dance show or music concert. 3. A gift certificate for a dinner and a movie. An evening out is special. If the family has children, you can treat parents to a night out while you babysit. 4. Practical gifts. A practical gift can help alleviate some financial stress for some families. Ideas for practical gifts are oil change certificates, grocery store gift cards and gas cards. 5. Volunteering. Offering your time at a shelter or giving a meal to a family who cannot afford much is a wonderful experience and low cost.

ave Hart and Candee Pearson have found the best way to have an enjoyable holiday season is to stay flexible and not be regimented around tradition. The couple just celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary, but have been together for seven years. Hart and Pearson have a blended family: Dave has two children from his first marriage, and he shares custody with his ex-wife, Fran Hart. The couple follows a schedule based around the activities of Dave’s kids. Kaila, 21, is a junior at Fort Lewis College and ranked fourth in the nation for crosscountry mountain biking. Their son Ian, 16, is a junior at Durango High School. Kaila has an apartment in town, but lives with them during the summer. Ian lives with Dave and Candee in a two week on and two week off schedule. Alternately, he lives with Fran Hart in Heartwood Co-housing Community in Bayfield. The kids rotate spending every

other Christmas Eve with them. Sometimes on Christmas day, all five of them get together and do something like hike or ski. Since Candee and Fran both have family in the Seattle area, two years ago they drove there together and met each other’s families. “With a blended family, it’s hard to keep traditions,” said Candee. “You can’t really rely on where you’ll be or what you’ll do – it’s not always the same.” Dave and Candee always have a tree and the house is decorated. If the kids are with them on Christmas morning, they open gifts then. If not, they wait until

the kids get there in the afternoon. They all enjoy doing something fun together during the day, and always try to make that happen. The challenge is that the timing on things is never really exact. Mid-day the kids switch homes at different times, depending upon activities and schedules. “We start planning early to avoid conflicts, depending upon if Candee’s parents or Fran’s parents are in town,” said Dave. “We can always find a solution, and we are thankful and acknowledge that we have a good working relationship. Our first commitment is to the kids.” – Malia Durbano H

From left: Candee Pearson, Dave Hart, Ian Hart, Kaila Hart and Fran Hart. LINDSAY ABSHAGEN/Herald photos

Couple alternates holiday visits with adult children


ancy and Bruce Ehlenbeck will be celebrating their 15th Christmas in Durango this year. They wanted to get out of Denver, but still return for some holidays since two of their children still live in the vicinity. Their eldest son Tim, his wife Anna and their two sons, ages 8 and 5, live in Arvada; second son Jason and his wife Jackie live in Fort Collins. This is the first year daughter Amy is not home with Nancy and Bruce. She recently graduated from Fort Lewis College and moved to Asheville, N.C. “We usually spend every other year with our sons, so on alternate years the spouses can be with their families,” said Nancy. “For the past six years, we’ve alternated going up there and having everyone come down to our home here.” Since Nancy and Bruce are

Nancy & Bruce Ehlenbeck semi-retired and have more flexible schedules, this year they will head to Fort Collins, where the gang will gather at Jason and Jackie’s home. “Having young kids in the family again makes Christmas more fun,” said Nancy. Their siblings and spouses pick

16 • Thursday, December 6, 2012 • Durango Living/ Holiday GIFT GUIDE

names, and each buy one present. “The grandkids make out like bandits – everybody buys for them.” Nancy and Bruce requested that their gifts be more altruistic. The family chips in to sponsor an animal through the Heifer Foundation. The grandkids like looking through the catalog choosing an animal to buy for a family located somewhere around the world. Everybody pitches in to cook a big traditional dinner, which includes turkey with gravy, mashed potatoes, mushroom green beans, sweet potatoes, corn and rolls. “My sons insist that we have to have what we’ve always had,” said Nancy. Baking pies and cookies starts a few days in advance. “Just being together as a family is such a joy, since we don’t get to see each other on a regular basis.” – Malia Durbano H

Durango Living Holiday Edition 2012  
Durango Living Holiday Edition 2012  

Adding holiday cheer in Durango Colorado