I am snuggled with my Ellie girl on the couch under a blanket this lazy Wednesday morning, enjoying a few days off from work and school. Feeling so thankful for a healthy, loving family, for a wonderful job that allows me to use my gifts and share lots of love, for the opportunities I’m given to inspire and encourage other parents in the community, for a comfortable home, for the beauty of the Earth, and for time to reflect on blessings.
Last rainy Saturday evening, the kids spent the night at GareBear and Beffa’s house, so Dustin and I had the chance to catch up over dinner. I had been in a slightly grumpy mood, as I tend to be at the end of a whole Saturday with the kids when Dustin has been at work. But when I heard what a tough day he had had (and more so, his patients), my mood turned to one of concern and gratitude. He had to tell 4 women to enjoy their Thanksgivings with family because they likely would not make it to Christmas He works in a field with lots of sick and dying patients (gynecologic oncology), but that was a heavy load for one day. What is more heart-breaking is that 2 of the patients are women younger than I, both with several young children. Too young, too tragic. (THIS is why you need to get your girls and boys immunized against HPV, the leading cause of awful cervical cancer, but that’s another post.) If you ever need some perspective, Dustin’s world can sure provide it for you. With these women in my heart and mind, I have strived to cherish the special time I’ve had with the kiddos lately – sharing a family “movie night”, watching MasterChef Junior together, reading Thanksgiving books together, listening to them laugh with Daddy, singing their lullabies to them at night. I’ve been grateful for some special “Mommy and Me” time with Ellie as Michael James enjoys a few days in nature with his GareBear at Camp Gilmont.
Ellie and I have started a new tradition – an overnight adventure at The Embassy Suites by the Galleria. I knew she’d love the swans in the lobby, the glass elevators, and the swimming pool! Cousin Poppy and her parents came and joined us to swim and play, and that evening we snuggled in the BIG King bed and fell asleep watching “Dancing with the Stars“. After continental breakfast and playing Uno in the lobby, went ice skating together! Spending one on one time with her has really filled me with gratitude for her unique and wonderful personality! (And for the lack of constant sibling bickering!) And time apart from MJ, has helped me appreciate him more, too, and I’m looking forward to getting him back home later today! Here are some of the Thanksgiving rituals we will enjoy in the next few days, and maybe you can, too!
10 Thanksgiving Rituals to Encourage an Attitude of Gratitude
- Thanksgiving Tree…Find a cool branch or some sticks on a nature walk, and cut out little leaves to hang on them. Each day in November write down something you are thankful for and hang it on the tree. Watch the blessings multiply!
- Squeeze a Blessing. Hold hands around the table with family and friends. Take turns saying something on the plate or in life you are thankful for, then squeeze your neighbor’s hand when it’s their turn. Take it a step further, and be thankful for the aunt who made the cranberry sauce, the farmer who grew the cranberries, the hard workers who harvested them…
- Read a Thanksgiving book together. Our favorite Thanksgiving book for teaching gratitude is The Thanksgiving Bowl by Virginia Kroll. Grandma shares the tradition of having all the family members write down something that they are thankful for, and after their meal, before they eat their pumpkin pie, they each pull one out of the bowl to read and try to guess who wrote it. Then, the bowl has its own adventure until the next Thanksgiving comes around.
4. Turn your little one’s hands into turkeys! (2 ways) When your child is seated in your lap, or in the grocery cart, or while you’re tucking them into bed, try this simple ritual for intentional touch: Have them spread their fingers to make a turkey. Then, you massage each finger starting with the turkey’s “head” (thumb) and ending on the baby pinky, saying one word for each “feather”: “I -am-thankful-for-YOU!” Then end it with a silly gobble and a tickle or hug. Time taken: 10 seconds; message of love: lifelong! 5. Handprint Turkeys: We like to turn this into a craft for sharing with people we love, also. Get a little messy doing Thanksgiving turkey handprints, add a warbler, beak, and legs with crayon, add a google eye, maybe even some feathers with glue. And write the words on each finger; “I -am -thankful-for-YOU!” Then let the children hand them out to teachers, grandparents, babysitters, etc. What a great way to share your love and gratitude!
- Five Kernels of Corn: This is a tradition of gratitude that dates back to the 1st Thanksgiving, or so the story goes…Read about what the kernels represent (on my website), and let your kids help place 5 kernels at everyone’s place this Thanksgiving, and explain the story…
- Teach your children to think of others by taking goods to a food bank, or share a “Thanksgiving Basket” with someone who’s had a particularly rough year. Could be socks and toys, or just a ziplock with cookies and cuties – just something to let them know someone is thinking of them. We like to do an anonymous drive-by delivery, ring the doorbell, then sneak away quickly for added excitement! Sign your note from the “Turkey Fairy“.
- Tell a Story, Listen to a Story. Did you know that the Friday after Thanksgiving has been declared the “National Day of Listening“? Listening is truly an act of love (not to mention a learned skill), so how about sitting down for a meaningful conversation with your own family and friends. (Doesn’t that sound so much more relaxing and rewarding than “Black Friday” at Wal-Mart?) Ask them to tell you about their favorite Thanksgiving memory, tradition, etc. Tell your own children a story from your childhood. http://nationaldayoflistening.org
- Light a Candle for someone at mealtime….someone you are thinking of, holding in your hearts. Learn the song that goes with it: “Light One Candle”
- Make some “Blessing Bags” to keep in your car to hand out to homeless people that you see at intersections. Ziplocs w/ wipes, kleenex, granola bar, water bottle, a picture your child has drawn, contact info for homeless services: The Stewpot, 214-444-8796, 214-823-4434 (homeless hotline)
BONUS FUN! Act out “The story of the FIRST Thanksgiving” with your little Pilgrims and Indians…I have a favorite musical version that kids love to act out with their bodies – I will guide you through it: