Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Celebrations of Thanks

This is, by far, my favorite month of the year. I love October, as expressed in my previous post, but this is the month that contains my favorite holiday. So why do I love this holiday so much? I have many reasons that I hope to express by telling you about our celebrations for this month. Please join me as I describe what a typical November looks like for our family.

Not too long into November we have another family celebration. This time we celebrate the much awaited arrival of Pinky Poo. Her arrival brought an end to bedrest and family upheaval last year. She's been an absolute joy for our family. Joy is her middle name so she's lived up to that. Everyone loves and adores having another little girl in our midst. Little boys are special, to be sure. But there something about the happy smiles of a giggly little girl that brings great joy to your heart. She's beginning to stand on her own now and will soon be walking. I think we're all ready. I don't worry too much about having new walkers now. I have many other "walkers" to help chase her. :) We don't do big birthday parties except for certain birthdays. Sometimes we do a big family party for the 1st birthday and other times we'll have a small party with a few close friends. I am not sure what we'll do this year. We have some time to plan for it. I have got to get through our first birthday of the cycle.

This month brings the delivery of the Operation Christmas Child boxes. This is one of my favorite things to do. Honestly, if we ever hit a Christmas were we decided to do away with gift giving to ourselves and simply give away to others, I would be giddy. hehehe!!! There is nothing I love more than going to Toys R Us and buying gift that we're going to give to Santa's Helpers or some other organization. OCC allows me to get started early though. I have broken our gift boxes into certain categories and we start shopping all the way back in July to fill our boxes. Right now we can only afford to do two. I am hoping to increase that in the future. My kids love putting these together and picking out gifts. I wish they could see the gifts given to the children. I wish they could see the abject poverty these children live in so they will appreciate what they do have and get. But we just have to pray that God helps them see the need to give despite not being able to see right now. Once of these days I hope they will be able to put it in context.

The biggest celebration of the month is one that is unique only to our country. I think there are other countries that celebrate a Thanksgiving, but it's unique to America that we celebrate in November. Sadly, the true origins of this holiday get lost in the revisionist history that is taught in our schools. The Pilgrims came to America seeking religious freedom. They were very devote Christians with a strong faith in a Holy God. As mentioned in my previous post, it was the Reformation that led to the Pilgrims to come to America seeking religious freedom. We have an opportunity to remember their sacrifices and bravery when they came to an unknown world. Many people lost their lives in the process. But many of them persevered. In the end they gave thanks to a Holy God who brought them through. It is in that Spirit that we also give thanks for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon us.

I have a few things I that I try to do every year with my family. First of all, we attempt every year to take a week or two off from regular school and focus on the History of Thanksgiving. This year my older children will be working their way through a unit study while my little ones, non-readers, and early readers work on a lapbook about the holiday itself. I have collected many good books through the years on this holiday so we spend out time reading those and discussing what we've learned.

Sometime during that week we have a family ritual of sitting down at the table to make placemats. We've honestly used these placemats maybe once or twice over the years. But in these we get to chronicle their handwriting, their ability to glue things sucessfully, and especially get to focus on the things they are thankful for that year. First of all, I cut out a placemat from poster board about 14 by 21 (I think those are the dimensions. I finally just started copying the previous years placemat so they are the same size. No more measuring.) Then I cut out a turkey body and feathers from construction paper. They glue them (some of them with feather floating or hanging off the placemat. LOL!!!!) When all the gluing is done they either copy a scripture verse about thankfulness or I write it for them. Then we talk about what we're thankful for and write it on the place mat. I always write their names, ages, and year of holiday on the back so I can keep up with who did what and when. I didn't think this was such an important thing until my older children protested getting rid of it a few years ago. It's kept going ever since. (I'll will try to dig one of these out and include a picture of them.)

I am working to put together a scrapbook for our family. I am not a scrapbook person but this one really have me focused on getting it done and keeping it up. It's been in the making for sevearl years. I only add to it once a year. I even have the material that I need to cover it and make it holiday ready. I cut a tree out of fun scrapbook paper (thanksgiving themed, of course) and then cut out 4 or 5 leaves per person. On Thanksgiving, we try to talk again about what we're thankful for and add that to the tree. On the page adjacent to our tree we add that years family picture. We have an annual picture made every year at the beginning of November. I am behind by about 4 yeas but I have every collected and ready to go in the book. We also missed last year because we were still sitting around admiring the newest addition to the family. But I am planning ahead this year and hope to have it ready to add to when we get to the Thanksgiving Week.

The best part of Thanksgiving everyone would agree is the food. Now, until last year, Underdog did all the holiday cooking. He's tackled the turkey while I made some of the tradition sides: green bean casserole, mashed russet potatoes, green salad, deviled eggs (yummy), and homemade cranberry sauce. All I can say now is "boring!!!!!!" While I was laid up on bedrest and then recovery after giving birth I discovered Rachael Ray's 60 minute Thanksgiving. Hot dog!!! I could do that. And I did. I made only a turkey breast and slathered it with an herbal mixture just like she described in her show. I made the very yummy Apple and Onion Stuffin' Muffins and they were a hit. Now this is a family that only ate the bag kind of stuffing because mom nor dad like grandma's cornbread stuffing (it's just something about it we never cared for - even as a kid) so we just bought the store bought in a box type. These Stuffin' Muffins were awesome. JB helped me make the potatoes au gratin. I decided to make the tradition green bean casserole because I like it BUT this year I am doing something different. We have always made our own cranberry sauce. If you're interested in the recipe, I'll post it later. We also make our own pumpkin pie using our own pumpkin puree. That is really alot easier than it sounds and it's healthier. This year I going with the same idea but modifying the recipes to suit our diet and health needs. I am making a whole turkey to take advantage of the carcass for turkey broth and then having extra meat for meals during the week. I am armed with recipes for what to do with left over turkey. Of course, there is nothing better than piling all the turkey fixin's on two pieces of bread and making a sandwich. Yummy!!! Watching Rachael Ray last year helped me see that I can cook in the kitchen. Underdog even used my Christmas last year to get me some new pots and pans and some great knives. I need to add one more thing here. Each one of my children got to help me make a part of the meal last year. That is how I have started to make memories with my family. It's not just mom cooking, it's everyone involved.

You know, I have left out one of the best parts of the day. . .breakfast. Well, at least that is according to my children. I was planning this big eggs and sausage breakfast. I found out in the process of discussing my plans and then seeing long faces that I missed something big time. They finally asked me "What about the cinnamon rolls?" I have made homemade cinnamon rolls for years now. I didn't think they liked it (and perhaps I had fallen prey a bit to the extravagant breakfast set ups that you do find on Food Network.) So cinnamon rolls it is. I can also include this in the recipes if anyone is interested. Perhaps I will do a post on these recipes and I how I fit them to suit our family and our alternative health needs.

After our big afternoon meal, we take a nap or rest for the afternoon. Everyone is involved in kitchen clean up (as well as cleaning as we go.) After the rest we go for a LONG walk. We don't normally eat alot for dinner (although the kids usually want a little bit of something.) Depending on whether I am nursing or early pregnant, I also end up eating another meal but later in the evening after they've gone to bed. Underdog and I enjoy playing a game together and reflecting on the holiday. I try to take notes and save them on my computer for next year. Then we go to bed exhausted but thankful that we got to share all this with our little big family. It is my hope in the future to guard this holiday for our family. This will free our children and inlaws to enjoy Christmas together if they want to. If they will give me Thanksgiving, I can give them Christmas. :)

The Friday after Thanksgiving is over we always try to find a way to leave the city. We never shop that day. In fact, if we can pull it off, we try to be done with Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving. We prefer to have our December to focus on the Incarnation rather than the gift.
This year, Underdog is going to run a 5K the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I was supposed to walk with the kids in the 1 mile BUT after my bedrest, I just don't know what will happen. The kids were looking forward to it so I need to try and find a way. We have enough family to sign up as a team. LOL!!! We still haven't decided what we're going to do on Friday. We may just stay home, clean house, and put up some of our new Christmas decoration. Now I can't wait to get to our December celebrations. Things are a changin' in our home around this holiday and I as very excited about it. Check back in tomorrow and I'll give you the scoop.

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