Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thankful Trees and Thanksgiving Memories

As Daisy is gets older, my desire to create holiday traditions with her grows.   I have so many fond memories of making Christmas count down chains, setting up Nativity sets, creating advent calendars, teddy bear cookies, thankful thoughts in a jar etc. with my Mom. 
  

 This year I made a thankful tree with scrap book paper that I had lying around and I taped it up on a bare wall in our dining room.  I cut out dozens of colorful leaves and kept them on the table all November long.  Each morning Daisy sat on my lap (by her choice) at the dining room table and I wrote what we were thankful for on two leaves and then she got to stick both of our leaves on the tree.  She loved sticking the tape on the leaf and then smacking the leaf on the wall with her fist...lovely.  She is three after all.  What I especially loved about this daily ritual was hearing all of the adorable things that she came up with..."Thankful for baby Jesus because he was so cute.  Thankful for Minnie because she is my friend.  Thankful for pencils because I like them.  Thankful for God because he is with Jesus.  Thankful for Disney because the princesses live there.  Thankful for Vince (her neighbor friend) because he is my husband...(LOL)"  And so on.  I LOVED starting each day off doing this activity with my daughter and focusing our hearts and minds on thankfulness.  After she scurried off to watch her morning show, I would continue to sit at the table and read my Jesus Calling Devotional, while sipping my coffee and have a quick moment alone in prayer.  It was such a peaceful routine (and fun!) and that peace carried me through each day.  So thankful.

As I am writing this post, Christmas is rapidly approaching.  Now more than ever, amidst all the craziness and business I want to remember how powerful it is to start each day off in praise and thanksgiving.  I sat in a sunbeam in my living room this morning (I'm like a cat or a dog that way) and made a point to tune out the ridiculous to do list, all the presents that still need to be purchased, all the parties that we need to attend, late nights ahead, lack of sleep, all the baked goodies to be made, all the errands to run, packages to mail, extra phone calls to be made and so on.  I breathed in gratitude and exhaled praises.  Thank you Jesus that I already have all that I need.  Thank you Jesus that we have food and shelter.  Thank you Jesus that I am warm on such a chilly morning.  Thank you Jesus for loving me today and giving me peace in the midst of the hustle and bustle.  Focus my heart on what really matters this holiday season.  Focus my eyes on all that I have and not what I think I need.  I have you.  I have all that I need.  Thank you Jesus.  It's rather miraculous that a few minutes of giving thanks and praising can turn an entire day around. 

I took these pictures below right before we took the Thankful tree down at the beginning of December.  Daisy asked if she could be in the pictures and she brought her hot chocolate along.  Her expression had me busting up.  There is never a dull moment when this girl is around! 
she totally jumped in my shot...little stinker.  But honestly, it's much cuter with her hot chocolate face in there right:).

We had the special treat of having Uncle Jeremy, (my brother-in-law,) in town during Thanksgiving break.   He lives out in California and we see him once or twice a year usually.  Daisy went through a good three year long phase of being very wary of any man besides her Daddy.  But, it appears that she has finally turned a new leaf because she was all about her Uncle Jeremy this visit.  She wanted him to hold her non-stop and she asked him to do everything with her.  He bought her a Snow White ornament which she pretty much carried around for 3 days non-stop  She was pretty happy as you can tell.  
 We also dragged Jeremy out to Christmas tree hunt with us.  We went to 3 different places and we kept striking out.  We finally went back home treeless and took a lunch break.  Jeremy was a trooper and helped to entertain Daisy which was awesome. It's always such a treat to have extra set of helping hands around to keep our lively girl entertained.  It's always hard to see family go but, we look forward to seeing Uncle Jeremy again early next year when he flies back out to welcome his second niece who is due late January.  We are all very excited to meet Avery!
One of my favorite traditions is getting together with our good friends, The Morris Bunch, on Thanksgiving.  I think we have spent about 5 Thanksgivings together now and it's been such a blessing to have friends on the East coast that we can spend a special holiday with.  We met the Morris family about 10 years ago when we lived in California.  We were all newlyweds and we all attended the same church.  It was a fun life season.  The military brought them to the East Coast and our family moved this way to buy a home and settle down.  We are a few hours apart but, we've been able to get together a few times a year and they are always good times.  I love watching their kiddos grow up and Daisy has so much fun playing with their three boys now.  I am so thankful for good friends.  The kind that you can roll out of bed in jammies and bed hair and feel comfortable around.  The kind that you can have deep talks about life, marriage, family, faith and God and no one gets ruffled or takes anything too seriously.  The kind that have seen you at your best and your very worst over many years and have loved you through it all.  

Yes, so thankful for good friends and I know that Daisy loves the extra attention she gets from three charming boys.  
The kids took turns playing a game or two on the ipad with Mike. 
I made Elissa do all the cooking...because let's face it, she actually enjoys cooking. I wasn't completely useless. I took pictures of her slaving away. And I am kidding, sort of. I did make the mashed potatoes and popped the lids off the sparkling cider. Elissa came up with this amazing brine mixture and then the brine bag basically ruptured and all the liquid spilled everywhere. Not fun (though it was hard not to giggle at all the commotion from the sidelines...eek) BUT, the turkey still turned out delicious and moist! Yeah! That was pretty much our only hiccup over the Thanksgiving holiday so I'm not complaining:).
I like to stick the kids at a separate table in hopes that the adults might get more than two words of conversation in without being interrupted. I even covered the kiddie table with paper and set out stickers and crayons to keep the kids distracted and allow for a longer and more enjoyable meal time experience. The kids did awesome. The meal was delicious. The company was perfect.  Score!
Elissa tried out a new sweet potato recipe and it was SO SO good.  Definitely a new fave of mine. She also did a fresh green bean casserole and OMG so much flavor and so much healthier!! I really would like Elissa to be the permanent Thanksgiving chef going forward. :)  Thoughts, Elissa?

Might I direct your eyes to the marshmallow fruit salad up front on the plate below.  That was one of my Grandma's recipes and I spent probably 20+ Thanksgivings at her house eating that delicious salad.  It will forever be a staple in our Thanksgiving dinner as well.  Preparing it, looking at it and eating it all made me feel a little closer to her this year and I really needed that.  It's only been a little over a year since she passed and the holidays are especially hard because my life is saturated with her wonderful traditions.  I still haven't quite figured out how to move on without her presence and her at the center of the traditions.  It's hard to make a new norm when the old was so familiar and such a huge part of my life but, somehow we just press on, one day at a time.  But, oh how I miss you to the moon and back Gram.
And though it looks like we are miserable...with the exception of Elissa...:) I promise you that I was simply concentrating on how delicious the food was that I was stuffing in my mouth mid photo op.  I definitely killed the Norman Rockwell vibe that we could have created in this shot but, Elissa is on it!  hehe  The food was SO GOOD. I ate a lot, lot.

Happy. Happy.  And on that note, If I recall, we watched several episodes of Duck Dynasty together after the kiddos went to bed.  It was a great Thanksgiving!

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