Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Teaching kids thankfulness

This article also appears in the Press Democrat on Friday, November 16.

The month of Thanksgiving is one of my favorite times of year. It’s the season when everyone stops what they’re doing and counts all the things they have to be thankful for. I’m a huge believer in the power of positive thinking, and I’ve noticed that when I steer my focus towards what I have that is good instead of all the things I wish were different, the good stuff just keeps on coming into my life.

While thankfulness is a virtue that can be practiced all year round (and should!), I try to incorporate more activities in the month of November that promote a sense of gratitude. Here are a few ideas to help your own family practice acts of thankfulness throughout the rest of the month, and hopefully long after Thanksgiving has passed.

Create a thankful tree. Choose a plant already in your home, or buy one especially for this practice. Every day, have everyone write something they’re grateful for on a slip of paper shaped like a leaf and hang it on the tree. On Thanksgiving Day, collect the thankful leaves and read them out loud as a family. You can even make it an annual tradition to plant your thankful tree in the yard after Thanksgiving to serve as an every day reminder of all you have to be grateful for.

Have a daily “Thankful Three” recap. Last year our family actually tried this exercise. It seemed hard at first to come up with three things to be thankful for every day, but the practice became easier as time went on. Every day we were to come up with three things we were grateful for – anything from having clean water to drink to describing something awesome that happened that day. At dinnertime, we went around the table and listed off these three things to the family. We had some of our best dinner conversations during this time!

Remember the people you’re thankful for. Email, text messages, and social media have taken the place of good old-fashioned letter writing. And yet, there is something so special about receiving a personal letter in the mail amidst the piles of bills and mail fliers. Sit down with the kids and make a list of all the people you are grateful for. Then write a letter to each one of them telling why they mean so much to you.

Help others. Pick a day to serve at a local mission or food bank. Adopt a family at Thanksgiving. Donate a turkey at one of the turkey drives. Do something, anything, for someone who has no way to pay you back. Nothing teaches more about how much we truly have than when we are helping those who have much less then we do. What a powerful message to kids and adults alike to take time out of a busy schedule and give it to those who have suffered life’s hard breaks. What you give will be received back many times over in the way your heart will expand in your chest while making a difference in someone else’s life.

Give a basket of goodies to a neighbor – just because. I’ll never forget the time when our family heard our doorbell ring, but no one was at the door. Instead, a basket full of wonderful gifts of food and trinkets graced our doorstep, a note attached signed by “anonymous” with instructions to pass the gesture along to another neighbor, and so on. There was magic in that basket of goodies, simple things that held so much meaning just in the way it was given. The kids and I glowed over this gift for weeks, even more so when we were able to give someone else the pleasure of discovering a gift on their doorstep. As we hid and giggled while the new gift receiver exclaimed over the basket of goodies, we were making a memory that will surely last forever.

Be an example of thanks. Take notice of anything your child is doing, and then thank them for it. When you go out to eat, thank everyone who assists you at your table, even the person filling your water glass. Notice anyone going out of their way, and offer them a simple word of thanks.

As for me, this year I have much to be thankful for – my family, my husband, a life that is filled with blessings every single day.

And I am thankful for you, the one reading these words right now.

I am thankful each time one of you sends me a personal note telling me how my words have touched you, or that you are sending my words to someone across the country. I read every letter you send me, sometimes more than once.

Thank you.

I hope each and every one of you experiences a wonderful season of thankfulness.

Thanksgiving foods, traditions, tips, and tricks

One of my friends was telling me about a trick he learned regarding turkey baking and the repeated task of braising it. He takes a pound of bacon and lays each strip across the turkey, allowing the bacon to do that basting for him. In the last hour, he removes the bacon, allowing the skin to get nice and crisp while the whole bird remains moist and delicious.

Another friend mentioned how one staple on her Thanksgiving table is a side of green beans and a chocolate pecan pie for dessert.

In my Italian family, Grandma’s raviolis are a staple. In fact, they are preferred even over the turkey. It looks like reporter Robert Digitale’s family feels the same way over raviolis, judging by today’s recycled story in his blog.

But this year I’ll be missing the raviolis in favor of a new traditional Thanksgiving at my soon-to-be in-laws’ house. Every year they hold an “Orphan Thanksgiving”, inviting all their friends and neighbors that have no traditional family gathering to instead bring a homemade dish and share in their feast. Each shared dish is celebrated, listed on a beautifully crafted menu that hangs on the wall, and then announced one by one. My mouth still salivates over the curried pumpkin soup one of the ladies brought in recent years.

How about you?  Any tips – from bird baking to fluffy mashed potatoes? Any not-so-traditional dishes making it to your table this year, or heartwarming ways you celebrate your blessings?

What are some of your own tips, tricks, and traditions for Thanksgiving dinner?

Things to do during Thanksgiving Break

Thanksgiving Break starts next week, and for some kids school will be out all week long.  That means all you parents are in need of some fun things to do – and QUICK!  Thankfully there are plenty of places to hang out during Fall Break that will keep the kids off the video games and your sanity intact.

Family Hike at Spring Lake
Violetti Rd, Santa Rosa
On Saturday November 19, kids will have fun learning about wildlife on new, naturalist-led hikes at the Environmental Discovery Center.  Families will be led on 1-hour hikes on the Shady Oaks Nature Trail near Spring Lake, beginning at 1 and 3pm.  All ages are welcome, though everyone should be walkers or easily carried in a backpack.  sonoma-county.org/parks/edc.htm
Cost for hike: $5 per family, $6 for parking (or included with annual parks membership)
Throughout the week, Spring Lake is also open for walking or biking around.  The easy trails make it fun for families to enjoy gorgeous scenery and views of nature while getting in some exercise.

Charles Schulz Museum
2301 Hardies Ln, Santa Rosa
The week starts off on Sunday November 20th with a birthday celebration for Charles Schulz. Everyone gets in free all day long! Museum Mondays for kids 1-5 will continue on November 21 with stories, games, art, crafts, and a fun movie. Friday & Saturday, November 25 & 26 will have storyteller Victoria Goring giving a live and interactive performance for kids of all ages. And throughout the week you can catch glimpses of the current and ongoing galleries of art and cartoons.  schulzmuseum.org
Fall/Winter 2011 Hours: 11am-5pm weekdays, 10am-5pm weekends, closed Tuesdays.

University of Sports
555 Rohnert Park Expressway, RP (near Target)
There’s no need for the kids to be cooped up all week long when University of Sports is holding several basketball camps for tweens and teens in several different locations. Beyond that, they hold fun activities in their sports clubs while you take a health break with a blood pumping workout. Not a member? For a limited time UofS is offering a trial membership of 10 free days – perfect for the upcoming fall break. Check out their website for more details.  uofs.com
Fall/Winter Hours: M-F 6a-1p & 4p-8:30p, Sat 7:30p-5p, Sun 8a-5p

Santa Rosa Gymnastics
2210 Bluebell Dr, Santa Rosa
Speaking of active kids, SR Gymnastics is holding camps on November 23rd and 25th, offering full or half days filled with gymnastics, rock wall climbing, crafts and games for kids 5-15. Call 525-1720 to register, or visit their website.  srgymnastics.com
Full Camp Days: 8:30-3:30
Half Camp Days: 8:30a-11a or 12:30p-3:30p
Cost: $25-$95

Gaming at Hobbytown
171 N McDowell Blvd, Petaluma
Gamers will have plenty to do at Hobbytown Petaluma throughout the week with the nightly events going on in the popular hobby store. Monday (11/21) and Wednesday (11/23) evenings are gaming nights dedicated to Warhamer 40K or Flames of War. Tables will be set up to accommodate multi-army games as well as one-on-one battles. Tuesday (11/22) will be Yu Gi Oh! games. And Friday (11/25) is all about Magic the Gathering. Almost every day of the month holds a special event geared towards gamers or modelers, so be sure to check out their website for some fun things to do any day of the week.  htupetaluma.com
Mon & Wed Gaming Hours: 7-9p
Tues & Fri Hours: 5-9p

Pirates, Legends, & Lore
Petaluma Museum – 20 Fourth St, Petaluma
Aye, ye scurvy bilgerats. Get ye to Petaluma Museum for the largest pirate exhibition in the Bay Area. View flintlocks, swords, a grappling hook, real cannon balls, plates from Sir Francis Drake, and more. Kids can make their own pirate flags, learn to tie different sailor’s knots, earn prizes, and a vast treasure chest of fun to be had. Plus, a real treasure hunt will unfold with a map that gives clues to a rare pirate coin worth $500. Exhibit open now till November 27th.  petalumamuseum.com
Cost: $5 adults, $3 children

Take in a cheap movie
Take advantage of the afternoon free time your kid suddenly has and go to a bargain matinee. Whether it’s Adam Sandler’s goofy “Jack and Jill”, the continuation of the Shrek saga with “Puss in Boots”, or the uplifting story of “Dolphin Tale”, most kids would jump at the chance to watch an afternoon movie. Want an even bigger deal? 3rd Street Cinemas is showing all their movies for only $3 each. Check them out at srentertainmentgrp.com/3rdstreet.asp
For a list of all local theaters and their showtimes, go to events.pressdemocrat.com/movies

Cal Skate
6100 Commerce Blvd, Rohnert Park
Throw a sassy skate party! Cal Skate is holding extra sessions for all of Thanksgiving week. Monday will have Kids Skate (kids 10 & under plus their parents) from 9:30 to 11:30. $6 admission will include quad skate rental, inline skate rental is $4. And daily skate will be 12-5 all week long (except for Thanksgiving when they’re closed).  calskate.com

Need more ideas? Check out our list for indoor fun sure to keep your family entertained no matter what the weather looks like outside.


I had to drop my kids off with their dad today. And I missed them before they even left. But this is one of the realities of living in a split household – we both love our children, and we both want to spend time with them. And while it makes me sad to know that I won’t be with them on Thanksgiving, it also makes me so thankful that they have two parents that love them very much, and who both want to spend time with them.

And in the spirit of giving thanks, there are a couple more things that I am deeply grateful for that I wish to share with you now.

I am thankful for my children. They are the truest part of my happiness. I know it sounds corny, that I have to say that because I’m there mom. But it’s really true. I am madly in love with my kids. Even when they have me tearing my hair out and I may wish them away for a short time, I still feel so fortunate that I get to have them with me almost every day of the year. And as they get older, they only get better. I swear that each age they get to, it’s the best age they have ever been. Right now, they are at their best age yet.

I am thankful for my job. I get to be one of the lucky ones in this world doing what I love, all day long, every day. Yes, it’s a job. Yes, there are days when I would rather stay in bed. Who doesn’t? But you know what? I am employed, something I am thankful every single day – especially in this day and age. My daughter mentioned to me today that we could be on the verge of losing our house, and I had to tell her that we were only one paycheck away from that. Like most one paycheck households, if I were to lose my job, I would lose everything. One missing paycheck would be detrimental. So I am so thankful to be employed, and even more thankful that it’s a job I am passionate about.

I am thankful for love, particularly the love I share with Mr. W. I will save you most of the gushy details, but let’s just say that this man has shown me pure and true love, and is someone I can trust and depend on, and be completely honest with. He’s a good father, a caring partner, and he’s wonderful to his mother. He supports me in all my crazy endeavors. And ladies? He cooks gourmet meals, he washes dishes, AND he does laundry, along with all the manly yardwork outside. And every now and then, he picks me flowers from his garden. Done gushing.

I am thankful for my cat. I was NOT a cat person before he sat in my backyard and cried because he was hungry. And it only took a few more visits to completely transform me. This cat plays fetch, dang it. I mean, only the cool cats do that, and mine is one of them! He plays in his water bowl, and looks at me with big, beautiful eyes as I wipe up the lake all over the dining room floor. He helps me fold clothes by sitting on them. He helps me type on the computer by sitting on it. He helps me wrap presents by sitting on them. He helps me watch TV by sitting on my face. Basically, he helps me not take things way too seriously, and to appreciate the Zen in petting a cat in the lap.

I am thankful for my friends and family. I am thankful for my home. I am thankful for electricity. I am thankful for water. I am thankful for chocolate and coffee. I am thankful for Facebook. I am thankful for music to fit every mood I am in. I am thankful for Christmas, and Thanksgiving, and Easter, and every other reason to get the whole family together and feel all filled up with love.

And I am thankful for every one of you that have taken the time to read my words, as if I have something meaningful to say. Thank you. And I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with reminders of your own blessings, and full of people who love you.

Happy Thanksgiving.