STOP for just a moment & look around you.

ImageIn all the rushing to make a beautiful thanksgiving—finding the best way to roast, brine, deep fry…the perfect turkey, whipping up dishes and dishes of yummy goodness, I beg of you to stop for a moment & look around you. Look at the people in your life, the stories you tell, the history you have together & take a moment to hold hands & have grateful hearts. We have so much to be thankful for—even if you just have a warm roof over your head, freedom to pray, an abundance of food that makes you full, the laughter of your children enjoying their cousins, clean water to drink, pies of every kind, and most of all, the children in your life, the love held within your family, the connections—one of the many reasons to give thanks. 

Happy week of THANKS.

 

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THOUGHTFUL Holiday Seasons

I don’t know about you, but sometimes getting around family brings out the need to find things to talk about with family you haven’t seen in awhile. I thought today I would put together some fun ideas to do with family during the holidays, turkey talk conversation starters, etc. Here you go!!

ImageGET THE CONVERSATION ROLLING:  I have a hard time listening to my father-in-law bark out orders to his wife, it can get a little awkward, so I decided to order the Thanksgiving and Christmas version of Melissa and Doug’s conversation cards. I think this will be a good way to get people talking and not barking!! They are around $9.99, but I can’t give you any great details because I haven’t received them yet.  They have good reviews on Amazon, so they should be worth the bucks. Here is a link to a bunch of different ones they have. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_i_0_23?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=melissa+and+doug+conversation+starters&sprefix=melissa+and+doug+conver%2Caps%2C257

Here is another link to 101 conversation starters http://www.conversationstarters.com/101.htm

ImagePLAY: Many families take on the traditional turkey bowl for Thanksgiving, but you could also pull out board games, play tag with the kids or how about Charades. Everyone loves a good game of charades for any holiday. Here are a couple of links I came across with some charade word list ideas—http://www.greatgroupgames.com/thanksgiving-charades.htm   OR  http://www.purpletrail.com/partytrail/holiday_parties/thanksgiving/printable-game-thanksgiving-themed-pictionary   Other family play ideas could include a fun family game of just dance or karaoke, name that tune, relay races, pictionary, video games, etc.

ImageSHARE: Most families go around the table and share something they are grateful for, but you can even take it one step further and have people share highlights from the year—The Best thing that happened to them this year, a favorite trip memory, the funniest moments from the year, best moments of giving to someone else (Random acts of kindness), etc.  Then have the kids share one thing they love about their family or something they are grateful for. Don’t forget to get the kids involved in this!! Kids truly can say the greatest things.

ImageTALENT SHOW: Our family for the holidays does a funny talent show–We have had my sister strap on the electric guitar, a funny wig & jammed to her favorite 80’s band, one family dressed up like a crazy music video and danced the crazy moves like in the video, kids have made up dances, performed their latest recital piece…etc. have the kids share a talent or make a funny family skit. The holidays are about family, so join in the festivities & share your crazy!! —Dan in Real Life (the movie–above pic) has a cute family talent show scene.

ImageFUN FAMILY PHOTOS: We have all heard the photo booth image ideas, so that is always a possibility, but you could also put a fun family spin—whenever I have cousins over for a fun, themed party I always have them throw on a silly hat, a wig, hold a heart, pose with a pink flamingo, etc. So for the holidays you could put your own spin on the idea—have everyone where a feather headband and take individual shots or family shots, what about crazy aprons, chef hats, silly sweaters, Crazy hats, Santa hats, etc.—for Christmas my Mom always had everyone get “mug Shots” where we hold up a sign that says “Christmas year” and we pose like we are getting a mug shot.

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FAMILY GRATITUDE: JOURNAL: Begin a yearly Thanksgiving gratitude journal. When everyone gets together have them write down some things they were grateful for this past year. Don’t forget to date it! GRATITUDE JAR: Have all the family members write down 5 things they are grateful for from the year & put them into a big jar. Each year add to the jar. TREE: Have a small (or large–some people already put up their tree) and have guests to your home write down something they are grateful for on a slip of paper & then make them into a chain OR you could have pre-cut paper ornaments they can write on & you then add them to your tree.

ImagePHOTO BOOK: You could make a fun, family photo book from the previous year & gift it to your parents, so everyone at the festivities can enjoy all the fun moments. You could also make one tailored to your family & write a note about all the fun memories and moments together. I do this for my daughter Kate every year & gift it to her on Thanksgiving day & we express our gratitude for her in our life. Photos always make everything better.

ImageAdditional FUN IDEAS: DUCKIES–Over a fall weekend my family went to a cabin that had a hot tub. I purchased some plastic duckies & put a little symbol (heart, square, diamond–whtever you want) on a few of the ducks. We had all the kids in the hot tub & threw the ducks into the middle & the kids grabbed them. Those with the ducks that had a symbol got a prize. It was so fun!! & then for added entertainment the kids suctioned them all over their bodies—it was quite the picture event!! Imagine 8 little kiddos in the hot tub with little ducks stuck on their face, arms, chest—all posing crazy!! Priceless memories.  Here is a link to some Thanksgiving duckies http://www.amazon.com/Dozen-Rubber-Duckie-THANKSGIVING-favors/dp/B000V65CUQ/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384874892&sr=8-1&keywords=Thanksgiving+duckies  OR Christmas duckies  http://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Holiday-Rubber-Ducky-Count/dp/B000E8S9WO/ref=pd_bxgy_t_text_y  OR LEAVES–If there are still leaves to rake, have all the kids pile them up & make a big bird nest & take fun family photos in the middle of it, or a leaf fight.

Whatever you do—make it memorable. Happy Holidays!!

Think about it!!

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WOW!! I just found the above quote and it made me truly think and say WOW!! Think about it. What were you truly grateful for yesterday…today…tomorrow. We definitely take a lot for granted and this thought stopped me in my tracks. My mind began to race thinking about my prayers from yesterday, how I didn’t include my dog & how different my day would be right this minute.

Think about it!! Did you Thank God for your family, the love you share, your warm home, your healthy bodies, the car you drive, the plethora of food we can pick out at our grocery stores, the clothes that warm our bodies on a cold night, the heat that runs through our homes, the water that effortlessly comes when we ask, to be able to see our children smile, to hear the love of our life laugh, to smell the fresh air of fall…there are endless things that we take for granted. This quote was a good aha moment for me. I definitely will be going deeper with my thanks and gratitude today. How about you??

I wanted to add some additional images and thoughts to make you think about this beautiful season of gratitude.

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ImageThis was another aha quote for me. This is so true. Think about all the things we take for granted—when your husband holds your hand or opens the car door for you, the love he has when he looks into your eyes, the hug from your child, the warm shower you enjoy every morning, the amazing technology that is boundless and available, the people who lift and love you, having your family close, enjoying a bottle of clean water, turning on light, etc.

My husband went to visit a friend who lives with his family on a 200,000 acre cattle ranch, in the middle of Wyoming. They invited them into their home that was warmed only by firewood. The home they lived in was over 200 years old, they lived off the land—every bit of it. My husband mentioned to me how hard it would be to be dusty and dirty all the time, to work so hard from morning to night. We both sat grateful for our heated home, our running water, to be clean from a warm shower…

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 I hope we are always mindful of this thought. It is so easy to take for granted or abuse those we love. The other day my daughter was having a bit of attitude & not being very nice to me. When her Dad asked her why she was being so mean to me, she said, “because Mom is always there & I was just feeling stressed.”  Remember to be kind to those who are your family. LOVE, it is a blessing.

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This made me think of the thousands of people in the Philippines and the desperation of how tragedy affects so many. It makes me mindful of praying for those in need all around the world. We have no idea how blessed we are. We take it for granted.

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 This really reminds me of the beautiful saying in the movie Shall we Dance…We need a witness to our lives. There’s a billion people on the planet… I mean, what does any one life really mean? But in a marriage, you’re promising to care about everything. The good things, the bad things, the terrible things, the mundane things… all of it, all of the time, every day. You’re saying ‘Your life will not go unnoticed because I will notice it. Your life will not go un-witnessed because I will be your witness’.”  Those who journey with you.

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 There are definitely moments where you feel so alone & I have always been truly grateful to look to the heavens and pray for guidance, direction, peace. Being able to pray, you are never alone.

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Happy month of gratitude and giving thanks.

What do you want from the holidays?

What are some things you think you would want from the Holidays?? You give time to what you believe is important!!

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LAUGHTER: Watch some funny holiday movies together as a family. ‘Christmas Vacation’ is always a classic!!

 

PEACE: Take time to be quiet. We never give ourselves the time we need to be still. Peace should be at the top of our holiday lists. Put Peace as a priority and see what happens. 

 

LIGHT: Candles are always a good reminder of the light we need. Where I live the days are shorter & night is so dark. Light from a candle brings a special glow that calms. Light is a symbol of where we have come from and who we are within. Light a candle and find a little spark of love for the amazing person you are.

 

MERRY & BRIGHT: Enjoy the magic. Kids love the holidays because of the wonder, the magic, the stories, the legends, the presents, the lights, the snow….find some things you love about the holiday season. Make christmas lists & burn them in your fire pit. Color, create and make the best Christmas mural together as a family & hang it on the wall over the fire place. Plan fun things everyone wants to do & give each child a special night during December to do whatever they want with the family (ice skating, ice cream, seeing the reindeer, going to a light parade, making a snow fort, etc) Play, have fun, be with your children!!

 

LOVE: Make sure you take the time to hug & kiss your kids. EVERY DAY!! This holiday take a night & have everyone write down something they love about one another & put them in a special stocking. Some time on Christmas day–share them.

 

ImageADVENT: I have always loved the idea of the advent calendar, but every year we usually just get the chocolate calendars that have no special meaning. This year I decided to go all out for advent. There is something special in talking about a special symbol or tradition of the holidays. There are many traditions regarding the advent—many light a new candle each day, have stories they tell, a nativity fast, special colors, etc. 

I came across a sweet advent book called, Celebrate Advent: 25 legends and ornaments http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0615217958/ref=oh_details_o04_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 

I thought this would be a fun advent because it has stories from around the world about the legends that surround Christmas. It even has little paper ornaments that match the story, so you can hang them on your tree once you read the story with your family. 

I was also talking to one of my daughter’s friends about the fun traditions they do in her home & she talked about having a felt advent calendar that has little pockets where an elf leaves little notes for the children to find special gifts each day. FUN!!

There are so many ways you can celebrate advent—light a candle each night, hang a special ornament each day, read a bible story each night, take a gift to a friend or neighbor each night, have 25 acts of service for your family to do, buy or make an advent calendar to bring delight to everyone in your family.

Here are some fun ideas for any type of advent you wish to create:

Advent Storybook http://www.amazon.com/Advent-Storybook-Antonie-Schneider/dp/0735819637/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384194516&sr=8-1&keywords=advent

Lego & Playmobil has a variety of advent calendars: for those little ones that need a fun surprise each day.

Kurt Adler & Byer’s Choice has a variety of wooden advent calendar’s–search amazon or google for details 

Make your own: here is a link on Amazon of a unfinished wooden tree you can paint http://www.amazon.com/Advent-Storage-Drawers–Ready-Unfinished/dp/B004BTU6R8/ref=sr_1_25?ie=UTF8&qid=1384194641&sr=8-25&keywords=advent   There are also felt templates… Alex Toys has a crafty advent calendar to make  http://www.amazon.com/ALEX®-Toys-Crafty-Advent-Calendar/dp/B004M8RRRK/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384194752&sr=8-1&keywords=do+it+yourself+advent+calendar

 

ImageDIFFERENT CULTURES: Every Christmas holiday I come up with some crazy theme for Christmas day activities & this year we are traveling the globe by Polar Express to different countries around the world, learning about their traditions and being very grateful for all we are given. So, I have been researching and learning about different cultures & trying to figure out how to incorporate different things into our holidays to make it even better. Here are some ideas I wanted to share:

In Italy the children write letters to their parents promising good behavior (and apologizing for misdeeds), as well as telling them how much they love them. The letters are then placed under Dad’s plate on Christmas Eve; he reads them all aloud once the meal is through.  *parents.com

In Scotland they celebrate the holidays with bonfires to keep the mischievous elves from entering their homes & getting into trouble. They dance around the fire while playing the bagpipes.  I thought this would be fun to incorporate having a fun outdoor bonfire & dancing around it singing Christmas songs.

In Australia they are in the middle of summer, so many of the neighbors have a Christmas lighting contest. I thought you could do this with friends or family—have a special prize for the winner!!

In Switzerland the families gather together and make huge doughnuts they call ringli and hot cocoa. Fun idea!!

In Asia children make special paper lanterns for their tree, which is called “the tree of light.” Paper lanterns are always fun, so find some festive ones & hang them over your dinner table or make them for the tree.

In Norway they have a special dinner rice pudding where they hide a lucky almond for someone to find. This would be fun too!!

 

ImageCAPTURE THE MOMENTS: While you are unwrapping and gift giving, take the time to share some special interviews. Turn on a recorder and ask everyone special questions about the year, what they like about themselves, what they look forward to in the new year, any special highlights or incredible memories. Share and capture the moments. Take lots of pictures, ask fun questions & make every moment memorable. 

Here is a link to fifty questions for family history interviews:  http://genealogy.about.com/cs/oralhistory/a/interview.htm  Look at them and then pick your favorites to ask your family.  

You can also buy the box of questions for Thanksgiving or Christmas by Melissa and Doug–cute idea. 

 

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GIVE: This is a no brainer, but put your own personal spin on it. Last Christmas I came across a whole bag of naked Barbie Kelly dolls. My daughter has been raised with Kelly dolls, so I was heart broken to see them at a thrift store. I bought the bag & knew we could fix them up & give them to children in need. It was such a fun project for me and my daughter. We fixed their hair & got really creative in making them cute outfits. We bought holiday cards for a fun background & packaged them up for a good cause. Memorable!!

 

Well, that is all for now. 

Here is my link to last years post about the holidays and making the days a little more ‘holy’  https://yourhappyplaceblog.com/2012/11/15/traditions-rituals-for-the-holidays/

Happy Holidays. Make every moment count. It is priceless time.

 

 

Happy Month of Thanks

 

ImageIt is officially the first day of November…which is the month of giving Thanks, the National Novel writing month, Peanut Butter Lovers month, International Drum month, Model Railroad month…the bizarre and unique holidays just keep going and going, but that is what makes life a little more interesting, right? Whatever you do this November…enjoy it. Make the most of it.

What are you going to do with your November? Eat peanut butter every day!! Buy a model train, write a novel…Are you going to begin again to help your family find what they are truly grateful for? Are you going to plan weeks of preparing the perfect feast? Are you going to just say thank you?

All those things are wonderful, but I challenge you to look at this November and see the gifts of grace, the moments that you didn’t expect this year that turned out to be a gift. The moments where you learned from something hard & didn’t necessarily ask for the lesson. The moments of learning and challenge and growth and give thanks for those moments. 

 

ImageThis makes me think of a great quote from the movie Evan Almighty: here is the premise. Evan’s wife is at a coffee shop concerned that her husband has lost his mind because he is building an ARK. She has packed up her kids and left him. God finds her alone in a coffee shop and this is what he says…Let me ask you something. If someone prays for patience, you think God gives them patience? Or does he give them the opportunity to be patient? If he prayed for courage, does God give him courage, or does he give him opportunities to be courageous? If someone prayed for the family to be closer, do you think God zaps them with warm fuzzy feelings, or does he give them opportunities to love each other?

Think about that!! Earlier in the movie the mother had prayed that her family would be closer. God didn’t zap the family with feelings of togetherness, he gave them an opportunity to work on something together, to believe in one another—no matter what!! 

 

ImageWhat are you grateful for? only the good things? Maybe look at the tough moments this year and begin to see the good that came from them. 

My husband lost his job earlier this year & it took him a good six months to find another opportunity. While we were in the middle of the job searching trenches, we took the summer & enjoyed it!! We enjoyed all the time we could be together with the faith that something would be around the corner. We were grateful that we can look back on that time and be grateful we had the time we did. 

Sometimes we need to look at the things we don’t “get” and understand we are receiving what we truly “need.” 

I am not saying to forget the gratitude for all that is good in your life, I am just suggesting that you also look at the moments that made you step back, that took you by surprise, that made you grow a little & say thank you. 

Happy November 1.