Leaves of Blessings: the Thanksgiving Tree

Disclosure: This post is part of a yearly series in partnership with Netflix. As a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam, I’ll be sharing ideas throughout the year on some of the best Netflix titles to stream with your family. The content, as always, is whatever streams through my own mind! Hope you enjoy!

Mashed potatoes and gravy. Turkey and stuffing. Pumpkin pie and whipped cream. Tryptophan and comfy couches. The Lions and the Cowboys. What do these Thanksgiving delights all have in common? They’re dynamic duos and I’m thankful for all of them. Of course, I’m thankful for a lot more than food and football. I do my best to give thanks for the blessings in my life every day, not just on Thanksgiving Day. Still, Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the goodness that surrounds us.

A few years ago I started a Thanksgiving tradition for our little family. I brought in a small branch, tucked it in a vase, and the Thanksgiving Tree was born. I trace and cut out a few different types of leaves from card stock, punch a hole in them, and tie on a small string. The tree sits on our dining room table, with a basket of the leaves and a few crayons and pens nearby. As Thanksgiving nears, we write what we’re thankful for on a leaf and hang it on the tree. As family and friends drop in for visits, we encourage them to do the same.

I never planned for it to be more than a one-time decoration, but as I dismantled the little tree to make room for Christmas, I realized what a treasure I had on my hands. And so I saved the leaves, and brought them out again the following year. Each year they go back on the tree, and we watch as the leaves, like our blessings, multiply over the years. It’s so fun to stroll down memory lane and see what we were grateful for in years past. I was never so thankful for this tradition as I was last year, when we looked over the leaves and found the one my father-in-law made. We may never be able to spend Thanksgiving with him again, but we continue to be blessed by the wonderful memories we have of him … and by his very special leaf.

Before or after the big feast, snuggle up with the ones you love and watch a movie or show that celebrates dynamic duos and fabulous friends. Here are a few of our favorite duos that kids will love:

Phineas and Ferb
Finn and Jake – Adventure Time
Charlotte and Wilbur – Charlotte’s Web
Rocky and Ginger – Chicken Run
Tod and Copper – The Fox and the Hound

Pop some popcorn, make some cocoa, and stream these friendship flicks that are perfect for tweens and teens:

Rory and Lorelai – Gilmore Girls
Vada and Thomas – My Girl
Ferris and Cameron – Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Chris and Gordie – Stand By Me
Cher and Dionne – Clueless

All of these titles are available to stream on Netflix. Have I ever told you about my absolute favorite, never-fails-me way to figure out if a movie or show is okay for the kids to watch? Common Sense Media is an invaluable resource for all things media. Its easy-to-use ratings guide will let you know what to expect, and help you decide what’s appropriate for your family. I absolutely love it.

You know what else goes great together? Readers and comments! What are some of your favorite movies or shows that show what friendship is all about?

Thankful Tree: an easy DIY Thanksgiving craft for kids. As fall decor or a Thanksgiving table centerpiece it will become a family treasure.

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A Girl, a Mom, and a Rock

My body is ready for sleep long before my brain is ready to shut off. Many nights I lie awake, as my mind vomits information it’s held onto all day long. Did I pack Eli’s snack? I really shouldn’t put off that freelance query any longer. We need to start practicing Spanish. Is Rosetta Stone worth the money? I should research that tomorrow. What should we have for dinner tomorrow night? Is Elena getting enough iron? Are Hannah and Adam going to make it?

You get the idea. The other night, though, instead of the usual barrage of information, I couldn’t get a particular snapshot in time out of my head.

Elena, 2006

It was 2006. Elena was attending her first Montessori school, and because I was working part-time she went to school every day. Four out of the five days each week I was the one to pick her up. We had this routine. Instead of waiting in pickup line, I’d park the car and walk to her classroom. Her teachers would tell me about her day, which usually involved some version of the shenanigans she’d pulled instead of napping. We’d walk hand-in-hand until we reached the big rock next to the parking lot. We’d sit there together, and she would chatter about her day and eat her snack. Unless it was bitterly cold or raining, this was our thing.

Usually I try desperately to clear my mind before sleeping, but I held on to this thought. It’s one of my favorite memories of Elena as a preschooler, in a giant treasure box of happy memories I have of her as a young child. She was then, as she is now, a delightful person to spend time around. Goofy, happy, articulate, funny, and chatty. I’m so happy that as the teen years approach, she is still basically the same person, only taller and able to share my shoes. Sure, there are days when we are intolerable to her, when I’m afraid her eyes will roll right out of her head or shoot lasers at us. But mostly, she’s still the same girl who happily sat next to me on the big rock.

We also used to spend hours at Phillips Toy Mart together. Man, I miss that place. It truly is one of the world’s great toy stores. Every spring they brought in rabbits to live in a themed bunny playground for a couple of weeks. Who even does that? Besides having every toy that any child could ever want, it had an enormous model train display. Like, as big as my dining room enormous. I remember the day Elena was big enough to climb the ladder to the observation tower that only kids could fit in. She was so proud! And the beginning of separating from me, although we never seem to notice these minuscule steps until we realize our kids are halfway to adulthood and not holding our hand anymore.

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Not the rock of the treasured memories … but definitely what it can feel like navigating the tween years.

I can’t tell you the last time we hung out in a toy store together, but we have hung out in the feminine products aisle and I did take her to get her brows waxed last Saturday. Trust me, watching bunnies and trains is way more fun. There are days when it feels like all I do is nag her – did you do your homework, brush your teeth, pack your lunch, pick up your wet towel? There are days when our timing is ridiculously off. I long to talk to her and she’s off to a friend’s house. She’s chatty and I have a deadline looming. I want to go back to those days on the rock, when we had nothing but time and an endless supply of Goldfish crackers.

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But in doing so I would miss the fascinating young women she’s becoming. That would be a shame. I’d like to think that twenty years from now, when the hot flashes and my overactive bladder keep me awake, my brain will return to the memories we’re making today.

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Paella, Sangria, and Churros! Oh My!

In the midst of this dreary winter, we’ve been finding a way to take our minds off the cold and never-ending snow (another 6-8 inches predicted for tonight … yippee!). We’ve been dreaming about warm weather, sangria, ferias, and the Mediterranean coast …

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Yes, you heard it here first: the Sixes are heading to Spain this summer!

While this is a trip in every sense of the word (as opposed to my friend Emily’s upcoming 3-year “trip” to Belgium!), we hope it’s a long-ish trip. My mother is Spanish, and most of that side of my family lives in Spain. That means we are doubly blessed with not only the means to finally make this trip a reality, but to have the opportunity to stay with family throughout Spain. We don’t have specific dates nailed down, but the hope is that we’ll spend at least 2 weeks there as a family, maybe with a side trip or two thrown in to England and/or France. Mike will have to return for work, but I’d love for the kids and I to stay for a few more weeks.

Spain 1980

Me (age 6), with my mother and abuela, on my first trip to Spain.

We’ve been dreaming about this trip for years, waiting for the right time. It finally feels doable – we’re not moving, I’m not working full-time, and the kids are at a great age for traveling. We have lots of planning to do (and mucho español to learn), but we’re super excited to finally have this bucket-list trip within reach. I can’t wait to share our adventures with you, just as I’ve lived vicariously through so many of your wonderful trips both near and far.

As we plan, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever been to Spain? More importantly, what are your best tips for traveling to Europe with kids? And who wants churros?!

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