Tonight Katie, Eric, and I are hunkered down in “Fort Thanksgiving”—yes, still the same fort we built the day after Halloween and which has been the focal point of our living room for these many weeks. After reading and cuddling for hours, I snuck out from between their sleeping bodies to grab this, my laptop, my link to the modern world. We have been fasting from television lately in order to clear their minds (I hardly watch TV anyway—usually they only get an 1-1.5 hours a night during dinner prep/clean up, though sometimes it is more especially during the more permissive weekend mornings, and so anything I watch is really only a kiddo show). But I do like my technological link to the outside world, I do admit it. If I really want to challenge myself, I should require myself to fast from the Internet… On the other hand: let’s not be too hasty, har har.

So we’re in our fort. Until now, we have been using Fort Thanksgiving primarily during the day. We wanted to start a new family tradition of building and sleeping in Fort Thanksgiving every year. All of our coziest blankets and pillows are in there, our favorite books, and a lamp that was doubling as our “campfire.” It’s cozy and lovely and as magical as a fort should be, especially with my snuggly munchkins. I’ve saved some older sheets specifically for fort construction, and though at times I have been tempted to purge them, it is times like this when I am thankful for my packrat gene.

I’ve been keeping track of my gratitude for quite some time, in gratitude journals mostly and on Facebook. I’m not sure how I would make it through life, frankly, without taking time every day to put my mind in a meditative place of counting my blessings, rather than dwelling on what goes wrong. As soon as we become negative critics I feel we are somehow placing ourselves above everyone else, above all that happens to us, as if we are somehow superior to the facts of our lives and have the right to judge all those elements that we have not ourselves necessarily produced or set in motion. I tried on in my college years the position of being jaded and judging. For me, I found that such position effectively shuts out all curiosity and creativity. What business have we to judge and criticize the work of others, or the work of this universe? Isn’t it, rather, our business to realize how humble and subjected we are to all the forms of luck and possibility that roam around us mathematically and to choose instead to devote our lives to becoming a producer of good things whenever we may? To embrace a mind that knows how much it has left to know and will never know? To foster a heart life that is thankful for the simple joys, as well as the big moments? This is the essence of Thanksgiving, to me: that we seek out and stand in awe and gratitude of the beauty around us, so that we may become worthy producers of beautiful moments in our own right, thereby passing it on to those that come after us. Or, something like that.

I haven’t written much the past couple of weeks in this blog, not updates or better still, essays. That happens: writer’s block, lesson planning, online Christmas shopping, making gifts. But since it is Thanksgiving week, and since my neglected blog is making me saddish, I thought I would do one big cram-in.

It’s only going to get more neglected, I fear, when our Elf on the Shelf returns in a week. Dude, that guy takes time I sometimes don’t have. But he’s only for a month, right?

1. I am thankful for our daily (or almost daily) afternoon/sunset walks/scooter sessions. I exercise in the morning five to seven days a week (five running, and sometimes I will do yoga/weights on an “off” day just because I get antsy if I do nothing), but I am starting to be more vigilant about teaching K and E proper exercise habits while they are young. Exercise is a fundamental part of our lives, kiddos. It is  a priority. I thought it might be difficult to fit this in on top of everything else, but you know what? I cherish my evening walks with these yahoos. We go at their pace (sometimes Eric decides to ride in the stroller after a time), we admire as much as we see, and we note the changing seasons. What started out as something I felt morally responsible to do has now transformed into something I am excited to do at the end of our day. We’ve missed a few days, but the spirit has been established. We’re really going to have fun when all the holiday lights appear!

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2. I am thankful for Norse mythology.

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3. I am thankful for lifelong friends and the next generation.

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4. I am thankful for Pinterest and its many inspirations. I am reminded to make life whimsical and fun.

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5. I am thankful for the Santa Rosa Plateau so close to us and for beautiful hikes. Katie’s new accomplishment was hiking for 7.3 miles without assistance.

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6. I am thankful for McGaugh Family date nights to the live theater.

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7. I am thankful for seasonal crafts that are cozy. We did both the scarecrow and the maize craft last year, but Eric needed to do them again now that he is three, and Katie loves them, too.

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8. I am thankful for homemade pumpkin spice play dough and how delicious it smelled, how cost effective it was to make, and how it entertained all of us from making-to-creating for about two hours.

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9. I am thankful for a double annual visit to the pediatrician that went incredibly well. I always bring crayons so the kiddos can color on the examination paper while we wait, and so that it doesn’t feel so strange in there. I was very, very proud of these two and the way the appointment went. Eric stunned everyone when he announced without crying, “I’m ready for my shot.” He proceeded to scoot down the paper on his back, put his arms above his head, and only said “ouch.” He later explained that it was “no big deal, like Boppa say.” Eric saw my dad get his flu shot a few weeks ago, and my dad made it a point to be a role model. It worked. He admires his Boppa so thoroughly and wants to be like him. Eric didn’t cry at all, didn’t resist, nothing. My daughter, on the other hand… But she got herself together in the end. The doctor was impressed by their verbal skills—Eric read the word “stop” (unexpectedly) on a sign on the door, and the doctor said, “What?!?” I don’t overshare when the doctor asks me questions about what they can do. I figure there is never any way to prove it in that short time, and you only sound like a crazy mom if you make claims about milestones that are atypical. He has a handful of sight words, so we got lucky that “stop” is one of them! His funniest bit was this: the doctor asked him right when she started his exam whether he was a boy or a girl. He explained as clear as day, “I am a boy because I have a pe—” and he pointed to where. She was very amused by that one.

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10. I am thankful for autumn birthday parties and a little pair that can go everywhere together.

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11. I am thankful for rainy mornings and being able to go outside and find our breakfast in the chicken coop.

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12. I am thankful for a little boy who has a heart of gold, who empathizes with others, and who understands the idea of giving joy. Eric made “joy cards” for several people he loves the other day. It was his own idea. He can spell and write J-O-Y on his own. I love his little writing. This is his first word that he can both spell AND write unassisted. He can spell a couple other words, but he needs help shaping them on paper. His first authored word is therefore “joy.” I love that so, so much.

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13. I am thankful that our chickens are back in line after some egg eating incidents last month. We knew for sure it was egg eating, since there were numerous yolk splatters and since one of the girls would stalk the other girls while they were sitting. We got to adopt the hat of a behavioralist, and the kiddos and I turned the quest for a solution into a project rather than an out-and-out frustration (although that, it certainly had the potential to be). We planted decoy eggs, put mustard into their egg shells, added oyster shells to their diet, and spent a few days checking every 15-20 minutes and would actually take warm eggs out from under the girls. We also let the primary offender out of the coop during peak egg laying hours. I wasn’t sure any of this would work, but it did. Production is back up to what it should be. I look back on it now and think, although worrisome, I am thankful that we got to brainstorm these solutions together as a family and to learn from this.

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14. I am thankful for cute little snack projects with my kiddos, like this mini cornucopia we made on the day we studied them. Keeps snack time from being just another to-do on my list. Life needs to be fun, right?

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15. I am thankful for the day that Eric got up super early. I had made it back from my run, but I hadn’t finished my weights yet. He helped me count them and also watched birds with me while I lifted and when he tired of counting. We had enough time, too, to do the chicken chores together and to catch a lizard and to make it a shoebox house. Although I do like my morning routine, one-on-one time with him is so rare…and therefore so precious. I was happy to hear his little padding feet come down the stairs.

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16. I am thankful for another holiday season with Nana and our recent visit. We weren’t sure this summer, at one point, that we would have her here right now. So this is truly, truly a gift.

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17. I am thankful for walks in the rain.

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18. I am thankful for time to read a book by one of my favorite authors.

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19. I am thankful for the right and privilege to homeschool my children.

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20. I am thankful for Temecula and its heritage and history. I am thankful for a community services department that helps to put on events like Pechanga Pu’eska Mountain Day. We learned about grinding acorns, yucca plant, Native American toys and recipes, pump drills, and more. We heard the Tribal Council chairman speak the Pechanga language as he led us in reflection. I love living here and love raising my children here.

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21. I am thankful for legs, a heart, and a mind that allow me to run and run and run. I am thankful for my health. I am thankful for trails out in the wineries that afford views of hot air balloons, and vineyards, and snow-capped mountains under a bright sky of crisp and clear autumn air. I am thankful for rainy morning runs, for the willpower and fire I have found to get up and take care of myself. I am thankful that my legs feel like they could go on forever at 7 miles and for Sundays when I can run 12 miles if I want to because my husband is caring for our children. I am thankful to feel alive and vital and back in touch with my inner spirit. I am thankful to be able to greet the sunrise almost every day and to feel a part of the earth as the seasons change. I am thankful that running and a proper diet has saved my life in ways that I cannot even fathom, and many ways which I can. I am thankful that I woke up from my unclear thinking and stopped using my husband and children as reasons to martyr myself, as reasons to give no time to my basic health needs—because no person in life deserves to bear the horrible and enormous responsibility for my lack of health other than myself. I am thankful for finding deep accountability for my actions and my thoughts and for the fire it has rekindled in me. I am now in the best shape I have ever—EVER—been in my whole life, probably since the age of three or four. For a time in my life, I thought I would never find this…I am not talking just about my weight here, although I am proud of the immense effort and discipline it took to lose the extra 60 pounds. I am talking about finding that mind-body connection that is energy-giving, the one that makes me laugh out loud when I am running sometimes, laugh in pure mirth and freedom. Some call it endorphins—maybe. I only know that I am forever grateful for the push from my husband and my dad and others who believed that I could master myself and my short term desires/fears and aim for something greater in myself. To become acquainted with myself in this new way has been totally eye-opening this past year and a half. I am thankful that, within us all, resides that spark to change our lives and our narratives into whatever we want them to be.

I am thankful for views like this to start my day and that I have the ability now to run and chase them and grab them and press them deep into my being:

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I am also thankful that tomorrow is a scheduled off-day for running, since I stayed up way too late writing this post! I hope everyone has a beautiful Thanksgiving!

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