“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” (Psalm 69:30)
As a college professor, I enjoy the flexibility of working at least once a week from home. It’s fantastic. However, as anyone in the American school system will attest to, regardless of enjoying grading papers in my pajamas in my cozy home office, fall semester is very busy, and with no holidays between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, brutally long. This fall semester at the two schools I teach at has proven particularly time consuming as I have taken some extra responsibilities in the university that have required many additional hours of work per week. All of this put together has meant my time with family over the past 3 months has been very limited.
You might imagine how eager I was to enjoy a full week of break at Thanksgiving.
While I was counting down the days before my long-awaited break would finally begin, I began reflecting on how my life is so blessed with the family God gave me. I wanted to be intentional about spending more time with my two young daughters over my break. In brainstorming different things I could do to entertain a two- and five-year-old for more than 3 and a half consecutive minutes, I decided to try to find a way to create a tradition to make Thanksgiving more than just another holiday, but a way to remind myself and teach my daughters consciously keep gratitude front and center during the holidays.
Working full time, I usually don’t have time to actually plan full-blown activities with the girls (that’s usually my wife’s forte), but I knew I wanted to have an opportunity to do a special activity with just the girls and me. Being a bit of a novice in the field of handicrafts, I browsed Pinterest, Instagram, blogs, and websites, searching for ideas. I wanted something intentional that didn’t require a lot of material or anything overly complicated (I’ve seen “Nailed It,” so I know how that goes). It was also important to me to find something that would teach my kids about sustainability and use recycled or reused materials as part of the activity.
After much research, I finally found something that I thought would be good (and easy for the kids). Drum roll please…
Toilet Paper Roll Turkeys.
I know, that’s what my wife said too when I told her. But it’s actually adorable.
You actually use toilet paper rolls as the body of the turkey and then write something you are grateful for on each of the construction paper feathers that you glue to the back.
I was confident this would go well.
The day we decided to tackle the craft, we all gathered in our house office with the supplies. I helped them to cut the long feathers from the construction paper that we already had at home. At the top of each feather Ava and Mila “wrote” one thing they felt grateful for. It was really fun for me to have the chance to teach my kids about gratitude in my native language. Ava is already pretty fluent so it was easier to explain that to her. She confidently began to list off the things was grateful for. (It was a bit more challenging to try to explain that to her two-year-old sister, who confidently repeated everything her sister said).
The interesting and most rewarding part of this whole thing was that Ava specifically mentioned that she was grateful for people in her life (dad, mom, sister, grandparents, uncles, and aunts, etc), but never mentioned material things, except for her school. It made me realize that kids genuinely value personal relationships and all they want is to spend time with their loved ones. After lots of distraction and shenanigans, the results are below:
I’m not gonna lie, it did not go super smoothly. The two-year-old started crying and her “thankful for” feathers fell off her turkey. There was glue EVERYWHERE.
But Pinterest perfection was never the goal. The most important was not only the end result of the activity, but initiating a discussion with my kids about the importance of being thankful in our lives!
I hope you can have a chance to think about your relationships and be thankful for them in your life.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!