Thanks-GETTING? | thisgratefulmama.com

Today I enjoyed a quiet afternoon – football in the background, kids napping, husband nodding off on the couch.

While prepping food for dinner, I reflected on how God is so good. And on how much a day of rest is needed. Sunday afternoons at home are a lovely gift.

I wasn’t paying attention to the TV but I still heard it. The end of a Verizon Wireless commercial for Thanksgiving specials. It wasn’t the great deal that caught my attention, it was the slogan.



It struck me as gross the first time I heard it. Later, while our son watched football, he heard the same thing. He looked at me with a smirk on his face and said, “ThanksGIVING, mom”. I think he just thought they said it wrong. I am grateful the pun went over his sweet 5-year-old head.

Not funny Verizon. Not funny at all. Some day we’ll struggle to undue what our consumer-driven culture is preaching to our youth.

And yet, doesn’t ‘thanks-getting’ adequately describe what the Thanksgiving shopping craze is all about? A retail driven, consumer fed threat to holiday meals.

Have we all forgotten what we learned in school about what the first Thanksgiving was? Two very different cultures, both struggling to survive, helping one another and sharing a meal together. It was about coming together, despite adversity and many disagreements, to build relationships among even those who were very different.

Does it strike anyone else as ironic that a day once spent in fellowship, giving thanks to God and one another is now being invaded by the desire to GET more stuff?

I think GETTING is the complete opposite of siting back and being grateful. Thanksgiving isn’t about getting more, it is about GIVING. Of our time. Our attention. Our thanks. Our love. And of deepening relationships.

If we’re focused on getting, we are distracted from the joy of spending time together. Instead of reflecting on what we DO have, we’ll be daydreaming of what we can get – for ourselves or others. In most cases, none of us need that item. It may be a deal, but it is more distraction than anything.

Our desire for stuff allows retail to take over a holiday about relationships and gratitude.

While planning for shopping around Thanksgiving, let us not forget that spending TIME with our family is much more valuable than spending our money. Or is it more like saving money by spending it?

Let us not forget that even the greatest Christmas gift may not feel as special if the giver neglects to spend quality time together on Thanksgiving. Or if the giver spends the whole holiday on a phone or computer mapping out retail conquests.

These sales may not repeat until next year. But neither will Thanksgiving.

Are you willing to sacrifice your family holiday and relationships for STUFF?

Put the ads, phone, and computer down and be present. IF you shop on Thanksgiving, do not let the deal planning invade your whole day and conversations. Spend quality time with loved ones. Reflect on what you HAVE. On what God has given. On the people in your life. Eat slowly and enjoy the meal that took so much effort and care to prepare. And linger…this is a holiday about the people, not the stuff.

Be grateful.

Give thanks where it is due.

I will give thanks to the LORD because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. – Psalm 7:17

25 DOs and DON’Ts for Travel With Small Children

25 DOs and DON’Ts for Travel With Small Children | thisgratefulmama.com

Through trial and error, we’ve learned some lessons about flying and traveling with small children.

Last year I shared a travel experience which included a public temper tantrum. Thankfully, not all trips include meltdowns. Travel is getting easier because the kids are older and because we’ve learned some lessons.

In October we went to Maine for our nephew’s wedding. We took a direct flight to Boston, then rented a car. We drove to Maine, taking in the beautiful New England fall colors.

We reached a new milestone – no tears, on either flight! Sure, there were moments requiring patience and each of us had cranky moments, especially with emergency bathroom trips. But overall, even travel days were characterized by joy.

I call that success.

While not every trip will go this smoothly, there are some things we can do to promote a positive outcome.

25 DOs and DON’Ts for Travel With Small Children

  1. DO Consider Alternate Routes – If you cannot find a direct flight, consider driving a leg. For us, a layover and second flight is just too much. Meltdowns ensue. Flying to Boston and driving 2 hours means more room to sit and sleep without being right on top of each other. And it saved some money on plane tickets.
  2. DON’T Expect A Nap– Travel is tiring. Travel is also exciting. Traveling over nap time does NOT guarantee a nap. Be grateful if a nap happens, but don’t get your undies in a bunch if it doesn’t.
  3. DO Have a Backup Plan – What soothes your child best? What can be used as a bargaining chip? Maybe a tablet, DVD Player, sucker, snack, toy, or book. I recommend at least one secret last-resort solution.
  4. DON’T Over Pack – ‘Being prepared’ is a good idea. But over-packing means carrying children along with heavy carry-on bags and luggage. Nobody wants to be a pack mule. Pack wisely with small and light weight items.
  5. DO Use Curb-Side Check In – See #4. Do not lug car seats through the airport.
  6. DON’T Waste Car Seat Bag Space – Checking car Seat bags is free. Take advantage! Fill empty space with lightweight bulky items like diapers and blankets.
  7. DO Get TSA Pre-Check – If someone traveling with you has TSA Pre-Check, have them book all tickets. Then everyone enjoys this coveted perk.
  8. DON’T Fear TSA – In our experience, security personnel have taken time to welcome kids and help us. Greet security with a smile and thank them. You want and need their help.
  9. DO Explain What Comes Next – Help transitions and ease fears by explaining what to expect (security, checking bags, boarding, sitting on the runway). Focus on how each step brings them closer to the ‘fun’ of taking off and arriving at your destination.
  10. DON’T Forget Compromise – A full travel day will not go as planned. When kids get squirrley, happily make an unplanned stop, take an impromptu walk, switch seats, buy a snack, or improvise.
  11. DO Plan For Emergencies – An extra change of clothes, diapers, pull-ups and wipes are necessary. Hand sanitizer, band aids and tissues cover most unexpected events. Carry on necessary medications (we need an inhaler, Benedryl & Epi-Pen).
  12. DON’T Worry About Others – Do your best to keep children reasonably quiet and from kicking seats. But worrying about others adds stress and won’t help anyone have a good flight. Focus on the kids and thank others for their patience if necessary afterwards.
  13. DO Bring No-Spill Cups – Don’t risk airline cups. A wet kid (or parent) just isn’t worth it. A no-spill squirt bottle or sippy cup will be a life saver on the flight and in the car. Bring empty and fill after security.
  14. DON’T Forget Snacks – A hungry child or parent is not at their best. Avoid being one big hangry family by packing healthy snacks. For a food allergy family, this is necessity – it can be difficult to find a safe snack. Never, ever travel without snacks. We pack carrots, celery, cheese sticks, apples, goldfish, pumpkin seeds, and freeze-dried corn or soybeans.
  15. DO Board Early – With little ones, getting situated with your carry-on is nearby is worth sitting on the plane for a little bit.
  16. DON’T Overestimate Your Child’s Bladder – Limit beverages and take extra bathroom trips.  Go while the seat belt sign is off – there is no guarantee it will stay off.
  17. DO Put Kids First – Duh. A travel day with kids is not about you. It just isn’t. Read until hoarse, hold your sleeping child with numb arms, listen to that song over and over. If they’re happy, go with it. If they have a good trip, so will you.
  18. DON’T Reject the Pacifier – Our daughter is 2, and isn’t allowed to have a pacifier during the day…but on a plane? Why, have it the whole flight! It soothed her ears, kept her quiet, and helped her nap. Not into pacifiers? Bring a favorite comfort item.
  19. DO Use the Play Area – Use hand sanitizer and set kids loose in the play area. They can climb, play and run while you sip coffee.
  20. DON’T Forget The Camera – Pictures of kids squealing with giddy delight as we ‘Blasted Off” are priceless. Digital photos are a great tool for distraction.
  21. DO Pray – Enlist others to pray for transitions, patience, health and for your actions, attitudes and words to honor God.
  22. DON’T Show Fear – Turbulence? FUN! They recognize our concern and magnify it. Keep it positive, no matter how bumpy.
  23. DO Laugh – there is no place for frustration about how things have gone or are going. LET IT GO and laugh it off.
  24. DON’T Forget A Noise Machine – Whether staying in a hotel or with family, there will be strange noises. Minimize the effect and promote sleep by packing their noise machine. We packed this one – compact and loud, with a night-light.
  25. DO Celebrate Small Victories – No tears on a flight? Make a big deal of good behavior. Great listening? Celebrate it. Child use the airplane bathroom? Congratulate them. Giving credit for small victories helps them feel accomplished.

You Know What Takes CHRIST Out Of Christmas? Complaining Over A Red Cup.

Is anyone else confused by the hype over the Starbucks red cup? When I first saw the image of the 2015 cup, I thought it looked nice. Simple and a clever use of the Starbucks green logo on the red background.

No problem right?

Well, I guess not. It seems that some people are upset over the cups and think they do not stand for Christmas.  I don’t usually pay attention to these things but the articles that kept popping up specifically mention that Christians are the people making the fuss. I like to know what I’m being associated with.

SO, I looked at the last 6 years of cups that TIME put together for easy viewing. Do you know what I see? Nothing that says “Merry Christmas” or any mention of Jesus. In fact, the apparent change that makes people upset is the lack of a snow flake.

A snow flake?

Beloved sisters and brothers in Christ – since when is a snowman, snow flake or a person sledding on a coffee cup a symbol of Christmas? I don’t remember seeing any mention of these things in the story of Jesus’ birth in the Bible. Haven’t read it? Check it out for yourself in Luke Chapter 1. These symbols are completely and totally unrelated to Jesus Christ.

I can see how this may sound harsh, but it needs to be said. You know what takes the CHRISTmas out of Christmas? Complaining, slander, and overly vocal disgust at red cups. Beloved of Jesus – there are so many more important issues to take a stand on. This distraction does not draw unbelievers to know and love Jesus. If anything, it makes Him less appealing because those who claim to follow and love Him are preoccupied with coffee cups.

As Christians, let us instead CHOOSE to celebrate Jesus, despite what is happening around us in our culture. Regardless of who says “Happy Holidays” and who says “Merry Christmas”, the culture does NOT decide the status of our hearts. We choose who we worship and what our focus is on.

It is either the world or Jesus. He longs for us to choose the latter.

So, as His chosen, and beloved people, CHOOSE to set your eyes on Jesus. Then CHOOSE now to let the rest of it roll off of you. All season long. Spending our precious time boycotting coffee cups is simply a distraction that takes our eyes off of HIM – All God’s grace in one tiny face.

How do we focus on Him?

  • Tell others you are grateful for them.
  • Tell GOD you are grateful for Him and spend some extra time with Him in prayer.
  • Set your grateful hearts on Jesus – on how He loved us and came to DIE for us so we could be saved. And how we can never deserve such a sacrifice and gift of grace.
  • Be grateful that in the United States you can speak the name of Jesus out loud without being tortured, exiled or killed.
  • Pray for those who are dying for their faith and have life and death concerns that make a preoccupation with coffee cups look foolish and careless.
  • Go out and treat others with kindness, respect, and love.
  • Tell others WHO Jesus is and WHY you love Him.
  • Intentionally spread some joy and cheer.
  • Find someone to help, serve or surprise.
  • Let Christians be known for spreading good will among men instead of complaining about things that have no eternal value.
  • Choose Jesus and show others WHO HE IS by sharing His LOVE.
  • Show the world that His love reigns in the hearts of Christians and speak well of others, regardless of where they buy their coffee. Or what color the cup is.

It’s a paper cup, people. We put coffee in it and then throw it away.

Doesn’t CHRISTmas mean more to us than that?

It’s the second week of November. There will be plenty more things this year that do not include Christ. There will surely be over-saturation of Santa, Happy Holidays and commercialization of the season.

Will you choose to allow those things to take your eyes off of Jesus?

Oh Yes We Did. And Here’s Why.

Oh Yes We Did. And Here's Why. | Thisgratefulmama.com

What is a girl to do when it is 60 degrees on a Sunday in November?

Well, living in MN, you take full advantage of the day. It was gorgeous!  With the garage already clean and yard work finished, what else could we do?

We decided to get the most benefit out of the weather. We took the whole family outside and put up our Christmas lights during the first week of November.


Yes. We are those people. The people I used to sigh at and say…why do we have to start with the Christmas SO early? Can’t we just enjoy Thanksgiving?

However, it seems I have had a change of heart. Here’s why:

  1. Last year our Christmas-light-hanging was both a comical and actual disaster: In fact, we embarrassed ourselves and cracked up some of our neighbors. Our failings caused one of them to take pity on us and come to help us. Not only were we ill-equipped (our ladder was too short, our poles were too short), but we had absolutely NO idea what we were doing. Hanging lights was a cinch at our old house with its low roof-line and gutters – where the clips easily attached and our short ladder was perfect. We were completely unprepared for the project at our new house. High peaks and no gutters is a whole new ball game. So, after being the neighborhood Tweedledee and Tweedledum last year, we decided to be both equipped and proactive this year.
  2. We acquired the right equipment: This year we bought this fancy pole that releases the hooks with a trigger. To say it made the job easier is an understatement. It worked SO much better. We also were able to borrow an extension ladder twice the size of our ladder from a generous neighbor. This time we were well equipped before we began. BUT, let me be clear…we still had some hiccups and I’m sure we still looked VERY funny while doing it because we still weren’t totally sure what we’re doing. Lots of trial and error, but less than last year. SO, I guess that means we’re getting better. Next year…we’ll be just like the professionals, right? Isn’t the third time a charm? Haha.
  3. The weather was fantastic: It was gorgeous out. 60 degree sunny days don’t really happen in MN. It was unseasonably warm and still is! A GIFT. It felt great to be outside and accomplish something. Last year it was chilly and because we were unprepared, it took forever. And ever. Freezing people who don’t know what they are doing – who break their lights so they no longer work after ALL that effort…well, our attitudes got a little cold last year. And, in MN, it could easily be 60 degrees today and be snowing and 20 degrees tomorrow and not warm up again until spring. NEVER, EVER waste a nice day in November in MN!
  4. We have small children: It takes two adults to hang lights, especially with someone on a very tall ladder. This means our children must be outside with us. We are simply lacking the desire to freeze (and hear our children complain that they are freezing) while we hang Christmas lights. For us, earlier is practical in SO many ways.
  5. We were in good company: Not only were we outside putting up our lights early, but our neighbor across the street was as well. You know – the kind soul who took pity on us last year and who knows exactly what he is doing. Thankfully, he only had to stop by once to hold the ladder. And, as we walked around our block today, we saw there are 6 other homes with lights up. As long as we’re not the very first…I’m ok with it.

So, we may be those people, jumping the gun on Christmas decorations, but let me tell you. It was WORTH IT. We got to be outside on a beautiful day. Because no one was freezing, it made a not-very-fun task manageable. And dare I say, enjoyable? Probably not. My husband was the one up high in the wind on the ladder…it may not have been very fun for him. Did I mention he’s pretty amazing?

So, when you drive by those houses with lights already up, remember this – they did it early and won’t be out there freezing with the rest of you who decide to wait until closer to December.

And perhaps they’re like me and still value Thanksgiving and weren’t even planning to turn the lights on until afterwards. But then, their 2 and 5 year old children pleaded to turn the lights on. Who could resist? They proceeded to display such sweet child-like joy and delight at those little white lights that it just seems silly to refuse to turn them on. Their smiles and faces almost made my heart pop. Seriously, I do think lights are pretty, but to these children, they’re A-MAZ-ING! And, their delight gave us the perfect chance to talk about how Christmas lights remind the world that Jesus is the true light of the world.

Plus, I like the way the lights show off the Grateful sign on our porch.

When do your lights go up?

Practice Gratitude – And An Invitation.

Practice Gratitude - And An Invitation


As I wrote last year, I firmly believe that Thanksgiving is more than a meal with Turkey. In 2014, our family placed an extra focus on gratitude during the month of November. Our son and I filled out gratitude calendars. It was amazing to hear how our 4-year-old son could verbalize what he was thankful for and to also hear him do it with far more variation than I expected.

October was a busy month, filled with a rotation of colds and coughs, apple picking, bonfires, fun activities, a trip to Maine to visit family and rejoice at the wedding of our nephew, and culminated with the return to Minnesota and the celebration of our son’s fifth birthday. It was a whirl-wind.

In fact, October was so busy that I feel like November snuck up on me. I woke up this morning in a day-light-savings haze and realized it was ALREADY November. We were already one day behind!

There are 23 days until Thanksgiving, 52 days until Christmas, and 59 days until New Years Day.

Our plan for 2015 is similar to last year, only we will practice gratitude from now until 2016. If we had started yesterday, it would be an even 60 days, but 59 will have to do. Perhaps next year I will be a little more proactive.

Instead of the gratitude calendar we made and used last year, we are going to try a gratitude tree. I’m excited to go out and find the ‘tree’ this week, but in the meantime, we’ll record our gratitude on little notes to hang when the tree is ready. I can’t wait to share it with you!

It may have to be a big tree to support our family’s notes for 60 days! Perhaps we need one per person…

So, what does it mean to practice gratitude for 60 days? 

Let’s start with defining practice and gratitude according to the Merriam Webster Online Dictionary.

prac·tice (verb): perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency. carry out or perform (a particular activity, method, or custom) habitually or regularly.

grat·i·tude (noun): the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

In essence, we are choosing to develop the quality of being thankful by practicing it repeatedly through the New Year. With the busy-ness of the holiday season, it is easy to get caught up in To-Do lists, and all kinds of good activities. Although the season is fun, filled with family and friends and twinkling lights, sometimes we lose sight of just how much we have already, because we are focused on what we have to DO.

By focusing on what and who we are thankful for, we create a pattern of reflecting on what we already have. We will more readily see the blessings in life despite and through our circumstances, and more easily and habitually GIVE THANKS to others. From experience, the effect is uplifting, joyful, and WORTH IT. 

And why would we do this?

Because we have MUCH to be thankful for.

We have MANY people to thank.

We have a Lord who deserves ALL our gratitude and praise.

We will strive to emulate a passage of scripture that is very dear to my heart:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

 And so…

I’ll be posting our daily gratitude on the thisgratefulmama Facebook page for the next 59 days. I would love to share this journey with you. Will you join us? 


Lessons Learned From An Achey-Breaky Hip

This summer I had some discomfort in my leg, lower back and hip. It wasn’t really painful, but bothersome when driving, walking or trying to sleep on my side. Then, one Saturday, part of my leg went numb, scaring the bejeebers out of me.

I expected the worst – a pinched nerve with a long recovery and lifting restrictions. How can you be a stay-at-home mama and not be able to lift the kids?

An urgent care and chiropractic visit later, I received a diagnosis. Imagine my surprise and joy – yes JOY – to receive news that it wasn’t my back at all. Rather, the numbness is caused by Trochanteric bursitis. A much better recovery and outlook than a spinal injury.

Wait a minute.

Isn’t hip bursitis for old people?

Apparently not. And I should have recognized the symptoms, because I’ve had it not once, but twice before. Numbness, however, was a new symptom and an indication of increasing severity.

I spent much of the summer in recovery. Less walking. No running. Lots of ice. Stretching. Yoga. And more stretching.

Bursitis forced me to slow down. A LOT.

More time for thinking…and for looking for the bright side of things.

1. Tolerating pain is not always a good thing

Our culture demands toughness. A high pain tolerance and the ability to continue through pain is considered a badge of honor. However, when it comes to my hip, tolerance for pain is nothing but detrimental. Carrying on while ignoring discomfort simple causes more damage. As I ‘muscled’ through it, inflammation increased to the point of pressing on a nerve, causing numbness. With bursitis, such negligence leads to permanent damage, cortisone shots, and eventual hip replacement. This has been a good reminder that I only have one body and need to be more aware of what it is telling me.

2. Not all exercise is created equal

A person with a history of bursitis CAN run and walk for exercise, but must have increased attentiveness to stretching and flexibility. Other exercises like yoga and swimming are a better option. Time to mix it up a bit.

3. Accepting help is not my strong suit

Before we knew what was wrong, my husband and mom stepped in to help with lifting. When my mom offered to go to the grocery with me, I wondered, Why? Grocery shopping seemed pretty tame. But when paying attention to what I wa doing, I was surprised by how much a back is used while grocery shopping – bending, stretching, reaching, lifting and pushing. I was especially grateful as she lifted our daughter in and out of the cart and car seat,  as she helped our son climb in and out of the cart, and as she helped lift bags into the car and into the house. While it was hard for me to admit I needed help with what seemed to be simple things, the help was invaluable and appreciated. Asking for help is less about admitting weakness and more about exercising wisdom.

4. Doing less requires creativity and patience

When you can’t lift, you need to be creative. Convincing our children to climb the stairs at night sometimes requires us to make a game of it. We discovered our son can climb into the cart if we park by the cart rack. He can climb up the metal rack into the cart. Our daughter can climb out of her car seat on her own if I unbuckle her and wait an extra minute or two. It may be faster to carry them, but it sure isn’t easy on the body if you’re trying to heal.

5. Numbness was a blessing and warning

As I mentioned before, I was generally ignoring my symptoms before my leg went numb. I may not have saught help if my leg had not gone numb, and would have caused further damage. The numbness warns of future escalation if I’m not careful to pay attention and to keep stretching. It caused realization of a growing problem and supplied enough healthy fear to make me seek help. Right away.

6. Persistance matters

Even when I feel good, I need to stretch and do the preventative exercises. Routine. Stretching takes time and I now have to be intentional to make time to do it. The IT band exercise pulverization with a foam roller hurts. I feel bruised afterwards. But it has a drastic effect on hip pain and discomfort. Whether I like it or not, it is effective and is required in my daily routine from here on out. When I am consistent in stretching and rolling – I feel great and can walk, jog and lift as I please. WORTH it.

7. Knowledge is power

My chiropractor wanted to know if our family has a history of hip replacements (we don’t). Know what I don’t want to think about at 33? Bursitis and hip replacements. But I DO want to know about something that can be prevented by changing my lifestyle NOW. After the first 2 rounds of bursitis, I should have permanently incorporated stretching in BOTH legs. But when I felt good, I slacked off and ended up paying for it with a numb leg and forced rest. Honestly, I needed some tough love and to have someone explain to me the long-term hard truth. I am grateful for a very honest chiropractor who was willing to be clear that neglect will have lasting consequences.

8. I’m grateful

NO matter how annoying it was to have numbness, limited movement, and to make extra time to stretch, I am so grateful the problem was just bursitis. A back injury would have been much worse. This experience has added self discipline into more than just one area of my life. It makes me get out of bed so I have time to stretch before the kids get up. Plus, since I now start my day on the floor stretching, it gives me time to read my bible and pray before I get up. What else am I going to do down there on the floor? I am grateful to know what the problem is, and how to prevent further flare-ups. And I’m grateful that all the stretching and slow moving this summer has paid off with a pain-free hip this fall.