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Preparing for a Meaningful Thanksgiving

Holidays are a cherished yet often overwhelming time of the year. Even if you are on good terms with your family and still enjoy their company, holiday preparations can absorb a lot of time and energy Ė making momís patience levels a little bit lower than normal.

My motherhood motto of ďplan aheadĒ will help ease the holiday tensions and allow you to feel on top of everything that needs to get done Ė while still enjoying quality time and peaceful moments with your children.

Are you the hostess or are you being hosted? If you are preparing the Thanksgiving meal, then start planning early. What food issues do you need to work with? What food items can you ask others to bring? What food items can be prepared ahead of time and what food items need to be prepared closer to or on Thanksgiving day? Write out your menu and make a corresponding shopping list.

Think beyond the meal. How will your house get cleaned for the big gathering? Will you hire a service? Involve the family in the cleaning? Remember Ė if you are cooking and cleaning your house, you must arrange time for each in your schedule. Donít stretch yourself too thin or save too many things for the last minute. Think about the table settings and what needs to be readied for decorating your home. I pull out the Thanksgiving pictures my children have made through the years and hang them on the walls in our dining room. Itís fun to have a look back through the years!

What do you need from your family? Do your children take on some of the cooking? Can they set the table for you? Can they make place cards for your guests? A basket of activities or a list of things to do will help your children stay occupied so you can have that extra cooking time.

Invite school-aged children to do some Thanksgiving research online. What was the first Thanksgiving like? How did it evolve through the years? Older and younger children can write about or draw pictures of the things they are most thankful for.

Art projects around Thanksgiving themes can provide you with centerpieces, napkin holders, or costume hats for your guests to wear. Family Fun, a Disney website, has great Thanksgiving craft ideas.

Once you get beyond the preparations, you also want to make sure that this isnít just another family meal. Find ways to bring gratitude into the celebration. Start a family journal that you add to every year, recording what the family is grateful for through the years. Itís important to show your children that even through hard times or difficult moments, there is still an opportunity for gratitude. If your boss overworks you, for example, you can still express appreciation for having a job.

Make Thanksgiving morning a morning where you clean out your closets and gather clothes and toys to give to those who are less fortunate than you. After the heavy meal, take a walk with the whole family. There is a magic that takes place in nature, and laughter and conversation will be a part of any walk outdoors. Strengthen your multi-generational relationships and have your children interview their grandparents or great grandparents about Thanksgiving when they were children.

Thanksgiving should not become another day when mom has to cook, clean and get the children ready. All those things should be accomplished with enough organization to make Thanksgiving a holiday filled with meaning, history and quality family time.

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