Family Traditions

The world today is filled with violence. Take, for instance, the attack on the World Trade Center, or the recent sniper attacks in Virginia and Washington D.C. Maybe if we all took a little time with our kids and created some family memories the world wouldn't be so filled with so much violence.

I remember helping my grandma cook Thanksgiving dinner. I got to put the butter in the butter horn rolls that my great grandma made. It was my job to make sure each piece of butter was placed just so in the center of those flaky rolls. We never had a family gathering without them.

I also got to put the spices in the pumpkin ... er, squash pie. Every year, my uncle would swear up and down that it was pumpkin pie. A few years ago, we finally had to SHOW him that it was really squash. From then on he SWORE he could tell the difference!

We always got to help with the cookies for the holidays. Sometimes we would mix them, other times we would roll out the sugar cookies and then cut them out. I learned to cook by using the dash and dollop method. That is, a dash of this a dollop of that! I think the only time we followed a recipe was to check what ingredients came next, and we usually ended up making up some!

I remember baking pies and then setting them on the dryer on the back porch to cool. The porch was enclosed, of course, but one year the cats got in and ate all the pies. Oh boy, when we found them they were fat and happy and stuffed like the turkey! So that year we had store-bought pies.

Then, there was the year we had a Jell-O mold sitting on the dryer... and forgot it was there. Well, we ended up having Jell-O soup. OOPS! So a word to the wise, don't forget where you put the jello.

This year, I've been put in charge of Thanksgiving dinner at my mother's home because she has to work. I have been trying to think of ways to include the children in the preparations ... hoping that I can recreate some of the warm memories I have from when I was young.

We have begun baking cookies and making chex mix, the kids helped me to measure out and mix up the ingredients. I'm also in my own subtle way working with my oldest, Destiny, on learning her numbers and simple math. For example she counted the number of cookies on each pan. Then counted them again when we took the cookies off the pan to cool. I gave each of the kids a cookie and then we counted again to see how many were left.

We are working on her letter recognition also; she points out different letters in the ingredient list and the ones she doesn't recognize we work on finding everywhere. We look for them on TV, in books, magazines, street signs, at the grocery store, everywhere! She's getting better but we have a long way to go.

One of the things most children remember about thanksgiving dinner is sitting at the "kids" table. Instead of fine china, crystal glasses otherwise known as the GOOD stuff, you get paper plates and sippy cups. As a child you dream of the day you get to join the adults at the big table, as a sort of right of passing.

As a child I got to set the table, it was the big thing for me to place all the plates around the table, then the silverware in the right order and napkins then the sparkly glasses. I've washed my mom's china, all ready to use come the big day. I thought it would add a special touch to the occasion. The girls have been busy drawing turkeys by tracing their hands and then coloring the different "feather" fingers. Then we'll take each one and make name cards or thank you cards.

They also get to put the filling into the celery and arrange the pickles and various items on the veggie tray, nibbling the whole time of course. One thing I like to have on the veggie tray is green onion rollups. They are made with a slice of deli thin beef or corned beef that comes in the little packages usually are square shaped. Then you take some softened cream cheese and spread it on the beef. After you get the cheese spread onto the beef then roll up a green onion inside. Simple, easy and the kids can help roll them up. An alternative to this would be substituting ham for beef or even a pickle spear for the onion. You might even try different flavors of cream cheese filling!

There are lots of ways you can involve your child in the holiday festivities. Be creative, allow them to help you and, above all, don't stress the small things. Happy Holidays!

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