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November 26, 2014 Family, Food, and Thankfulness By Genia Connell
Grades PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8

    Each year around this time, we pause to stop and express what we’re thankful for. It’s a good practice, especially if you’re like me, and have been known to lose sight of what’s important in a busy, hectic life.

    I came to fully understand thankfulness seven years ago, when after a visit to the doctor, I received a call to contact their office immediately. It was 7p.m. on a Friday night — I knew that wasn’t good. Over the phone (seriously — over the phone!) I was told I had an aggressive form of leukemia. I was admitted to the hospital that evening and had test after test done. As it turns out, there had been a mix-up at the lab. I was fine. While it was one of the most awful weekends of my life, I also consider it to be one of the best. When you spend a couple days thinking you have three to five years left to live, you quickly realize what you’re truly thankful for. Not once did I think about a clean house, work, shoes, or designer handbags. I thought of only one thing — the people in my life.

    Who are the people you’re thankful for in your life? Here are a few people I'm thankful to have in my life:

    My husband: My oldest daughter once asked me why I married her dad — what I saw in him. I told her he was the nicest person I had ever met in my life. Twenty-five years later, he still is. He travels several days a week, but when he’s home he runs out in the morning to get me a cup of coffee, no matter the weather — especially nice since he doesn’t even drink coffee. I always tell him if he would learn to make coffee he would save a lot of time and money, but I’m secretly thrilled to wake up to my cup of coffee waiting for me on the bathroom counter, and I'm thankful for all the other things he does in putting family first.

    My kids: I’m so proud of my kids and who they are. They work hard and they make good choices. They care about family and they care about others. They’re smart and they’re funny, and when they’re older and have children they will realize that every rule and ridiculous curfew was only because their dad and I love them more than anything in the world. 


    My sisters: We like to say we put the fun in dysfunctional (or maybe I just say that?) but I wouldn’t trade my three sisters for the world.

    My dad: In his 88 years, my dad has turned from the gruff, don’t you dare talk while the news or All in the Family is on, dad to the sweetest grandpa ever. My kids adore him and so do I.

    Other people who make my life better: I’m thankful to Lisa and Dave, my teaching partners who tolerate my I just had an idea I want to try today teaching style, and Nancy and Nadeen who I can always count on for a great conversation that usually begins with, “I think we must be getting old…” I’m especially thankful for my one-of-a-kind friend Sheryl, who my daughter calls my hype girl. She makes me feel like I’m wonderful even when I know I’m not. We meet nearly every Saturday for breakfasts that last three hours and we still have more left to talk about when we’re done. I’m also thankful for longtime friends that, while we may not see each other as often as we’d like, it’s just like old times when we do.

    My students: When you teach third grade you get to feel like a superhero everyday. I’m thankful for my students and all the joy they bring into my life — from the hugs I get first thing each morning to the wide-eyed smiles when they finally “get” something for the first time. While I hope I’ll have a lasting impact on them, they probably have no idea what an impact they have on me each year.

    Last, but certainly not least my mom: I wrote about my mom in my post, "What a Student Taught Me About Thankfulness." She is still my guiding light. She’s the reason my kids endured the ridiculous curfews they did, and four years after she passed away I was able to marry my husband knowing she had met him and thought he was as nice as I did. One of the greatest gifts I got from my mom was my love of cooking for others. I spent countless hours in the kitchen with her, and I can remember being 4 years old telling everyone who’d listen that I wanted to be a cooker just like my mom.

                      My barefoot, 3-year-old self being held by my mom over a hot grill while holding a long fork. It was the late sixties what could go wrong? 

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s a day I can emulate my mom by bringing two dozen family members together in our house and cooking all the foods we grew up with. It’s the one meal where, along with the traditional favorites, I also like to try out a few things that make everyone smile. During this week of Thanksgiving, I’m happy to share a few recipes on my menu this year I hope will bring smiles to my family.  If you try them out, I hope they put a smile on the faces of the people you are thankful for.

    Recipes to Try This Thanksgiving

    Click on each recipe for a printable version.

    Turkey Cheeseball

    Turkey Shaped Thanksgiving Cheeseball

    turkey cheeseball for thanksgiving

    Nacho Cheese Pumpkin-Shaped Cheeseball

    Nacho Cheese Pumpkin Shaped Cheeseball

    Nacho Cheese Cheeseball

    Chocolate Covered Turkey Pretzels

    Chocolate Covered Turkey Pretzels

    Chocolate Covered turkey Pretzels

    Wishing you and your family health, happiness and the joy that comes from spending time and sharing a meal with family this Thanksgiving week.


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