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What was that first Thanksgiving dinner actually like? We've been poking around and have found some great websites for your family to learn about that momentous meal.

Some Fun Facts about the First Thanksgiving:

  • The first Thanksgiving feast was in 1621, at Plymouth Colony, between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe.
  • The pilgrims wore bright and cheerful clothing to the feast (not black and white like we sometimes imagine).
  • The guests ate deer, fowl, seafood, and lots of fruits and vegetables at that first dinner.
  • They played ball games (Turkey Bowl anyone?), sang and danced, and hunted.
  • The first Thanksgiving dinner lasted 3 days!

More fun websites:

All Kinds of Facts, Stories, and Videos about the First Thanksgiving (Scholastic)

A Fun Video on the First Thanksgiving Meal (History Channel)

Myths and Truths about the First Thanksgiving (National Geographic Kids)

A Thanksgiving ... Eel? (New York Times)

What They Really Ate that First Thanksgiving (NPR)

Printable Thanksgiving Crafts and Activities for Kids

Tools for Trailblazing and Creative Ideas for Outdoor Fun

"I could never resist the call of the trail"

Buffalo Bill

 Today is an adventure! The moment children step outside, magic begins to happen. We've compiled a simple list of trailblazing tools and paired them with ideas for making the outdoors an imagination adventure.

Ride into the Wild Blue Yonder

-CowboyRoundup: Round up sheep (toys) in the yard, be the sheriff and capture villains, rescue stuffed animals tied to the tracks, learn to lasso. -Horse Show: Have them do tricks (jump, twist, trot etc) on their horse. Give them a 1st place ribbon. -Kentucky Derby: Have everyone dress up in their fanciest hats and then race around the yard on your horse. -Palio de Siena: This is a famous Italian Horse race through a winding medieval city. Have everyone create their own flag. Then create an obstacle course for kids to race through and at the end give them Gelato (or ice cream). -Magic Forest: Ride your horse through an enchanted forest collecting magic items. Watch out for sinkholes, and swamp monsters.

Every Adventure Deserves a Good Meal

Every adventure needs treats. Coordinate your treats to the type of exploration. Put them in this clever reusable lunch bag to keep them cold or warm.

Pirate Booty Food: Oranges (to keep you from getting scurvy), goldfish crackers, cheese cubes (it's actually blocks of gold!), Bananas (to use as a hook), crackers (they are sea biscuits). Cowboys Grub: Beef Jerky cut into kid friendly strips (a cowboy's best friend), chocolate milk (to grow big and strong), rice krispies (it's actually a hay stack. Cowboys love eating haystacks), carrots to share with their horse. Enchanted Forest Feast Berries (you can pretend to gather them), pretzel sticks (they are actually magic fairy wands!) frosted animal cookies (frosted fairy cookies with rainbow fairy dust blown on them.) Pink lemonade (It's sunset cloud juice, only fairies can fly high enough to get it).

Become a Botanist

The Garden, forest, lawn and park, become a jungle and your child becomes an adventurous scientist. Collect plants and learn about them. Get close to bugs with your magnifying glass. Press flower and plant specimen. Take notes in a plant journal.

Cut to the Chase!

You may need a handy pocketknife along the way! The great thing about this little wooden pocketknife is that you can build it together! Also it's not hard, no glue needed, just use the pins they provide (that's a relief for those of us who were never scouts).

OTHER GREAT THINGS TO BRING ALONG FOR THE ADVENTURE

Treasures Untold

Gold. It's a great for almost any playtime adventure. Bury this in the sandbox. Hide it in the woods with a treasure map. Search for it in the the garden. Simple but memorable.

POW POW

It's only make believe but this wooden pop gun might save your life, if for example, you encounter wild beasts, you need a gun to maintain law and order, you are a pioneer in need of buffalo meat, you are attacked by a band of hair-eating elves and need to save your ponytail, etc... You never know.

The Power of a Paper Pad

A perfect companion to trailblazing is a notepad, and it might as well be a cool notepad. Use this fun notepad to keep secret files, write short stories, jot down inspiration, sketch out a map, scrawl out secret notes, draw pictures on and so on, and on.

Trailblazing! A Family Activity

Trailblaze this week with the kids. Leave the phones at home and go get lost in the woods behind the house, or discover a new path through the park. Let the kids lead the way!

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As any good trailblazer knows, the woods and fields and forests are full of danger!

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Make sure you're prepared for anything you might encounter--falling boulders, torrential thunderstorms, quicksand, cougar attacks, lava, deer stampedes, fairy enchantments, bear caves, and tornadoes! And don't forget to camouflage your faces to keep you well-hidden on the trail!

Suggested Packing List:

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  • Sturdy sticks (for fighting bears, chopping down trees, building shelters, fishing deep sea tuna out of the lake for dinner, and pulling yourselves out of quicksand traps)
  • Rope (for scaling plummeting ravines and climbing trees to escape packs of hyenas)
  • Cloaks or blankets (with special forcefield powers to protect from stampeding deer, thunderstorms, and dragons; and with invisibility powers to hide yourselves from dive-bombing eagles)
  • Map (with giant trailblazer-eating plants carefully marked. treasure optional)
  • Snacks (in case you get captured by bridge trolls who don't feed you dinner)
  • Compass (to get back home safe and sound)

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The Cox Family: Creating Meaningful Traditions for a Strong Family

Meg Cox has worked for the Wall Street Journal for 17 years now and is the author of, The Book of New Family Traditions, a book dedicated to helping families form heartfelt and meaningful traditions.

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"I didn't get to be a mother until I was 40, so I really feared I would miss out on motherhood and the chance to build a close family of my own. . .there is nothing like the love and support of the people who know you best in the world, and love you despite your eccentricities and frailties."

Can you introduce me to your family? Meg: I am Meg Cox, and my family includes my husband Richard and our son Max. I think of my step-daughter Kate, her husband Will and daughter Kate as part of our family, but they don’t live with us.

Why is your family important to you? Meg: Both of my parents have been dead for some years and I didn't get to be a mother until I was 40, so I really feared I would miss out on motherhood and the chance to build a close family of my own. All the people in my family are strong individuals who like their fair share of solitude, but there is nothing like the love and support of the people who know you best in the world, and love you despite your eccentricities and frailties.

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"Once I got married and started to think about kids, I thought about especially close families I knew and realized that traditions were at the core of their relationship. When I got pregnant, I started interviewing families all over the country that had wonderfully creative and meaningful rituals for my first book, The Heart of a Family."

Where did your love of traditions begin? Meg: Into my 30s, I was pretty much focused on my journalism career and hadn't met the right person with whom to start a family. But once I got married and started to think about kids, I thought about especially close families I knew and realized that traditions were at the core of their relationship. When I got pregnant, I started interviewing families all over the country that had wonderfully creative and meaningful rituals for my first book, The Heart of a Family, published by Random House in 1998.

Why are traditions important for families? Meg: Traditions are the actions that speak louder than words: they demonstrate in very clear ways the values and passions of a given family. Many traditions are centered around the religious faith of the parents, and they also tend to reflect their heritage and passions. The reason for paying attention to what you celebrate and how you celebrate it is that traditions are a memorable (and often theatrical) way to pass these values and beliefs on to your children. One quick example: parents who feel it is important to raise children who are compassionate and giving will make sure that a holiday such as Christmas isn't about getting presents, but about creating occasions where the children can give of themselves.

The special box.

Where did I find the information for my book? Meg: Yes, it has been a massive project that is the culmination of many years of research, interviews and writing.The Book of New Family Traditions is a new edition of a book that first was published in 2003, and in the decade since, I have continued to look for families all over the country with fresh ideas for rituals and celebrations. I work with religious educators, psychologists and others, and I hear from families through my website,www.megcox.com, and a special Facebook page on tradition, www.facebook.com/TraditionsBook. In the new edition, I wanted to place less of an emphasis on big holidays and things like birthdays and more on everyday traditions like bedtime and dinnertime, as well as problem solving rituals.

What is your favorite family tradition? Meg: Wow. That is such a hard question and the answer has changed as my son has grown out of some rituals. But I have to say that a lot of our special traditions focused on making books and reading a special treat, and we had a Christmas tradition of taking all the Christmas books we own and wrapping them like gifts. As the days count down toward the holiday, my son would get one wrapped book to open, and we would read it together. A more recent one I love is what I did for my son's high school graduation: I had been asking teachers to write a letter to his future self starting in first grade, and I gave him a box of all these secret letters, along with letters from family members, when he graduated. He was stunned, and thrilled. (here is a link to a blog post I wrote about that: http://megcox.com/2013/06/got-a-toddler-do-this-now-for-a-memorable-high-school-graduation/)

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"The daily rituals such as nap time, bath time and bedtime are initially much more important to think about than birthdays and holidays. They give your kids a sense of security, comfort and identity."

If you could give a piece of advice to new parents, what would that be? Meg: Don't neglect those built-in traditions across the years where everybody gets together and simply talks and shares: if you don't get in the habit of doing this when they are young, you'll never know what's going on when they get caught up in school and activities, and especially enter the teen years. Make it fun, provide treats, but start this expectation of together time when they are quite young. Also, the daily rituals such as nap time, bath time and bedtime are initially much more important to think about than birthdays and holidays. They give your kids a sense of security, comfort and identity.

The Courageous Reading List

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A clever list of books to teach children about true courage

I AM SO BRAVE by Stephen Krensky

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A delightful book about overcoming fears. I Am So Brave encourages children to try new things. The bright graphics are both beautiful and fun. Ages 1-3

 

Mr. Brave by Roger Hargreaves

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Being brave is more than being strong; it’s about being a true friend. We like that Mr. Brave has glasses and that he  is nice. Brave people come in all shapes and sizes. Ages 5+

 

My Dad is Big and Strong But... by Coralie Saudo

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It takes courage to go to bed! A silly story to make your children giggle at a fun parent/child role reversal. Ages 4-8

 

Night Light by Kyla Ryman Artwork by Sara Woster IMG_9466

The night becomes less frightening in a book that focuses on what you can see in the dark. This simple book is designed to teach children to recognize words. Lovely artwork. Ages 3+

 

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson IMG_9479

Pirates, treasure, maps, ships, secrets, all wrapped into an adventurous tale. Courage takes many forms in this book, and not always in the most expected ways. Ages 10+

 

The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier IMG_9496

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A wonderfully spooky story about two abandoned siblings working in a creepy, crumbling English Manor. We love the way it weaves together a mesmerizing tale with a thoughtful message on courage. Ages 10+

 

The Call of the Wild by Jack London IMG_9486

An adventurous tale of a kidnapped dog named Buck who courageously takes on whatever comes his way. Ages 12+

Face your Fears! (A Family Activity)

Face Your Fears Afraid of Dark

"Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy." (Dale Carnegie)

True courage is sometimes more about small, everyday actions than about the hero stuff we see in movies. We aren’t often confronted with burning buildings or battlefields, but every day we have opportunities to practice courage in small ways.

Here’s an idea for a fun activity that’ll get the whole family putting on their brave faces and conquering their fears!

  1. Gather the family together.
  2. Each person makes a list of all the things they're afraid of. The kids’ lists might include things like spiders, going downstairs alone, monsters under the bed, eating broccoli, calling friends to invite them over to play, going down slides, the neighbor’s dog, etc. Mom and dad’s list might be things like talking to the boss, saying sorry, heights, swimming…monsters under the bed, eating broccoli, the neighbor’s dog (wink).
  3. Share your lists with each other, and maybe talk a little bit about how life might be happier if you weren't afraid of those things.
  4. Then, each person chooses one fear to face this week! Afraid of heights? Get up on a ladder (with the whole family down below as a safety net, just in case). Afraid of going downstairs in the dark? Gather around each other and go down together! Use the support of one another to help conquer your fears, and to have fun along the way.

Do it for the week or do it for the month! What fears will you conquer in the next 30 days?

November: A Month for Courage

Kids on Courage from Blickenstaffs on Vimeo.

Every day, we're faced with situations that push us out of our comfort zones. Maybe it's climbing the ladder to get that box down from the garage. Maybe it's talking to a new person at work, or facing up to a mistake we made. In varying degrees, these day-to-day situations demand courage. Courage is the driving force that gets us through the scary (but necessary) experiences of life that turn us into better, braver, stronger people. When kids start practicing courage, they become more confident. They learn that they can do hard things and see that they are capable of greatness!

So this month, we want to talk about courage! We’ll explore what courage means, give some creative ideas for building courage in your family, invite you to do brave things, and share some courageous games, books, and treats we love along the way.

To start talking about courage, we thought we’d go to the source of all things brave: kids! Who else regularly swordfights dragons, parachutes off high buildings, hunts lions in safari Africa, and floats the Amazon on nothing but a raft of couch pillows?!

We put our questions to them. So gather your kids, watch this little video, then go out and do something brave together!

Traditional Tidbits: Day of the Dead

“Picnic basket?”

“Check.”

“Flowers?”

“Check.”

“Grandpa’s favorite book?”

“Check.”

“Sugar skulls?”

“Check.”

“Fantastic! We are ready to go. Juan, Rosalita, Gabriel, and Hector, get down here! We’re leaving for the cemetery in five minutes!”

It was customary in my family, and in all of the families around us, to spend November 2 at the cemetery. There we ate food, talked about grandpa, prayed for grandpa, placed sugar skulls on grandpa’s grave, and read grandpa his favorite book. My mom always cried a little, but the tears came from a happy place inside of her -- a place that knew grandpa was still with her.

“Okay, my little angelitos! Let’s go!”

As we walked down the lane to the cemetery, I thought of my grandpa. I thought about how he had walked down the very same lane I was walking down, so he could visit his grandpa on Day of the Dead. Then I thought about how his grandpa walked down that lane to visit his grandpa. And how his grandpa did the same. And then, in some strange way, I felt more connected to all those grandpas than ever before.

 

October 31, November 1, and November 2 are the days where the Mexican holiday of “Day of the Dead” is celebrated. Perhaps you don’t have access to the traditional costumes and decorations used in Mexico, but you can take the day to remember and celebrate the lives of your ancestors all the same.

 

Traditional Tidbit: Halloween

The night was alive

With the ghosts of the past.

The pumpkins shone bright,

Halloween’s here at last!

 

The sweet smell of Fall

Takes a turn towards the eery.

And kids eat their chocolate,

Not once getting weary.

 

It’s Halloween, Halloween!

Let out your best scream.

Bring your bones and your brains,

your costumes and games.

 

It’s Halloween, Halloween!

The night feels like a dream

Or maybe a nightmare

If given a good scare.

 

So watch out for ghouls,

goblins, monsters and trolls.

If you run into them,

they’ll stuff you in holes.

It’s Halloween, Halloween!

So put on your best mask.

Stay out far past dark,

Halloween’s here at last.

Traditional Tidbit: Count Your Buttons Day

“Okay, class, listen up. Tomorrow is ‘Count Your Buttons Day!’ Hooray!”

I think my teacher was expecting a little bit more enthusiasm from us than she got, because no one cheered. Because no one knew what “Count Your Buttons Day” was.

“Ms. Fitzminer, what in the world is ‘Count Your Buttons Day’?”

Oscar, the class genius said, “Well, Blair, it seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it? What else would you do on ‘Count Your Buttons Day’ besides count your buttons?”

The class laughed.

Ms. Fitzminer, sensing that Oscar’s response would ignite Blair’s hot temper, stepped in to explain a little further.

“Class, just like what Oscar said, but expressed in a more polite manner, ‘Count Your Buttons Day’ is a day where we all get to count our buttons!”

Still no enthusiasm.

“But, in our class, we are going to make it even more fun than simply counting buttons.”

Even more fun? What if the idea of counting buttons wasn’t fun in the first place?

“We’re going to have a competition!”

The class shuffled in their seats to pay a little bit more attention. We didn’t give her all of our attention; she hadn’t earned that yet. But the word “competition” usually brings along with it the word “prize,” so we thought it might be worth some of our time.

“Tomorrow we are having a button counting competition. I will place you into teams of four. The goal of the game is to be the team that is wearing the highest number of buttons on their clothing. Whoever wins gets a prize.”

We all sat up straight and fixed our eyes on Ms. Fitzminer.

“What kind of prize, Ms. Fitzminer?” Blair asked.

“You won’t know until you win, but I promise it’s a good one.”

We all went home, and even though I could never know for certain, I’m sure that my classmates were tearing through their drawers, just like I was, in search for their most buttony clothes.

The next morning we all piled into the classroom at eight. Ms. Fitzminer was waiting there for us. She had drawn a table on the board that would track the number of buttons each team had.

“Now remember, class. You can only count the buttons you are wearing. You have two minutes to count. Ready, set, go!”

I had nine on my shirt, six on my pants, ten on my hat, and even two on my shoes. Dale had eleven on his jacket, four on his shirt, and five on his pants. Lucy didn’t like competition so she didn’t wear any buttons.

“Thanks, Lucy,” I said. “If we win, you’re not getting any of whatever the prize is.”

She stuck her tongue out at me. Whatever.

Jimmy had a total of twenty-one buttons, and Earl had fourteen. Altogether we had seventy-two buttons.

“Not bad!” I said to the others.

“Class! Class! The two minutes is up! Starting out with team one, shout out your numbers, please.”

“Sixty-eight!”

“Seventy!”

“Twenty-four!”

“Forty-nine!”

“Seventy-two!”

What? How was that possible? Team five had the same exact number as us!

“And team six?” Ms. Fitzminer asked.

“We have seventy-two as well.”

We were the last team to go.

“Hmmm. A tie. It seems like you two teams will have to share the prize!”

Lucy smirked at me.

“But no matter! ‘Count Your Buttons Day’ is more about fun than winning anyways.”

“So what is our prize?” I asked.

Ms. Fitzminer giggled with excitement. She could hardly contain herself -- I thought she would explode.

“ONE GIANT BUTTON!” she yelled out in exuberance.

The button was bigger than my head. I looked around at my teammates. None of them wanted it. And I didn’t want to carry that thing home. It must have weighed ten pounds, easy. I looked over at team five -- they had the same look on their faces. No one wanted that giant button.

I got a devious idea in my head.

“Ms. Fitzminer! We all think Lucy should get the button! See, poor Lucy doesn’t have any buttons!”

“Oh! That is a wonderful idea. You are all so kind.”

I smiled at Lucy as the bell rang and she took off down the hallway, lugging the giant button behind her.

 

Traditional Tidbits: Old Farmer's Day

Farming existed in my family for generations. The same land I live on now was cultivated by my forefathers for hundreds of years. They all shaped the way the landscape looks now.

I often think about the image of those early farmers: bent over from the long hours of hard labor, wiping the sweat dripping from their brows as they completed another day of work in their fields. Those fields provided food. Those fields provided purpose. Those fields provided life.

And now I, just like them, look over the vast expanse in front of me, rejoicing at the end of my harvest. And, just like them, I, at the end of my labors, call my work good.

October 12 is Old Farmer’s Day. This is a day to celebrate and recognize the contributions that American farmers have made, still make, and will continue to make in the shaping of this country. Celebrate by eating local or thanking a farmer for the work he or she does.

Traditional Tidbits: Leif Erikson Day

“Leif! Leif!” Will you stop creating tidal waves in the kitchen sink long enough to actually wash the dishes?”

“But mom! Don’t you get it? The sponge is my twelfth great grandfather’s, Leif Erikson’s, ship! And I’m trying to see just how unsinkable it really was.”

Mom walked over to me, put her hand on my shoulder and said, “When you’re old enough to grow a beard like your twelfth great-grandfather’s, then you can take a real ship out on to the ocean and test how unsinkable that is. But for now, just wash the dishes.”

It was customary in our family that when a young boy began to grow facial hair he could then take the family boat out on the water for a sailing trip. I guess it was a tradition started because of our ancestry.

“And mom, just how long do you think it will take for that to happen?”

She laughed and answered, “Oh, another five years or so.”

I looked at the sponge and sighed, knowing that for five years the only thing I was captain of was a sink full of dirty water and nasty dishes.

 

October 9 is Leif Erikson Day! Celebrate today by learning about his discovery of America, reading about viking history, or exploring something new and mysterious.