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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

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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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?

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.