Several years ago a friend of mine posted on her blog about a Thanksgiving tree she'd made. Each day in November she and her family would write something for which they were thankful on a paper leaf and stick it onto the tree. I fell in love with the idea and I knew that I wanted to do something similar when I had kids (though it's not a bad idea for anyone to do whether single, married, childless etc...). There are so many variations of this around the inter webs that you really can't go wrong.
But I wanted to do something that I could do the prep work for one year and then use the pieces year after year. Here is what we ended up with:
Last year I had a family friend from church, who is a carpenter, cut this tree out of plywood. I had intended to use it last November. But, as I was learning at the time, when you have children (or possibly just when you're me) sometimes things that you think will only take you 10 minutes will actually take you a year to get around to (I had this problem before children too so I can't totally blame it on John although he makes for a convenient excuse. ;o) )
This year we stained the tree, Peter installed hooks and I cut out and laminated what seemed like approximately 7,000 leaves, poked holes in them and tied ribbon through the holes. We wrote what we are thankful for on the leaves with dry erase markers so they can be erased and used year after year. If there are any special ones that I'd like to save I can use a permanent marker and put it in a scrapbook.
My goal was to do this each day in November. We got around to it once. (In all fairness we didn't have the tree in working order until about the 15th and then I went out of town on the 21st!) But it's a start! John's still too young to recall any of this so we're having a few practice years!
I have big plans for the tree. I also, in coming years, hope to use it as a resurrection tree leading up to Easter and possibly an advent tree as well.
I'm looking forward to when John will be able to participate more and we don't have to guess what he's most thankful for. Though we did guess for him this year and I'm pretty sure among his top three are his mama, his lovie, and bananas (bananas might be number one but I'm just vain enough to put myself first).
I think this is such a fun way to cultivate thanksgiving and contentment! There are so many things to be thankful for that a leaf for everyday in November wouldn't even begin to cover it!
"But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise." Ps 79:13