New traditions

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Over the years, Thanksgiving has taken on many different forms.  When I was a child, my family would sometimes spend the weekend in Rhode Island & Connecticut with my father’s side of the family. All of the cousins would stay up late the night before, sharing stories and giggles. We would sleep in on Thanksgiving morning and wake up just in time for appetizers at noon. The adults would sit at the main table and the kids would have their own table or two.  We would eat all day, having second and even third dinner, with naps & snuggles on the couch in between.

Other years, my family would spend the day with my mother’s side of the family. We would all gather at my grandparents house for dinner promptly at noon. There were so many aunts, uncles and cousins that we ate buffet style. We would line up with our plates and serve ourselves heaping helpings of food and then sit wherever we could find the room. Sometimes the table, sometimes the couch and sometimes the stairs going up to the second floor.

The first Thanksgiving after I met Joe, he wasn’t planning on celebrating the day because his family was in Florida. Him and his roommate were going to stay home and order a pizza. I immediately invited them to my grandparent’s house and after a little hesitation, they both agreed. “The Joe’s”, as my uncles called them (something they laughed at for years), were welcomed into my family gathering without question.

After moving to Florida, we spend the first few Thanksgivings at my in-laws, with the exception of the year we bought our house when we hosted for the first time ever.

The last four years though, we have taken on a new tradition that has been named the Brown-Hall-Rivers-Thanksgiving-Extravaganza. It started with my younger sisters coming to spend their first Thanksgiving in Florida with the windows open and wearing tank tops. This first year was also the infamous year that I dropped the freshly baked apple pie that my little sister made for dessert. The following year, we decided to head to Georgia and experience a cooler fall Thanksgiving, where we were able to bundle up and snuggle to keep warm in the chilly air.

Last year, my baby sister and her (now) fiance traveled back to Florida to spend little man’s first Thanksgiving with us. Jacob, despite only eating milk at the time, was the head of the table (something that seems rather fitting!).

This year, we caught an amazing sale on plane tickets early in the year and we are back in the beautiful late fall that Georgia offers. Though, instead of celebrating today, we are waiting until tomorrow so that my soon-to-be brother-in-law can join us. Today, he is in uniform protecting this wonderful city.  Tomorrow ee will join his aunt & uncle, who are kindly hosting us in their home for a feast and celebration.

So today, though we won’t have turkey and fixings, we are thankful. We are thankful for all of the amazing Thanksgivings that we been blessed to have, for the incredible family & friends who love and support us more than we could ever have imagined, for it being a “good” week that allows us the ability to travel and eat well, for this gorgeous fall weather, for each other and for each year that brings a new spin to our Thanksgiving traditions.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Enjoy this beautiful day with loved ones! I’d love to hear what traditions you share!

Pumpkins

Behind their yard, my grandparents grew a vegetable garden. My grandfather would plant rows and rows of all types of vegetables and they grew like weeds, thanks to the love and care that he gave them. I’ve never seen such a massive vegetable garden. My grandfather would send home anyone who visited with a basketful of the freshest vegetables. Toward the end of the vegetable season in New York, he would grow pumpkins.

Every year, a few weeks before Halloween, all of the cousins – dozens and dozens! – would venture over to my grandfather’s house and pick out their absolute favorite pumpkin. The one that would be theirs this year. There were dozens upon dozens of pumpkins to choose from; more than enough for everyone. But there was always that one…the one that we each knew was perfect for us because we were able to pick it out ourselves.

I remember running amongst the rows of pumpkins, determined to find the one that I loved the most. Sometimes it was small and round, other times it was fat and heavy. I would move it around in the dirt to see if it had any imperfections. I would try to lift it and it would take all of my might to pick it up – and it wasn’t even done growing yet! Once I was convinced that I found the perfect pumpkin, the one that was just right for me, I would let my grandfather know. He would pull out his pocket knife and carve my name in it. Not too deep, as to pierce through the pumpkin, but just enough for my name to be visible. Over the next few weeks, the fresh carving would start to heal and the pumpkin would continue to grow with it.

When it was time to start carving our pumpkins for Halloween, my sisters and I would return to the vegetable garden. We would run through the pumpkins once again, past the names of all our cousins etched into the bright orange skin, trying to remember exactly where our perfect pumpkin sat. By this time, our names had become a part of the pumpkin. No longer an open wound but instead a brown scar, healed by time.

Today, we cut open one of the pumpkins from our hayride (late, I know). We scooped out all of the seeds and set them out to dry overnight to bake tomorrow. The other pumpkins? They’ll be placed out on the side of the house to decompose, with the hope of growing new pumpkins next year. Perhaps one that is just right for Jacob’s name.

What a week!

What a week! The month of October was emotional. Aside from treatment and everyday life, it is Breast Cancer Awareness month and that brings a new set of emotions for me and my family. We have always worn pink in support of awareness, however we hadn’t been intimately affected by this horrible disease. Now that we are fighting the battle that breast cancer brings, October has an entirely new meaning for us.

The week began with a meet & greet opportunity thanks to our local Country Music station – K92.3. They arranged a delicious dinner for Survivors and then Joe & I met the band A Thousand Horses. We met some of the strongest, kindest and funniest women ever that night – all warriors who have beaten breast cancer! It was a blast and such an incredible treat to be surrounded by so many strong women and their loved ones.

A Thousand Horses Survivors K923Yesterday we had the honor of walking in Orlando’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk. It is the 2nd largest breast cancer walk in the country and over 60,000 people attended yesterday! 60,000! Little man’s daycare sponsored me – yes, me! The wonderful ladies at daycare had shirts made especially for the walk and friends, teachers, parents and families all came out to walk alongside us. It was incredible. The amount of people who have been affected by breast cancer is truly astounding. The Survivors – the strong, determined women who would not give in to this disease – were truly an inspiration. It was a humbling morning filled with tears, laughter and fun. Despite the heat, we finished with a smile on our face. It makes me excited for next year – when I can truly say I SURVIVED!

Our family 103115Us & the Kings 103115  A look back 103115 Me & Brittany 103115 The Finish Line

The hayride

Hayride

My grandparents had 11 children so our family is quite large – aunts, uncles and dozens of cousins. As a child, the central meeting place for all of our family was always my grandparents’ house. Their doors were always unlocked so that anyone could stop by whenever they felt like it. We spent many Sundays eating a large dinner at noon, while sitting on a wooden bench and drinking ice cold milk. During the warm months, we would sit on the picnic table outside, under the shade of the maple tree that hung a tire swing. My grandmother took great pride in her yard and garden. It was always filled with colorful flowers, decorations and beautiful smells.

One of my favorite memories from childhood is in the fall. When the air cooled and the night came early, my entire family would meet at my grandparents’ house to celebrate Halloween. We would dress up in our costumes and load up in my grandfather’s wagon, surrounded by bales of hay. He would hop onto his tractor and we would ride all around their property. Past the vegetable garden that my grandfather grew – now filled with leftover pumpkins, past the old dilapidated barn that us cousins were too afraid to explore in depth, behind the neighbor’s house where we often played. We would splash through the mud tracks where the dirt trail was a little bit lower. The wagon would sway through the divots in the road and we would giggle as we bumped all around. The tractor would pull us farther and farther, until we couldn’t see my grandparent’s house anymore. We would pass the massive maple tree that had lost all of its leaves and steer away from the pond that was surrounded by muck. The hayride seemed to last for hours until the sun went down and it was time to head back.

Today we visited a farm and Jacob experienced his very first hayride. Although the weather was much warmer in Florida today, the bouncing seats and bales of hay brought back incredible memories. Jacob sat tall on a bale of hay with his buddy from birth and smiled big. I couldn’t help but feel content. These moments in time, where I am able to take an experience that I loved as a child and pass it along to Jacob makes my heart smile. I hope to continue this tradition every year and I hope that Jacob will grow to love it as much as I do.

What tradition from your childhood do you hope to pass along?