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Gratitude, a tree and a new tradition

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Our little "Gratitude Tree" is growing more leaves every day.

Our little “Gratitude Tree” is growing more leaves every day.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert

One of the most important things I feel I can do for my children is create a beautiful, safe, warm, comforting home that they feel loved in. I want my boys to feel that love overflowing as soon as they step in the door.

Part of how I show my love at home is creating fun things to do as a family. I want some of their best memories to be sitting by the fire reading books with me on a cold, stormy day or listening to their dad sing them a lullaby on the bottom bunk-bed at night or giggling over something one of their brothers did at the dinner table while gobbling down fresh chocolate chip banana bread (my one baked “claim to fame”).

Years from now, when they have long grown up and moved away, I hope that smell still reminds them of home.

This Thanksgiving, I decided to spread my creative wings a bit. Instead of going to the library for a good book about the first Thanksgiving or making a tasty treat, I decided to copy something I saw out of the November issue of the LDS magazine “The Friend.” (OK, so I guess it wasn’t really my creative idea!) That's where I saw a little craft idea titled the “Gratitude Tree.”

After cutting a big trunk out of brown butcher paper and taping it to our wall, we made lots of little colorful leaves. Each day, throughout the month of November, I asked my little ones (and big one) to think of things they were grateful for and see how many fall leaves we could stick on our “gratitude tree.”

At first it was easy to think of things. Leaves that read “home,” “food,” “blankets” and “doctors” were quickly written and stuck on the bare branches. But as the days have gone by, this little tree has caused me to dig those gratitude roots a little deeper — things such as “sharp eyes,” a "healthy, functioning body” and “safe neighborhood” are things I take for granted most days.

The recent tragedy in the Philippines has really made this time of year seem especially important — to be thankful every day for our blessings.

Thanksgiving tends to be a holiday that's sort of brushed over, almost an “OK-let's-hurry-up-and-get-this-over-with” kind of celebration, like a speed bump between Halloween and Christmas.

Perhaps it’s because this is truly a humble holiday where the focus is not on getting, or really even giving.

It’s about being content with what you already have.

I want this brand-new idea of creating a gratitude tree at the first of November to become a new tradition in our home. I love the anticipation of the holiday season for all the wonderful memories and fun activities it brings, but somehow after seeing our little heartfelt handwritten leaves, beautifully displaying our acknowledgement of blessings we have received, there really doesn’t seem to be much more I could ask for.

Carmen Rasmusen Herbert is a former "American Idol" contestant who writes about entertainment and family for the Deseret News.