Gratitude – Even in 2020

Posted November 24, 2020

Gratitude…Even in 2020

By Rita Thoemke


Thanksgiving is upon us, coming at the tail end of a year that has challenged and changed us in ways we never thought possible. Without a doubt, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the idea of a day set aside to do nothing but be with loved ones and be grateful. It is an easy day with no expectations. The challenge is taking this spirit of gratitude and weaving it into daily life. It takes conscious effort. Almost like exercise, the more I practice it, the better I feel.

When I was very young, my mom made up a bedtime prayer that I still say. It was a simple prayer of thanks for every family member. “Thank you for Mom and Dad, Tommy and Laura, Brian and Rita. Thank you for Grandma and Grandpa S. and Grandpa H.” As the years went by, the family dog was added. Then friends, neighbors, in-laws, coworkers. My mom had taught me to take a nightly inventory of everyone and everything I am thankful for.

I have learned that the magic really happens when you express your thankfulness. I stumbled upon this as a young child. My bike had a flat tire that my dad took time to patch. Before riding off on my bike, I thanked my dad for fixing the tire. I thought nothing of it. Later that night before bed, my dad told me nobody had ever thanked him for fixing their bike before. He very honestly told me how good that made him feel to know I appreciated him.

Hearing somebody express appreciation for us can be transforming. “Thank you for putting your toys away, Leah. That really helps me out.” “Thank you for helping your sister rake the leaves. I know you would rather have been doing something fun.” “Thank you for putting the dishes away. What a wonderful surprise!” It feels so good to be appreciated.

I don’t enjoy cooking on a nightly basis. When I cook dinner for the family, my husband always thanks me for a good meal. On the flip side, when he brings take-out home, I thank him and let him know how much I appreciate it. I believe that most of us hold many thoughts of thanks in our hearts all the time. Expressing them can bring unexpected results. One day I found myself thinking about my best friend. I picked my phone up and sent her a quick text telling her I was thankful for her friendship. My phone rang a few seconds later and it was her, tearfully saying how much my text message meant to her. Lesson learned – never hesitate to tell people how thankful you are for them.

Modeling gratitude for our kids can help them be resilient when they experience life’s challenges. The more they hear us say things like, “Getting a flat tire stinks, but I sure am happy it didn’t happen on the freeway,” or “It’s sad we can’t see our friends right now, but family movie nights make me so happy,” they will learn to look for and find the silver linings in unfortunate situations.

I was young when my Grandfather died. He was my first experience with loss. I remember wondering if I should still be including him in my nightly prayer, since he was no longer with us. I asked my sister one night about it. She replied by asking me if I was still thankful for him. Of course I was. That might have been my first lesson that we can still be grateful in the midst of pain and loss. I was sad that I lost my Grandpa, but my goodness, were we ever lucky to have him.

Gratitude might just be the antidote for all that causes suffering. Michael J. Fox said, “Part of gratitude is acceptance. Accept the situation, put it in its proper place, and then you can see how much of the rest of your life you have to thrive in.” If we can accept that 2020 brought us some unexpected challenges and anxiety, we can turn our attention to all the wonderful things that happened this year as well. I have a long list of things I was fortunate to experience in 2020. The friendships, love, and support I continue to find at All Seasons is most definitely on that list.

The Push and Pull of Growing Up

Posted November 10, 2020

The Push and Pull of Growing Up

By Amanda Janquart

The thrill of growing up and the desire to stay a child: the push and pull we all experience is on full display among the group of school-aged children that meets twice a week at All Seasons. They are all alumni of nature preschools; some were entering kindergarten and the oldest was about to start 4th grade before families chose the virtual school option during this pandemic. Now this varied group of eight are back in the woods and fields they know so well.

When we walked to the Boulders, an old beloved play space, a child deadpanned, “I think I’ll just call them rocks.” When we ran amok on the playground, they needed reminders to stay off the playhouse roof, and the trikes were suddenly ‘cute.’ “My bum is sliding off!” But when we got to the Pines, they quickly fell in love. Here were wide spaces to run and play recess games like ‘freeze tag,’ sticks to turn into swords and bows, trees to climb, and pine needles to sweep into soft piles. Here the group bonded and collaborated, working through rules for their invented game of Pickle Lion and reading books out loud that kept us on similar pages. We shared interests in leaves, fungi, amphibians, and trees.

Then it became abundantly clear that they were ready for more: wider ranges and chances to be independent from the teacher – the pull of growing up. What better place to ‘escape’ than to a fort, a place to be little and big all at the same time. A place where you are in charge and a place to play.

Thank goodness for the freedom to build forts in the woods. By this point, the children knew well the invasive buckthorn tree and knew that it could be sawed down without remorse to use as building material. “We just started with a foot of room. Then you said, ‘I could buy you a tarp,’ and we said, ‘Yahoo!’” With a little instruction, the children could be trusted with tools, and with the addition of bungee cords, tarps, rope, old bedsheets and scrap wood, there has been no stopping the progression of their homes away from home. If we don’t head to the forts straight away, the chants of “Can we go now?” never cease.

These forts are important places in which the children are invested. The forts are reworked daily as the children incorporate new design ideas or fix sagging roofs. “Making a deck is the hardest part.” “The best part is seeing how we improve every time.” More games, such as Catch the (Human) Fish, have been invented. There have been fossil digs, measurements made for doggy doors and fire pit rocks arranged just so. There have been fights over hoarding of materials and pretend garage sales to free up those materials for others to use. There is a ladder built from scratch, making it easier to get up to an actual slide. There is joy, curiosity and integrity. There is space to work as a group as they shout out design ideas for a logo, and quiet corners to work on hammering by yourself.

And here is my favorite part. It has to do with a book I can’t get through without sobbing, Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran. Like the characters in the book, our school-agers have added decorations to their constructed world – golf balls, very important bones, hand painted rocks, blocks of wood masquerading as electronic gadgets, sticks covered entirely with duct tape – the pieces of their childhood that take on untold value. Pieces that represent this special time between growing and grown. I hope so sincerely that they will look back years and years from now and remember the time with fondness.