Halloween is behind us and just like that we are thrown into the next round of holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas can be hard when it comes to food allergies. For us, Christmas Eve is the most stressful as it involves a huge family gathering with a lot of unsafe food. Ollie has always been totally fine, but it’s just the one where I feel a little more on edge. None the less, it’s a favorite memory of mine as a child and we will make sure it can safely be the same for Ollie. During a sometimes crazy and stressful holiday season, I love this new tradition in our house, the thankful tree.
what is a thankful tree?
We started the thankful tree, aka “thank you tree,” if you ask Ollie, last year. It’s a kid-friendly, tree-shaped gratitude journal. The concept is quite simple: put a paper tree up on your wall and add a new leaf with something your child is thankful for each day for the month of November. It’s a great way to bring thankfulness in beyond the single day of Thanksgiving. Some families do a leaf for each family member each day. My husband and I share things we are thankful for as part of the conversation, but we only add one leaf to the tree each day.
how to make your own
Last year, our leaves were all autumn colored cutouts of Ollie’s hand. They made for a pretty adorable Pinterest worthy project at the end of the month. This year, Ollie likes cutting the leaves himself and has thus far selected plain white paper (minus one brown one he had me cut). Not quite as Pinterest worthy, but I love anything that fosters independence. This year’s thankful tree is already decorated with some blue tape and a lot of marker in addition to the leaves.
In terms of the thankful tree itself, we make it part of the fun by basing it off Ollie’s body. He lays down on a big piece of brown paper and we trace the trunk of his body like the trunk of the tree. He then moves his arms to all different spots as I roughly outline them as the branches of the tree. Again, this may not create a thankful tree that looks Pinterest perfect, but we have fun and to me, that’s what matters!
If I’m being honest, this thankful tree is for us just as much as it’s for Ollie. Life has been really stressful lately. We still don’t know what caused Ollie’s anaphylactic reaction last month and likely never will. The testing didn’t show any traces of milk or egg on the food, and there wasn’t enough sample to test for other allergens. I have to keep myself from overthinking things too much. I can quickly go down a rabbit hole of feeling like we need to change everything to prevent another mystery reaction. The reality is it was likely the perfect storm of contact with an allergen, him being sick, and exercise as he ran around after dinner.
Couple Ollie’s reaction with the rest of life and we’ve for sure had a few rough patches lately. Erik and I are both working on gratitude and self-care. The thankful tree is honestly a way for us to do that with Ollie as well. When trying to decide what to write on the leaf, we all discuss what made us happy, what we love, and what we feel thankful for. It’s a great way to re-center and re-focus during an especially stressful season of life.
On a lighter note, some of the responses are also downright hilarious. This year the first leaf was, “Learning that Daniel Tiger doesn’t eat peaches.” Yes, I know this is a food allergy blog so you’re probably all thinking I cued that one. I promise I didn’t prompt it. I asked Ollie if there was something he was thankful to learn about and got that. I think it’s his way of telling us he’s pretty darn happy to watch TV on the weekend. I’m happy to report that this year that I (momma) made the list before his garbage truck toy! Win!
If you decide to make your own thankful tree, please be sure to share it with me on social media by tagging ollergy. I’d love to see what your child says!