Minnesota Mamaleh: Giving Thanks

My cup is full. Overflowing, actually.

I’m sitting on the floor, leaning against the yellow couch. Well, it’s yellow in my mind at least. In real life it’s a tad bit…murky, shall we say? From fingerprints and crumbs, unfortunate spills and other icks. Perhaps yellow is a strong word. My back aches and my shoulders are stiff. The kids and the dog are periodically pushing, jumping, hugging and squeezing by.

But the fire is crackling. And even though it’s an insta-log, to me it feels rustic, crisp and all that is Winter. Because in Minnesota, the night before Thanksgiving can be described as nothing other than…Winter. The snow. The chills. The piles and piles and piles of snow gear by the door. The dryer that is constantly running. And the kids that are asking to go play outside. Again. Andagainandagainandagain.

Making "air-pop-popcorn" is one of our night before Thanksgiving traditions

Our house smells just like the pies that we spent the last few hours baking. Pumpkin. Pecan. Apple.

The cider is steaming hot and cinnamon-y. We’re all sitting close. Tight. The ottoman and couches creating a visual of the unit, the circle that binds around our family. Louie is chewing his “stinky bone,” laying flat-as-a-rug next to me. His warmth is welcome. The girls are laying on their tummies, too. And Jason is laughingly playing interception with Brody. Don’t knock over the game! Or throw the pieces. Or step on the board. Sigh.

Our other traditions include apple cider and gingersnap cookies. Snacks while we bake pies? Why yes. Yes, that *is* how we roll around here!

But what’s really swirling around my mind (and heart) is how very mindful of and thankful for I am for moments just like these. Warm. Cozy. Together. Peaceful. (Relatively) quiet.

I am, of course, appreciative of and humbled by the big stuff, too. The roof that sits over our heads. The bills that get paid. The health that we’re all blessed with. But these moments? When everyone’s getting along. When the house smells good. When the laughter is genuine. When the smiles are heartfelt. And when bedtime is just around the corner. These moments are the icing. The sticky-sweet, sugar-high-inducing, ohmygodit’ssofreakingwonderfulhowcanyoupossiblystandit icing. And I’m so very thankful for icing. You know exactly what I mean, don’t you?


And not even five minutes later…

This is what we look like after baking and board-game playing. On the same night. How thrilled does Brody look?

The game is heated. Everyone’s sitting up now. Alert. Ready to defend their WIN. And let me tell you, emotions are heightened. I am (too) competitive about things like this.

I remember my heart beating faster playing The Newlywed Game with friends. Not even a year into our marriage and Jason and I were so going to beat those decade-long marriage veterans. Jason? He cheated. It’s true. He cheated in two ways. Both to beat me and to help me win. He’s fickle that way. And just as competitive as I am.

Thanksgiving just wouldn't be complete without a little program. Chloe's "Tom Turkey" for her preschool program. She rocked it. Thanks for asking.

So when Kayli’s eyes glint, light up and her whole face smiles as she realizes that she’s WON, we both so get it. And when Chloe’s shoulders drop, voice escalates and whole face scrunches into a scowl as she realizes that she’s LOST, we get that, too.

There’s clapping and stomping, joy and tragedy, smiles and tears. And perhaps strangely enough, I’m totally and completely head-over-heels thankful for moments like these, too. Because the ups and downs, the goods and bads, the wins and losses, those make the world, and our family, go round. They make us who we are. And you know exactly what I mean here, too, don’t you? I knew that you would.


My cup is over-flowing with eye-glints and face-scrunches. Gingersnap gravy and cranberry-champagne. My family, my health and all of you. I’m wishing you the happiest of Thanksgiving weekends. May your cup overflow with all of that goodness that’s right there at your fingertips. Stay warm, cozy and full. And kick some serious butt at a board-game (or two!), will you?!


And included in my cup? Tipping it over and spilling it everywhere? Is announcing that Missy at The Marketing Mama is the winner of the fab photo session with Indelible Photography by Nicole Spangler. Ladies, you’re in good hands and I seriously can’t wait to see those pictures!


About Galit Breen

Galit Breen was a classroom and reading teacher for ten years. She has a master's degree in education and a bachelor's degree in human development. In 2009, she launched a career as a freelance writer entrenched in social media. Since then, her work has been featured in various online magazines including Brain, Child, The Huffington Post, TIME, and xoJane. Breen lives in Minnesota with her husband, three children, and a ridiculously spoiled miniature golden doodle. Her book, Kindness Wins, is a simple no-nonsense guide to teaching our kids how to be kind online. You can learn more about Galit by visiting TheseLittleWaves.com.

Comments. Add Yours!


  1. i am ultra competitive as well. sometimes i do throw the board games so that others dont feel overwhelmed. i would rather keep a friendship more than just win a game. i dont like how i appear when the competitive side rears itself when the games are for fun
    it is great that you can preserve a thankfulness without appearing disingenuous. i have read way too many blog and twitter posts lately where it seems the author is trying to convince themselves about thankfullness more so than the audience. if somebody is not doing well it is ok to say so. just as much as it is ok to be doing great as you are and not feeling guilty.
    take care and keep the fireplace going. i miss those days with my family. sitting around a fire and making memories is priceless

  2. I totally get the sofa thing. I always say you don’t know how filthy people’s houses are until you’ve had children. Sofas take a lot of beating with kids around.

    The board game, not so much although you’ve helped me understand my kids who are like yours – competitive. Scrunched up faces of defeat or shoulders upright in a winners quiet or not so quiet glow of triumph.

    Beautiful sights and sounds in your post as always. I love your family scenes. I am right there with you. Except the board games. Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. What a warm, sweet scene you’ve captured, Galit! I want to have Thanksgiving with your family!

  4. Yay!!! Super exciting that I won the photo package = thank you so much! 🙂

    My favorite part of your post today: ohmygodit’ssofreakingwonderfulhowcanyoupossiblystandit


  5. I am all for making the popcorn at home, but with 3 kids and a working wife, who’s got time to bake pies? We’re lucky if once a year we get it together to all make hamentashen, so pumpkin pie from costco suits us just fine on thanksgiving. I want to come to your house just for the champagne-I mean who else has that?? Nobody that I have ever seen.

  6. Sounds terrific! We *try* boardgames, but they haven’t gotten the hang of it just yet. (My favorite holiday memory was not with my own family, but as an exchange student in Germany. The family I was staying with had a fondue dinner and then played a game of ‘Balderdash’ in German. I managed not to come in last, but only because Sabine threw the game. It was a great, relaxed way to spend Christmas Eve. It’s the way I hope my family will enjoy the holidays.)

  7. Embracing the wins & losses when they are small enough to be powered through by bedtime, that is most certainly icing. My friend Amy didn’t believe Saskia to be a board wrecker (as in board game) until she saw it with her own eyes. So quickly, too, she gasped.

    Happiest of Thanksgiving weekends to you!

  8. It sounds like you all had a WONDERFUL WONDERFUL Thanksgiving—Such Fun and Good Food and The Closeness Of Family! So happy to read yoit post and see the very dear pictures of your Brood….!

  9. Just reading your post made me feel a bit warmer and cozier. My brother lives up in Minneapolis so I had to check out and see what your weather was. And my response…Brrr! Stay warm and throw another insta-log on the fire!

  10. Well first; congratulations to Missy on her win!

    Loved this post Galit because it was all about the little things and the seeds you are planting for your children with simple evenings like these are beautiful. One of my favorite shows to watch is “The Waltons.” Ever seen it? That show is a wonderful example of family and how wonderful just spending time together doing the simple things can mean really big things. So many people back then had it much, much harder – the daily struggles – but they didn’t seem to complain like many people do now. Anyway, getting off course here . . . you’ve written an important “thankful” post and the whole scene is something I wish every child could experience. And as always, beautiful photos. Hope your whole weekend was filled with more!

  11. Thanks for sharing your lovely pictures with us. Those of us wh don’t celebrate Thanksgiving can get an idea of the fun people have.

  12. Sounds like a perfect family night to me! Love winter and getting cozy with the family. These are the nights your children will remember and be grateful for 🙂

    Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

  13. After 5 years of sticky fingers, Cheerios, and a variety of spilled milk/tea/juice, we finally bought a new sofa this year. I am glad we waited because Maya is finally at an age where she can understand how to keep a sofa clean!

    It sounds like you had a fantastic Thanksgiving! I can imagine your wonderful, cozy home from thousands of miles away!!

  14. I think “life is beautiful” summarizes the Breen home. Either that, or you’re always high. 🙂

    Sounds like a wonderfully warm holiday scene. But clearly, every day you give thanks. As you should. As we all should.

    Hope the spirit has continued through the weekend.

  15. Great post. Sigh. It’s a got a lot, and yes I know what you mean. My family meant to play a board game this week-end but didn’t get to it. My brother reminisced about what he remembered as the games we playes most often as kids: Risk, Monpoly, Life, Masterpiece, and Bobby Hull Hockey.

    I am competitive and like that, but it’s deceptive because I don’t like being confrontational.

    I loved the descriptions of the house full in so many ways; smells and their matching foods, the dog, the kids matched with each other and there games. So palpable, beautiful.

  16. You created such a wonderful atomosphere in this post … I felt all cozy and warm and could smell those pies!!!

    We have two very competitive people in our little family … and I’m not one of them. It is funny to see my two guys go head to head and get so INTO the whole winning and losing thing. They are going to drive each other nuts in a few years I think !

  17. Love this blog post, made me nostalgic for what I no longer have with my US family, but what I aspired to create with my Jerusalem based family! Hope you had a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

  18. It looks like a good time was had by all!

    A very happy holiday to you!

    Thanx for stopping by my space in bloggyland. See you soon

  19. So, I’m late getting around to my Thanksgiving reading. But I’m so glad I read this one… because it brings back the memories of a few days ago so perfectly. You captured it, momma.

    And for the record? I love me some ohmygodit’ssofreakingwonderfulhowcanyoupossiblystandit icing as well.

  20. What a beautiful description of your night at home. A warm fire sets everything right…

  21. beatutiful!!! Such gorgeous vivid writing! I feel like I was there- your children are lucky, your husband is lucky, your family is lucky!!

    Happy (belated) Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah!!