With Hearts of Gratitude

December 30, 2009


As my boys are growing (and may I say that is just happening way faster than I would like), I realize that the holidays, and their meaning, are changing as well.

As a mom, I have the very unrealistic desire to see my children be full of gratitude for each and every thing that they are ever given, and to never want for more.

Hey, I said unrealistic.

I loved to watch my babes as their eyes lit up when we gave them an empty box for Christmas when they were tiny (that is an awesome gift for a 1 year old. Just wrap about 6 empty boxes with crinkly paper, and watch them go to town). It was easy when there were no expectations.

I know that I can not shelter the boys from expectations forever, no matter how hard I try (and trust me, I give it my all), but this was the first year where I really needed to sit down and find a new way to show gratitude for what we have been given. I don’t want to just talk about being thankful to my children, I want them to simply experience it, and then hope that it becomes a part of who they are.


I remembered the Family Hearts from Amanda Soule’s book Handmade Home, and I decided that it might be fun to sew up one for each of my loved ones to give at the turn of the New Year.


I also wanted to include a little saying about what each person meant to me, and as that idea grew, the boys and I decided to create a gratitude jar that was filled with reasons that we were thankful for the other person. Such as, I’m thankful that my brother flushes the toilet when he is done. Now that is gratitude

We created envelopes, and gave them out to everyone, and then asked them to slip in ten pieces of paper for each person’s jar. We figured that this would be a good way to bring smiles to every one’s faces on those days when gratitude seems anything but plentiful. I am excited to sit down as a family and enjoy taking out the first slip of gratitude from each of our jars

I know that we can not force gratitude on our children, but I do hope that I can find a way to show them what it feels like when someone tells you how grateful they are for you.


Oh, and speaking of gratitude, I have to say a world of thanks to Nicola for her toffee recipe. To be honest, I am pretty sure that this was the best part of the holidays for everyone in my household, and this candy left the plate as quickly as I put it on. May I suggest that you run, don’t walk, to get the ingredients for this amazing bit of yummy goodness. Although, I warn you, my waist line and this toffee seem to be having some sort of strange battle, and the toffee is winning.

Nicola, you deserve your own gratitude jar for this one.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Sarah Jane December 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

Heather, I want to make that toffee, but I think I'll have to wait until next year as it doesn't quite work with my "lose baby weight." Resolution. I found your blog via Imene's interview. It's great to see your pics and life in Colorado. I worked at a camp near Pingree Park in college and have a sister in Windsor and one in Denver. Hope you have a great long weekend.

Reply

Gypsy Forest December 30, 2009 at 2:44 pm

yummy toffee…… and I LOVE the gratitude jar idea……

Reply

jessica December 30, 2009 at 2:57 pm

I love the idea of the family heart and the gratitude jar! Perfect!!!! I made a similar toffee a couple of days ago. It was super tasty. I think I'll try the recipe you link to when I send snacks to my sister.

Reply

Jennifer December 30, 2009 at 3:02 pm

Oh, Heather! You spoke the words on my heart. Even at 3, my oldest is struggling greatly with expectations, and I ache for him to be truly grateful and let go of what he insists. So many of the things he struggles with I thought we would not encounter until he was much older, and being an 8 year veteran of teaching, I thought I had a handle on when most kids experience things! At any rate, we are struggling to teach him so many of the things we value, love, peace, gratitude, simplicity, and I love your ideas! The family heart was actually on my list to make soon, and I think it might get bumped up to today after this!

Reply

kerry December 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm

Jennifer, I am a teacher too. I am constantly shocked at how little I know about kids from the parent side of things. It is so very different than being a teacher…

Reply

kerry December 30, 2009 at 3:17 pm

PhThis really hit home with me too. My husband and I found ourselves in the midst of a holiday that got a little out of control with a 4 year old that barely looked at gifts before he tore into the next one. We literally looked at each other on Christmas morning and wondered aloud "How id this happen?" I love the idea of the gratitude jars. I've done something like this before for milestone birthdays for friends and family. I have been told that it was the best gift (and one that truly keeps giving). I like the idea of it as a New Year's gift.

Reply

eliz ~ so wabi sabi December 30, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Thank you for this wonderful idea. I think we experienced a bit of what Kerry described thanks to a really generous grandmother who outdid santa this year! thanks as always for inspiration…

Reply

Meryl December 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I haven't ever done a gratitude jar (although it's an awesome idea), but one of my very favorite gifts ever from Sweet Husband was a similar memory jar. (E.g. the story of how on one of our first dates he got a nosebleed….etc.)

Reply

Ivy December 30, 2009 at 3:45 pm

I really like the idea of the gratitude jar and the family heart. I think it would really go a long way to reminding us during the tough times how much we really love and appreciate each other. Especially good for when the kids aren't so sure their sibling is their favorite person on the planet. We're planning to ask the kids to think about what they'd like to learn in the new year — I think this is more reasonable than resolutions for little ones.

Reply

Brooke December 30, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Everyday, Heather, EVERYDAY! Just when i think I have a grasp on what to teach my children, you bring about something new and vital to the way I would like to raise them. However, I think my expectations have grown out of necessity also. But thank you for finding new and most of the time simple (well, kind of ) ways to teach little ones different things.
I love Handmade Home, and saw the hearts, but was unsure what I would like to do with them… and this seems perfect. My kids have a tough time expressing gratitude or what not, especially to each other, so maybe this will help.
And the gratitude jar… always the best! I was in the Navy a bit ago, and was leaving my base in Japan, and all my friends signed this traditional Japanese doll with a scroll thing, and I was just looking at it last week, and CRYING! Because I had forgotten all those kind words of who I was back then… it was great! Also at one baby shower I had, everyone wrote down a word of advice for the baby as they got older… looking at these words of wisdom was the best baby shower gift EVER!
Thanks Heather (oh, and the Colorado Springs base doesn't have the aircraft my husband works on! Too bad! We are from Oregon, so we love the west coast… Montana is BEAUTIFUL! We live up by Glacier Park, and I think it should be on everyone's list of places to see!)

Reply

kendra December 30, 2009 at 4:40 pm

so sweet – i love the connection of gratitude to people (not things!). you are an amazing mama!

Reply

Chelsea December 30, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I think so much of how our children interact with the world has to do with what they observe on their own — not what they are told. I struggled for years and years against what my parents told me to do vs. what I saw them doing — that is still strong with me today. Not big things per se — they weren't drinkers or smokers and they truly are kind people. But the little things. For example, we would get A LOT of toys on Christmas day (we were a big family, so it truly was a lot when you added everyone's new things up), and then my mom would get really upset and frustrated with all of the stuff and insist that morning that we each pick out things to give away. But it was out of anger and not love or charity, I think, and we could feel that and so it became this huge battle. Sorry — don't mean to drag out childhood woes here! Just lessons learned, I think…. Rather than lecturing, I think it is our example that sticks the strongest. And you set such a beautiful example, Heather.

Reply

perches December 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm

Your comment about the excitement of babies & empty boxes made me laugh – our Bebe is still iintimidated by a wrapped box, but he loves empty bags with tissue paper in them: paper flying everywhere! Bags on the head! Crawling into the bag, waving the bag around, etc. That gave us oodles of laughter this Christmas.

Reply

perches December 30, 2009 at 5:22 pm

I love gratitude jars! At my last job, each team member had a gratitude jar that they decorated (or not) and co-workers could put in comments of appreciation – you can tell the boys that there are also thousands of adults who have gratitude jars. Our organization also made sure that every branch office had a Joy Jar: people wrote down a note on someone whose work they appreciated, an accomplishment they observed or were proud of, something good that happened in the community, etc. – and we read all of the notes out loud once a month in a big group meeting. It was a really nice piece of our workplace. When our Joy Jar broke, I made a new one with a big glass canister, some "frost" spray with letter stencils, and hot glue with those clear glass gem-things that usually go in the bottom of plant pots. We always kept little strips of scrap paper and a pencil by the Jar, for whenever someone wanted to leave a note.

Reply

nicola December 30, 2009 at 5:24 pm

thank you for your sweet link love! that toffee recipe is good, isn't it? i ate way too much and had to make a second batch. :)
the gratitude jar is such a sweet idea. i made one for my parents for christmas maybe 10 years ago, but i truly appreciate the reminder of them, because these are an ideal gift to make with the kids. (i am going to suggest my husband make one with my daughter for me!)
with gratitude,
nicola
http://whichname.blogspot.com

Reply

Ann December 30, 2009 at 5:43 pm

As always just love your blog and your ideas. That yummy toffee looks good and I will be making that next week. Like your idea with the hearts and jar. A great nephew has a bithday coming up in January so may try an idea with that.
Thanks

Reply

kyndale December 30, 2009 at 5:58 pm

I love the gratitude jar idea! I know too we can't force gratitude on our children. (The pogo sticks under the tree sat there while they opened up the other presents on Christmas!) Drat! I thought they would really like them. But, to be an example you would like to see in your children goes a VERY long way! xo Kyndale

Reply

Shannon December 30, 2009 at 6:32 pm

Beautifully put! We have started a gratitude jar in my home and I'd like to continue it throughout this next year. I appreciate you sharing.

Reply

Julia December 30, 2009 at 6:47 pm

Those little hearts are so pretty and simple. Really, what a wonderful sentiment for you to share with your boys. I am sure that they will know the meaning of giving thanks and gratitude with you as their Mama.

Now, I am off to get some chocolate for making a batch of toffee.

Reply

Kelly December 30, 2009 at 8:38 pm

I just started another project from that book yesterday. And the heart is on my list too. What a great value to add to the ones we teach our children. It's not always easy, but oh so important.

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 9:21 pm

These are soooooo easy, and that is really what makes them a fun project to do for the whole family. I kind of wish that I had thought of this to put in everyone's stockings. Oh well, the fudge sauce and toffee will have to do :)

Loved chatting last night.

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 9:43 pm

That is a perfect way to put it, it really is about trying to set the example, rather than push the issue.

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Oh, I think that would make such a sweet birthday present. Just to send off to someone to remind them how much they are loved. So sweet

Reply

Julia December 30, 2009 at 9:44 pm

It really was nice.

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 9:46 pm

Oh I know, it is amazing how little you actually have to spend on children for their first few years. Everyone in our family gave our kids tons of gifts when they first came into this world, and all we did was wrap an empty box. It was perfect

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Wow, this is really an amzing way to make your working environemtn so so so nice. Schools would really benefit from doing something like this as well. Heck, everyone would benefit. Thanks for sharing

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 9:51 pm

Wow, that is a really good example of how some of the smaller decisions that we make as parents can have very lasting impacts. There have been times where I have tried to \”force\” things on my children, and I have yet to ever see that work. I also know that there are times when I say things to the kids, and then do not live out myself. For instance, I tell my kids that video games are bad for them, but at the same time, I use my computer a lot. While I am not playing video games, I still have given them the idea that the computer is not a place to spend a lot of time. That one has become hard to explain :)

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 10:00 pm

Oh I really like the idea of asking kids what they want to learn in the coming year. That really makes them a part of making changes for the family.
I think that the gratitude jar is going to help as a reminder when the kiddos (and the adults too), need a gentle reminder about why we are all so lucky to have one another.

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 10:01 pm

Oh I LOVE that idea. That is just so special. I am sure that is a treasure that you will always have

Reply

Shivayamama December 30, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Yep, the grandmothers always know how to make the holidays huge! It is not that I resent the amount of gifts, not at all (although I really do wish that things could be a bit smaller), I just want to make sure that the balance is there, and that the expectations are not set at how many presents they receive. It is hard, because I don't want to take away anyone's joy, I just want to make sure that they feel a real sense of gratutde for what they are given.

Reply

Jodi December 31, 2009 at 12:58 am

Heather — what a lovely posting. Really nice. My daughter has a memory jar on her bookshelf where we can drop in a fond thought about her. Someday, this will be a treasure for her to read. Your little hearts are so precious. Have a wonderful new year with your growing children (I know how you feel — my oldest turns 18 in February and I just can't fathom where the years have gone. I keep thinking this is the last time for each and every little event and moment because next year, he'll be away at college. Makes me want to cry).

Reply

5orangepotatoes December 31, 2009 at 1:04 am

Absolutely lovely Heather. I think we will be doing this as well. They don't seem to show enough gratitude to one another actually; as they get older them seem to bicker at one another more often (they are 6 & 8, 22 mths apart). I worry about this as we reach that "tween" age. Thanks for the idea, I love the heart with a little note in it as a way to tell each of them what a value they are to me as well.
Also, I can't believe how simple Nicola's toffee recipe is. YUM!
-lisa

Reply

renee December 31, 2009 at 2:52 am

Hello Heather! I hope you have been well and had a wonderful Christmas!
This project is such a sweet way to express your thankfulness. And the calico fabric you used for the heart is one of my most favorites! I have a few small pieces of it, must be more than 15 years old!
Beautiful family wood carving too!

Reply

Shivayamama December 31, 2009 at 3:00 am

It is so good to hear from you Renee! I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas as well. You know what is so funny about that fabric? My friend Adrie (she writes the blog Field and Fire), sent it to me in November. I had been holding onto it to do something special, and this seemed perfect.

Reply

renee December 31, 2009 at 3:04 am

Well you used your fabric a lot faster than I used mine. I only ever used the tiniest bits of it, but then I used a bigger piece to make Chessa's sunbonnet this summer. It seemed just right too :)

Reply

Linda December 31, 2009 at 10:17 am

What a beautiful idea, I love these hearts with their pockets, they are so beautiful, I am off to try out this toffee recipe, I can't wait…
Wishing you a wonderful 2010…
Warmly
Linda

Reply

Shivayamama December 31, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Oh my, you will love that toffee recipe, and it is so quick to make. Enjoy :)

________________________________________

Reply

melissa January 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

My girls and I made these hearts for their grandmother as a christmas gift this year; it brought tears to her face when she unwrapped it. Since my husband's parents do not live close by, my girls wanted to be able to leave them a little note when they visited. We used a wool fabric for the heart and a paterned sweater fr the pocket. I only wish I had captured a picture, but at least I know it will be there waiting on us when we visit again.

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: