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It's the most wonderful time of the year!

November marks my favorite time of year when the cooler temperatures roll in, the days get shorter, and the holidays approach.

I absolutely love Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's. I have so many fond memories of this time of the year. My family is big on traditions and they are like warm hugs for my soul. Thanksgiving was almost always held at my childhood home. My mother would spend several days prior to Thanksgiving making a dozen pies, appetizers, several side dishes, several dozen rolls and putting on a magnificent feast. My siblings and I were tasked with cleaning and setting the table. Our cousins would come over and we would play board games and get in the way of the adults. Thanksgiving was especially terrific because we would set up a huge table in the living room and were allowed to eat there. We had a kids table and it was enjoyable to visit and play games. We always ate too much and inevitably fell into a "food coma" for quite a few hours after eating.

Christmas is by far my favorite holiday. I remember enormous family gatherings with my father's family. He was one of six siblings and when we got together for the holidays, my grandparent's small two-bedroom house would be bursting at the seams. There were easily 30 people crowded into every inch of real estate in that house. My grandparents and my great-grandmother lived within a few blocks of each other in Seattle. We would start at my grandparents' house and open the majority of presents there. Remember that scene in A Christmas Story of the living room after Ralphie and his brother opened presents with wrapping paper piled high everywhere? That is what my grandparents' house looked like.

We would then travel to my great-grandmother's home which she shared with my great-aunt. My great-uncle Richard was a magnificent cook and would prepare an elaborate breakfast for us. The adults ate in the dining room while the kids were at a table in the kitchen. Every year we had ham, eggs prepared several ways, biscuits and gravy, fruit and juice. We kids played telephone while we ate. This was such a fun game to us at the time. I still think that some of my siblings and my cousins purposely messed up the secret phrase to get the funniest response at the end of the "telephone line."

As we got older, our gatherings moved to various aunts' and uncles' homes. Our traditions stayed the same. We would spend the day with our family, and then drive home, the car loaded with gifts. We kids always fell asleep on the drive home and my dad would carry us into the house and tuck us into bed.

As an adult I have tried to keep those traditions alive with my children. We still get together for Thanksgiving with my parents and siblings. This will be the first year in a long time that my brother will not be with us for Thanksgiving. He has a good excuse though - he is currently at the South Pole doing super intelligent, super scientific work on a huge telescope. I am so proud and a little jealous, of the work he is doing and the adventure he is having. I also worry about my little brother falling into a crevasse or getting lost in a snowstorm. But he keeps in contact as much as he can. He has to wait until a satellite passes over the station to get internet. The station only gets internet for approximately two hours a day. My brother is scheduled to be home on Christmas Eve, if the weather cooperates.

As a single parent it is a bit harder to keep these Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions alive and I have had to change some traditions. Instead of playing football outside on Thanksgiving weekend, we are more often found in a hockey rink, playing (as my children do), or watching and cheering (my role).

I usually avoid Black Friday like the plague; crowds are not my thing and there is absolutely nothing I want to buy badly enough worth fighting cranky and stressed out crowds, long lines and the chaos and mayhem of the event. This year will be no different. Rather than spend a stressful day shopping my family will enjoy a quiet day of watching football, playing games and enjoying our favorite sport - hockey. To quote the famous song, "It's the most wonderful time of the year!"