Plans Vs. Reality


Yesterday, I woke up with a plan. A great plan.

I could picture perfectly in my mind how it would play out.

My family and I would gather around the table before dinner to create a tree of thanks. It would be a beautiful tree representing all we have to be grateful for.

We would talk about our many blessings while we worked in harmony. Together, we would acknowledge and celebrate this season of thanks giving. Pure familial bliss.

Then, reality slammed through the door like an uninvited party guest determined to make a mess of my perfect plans.

When would I learn? Reality always comes to the party.

We live in a Pinterest society where what we see is the finished product. What we don’t always see is what went on during the creation process. Reality is, the time spent creating the product may have looked a little messier than the end result.

I’m not saying families who sit down together and work in perfect harmony don’t exist. I am sure you must exist. Somewhere. Just not in my house.

For those of you who find your lives looking a little less than perfect, and struggle with your plans slamming full force into reality, you are not alone.

For you, I have created my realistic Step-by-Step Guide to Creating your Own Tree of Gratitude:

Step 1 – Wake up with excitement because today is the day.

Today, you and your family will be creating a masterpiece together. Get ready Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest – you are about to be hit with something awesome and completely awe-inspiring.

Wow Comic Speech Bubble, Cartoon on blue background

Step 2 – Head to your local craft store in search of the perfect supplies for your tree.

I had imagined an actual small tree of sorts with little branches where we could hang our leaves. After some wandering and not finding what I was looking for, I realized a paper tree would have to do. I did find some cool sticky leaves that could be used. I walked away feeling pretty good, but wondering if maybe I should have checked Pinterest to see how other people make their trees. If you are like me and didn’t check Pinterest; don’t worry. Your tree will be a unique tribute to you and your family. It will look great.

Step 3 – Pick a time for you and your family to sit down together to decorate the leaves.

Pick this time wisely. I, unfortunately, did not. This is a critical piece. I wish I would have thought of that sooner. I did not take into account we were eating a late dinner, and had somewhere to be afterward. This project was really not going to get the time it deserved, but I could not imagine holding off until tomorrow. By golly, we were going to stick with my plan. Instead of being a relaxing celebration of gratitude, it was turning into a frantic moment of chaos. I started yelling for everyone to hurry and get to the table because we needed to do something together. Notice the wording. Needed. This was a want, not a need. I was blowing my perfect project before it started!

Step 4 – Once you have all gathered, take a deep breath.

You are there, together. That in and of itself is a success.

Step 5 – Now, have everyone think about something they are grateful for and write it on their leaf.

Step 6 – After they are finished, have them add their own creative touch by decorating their leaf.

If you have a young child who can’t write yet, write their word for them. Or, they can just draw a picture. I wrote my four-year old’s word in black. Then, he asked me to hand over the black marker. I did. He proceeded to color the entire leaf black, as well as part of the table. Oh well.

working-together creating-leaves2

Step 7 – Now, you are ready to make your tree. 

I drew my tree on two large pieces of paper I had taped together. After I finished, I taped the tree to a door.

Looking back, I probably should have created the tree before calling everyone in to make their leaves. Or, an even better idea would have been to have the kids help make the tree. As I mentioned before, we were in a time crunch. Instead, I ended up scribbling the tree on the paper while the kids anxiously waited to hang their leaves. I could not seem to hang the tree fast enough.


Step 8 – Lastly, have everyone share what they wrote down.

For my family, this never happened. My morning plan included a time of sharing and talking about our gratefulness. Instead, the kids were told to hurry up and put their shoes on because we were late and had to go. As we were rushing out the door, I also realized my husband and I forgot to make our leaves. Oops.

When things had settled later in the evening, I did take a moment to look at the tree. I realized, for my children, this had been a wonderful activity. They had no idea what my plan had been that morning. They didn’t know I had imagined it going differently. They had a lot of fun starting our Tree of Gratitude, and woke up today excited to create and add more leaves.

The reality is, nothing in life is perfect. The sooner we can all embrace the mess and chaos that comes with life, especially life with young ones, the better.

Today, I am grateful that I learn something from my children every day. They have taught me so much more than I ever could have imagined. Today, I am grateful things don’t always go as planned. I am grateful my children find joy in the simple things of life. I am grateful things don’t have to be fancy to be spectacular.

I am looking forward to the days ahead as our tree becomes covered with leaves. These are daily reminders of all the blessings we have to be grateful for. Even on days when things don’t go as planned.


Jennifer Thompson is a stay-at-home mom of four spunky, sweet, kind and sometimes a bit wild children. She has a passion for the written word and thinks that libraries and bookstores are the coolest places ever. When not hanging out with family or writing, she can be found enjoying a good cup of coffee, running, spending quality time with friends, working on some type of project around the house, planning the family’s next trip to her favorite destination – Walloon Lake, Michigan, or very possibly – reading a book.

Jennifer enjoys writing about her parenting experience and outings with her children for Indy’s Child as a freelance writer and blogger and also keeps a personal blog,, that she has fun writing when time allows.

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