It is Thanksgiving weekend. I would like to give thanks for my two beautiful daughters and our extended family today.

We went to see our relatives in Utah for Thanksgiving. Janette is from a big wonderful Mormon family that was raised in Sunnyvale, California — the heart of Silicon Valley. She is the only member of the family who is no longer a church goer. But even though all four of her siblings were raised in California, they all live in the Salt Lake city metro now. This is because, for the most part, they all went to college in Utah, met spouses, had kids, and settled down there. The seemingly inevitable return to the mother ship of the Salt Lake metro for college age Mormons is something to behold — a natural, instinctive journey much like salmon swimming back upstream to spawn. I am sure they will love me very much for comparing them to salmon.

In any event, we sure love them very much. They are a lot of fun. My two girls had an absolute blast running around with all their cousins (and there are a lot of them…) for five days. We stayed at Grandma’s house. (Janette’s mom moved to the Salt Lake metro after her husband died, because all but one of her children lived out there.) We even visited Great Grandma (almost 90 years old and still kicking ass, although again, she probably wouldn’t word it that way). The girls’ great grandmother has lived in the same little house for almost 70 years. I’m not kidding. It’s pretty amazing. It’s a little brick house, about 1,200 square feet, right in Salt Lake City. Can you imagine the memories your home would conjure — not to mention the sense of home and security — if you had lived in it for 70 years? You would have memories of being in your twenties and being in your eighties, all at the same address. Amazing.

Watching Sidney and Riley connect with their cousins — who they hadn’t seen in almost two years — was the absolute best part of the trip. Their cousins are all boys except one girl — eight kids in all. They are really nice kids. Sidney absolutely astounds me in her ability to make good close friendships. Her kindness and love knows no bounds, and people pick up on this right away, even little boys. With apologies for sounding like a lovestruck daddy, it really is true. Sidney loves to roughhouse and run and play with little boys — she definitely has a tomboy streak in her. But she also always ends up getting the big boys to happily hold hands with her when we’re walking down the street at night in the cold — she runs around and plays with them in the boys’ world, then gets ’em to soften up and be sweet to her and join her in the girls’ world every once in a while. I see her accomplish this feat all the time. It’s just amazing to me, especially considering that Sidney can also be rather shy. She does not immediately go up to people like her extroverted father and just grab them into her world immediately. She takes her time at first, but everyone — boys, girls, adults — always ends up wanting to be her friend. I am quite certain that Sidney will be a girl who creates lasting, close lifelong friendships, and I’m really grateful for that.

Riley is our little firecracker. She’s just turned three and she’s at pretty much the cutest age imaginable. Riley is our little rebel, our flirt, our Little Miss Contrary (she thinks it’s funny to disagree with everything with a little twinkle in her eye, and everyone else thinks it’s funny too). Riley easily becomes the life of the party — she is more of a ham than Sidney. She “scared” her big cousins all the week long by sneaking up on them and saying “Boo!” I saw this happen hundreds of time, and her big cousins never got tired of it, always feigning great terror, which elicited a big boisterous giggle from Riley. Riley is so cute, and so full of boundless positive energy, that she can pretty much get anyone to do anything, and they’re happy to do it. Riley pretty much believes the world exists for her amusement. She is full of love, but less caring and sensitive than Sidney. Sidney wants to make sure everything and everyone is all right with things before she does something; Riley says “what the hell,” jumps in, and assumes everyone will follow. As Janette says, Sidney is our “Why?” girl, while Riley is our “Why not?” girl.

And the fact that these two little girls, so different yet so similar, consider each other best friends is the ultimate icing on the cake.

Anyway, we loved our vacation, Janette’s family is big and warm and fun and great, and it reminded me how fantastic it is to have a big extended family full of kids. We have always made sure to visit Janette’s family in Utah at least once a year; now that I see how enriching it is to the lives of my kids, I am even more committed to seeing them on a regular basis. It makes me a little sad to think that the kids have no cousins on my side of the family (my brother died when we were in high school), but we do have second cousins on my side, and some fantastic uncles and aunts, and it made me want to make sure we stay connected with them too, to give my kids the feeling of a big family on my side too. They are already asking when we’ll go back to Grandma’s to see their cousins. They just loved it. And I just love them.

The end of the Thanksgiving blog.

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