Thanksgiving, a holiday built around a meal where mashed potatoes is one of the star dishes, is a favorite of mine. Besides the sanctioned gluttony, I like that it’s built around the premise of taking stock of and feeling grateful for all we have. When I think about those things for which I am most thankful, of course the top of the list would be my family and friends, our good health and home. But this year, I sat down and thought about all the little, albeit superficial things, that make my life just a little bit easier. If it wasn’t for these 10 things, I’m not sure I’d be able to get through the day, let alone get out the door. What about you? What small things are you thankful for?
1. Curious George: Why, you might ask, is an almost 40-year-old woman thankful for a cartoon monkey aimed at children? Because said monkey is the only thing that gets her very active, very destructive 2-year-old to slow down for just a moment so she can do things like drink coffee, send an email, or go to the bathroom alone. And for those few moments of sanity, I am very grateful.
2. Ikea: I’m thankful for this Swedish furniture company for so many reasons, starting with the fact that its products populate 50 percent of my house. But Ikea is so much more than inexpensive particle board furniture you have to build yourself: It’s free babysitting on a rainy day at the Smaland, where my kids can play for an hour while I walk around the marketplace with my free coffee. It’s a place to feed my kids for free on special days throughout the year. And it’s a place that understands that moms with two or more small children needs a comfy family bathroom where the little kids can safely entertain themselves (with toys not the toilet) while mom pees. Oh, and fun fact, if your child gets hurt in an Ikea, they have a nurse on staff who will come tend to them.
3. Cozi: I don’t generally look to the Duggar clan for advice, but I do have to give props to Michelle for putting the app Cozi on my radar. This free family organizer allows users to manage calendars, notes shopping and to-do lists, and syncs it between family members. For our family, it cuts down on the countless phone calls trying to coordinate schedules, school functions, doctors appointments, and more. (For $4.99 a month, you get even more functionality with Cozi Pro).
4. My DVR: I don’t know what I would do without my DVR. I’m a full-on TV junkie, but I’m also a tired, working mom who couldn’t fathom sitting down to watch a show when a show actually airs. There are whole seasons that sit on my DVR until I can carve out time to watch them—like the current season of Homeland—and knowing that Scandal will automatically tape makes it less frustrating when I sit in my son’s room until 9:30, trying to get him to sleep. It’s completely changed how I watch TV.
5. My husband’s dinners: I know I’m not including the major things in this list, but it wouldn’t be accurate if I left off the home-cooked meals my husband makes every night. I’m a foodie, and I love to cook, but only when I have the time to plan out and execute a recipe. My husband, on the other hand, can whip up a multi-course meal in a matter minutes, like a cheftestant during a Top Chef “Quickfire Challenge.” And he has the added challenge of doing it with three kids surrounding him vying for his attention. I am eternally grateful to his cooked meals that are waiting for me when I get home from a long day at the office. If it weren’t for them, my kids would be on a steady diet of “breakfast for dinner.”
6. Amazon Prime: Amazon tempted me with a free Prime offer last Christmas, and I went into it thinking I would cancel at the end of the month. Still a member. Even when it announced its price increase, I didn’t blink. Don’t get me wrong, the free two-day shipping is wonderful, but what I love so much about Prime is that Amazon keeps adding on all of these additional benefits: streaming video, music, photo storage, Kindle lending library. What next? Free babysitting? They also won my eternal love for streaming the show Transparent—a masterfully written dramedy about a father transitioning to a woman late in life (but really so much more). That show alone is a reason to get Prime.
7. Public education: Odd, I know. But this is the first year I’ve been able to take advantage of the public school education system for one of my children and it’s glorious. I benefit from being a part of a good district, but my main love of public school is the fact that it’s free. I’ve been paying for childcare for almost 6 years now, and to lower that bill just a bit feels glorious. It has also made me a big supporter of universal pre-K.
8. Andy Cohen: The Bravo executive is kind of a polarizing figure—you either love him or hate him—and I am proud to say I fall in the love side of things (as does Anderson Cooper). Cohen is the brains behind the Real Housewives series, along with other Bravo brain candy like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List, Million Dollar Listing, Flipping Out, The Millionaire Matchmaker, The Rachel Zoe Project and Watch What Happens Live. While Cohen isn’t ending world hunger or curing ebola, he gives people escapist programming that allows us to forget about the big and small problems in our lives.
9. My new mattress: This year, my husband and I, we treated ourselves to a new mattress. Previously, we had been sleeping on a 20-year-old mattress that was as comfortable as a hardwood floor, and each morning we woke up in pain. We bit the bullet and got a new one, and our backs have been thanking us ever since. The only downside is our kids also find our new bed incredibly comfortable, and keep sneaking into it while we sleep. Maybe next year, I’ll be thankful for sleep training.
10. Yummie Tummie Tank Tops: People keep telling me that I look like I’ve lost weight, and ask me to tell them what my secret is. It’s simple: Yummie Tummie. I learned about Yummie Tummie on the Real Housewives of New York, which stars the company’s founder Heather Thomson (yet another reason to thank Andy Cohen), and decided to check her products out. Her undergarments are a less-binding version of Spanx, and they miraculously smooth out my mommy-tummy—a much cheaper, and less painful alternative to a tummy tuck. They have become as crucial to my wardrobe as my bras and yoga pants.