I've always liked Thanksgiving, as far as holidays go.

It centers around eating, which I can get behind, and it's free of stresses like gift-giving and religious obligation that can make other holidays I could name kind of a drag sometimes.

The only obligation, really, is to give thanks, and even that is optional. No one is keeping score, as far as I know. If you want to use Thanksgiving solely to shove turkey into your face and watch football, well, OK then.

But I like to indulge my sentimental side a bit on Thanksgiving, and while I'm not one to stand on my chair and whip out a written list of things I'm thankful for, I do like to take a few minutes somewhere in the day and just sort of think about all the good things, big and small, that have happened to me in the previous year and all through my life.

Leading the pack of good things to be grateful for the past two Thanksgivings has been, of course, our daughter, Nora. She had a rocky entrance into this world, and there were a couple of awful weeks when we weren't sure she was going to get to stay, so we're grateful for every day she's with us, and even more grateful that those days are happy and healthy. We spent some time during those first two weeks of her life getting briefings from doctors about all the ways in which her life (and, thus, ours) might not be so happy and healthy, depending on how she recovered, so to see her where she is now -- running around, giggling, shoving fistfuls of food into her mouth, and talking up a storm -- is amazing.

There have been lots of milestones since her birth: The day she was discharged from the NICU and allowed to come home with us. The day we got to stop giving her anti-seizure medication. The day the physical therapist said she was doing all the things she was supposed to be doing and didn't need any further help.

And now we've passed another milestone, just in time for Thanksgiving.

Last week, we had our last visit to the Special Infant Care Clinic at Duke, where neonatologists who had treated Nora in the NICU were monitoring her progress. They didn't need to poke or prod her, and I don't even think they did more than glance at the five-page questionnaire we filled out about her developmental progress. They could take one look at her playing with a bead maze, making faces in a mirror, talking and laughing and trying to climb up in the doctor's swivel chair and know that she was doing fine.

So that's what they said. She's doing fine, we don't need to see you back here anymore. Ever.

We're so thankful for everything that amazing team of doctors did in the first few hours and days of Nora's life to save her. And we're thankful (no offense) that we never need to see them again.

There are plenty of other things for me and my family to be grateful for this Thanksgiving, too, but that's going to top the list.