Thanksgiving was just perfect!

Everything came together so nicely and I really could not have asked for a better day. I’m so happy!

First, I managed to pull the meal together so that everything was done and hot at the same time without the kitchen falling into disaster. In the past, I’ve struggled with trying to get the turkey carved, the potatoes mashed and the gravy made all at the same time. And then what to do with the mess of pots and pans afterwards? Our house is not that big, and even though the kitchen remodel a few years ago gave us a little more space, coordinating a large meal is still a major challenge. Not to mention the fact that everyone, whether assisting with the cooking or not, just seems to want to hang out in the kitchen!

But I planned better this time. I cleared off the countertops and temporarily stashed things like the toaster and fruit basket, my kitchen radio and coffee maker. This was to make space for serving food buffet style. I researched “make ahead” recipes and had the potatoes and extra stuffing done early and kept them warm in crock pots. I roasted the turkey and stuffing in the electric roaster out in the garage so I didn’t have that monstrosity taking up space on the countertop. Three casseroles of vegetables finished up in the oven just as the turkey was carved and gravy made, and I could wash and put away most of the big pots and pans before dinner was even served.

But more important than the food was the time spent with family. Over the past few years, one or more of my kids have divided their holiday time between us and the families of their significant others. The past year was a little rough on a couple of their love lives, but that meant that we got to have all three of our kids with us this holiday.

And we really enjoyed our extended family this time around. Everyone seemed relaxed and at ease, and the conversation was fun and filled with laughter. The term forb was born (meaning to stab someone with a fork.) Yes, a forbing actually occurred, all in good spirit. This is the kind of fun my family is capable of having and I love it when we do!

I was too busy keeping up with the serving and dishwashing, (and the eating,) to take any photos of the feast or the family enjoying it. That’s okay. I’ll be happy with the good memories in lieu of photos.

The day after was appropriately lazy … if you can call it that. I tackled a project I’ve been meaning to do forever. Years ago my sister gave me a blank recipe book, meant for writing and saving favorite recipes. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve never written anything in it before, even though some of my go-to recipes look like this!

recipes

And now I’m happy to say that most of my favorite recipes are nicely documented in the lovely book from my sister! Better late than never, eh?

While I was productively writing recipes, Mark and Kacey hit a Black Friday sale. He found a good deal on a pressure washer. She scored some fun speakers.

The day included a good amount of lounging around and dog-spoiling.

We enjoyed eating leftovers all day long, and then later, an evening of cards and fun at the neighbors’ house. All in all, it’s been an amazing holiday weekend so far. And I am beyond thankful.

In spite of what I’ve said before …

I’m hosting Thanksgiving this year for (most of) the whole fam damily. Even though in the past years, I believe I’ve said more than once that I would never again. Ever. Because …

Thansgiving 2014

But in my own defense, I think I’ve added a disclaimer to my no-more-family-gatherings rants, that as adamant as I wasI probably shouldn’t take my insistence too seriously. Good thing because here I am, doin’ it again! I’ve been off work since Tuesday, cleaning house, running errands, cooking and baking ahead anything that could be done prior to the big day. It’s actually been really nice to have a break from the office and spend time around the house, leisurely preparing.

And seriously? I am glad to be doing this. For one thing, I’ve learned a lot about myself over the past year, about how I relate to others, and how I allow myself to be impacted in ways both good and bad. My siblings and I have grown up to be different people with lives that have gone in different directions. We’ve each made choices that are right for ourselves and it’s not for us to judge each other. (I know this, but I also have to remember that not everyone is so aware yet.) We’re at varying levels of contentment in our lives and sometimes our differences bubble to the surface, sometimes in really ugly ways. We’ll probably continue to unintentionally hurt each other at times. As for me, I’m finally beginning to understand the importance of forgiveness. I’ve heard it a million times and never really grasped the concept before. It’s not about avoiding getting hurt. It’s about letting go and preventing that hurt from poisoning me from the inside out. I used to think that letting go meant I was weak. Now I know that it’s just the opposite.

There’s also something much bigger contributing to my change of heart this year. I think I have a fairly good sense of brevity of life, but never has it been more apparent than now. Mark’s dad is in the hospital. His health took a downward turn over the past few years, but worsened significantly two weeks ago. He won’t be joining his family for Thanksgiving today. In fact, it seems unlikely he’ll ever go home again. We are all so sad and it’s been extremely sobering to watch his daily decline. It’s been an eye-opener, to say the least, about what is really important.

When I said never again would I host or participate in an all-family gathering, I thought I would feel good about it. But I never would. It’s not so black and white. If I walk away in an attempt to never be hurt again, I won’t be just making a clean break. I can’t just take my hurt feelings and go on my merry way. My absence would actually cast a shadow, not because I think I’m so important that I should be missed that much, but because the reason for my absence would be obvious. And not only would I have allowed myself to be hurt, but I would have spread those dark feelings around to everyone else.

And so hopefully, with this realization, comes a better ability to have reasonable expectations, and to speak up calmly when it’s justified instead of adding fuel to the fire. I will strive to be level-headed, to walk away when possible, to be more understanding, and to refuse let the bitterness of another seep inside of me and stew. Better yet, I will work harder to promote good will instead of just expecting a melee to ensue at every gathering.

Of course, it helps that the one I butt heads with the most has other plans today. :-) Mark asked me yesterday, “What would you do if he called at the last minute and said he was coming after all?” I thought for a minute and said, “I’d welcome him.” And I meant it. I don’t really want to be forever at odds with my own brother. Heck, he probably doesn’t even realize that we’re at odds!

So today I am thankful for my crazy and appropriately dysfunctional family. I am thankful we have each other and will be happy to welcome them into my home which I’ve just spent days and hours cleaning and which will probably look like a bomb went off not long after everyone arrives, gets settled and the feast begins. This house is small and no matter what I do, we’ll feel like it’s bursting at the seams once we’re all here. And I am especially thankful for my sister, who makes me laugh and keeps me sane and who is is helping to cook a good portion of today’s meal. Not to mention, her willingness to arrive early to help me pull this thing off, if not in a Martha Stewart manner, at least in a way that might please Larry the Cable Guy. (I didn’t buy any wine. No one drinks it. It’s a redneck Thanksgiving with plenty of soda and beer!)

And besides, these people make for good stories! ;-)

Seriously, though. I have it good. And I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Just the kind of holiday I was hoping for…

Another Thanksgiving Day has come and gone. We spent the day itself with most of Mark’s family at his sister’s house. Not surprisingly, we ate too much. There were a few highlights to the day. I got to hold and play with the newest member of the family, our great-nephew, Mitch. I enjoyed an apple cider and bourbon drink before dinner and a slice of chocolate pecan pie afterwards. And as the festivities ended, big, sticky, wet snowflakes flurried down from the sky. I still have this sweet picture in my mind of Mitch in his mommy’s arms as she stood on the back porch. He gazed out into the world, watching in wonder as he witnessed his very first snowfall.

Later on back at home, Heather paged through the day’s newspaper and pulled out the sale ads. I heard her teasingly ask Brad if he wanted to go shopping at Target when they opened up at 9:00 pm. Brad’s not interested in shopping any day, much less willing to battle crazed bargain hunters on Thanksgiving night. But after Heather continued to tease him about taking her shopping, I got the sense that she really wanted to go. And when I asked her if she was serious, she admitted that she and her mom and sister always do the crazy Black Friday shopping thing. I felt bad that Heather was not only missing her own family, but sacrificing a family tradition to be with us. I contemplated volunteering for the excursion. There’s a Target store practically out my back door, so I asked if she wanted me with her. She was thrilled!  I’ve never done this kind of shopping before and can I just say? … Holy Schnikeys!  If I ever do that again, I’m wearing combat boots. Some lady rammed me in the heels with her shopping cart. For what, I’m not sure but I hope it was worth it. But Heather got the things she was looking for, so it was worth it in my book. Definitely an adventure!

The rest of the weekend was much more relaxing. I slept in each day. I think the chest cold that set in on Friday morning contributed to that habit. Kacey, Heather and I did a little more shopping. We cooked dinners and ate late and watched movies in the living room to which I fell asleep. On Saturday, we put the Christmas tree up. The kids had such fun decorating it. They’ve each got a big box full of ornaments given to them each year by various relatives. There’s no room on the tree for all of them. With each ornament that was pulled from the boxes, there was a memory to accompany it. They were being silly together and it was so good to listen to their laughter.

My only real goal for the weekend was to get a picture of all of us together. As the kids have grown up, it’s a rare occasion when we’re all together. I told the kids that I didn’t really care how they were dressed as long as they were neat and clean. While we waited for Mark to come home from work on Saturday night, Heather asked for a picture of her, Brad and Dacotah.

Brad, Dacotah and Heather

So then, Connor decided that he should have a similar photo with his dog and girlfriend.

Connor, Bella and Kacey

And then we still had some time to kill, so I made the boys pose with their dogs.

Connor & Bella, Brad & Dacotah, Jake and Lucy

And then we realized that before Mark got home from work, we should probably figure out where we had room to take a picture of seven people in this little house. Kacey thought it might be cool to get one of all of us sitting on the half flight of stairs. It quickly became obvious there was no way seven adults were going to fit in this space. So someone called out, “Roller Coaster!”  And … yeah …

Jake seems to have missed the Roller Coaster memo…

But in the end, we did manage to get a picture of all of us together.

Kacey, Connor, Mark, Jake, me, Brad, Heather

Which was nice, since no one could manage to behave themselves for long.

Oh well! If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!

Oh, yeah! There’s one for the Christmas card!

Obviously, we had fun. It was exactly what I was hoping for this Thanksgiving holiday!

Thanksgiving Time is Here

Had a few shopping errands to run this weekend so Mark and I found ourselves in several stores this afternoon. It’s clear that as far as the retail world is concerned, Christmas time is here. I just can’t get all that excited about it yet. I’m just not in that big of a hurry. I’m looking forward to Thanksgiving, and not simply because it’s a passage to the Christmas season. I like Thanksgiving. I love the holiday feeling it brings without all the hurry and rush.

I’m fortunate to work for a company that shuts down operations and gives employees time off, not only for Thanksgiving Day but the day after as well. My kids who are away at school will be coming home and I’m anxiously awaiting the happy chaos that fills the house when everyone is here. I’ll have four wonderful days to enjoy having them all back in the fold again. We’ll celebrate Thanksgiving with Mark’s family at his sister’s house. And I’m sure we’ll all overeat and come home exhausted.

After Thanksgiving, the next three days are ours.  I love to stay up late at night with the kids, watching movies and talking and laughing, knowing I won’t have to wake up to an alarm clock. I love to wake up in the morning and know that they’ll be here to spend lazy mornings with me, sitting in our pajamas, eating big breakfasts and drinking coffee.

And maybe the weather has a little something to do with my mood too. It’s been a beautiful, warm weekend. Rather unseasonable for this time of year, you might even say. The weather man says it’s going to continue through Thursday. When I drive through the neighborhoods, so many of the homes are still displaying their fall decor. There are pumpkins everywhere and it makes me want to bake. Something… pumpkin-y! So today I did just that. Don’t these look good?

Trust me. They are delicious!

No, I’m not ready to immerse myself in the Christmas season just yet. This week is Thanksgiving season and I play to enjoy it to the fullest.

Life is Good – November 27, 2011

I almost forgot to blog my thankfulness, on this of all weeks! I wouldn’t have remembered at all if it weren’t for Abby’s Silver Liningness post!

It was a nice short work week, thanks to the Thanksgiving holiday and the Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a good mix of busyness and family, fun and relaxation.

Our family enjoyed a delicious and plentiful holiday meal together, complete with multiple tasty desserts. The pecan pie was so yummy it didn’t last long. When I complimented my brother on his pie skills, he mentioned he was going to make another pecan pie over the weekend and he promised to bring me a piece. And he did! And I ate it for breakfast on Saturday!

One really special thing about this Thanksgiving was that my parents were with us. Since they’ve been wintering in Arizona for the past several years, they are often already gone to their winter home by the time the holidays roll around. This year they decided to stick it out in Minnesota through Christmas before escaping to a warmer climate. We kids were happy to have them. The holidays just don’t seem quite right without Mom and Dad.

Oldest boy, Brad was missing from our holiday gathering. He and Heather were spending this Thanksgiving with her family, about an hour away from here. (The trade-off here is that we get them for Christmas!) But since Heather’s parents live relatively close to us, Brad and Heather paid us a visit for the day on Friday. They brought Dacotah with them and Lucy was a happy girl!

I love weekends like this one, when there’s extra time to enjoy the kids, the comforts of home, and the company of friends. We visited our friends, Paul and Megan on Friday night and enjoyed a crazy and loud game of cards. Megan sent us home with her copy of Bridesmaids, which we watched on Saturday night. For me, it lived up to its reputation for gut-busting, tears-running-down-your-face laughter. But about the time I was trying to catch my breath, I noticed Mark was just staring at television with a rather blank look on his face. Guess it’s not for everyone, but I enjoyed it.

Doesn’t it seem like the long weekend just got here? And now it’s over already. That’s okay. There will be another one in about… oh… four weeks! And I need time to get ready for it!

Life is good!

Thanksgiving in Pictures

Thanksgiving came and went. It was a very nice day. My sister and I did a fabulous job of putting on the feast, if I do say so myself. My brother, the pie-maker, made several pumpkin pies and what I’m pretty sure was the best pecan pie I have ever tasted. He may be moody, but he can make a damn good pie! And he and I bonded over the turkey carving, which was nice.

The photos are pretty minimal, since I spent a good part of the day in the kitchen with my sister, doing preparation and clean-up instead of playing the role of family photographer. Kacey served as dish-dryer extraordinaire. It felt like we were there for hours! Does anyone else find it’s always the same people helping clean up after these kinds of things, and the same people relaxing in the living room in a food coma without a care as to all the work involved?

Yeah, me neither.

Anyway… it was a pretty typical holiday celebration for us, with the usual share of goofball antics.

My pumpkin roll - not quite as pretty as the ones Mom used to make, but tasty!

Just a few of the family members - From left to right, brother Jim, sis-in-law Lisa, niece Lauren, sister Cori, Dad, and nephew Matthew in front

Sisters!

What? Your family members don't measure each others height on holidays?

Matthew tolerates being kissed by his favorite auntie!

And the little ones on the in-law side were thrilled to get a visit late in the day from one of their favorite cousins!

No wonder they love Kacey so much! She's great at being silly and having fun!

The husband and sons managed to avoid the camera… again. Maybe I’ll catch them on Christmas.

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving Day already. Where has the year gone?

I hung out in my kitchen last night, an activity I find myself enjoying immensely more than ever before. Maybe it’s an age thing.

First thing after I came home from work, I had boxes to unpack. I had a Pampered Chef party a couple of weeks ago. (For those not in the know, this is one of those home party businesses that sells kitchen products.) The merchandise arrived yesterday and Kacey, who is home for the holiday weekend, helped me separate and sort all of that fun kitchen stuff. We bagged up the orders for the guests first, and then gathered up all of my stuff. The beauty of hosting one of these shows in your home, is that as the hostess, you earn free and discounted products based on the amount of purchases made by the guests. And I did quite well. My kitchenware has been nicely refreshed just in time for the big cooking and baking season. (de-I, you will be pleased to know that I now own a set of stainless steel mixing bowls!)

After a quick dinner, I set out to prepare some things for Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s home today. I made a cream cheese filled pumpkin roll for dessert and a snack mix to keep the hungry guests at bay until dinner is ready to be served.

In between all of this activity, I spoke with my sister, who called in a panic. It seems the requisite episode of family dysfunction had occurred in the form of a phone call with one of the brothers. Hearing her side of the story, it seemed he was upset over nothing. I’m guessing some kind of stress – work, family, life, who knows – prompted his complaints. Who ever knows why some people feel the need to stir the pot. Regardless, my sister was worried there might be a dark cloud over Thanksgiving. I told her I was sure our brother just needed to blow off some steam and she was the unlucky recipient. I said Thanksgiving would be fine, and even if it didn’t happen exactly as planned, we’d be okay.

Sigh! Why does this stuff have to happen within families? It’s tempting to let it sour my attitude about the holidays and family functions, but one nice thing about getting older is coming to the realization that no family is the picture perfect family. Everyone has their issues and no one is immune to conflict.

I just read a wonderful book called An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski. It is the true story of an unusual friendship that is formed between a successful, single woman, Laura Schroff and an 11 year-old panhandler, Maurice. Maurice lives in a world of drugs, violence and poverty. One day while begging for change on the street, he asks Laura for some change. She passes him by at first, as if she hadn’t seen or heard him. But for reasons unknown, she comes back to him and offers to buy him lunch at McDonald’s. It was the beginning of a lasting connection that enriched and benefited both of their lives for years to come.

Understandably, the book describes many instances of what is wrong with this world, with people and among families. Near the end of the book, I read this passage:

We all want relationships that are healthy and resolved, and sometimes that simply doesn’t happen. But the beauty of life is that inside these disappointments are hidden the most miraculous of blessings. What we lose and what might have been pales against what we have.

Those words struck a chord with me. Over all the years of my life, how often have I wished for something better or easier or more carefree within my relationships? How many years have been spent expecting things to miraculously change, only to find disappointment time after time? It rarely occurred to me to consciously be grateful for what is. And yet, somewhere, underneath it all, I can see that I am thankful for what is, even if I didn’t know it. Despite the flaws within my family, I wouldn’t wish for any other family. Given the chance, I would never go back and change the people who were predestined to be my parents, my siblings, my aunts, uncles and cousins. In spite of all of our quirks, I know, this is right where I belong.

This morning as I began preparing stuffing and thinking about when the “back-up” turkey needs to go in the oven, I realized something. I don’t love the occasional fighting and bickering that happens. But I do love my family’s silly nature. I love the way we reminisce about the past and find things to laugh about together. So maybe I don’t love the fact that my brother once wore a favorite radio station t-shirt on Christmas that stated across the back, I have to poop. That may have been a little much! But I love the goofy banter that takes place at family gatherings. I love the chaos and the noise and everything that makes us unique. And I am thankful that in spite of all of our imperfection, we have abundance.

Dear family, I love you … even though you can’t all possibly hope to be as perfect as me! ;-)

Happy Thanksgiving!