Posts Tagged ‘Thanksgiving’

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Since the beginning of November, I’ve been seeing social media posts discouraging retail stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day.

I get that. Thanksgiving is intended to be a time for families and friends to spend quality and meaningful time together. But whether or not stores open on Thanksgiving, there will always be people who have to work.

I should know. I grew up in such a family and I married into another. Because of that, I am fascinated by the people who are oblivious to the moms and dads who have to work regardless of a special day on the calendar.

Anyone who watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or football games should recognize  all of the people who have to work to make those events possible and broadcast them.

Anyone who expects up-to-date news and information should recognize that reporters and editors are hard at work trying to keep the world informed.

Anyone who  is traveling and needs gasoline or a meal on the way to the family feast should recognize that the clerks and cooks and waiters providing that service probably want to be with their own families.

Anyone who is feeling sick should recognize that health care providers are at work or on call  regardless of the day or time.

Police officers are still on patrol, movie theaters are still open and hotels are available for weary travelers on every holiday.

And for that, I am appreciative. I am also appreciative that this year, my husband does not have to work on Thanksgiving or on Christmas. But he has on previous years, and my children learned to accommodate. In doing so, they received a great gift: they learned that celebrating isn’t so much about the actual date or time but about cherishing special  moments with people we love.

Here’s wishing everyone those moments of celebration this upcoming holiday season.

A New Mom’s List of Thanks

Friday, November 21, 2014
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Next week I will celebrate my first Thanksgiving as a mom. I have many things to be thankful for that don’t involve motherhood, but I thought I would share some of the things for which I am thankful as a mom (list is not comprehensive – I could list pages and pages but I’ll stick to the basics).

This year, I am thankful for:

Epidurals. Ms. “I want to have a natural birth” got the epidural and I have never made a better decision. I think my husband would agree; it was a lifesaver.

Nurses who help their patients with things I cannot even imagine helping someone with. The nurses who took care of me in the hospital were compassionate, caring and generally amazing.

My doctors and AJ’s pediatrician. What can I say about the people who made sure my little one made it into the world safely, made sure I was healthy and now make sure AJ stays healthy? I respect and rely on our doctors more than I can say and I know they truly care about our well-being.

Sleep. Glorious, uninterrupted sleep. This is one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” kind of things. Oh how I miss sleeping in on Saturdays. I’m thankful I once got to sleep so soundly.

Only waking up once a night to feed AJ. After waking up every two hours for weeks on end, once a night is nothing. I remember thinking the day would never come. It did, and I was so grateful.

Velcro swaddle blankets. This wonderful invention helped us reach those amazing once-a-night feedings.

Our family and our friends. I am beyond thankful that we have loving, supportive family members and friends that care about and love AJ and us. We were overwhelmed with the good wishes, help and love we received when AJ was born. Chris and I are truly lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

Baby Zantac. If you have had a baby with acid reflux, you know this stuff is like gold.

Coffee. Oh how I missed it while pregnant, and although I still closely monitor my caffeine intake, I’m back to enjoying my morning cup.

The “speak to a nurse” option at my pediatrician’s office – a great resource for when you want to know if your baby’s poop is a normal color.

Daycare. AJ seems to really enjoy going to daycare and they take such good care of her. They also love to feed my mom ego by saying things like, “She is just such a beautiful baby!”

My coworkers. Going back to work was made much easier by the warm welcomes I received.

My husband who gets up at night to change diapers, takes out the dog at 6 a.m. and who tells me I have a beautiful voice when I sing lullabies off-key (which is always).

My mom friends. I’m so glad I have good friends who I can spend hours talking to about stroller brands and baby fingernails and the best way to get a baby to take a nap without them wanting to poke their eyes out (or if they do, they hide it well).

Google. HOW did moms survive without Google??

Smart phones. Again, HOW?

Mommy blogs. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than to read the honest and wonderful stories moms around the world are sharing. It’s so helpful to know you are not alone.

And of course, I am most thankful for my healthy, happy, wonderful baby girl. She has changed my life in a million ways and I’m thankful for every one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Needing to Want Less

Monday, December 5, 2011
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"I want an official Red Ryder carbine action two-hundred shot range model air rifle!"

As I looked back at my entries in the 30 Days of Gratitude journal that celebrated the month of November, I was surprised to see that I was most appreciative of intangible “things”.

I was grateful that my husband returned home safely from business trips; thankful that my daughters’ ear infections went away; relieved to have been given a new project that promised a paid invoice by Christmastime.  But as we move deeper into the gift-giving season, I should add an important footnote to my gratitude inventory:

I’m especially mindful that my two children rarely ask for anything.

Yes, I know my last blog post covered the story of Ava and Maryn finding their Christmas gifts.  But, what I didn’t write about is that they didn’t ask for half of the stuff on the list.  I prompted them, as I have to do every year.  “Would you like to have a new bike?  Did you see this cute little otter that claps his flippers when you talk to him?”

They smile politely and shake their heads in approval of the baby blue Schwinn and the baby harp seal.  Then, I go out the next day and buy them.  But they didn’t specifically say they wanted those things.

I’m blessed that I can take my kids into a store and walk around for 30 minutes without having to hear them whine about this toy or that game.  The girls have never wanted anything, really, except experience. Ava and Maryn would rather go to the beach than press the fluffer-stuffer pedal at Build-a-Bear.  They love concerts and amusement parks, and one of their greatest joys is exploring a hotel and splashing around in a heated pool.  Expensive, yes, but also more meaningful. More memorable. And I’m indebted that their brains are wired this way…for now.

A little black cloud lingered over Thanksgiving Thursday — a twinge of sadness that the holiday wasn’t as important in our society as it once was.  I commented to a friend on Facebook that Thanksgiving had become a buffet of carbohydrate-stuffed foods that provided fuel to help doorbusters fight their way through Walmart at 9PM.  Thanksgiving is now about the feast, first of food and drink and then of material things.  Merchants make us celebrate the day in August when pumpkins are plucked from the patch and turkeys take their place on store shelves. Have you ever tried to find a harvest-themed tablecloth on the Monday of Thanksgiving week?  Forget it.

I’m not a procrastinator by any means.  I shop for Christmas gifts year-round out of financial necessity and seasonal impatience.  Few things are as unbearable to me than standing in line for hours, risking getting trampled by thrill-seekers racing to the Xbox display. Nothing on God’s Green Earth is that important to me and perhaps it’s because I’m not the competitive type.  But above all else, I don’t want my girls to assume Thanksgiving is the day we express our gratitude for store discounts. Calling Black Friday “Gobble-Palooza” doesn’t change the way I feel, either.

No, my girls don’t write five-page, single-spaced letters to Santa, but yes, I admit they do ask for gifts that are rather significant.

“I’d like to have an American Girl doll and a bed for her to sleep in.”

“I want a monkey.”

A $95 doll and her $75 bed aren’t easy to pay for, and those 18-inch “babies” never go on sale.  I have to plan ahead if I’m to grant these wishes, and I have to let them know that if Santa is able to deliver, there won’t be as much under the tree.  Heaven knows a monkey is a hard beast to cage!  But for some strange reason that I can’t explain — particularly since I was a “more, more more!” child at their age — the girls aren’t worried about coming up short. They’re content with what they have, and while we’ve provided well for them (and we’re grateful for our ability to do so), they seem to possess a peacefulness that we adults don’t have.  We’re hunters — fighting for what we want and bargaining to get it for less.

It’s been a long time since I had one, simple Christmas wish.  Even as a grown woman, I find myself sending Mike links to store websites that reveal a handsome, navy blue pea coat with matching boots. I still circle item numbers in favorite catalogs, dog-earing the pages that contain pretty necklaces that come wrapped in famous blue boxes. To this day, I suffer from Want Syndrome, yet my daughters — who are surrounded by advertisements and commercials — seem totally unaffected and rather unimpressed. Sometimes I wonder where they came from. But I know for a fact that I got the steal of the century.

A Little Holiday Nostalgia

Saturday, November 26, 2011
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This Thanksgiving seemed easier than most. My Mom and I didn’t fuss or fight and we prepared the whole meal without a single argument. As my husband will attest, this was one for the record books. My in-laws came early and stayed late for some after dinner conversation. My son, although only two and a half, was especially good – no crying or tantrums. He enjoyed all of the attention from both sets of grandparents, and his aunt, all at the same time. Everyone pitched in to make the day a little easier. My husband would describe the day as smooth as butter.

Last year we celebrated Thanksgiving with the joy of having my chemotherapy over, but with the uncertainty of six weeks of daily radiation ahead. This year, it was a blessing to know that my cancer treatments were behind me. It created a deep sense of nostalgia.

My father in law celebrated his 81st birthday on Thanksgiving Day. We sang happy birthday as he blew out the candles on a fall-themed cake. When someone you love is lucky enough to reach that age, it is impossible not to wonder how many more holidays you’ll have together. It was a heartwarming sight to watch little Henry sit on his Giddee’s (grandfather) lap and blow out the candles. I also used a table cloth that belonged to his mother. It is a beautiful cream-colored linen cloth stitched with faint fall-like flowers. My father-in-law was totally surprised when I told him that I had “rescued” it last summer from the bag he intended to send to the Salvation Army. Although he would never admit it, I’m sure he was delighted that we were using something that belonged to his mother.  It was an unspoken birthday gift- the best kind for someone who has accumulated eighty years’ worth of possessions.

My husband agreed that he felt more nostalgic this year than most, too. After everyone went to bed, we stayed up late chatting about how much the world has changed in the 81 years since his dad was born. What was life like back then?  America was gripped by The Great Depression. In their small Lebanese community in Detroit, they were probably surrounded by lots of family and friends during holidays. With no television, no Internet, no text messages and no excitement over Black Friday shopping, we couldn’t help but think their holiday celebrations were probably simpler and likely more down to earth.

I read an article this week that explained the psychology of holiday nostalgia. Doing something repeatedly over the years – preparing our favorite dishes, trimming the Christmas tree after our Thanksgiving meal, holding hands during grace – fulfills our need to connect with family and friends. As I have watched my little one grow from an infant during this first holiday season to full blown toddler this year, I can’t help but wonder what special memories he’s creating. I hold on to the hope that we will all be here, healthy and happy, to celebrate many holiday seasons ahead.

What special holiday traditions do you celebrate with your children? Is there a certain custom that makes you especially nostalgic this time of the year? I am looking forward to hearing from you.

A bountiful Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23, 2011
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The month of November is often known as a month to give thanks. Obviously, with Thanksgiving an annual holiday, the idea of gratitude is fresh on every one’s mind.

A Facebook trend has people daily offering what they are thankful for, ranging from the serious — health — to the silly, let’s say Starbucks.

The past three weeks or so, it has felt like my material life was heading into a whirlwind of destruction. If it could break, bust, tear, crack, misfire, catch on fire or stop working, it did.

It’s been hard to be thankful, but as a mother, I had to force it, and I’m thankful [ 😉 ] I did.

Frustration, ingratitude and thanklessness are not traits I need to exhibit, nor do I want my son to see them and copy them. He is soaking up every ounce of learning right now, the wrong words could teach him the wrong attitude in a second.

In a matter of weeks my iPhone, my Precious, bounced off my foot and now has a shattered screen. My boyfriend’s laptop slid off my lap while my son, trying to run away from bedtime, climbed into my lap.

Our recently installed roof sprang a rather large leak. My car died three times in three days. The dogs are eating a hole in the couch that keeps getting larger and larger. We shared a rather insignificant stomach ailment for several days. I, many times, have just felt completely overwhelmed.

But, there’s a bright side to everything. I’m thankful the phone is an easy fix. As is the laptop, once hard drive prices go down. I’m thankful we have another computer, so my work won’t suffer.

I’m thankful the roof was fixed the next day, and was affordable.

I’m thankful the insurance is paying for my tow to the mechanic, and I’m thankful the mechanic quickly and cheaply fixed the problem.

~In other Thankfulness ~

I’m thankful I only have to tell my son once to stop licking the toilet seat.

I’m thankful I can leave for an hour and come home to a completely spotless house.

I’m thankful for the man that is responsible for said spotless house, as well as so, so many other wonderful moments.

I’m thankful for family, who rise to any occasion with encouragement.

I’m thankful for all of our friends, and the comfort they feel with us.

I’m thankful for the house we have, and the roof over our heads, which now is nicely patched.

I’m thankful for a freezer full of soup made possible by the organization and thoughtfulness of friends.

I’m thankful for the shoes I trip over everyday, because they keep my son’s feet warm and dry, especially during this monsoon of November.

Overall, you can just say I’m a thankful mommy.

Tomorrow, as you gather with family or friends, or just hang out and watch Walking Dead all day, I hope you take a minute to let all the stresses of this world leave your body, and are able to enjoy true thankfulness. Our children will be watching and learning by our example. We owe it to them.

Thanks for reading.

Some Mindless Reading

Saturday, November 12, 2011
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Since I went back to work in September I’ve felt like there aren’t enough hours in the day. I think most moms (and dads too, for that matter) can relate. I get up, cook breakfast and rush out the door for work. I am one of a thousand ants marching east on I-64, snaking toward Kanawha City each morning. My days at the office are hectic, trying to make up for a year of missed work. As soon as I walk through the door at night, everyone is hungry and I often can’t tell who is crying louder for food- my son, husband or dog. After dinner I have dishes, housework and bath time to get through. I find myself falling asleep every night as I put Henry to bed.

Needless to say, I haven’t had much time to myself lately, especially for things as time consuming as reading for pleasure. In my world it is important to differentiate between the monotony of reading for professional or relaxation purposes. I do plenty of reading at work- daily news briefs about the latest fad diet and the most recent journal articles about Vitamin D, for example. But making time to read something for fun- forget about it.

When I start a book, I’m like an addict. I can’t stop. I find myself staying up late and making excuses to sneak off alone to get my next fix- another chapter. I daydream about the characters and I think about what happens after the story ends. So, who could blame me for not taking the time to start a new book lately? My days are just too jam packed with life! But in reality, I need something to help lull me into blissful dreamland at night. Therefore, I’ve been spending a few minutes before bead reading magazines instead. They’re quick and simple and require very little commitment. My current favorite is Good Housekeeping.

I think Good Housekeeping is perfect for a working mom. The articles are relatively short and written about things to which I can really relate- crock pot meals, etiquette advice and the perfect under eye cream. Although I wouldn’t call it mindless reading, it’s pretty darn close. Just perfect for a quick 15 minutes before bed- or so I thought until the October issue.

Last month featured an article about why the food supply in America isn’t safe. Don’t get me wrong- I’m no food safety novice. I studied microbiology as an undergraduate and have taught food safety and food borne illness at the college level for years. But this particular piece was very disturbing. Just what somebody like me, who is already hypervigilant about preventing the spread of deadly microbes, needed to be extra paranoid. If you haven’t already, I’d suggest buying stock in Clorox wipes. The Gannons are doing our part to make sure everyone who buys some shares can retire early.

Seriously, this article summed up the gaps in our food safety system and outlined the crazy bureaucratic nightmare of which government agency is in charge of making sure our foods are safe. It reminded me of all the unusual food suspects that have made people sick in recent years- everything from peanut butter to sprouts and spinach. The worst part of all was seeing the pictures of the victims, innocent people who died because the food they ate was tainted. Children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are particularly susceptible to food poisoning. Their small and weakened bodies just can’t handle the virulent bacteria, which can cause everything from vomiting and diarrhea to kidney failure.

Few people are aware of the most common culprits. According to the CDC, the number one food which makes people sick is poultry. This is followed by leafy greens, beef, dairy, fruit and nuts. And, with Thanksgiving just around the corner, it is worthwhile to make sure you are keeping your food safe on the biggest poultry day of the year. Here are five easy steps to follow to help keep your family healthy:

First, make sure you properly thaw your bird. Never, ever thaw poultry, or any other frozen meat on the countertop. This allows bacteria, present in all meat, to rapidly multiply at rates that can easily make you sick. Second, don’t wash your turkey before baking it. You might think you’re washing off the bacteria, but in reality you’re just spreading germs. Third, use a food thermometer. Cook your bird using a method that allows it to reach 140 degrees Fahrenheit (F) in less than 4 hours. In addition, make sure a thermometer inserted into a thick part of the muscle (such as the thigh) reaches 180 degrees F. Fourth, don’t stuff the bird. I know the thought of moist delicious stuffing basted with roasted turkey juice is irresistible. However, stuffing the turkey’s cavity makes it difficult for hot air to circulate and reach a temperature hot enough to kill the bacteria. If you do choose to stuff the cavity, make sure you do so loosely, and again, use a food thermometer. The stuffing should reach a minimum of 165 degrees F. Fifth, play it safe and don’t cross contaminate. This sounds like common sense, but in the rush of trying to get everything prepared, it is easy to accidentally use the same cutting board for raw meat and veggies. Finally, remember to wash all surfaces which have come in contact with raw poultry in hot soapy water and air dry. In my world, a little bleach goes a long way to keeping countertops salmonella free.

Although these rules aren’t the only ones you need to know to keep your family free of food poisoning on this beautiful holiday, they’ll help you ensure you’re healthy and happy and ready to wake up at 3 A.M. the next day for some black Friday shopping.

The Mother of all Holidays

Monday, October 10, 2011
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Martyr. I mean, Martha.

As I write this blog, I’m waiting on dinner to come out of the oven.  I’m relying on a meal hyped up by the food editors of Southern Living, the same people who have warned me that Thanksgiving is coming.  This is the time of year that requires me to make an important decision:

Am I cooking or am I having it catered?

I don’t know why a woman’s job includes being the Family Holiday Coordinator.  It’s a tremendous amount of pressure to be in charge of other people’s festive happiness, and it requires an exhausting amount of preparation from October through January — a time that should be spent with family as opposed to for family.  Thanksgiving dinner is the trophy meal of the year — the one that simply can’t be ruined or rescheduled.  It’s on, people.  It’s on!

Growing up, my mother made every single Thanksgiving meal that I can remember, except for the year she was angry with me for getting married (that’s another story saved for another time).  Since I moved out and moved on, in her opinion, my mother declared her house CLOSED.  Thanksgiving dinner?  You can find that at Southern Kitchen.

And we did.   And my mother quietly hated every minute of it.  Five of us were crammed into a faded red booth, ordering the special of the evening advertised on a handwritten sign by the cash register.  I tried to pretend that my mother’s semi-peaceful protest didn’t affect me, but the truth is, it was the worst holiday ever recorded.  But when we saw a friend walk in alone — unaccompanied by her adult children and permanently separated from her husband who had just passed away — my mother announced that we should have been at home.  Thanksgiving should be spent at home.

A few years later, the task of bringing Thanksgiving to the table was handed down to me when my mother was too sick to eat, much less cook.  I was determined to make her last supper as perfect as a Norman Rockwell painting, and I delivered.  It was important to me to make sure my mother’s favorite holiday was honored, but also to prove to her that I had paid attention all of those years that she stood in the kitchen while everyone else sat on the couch.

However, I did a little too good of a job.  From that year on, Thanksgiving belonged to me.  So here we are — more than a decade later — and I want to quit.

Why? Because I set unreasonable expectations for myself and others.  Celebrity chefs lecture me on what a real turkey is supposed to taste like. Home decorators show me what an inviting atmosphere should look like.  Television psychologists remind me of what a holiday should feel like.

It feels…frustrating. Sure it’s funny now, but year after year, the same things happen:

1) I live at the grocery store 48-hours before the big day, worried that I won’t be able to find sage for the herb dressing.

2) I poke and prod my frozen fowl, fearing it won’t thaw in time, which always leads to a water bath in the kitchen sink. The turkey is always larger than my kitchen sink.

3) The headcount for dinner changes each day leading up to the main event. I have to rent banquet tables and chairs from a party supply store because I don’t have enough space in my dining room.

4)  I pray for my 35-year-old Westinghouse oven,  which stopped working temporarily on November 22, 2007. Heating elements are necessary for this type of production.

5) I miss the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  I also miss the hour of Broadway performers singing and dancing at Herald’s Square.

6) My kitchen turns into a war zone and I declare the space behind the counter hostile territory.  Yet, everyone wants to lean in to watch what I’m doing…and offer advice.

7)  At the exact moment the turkey pops its thermometer, someone gets the bright idea to take a group walk to make room for “all that food Kat’s got going over there.”  And they leave.

8 ) When I announce that dinner is served — at 4:00 on the dot — everyone freezes.  No one moves. They all stand and stare at me. “Well?! Go! Sit! EAT!”

9)  After men, women and children play a round of musical chairs, the dishes are passed from one person to the next.  This is the moment that my children announce  they aren’t hungry.  They ate too much Chex Mix.

10) At 4:20 p.m., it’s all over.

Friends shake their heads at me when I describe my to-do list and projected outcomes. Wouldn’t it be easier to call Honey Baked Ham Company? Ask everyone to bring a dish to share?  Wouldn’t it be easier to set up a buffet instead of place settings for 10?  Wouldn’t it be easier to serve lunch instead of dinner so the rest of the day can enjoyed?

Probably.  But I feel as though I owe it to my mother, a true Southern cook who wouldn’t have allowed anyone to bring the meal to her (except, of course, when her daughter got married).  Despite my moaning and groaning, I want my children to have memories of family holidays, some of which have rivaled National Lampoon’s.  I want them to look back on this one day of the year and know they were well loved and well fed.

Yes, they can count on me to give them the bird.