I am not really a fan of "self-help" books, but Matt is often buying a manual that will give him good advice about something or another - running, or career-finding, or home-renovating, etc. I decided last night that I should really be dedicating my time to writing a book about how to over-commit oneself silly, and be constantly exhausted as a result.
It's very early in his life for me to be doing this (I thought, at 1:00 am this morning), but I had volunteered to go into Blake's pre-school and do a "bit" about Thanksgiving. On Monday of this week - or was it even Tuesday - I suddenly decided that I needed a book to support my story-telling efforts, so out I went to seek the book, something with pictures, that told a simple story about how and why it is that Americans celebrate Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November.
I started at my local bookshop, Dulwich Books, and my opening line to the man there was, "I almost hope you'll say you don't have anything." But I asked anyway about whether or not they had any children's books about American Thankgiving. The guy was super helpful, but every search he did kept giving him no stock in terms of being able to order me something to arrive the next day. His theory was that all the big retailers would have bought the available stock, leaving nothing to the small guys. Another call to Village Books in Dulwich confirmed this - they didn't have anything either.
Now, believe me, on the one hand, this is great news. After seeing how big Halloween has gotten here (and if you are prone to consider it an American import, despite its religious background), I thought to myself that really there is no reason for many Brits to even be aware that a special day is happening in the US, so the news that every bookshop isn't promoting "American Thanksgiving" means that hopefully it can preserve its special status as an American holiday, even in an expat-laden area such as London. On the other hand, this was making my book search difficult! In the end, I gave my first thanks to Amazon's expedited delivery service, which delivered a story book to my door yesterday afternoon, and at least I could relax that if all else failed I could just read the story.
I then stayed up late last night "prepping" for the event - how much detail would I go into about why the original Pilgrims left England in the first place (answer - none)? What sort of counting games could I throw in to make the story-telling fun? That sort of thing. Before I knew it, it was 1:00 am and I was only finishing up some pumpkin cookies. In the meantime Noah had not stirred at his normal 10:30/11:00 pm wake-up time, so that was unusual.
This morning Blake and Noah and I headed into pre-school, which was exciting because Thursday is not one of Blake's normal days in attendance there. The class was all assembled on a rug waiting for me (picture me, panting, 5 minutes late, going, "Oh, hello children!"). I was unshowered because our boiler had stopped working sometime in the morning, and the ice-cold shower was too unbearable to contemplate. I had actually turned a gas lever off as I was rummaging around in the under-stairs cupboard, so fortunately later this afternoon hot water and heat were restored.
My story-telling left a little to be desired, but we then made turkey handprint pictures which was fun.
Back at home, Blake watched a bit of Cars while I made his lunch. Afterwards, he announced that he was going upstairs for a nap, so I waited in the kitchen to hear what I thought would be his next words: "Mom, I've done a poo." He has definitely decided to go away for privacy when he needs to do his business. I was busy in the kitchen, cleaning up some dishes and "getting ready" to start cooking the Thanksgiving dinner. It was much much much to my surprise, when half an hour later, I went upstairs to find Blake sleeping in our bed. Very Goldilocks of him. So I thought, fabulous, I'll just start working on the cooking.
One of the huge challenges of serving a true Thanksgiving meal is the timing - getting everything to the table together, hot and on time. I decided at about 3:00 pm today that given the way we live, we can't do this on a normal night, let alone a night where there is a special meal on the menu. So I just decided to seize the moment and get done what I could. By this point I think I'd managed to get Noah asleep too - minor miracle to have them both sleeping at the same time!
I did a quick search for what dishes might work for preparing in advance, and read something about being able to cook mashed potatoes and then keep them warm in the slow cooker. Sounded good to me, and we do a have a slow-cooker! So I started on those, prepared the stuffing, made some glazed carrots, got the turkey ready (decided to forego a trip to the store for dried herbs to smear on to it; butter, salt and pepper would have to do for seasoning). I was feeling AWESOME! At that point I decided to work on heating the mashed potatoes, so I went on to the stepladder to get the slow cooker down. In slow motion, then, I happened to watch as the lid fell off and smashed into about 1000 pieces. Sh*t! That's not good. I then heard the padding of feet; perfect timing! I cleaned it all up as quickly as I good, sweeping, vacuuming, doing it again. At this point Noah woke and was screaming his head off in his cot, but I had to clean up all the smashed slow-cooker lid in case Blake wandered into the kitchen and got something in his feet. Unintentional controlled crying, I guess! At this point I was feeling REALLY NOT AWESOME! It had all been going so well...
With both boys awake, I only had still to put the turkey in, and in the world of turkeys, this one would be a waitress at Hooters! I had been at Costco last Friday and happened to see turkey breasts for roasting, and hey, that seemed like a good idea and easier than preparing a whole turkey! The only thing was that the one I got was absolutely enormous - but it was the smallest one there. It's funny how I only really think anatomically about the turkey as I'm preparing it - never when I'm buying it. And what I mean by that is as I was patting this piece of meat dry, rubbing it with butter, and figuring out where to put the meat thermometer into its thickest part, I was thinking, this is a turkey's breast! And my word, it's big!
Matt was home around 6:15, and we actually sat down for dinner at about 6:45 or 7:00 -incredible by my standards. I had allowed myself a much-earlier-than-usual glass of wine at 5:00 so I was feeling great, and so pleased that the minor mishaps of the day were not worse.
As for thanks, we gave lots before we started eating: for our wonderful family and friends, for our home, and food to eat. Blake got pretty into that and would respond with his clearly-enunciated "Yes!" as we would say, "Are we thankful for x and y?" "Yes!"
It's such a crazy holiday in a way - so much stress to produce this huge and elaborate meal; only celebrated in this way, on this day, by people who have some connection to this one place in the world; and it could be very easy to forget what it's really all about. But then, when I see these three handsome faces around the table with me, it's all very clear. We are so lucky and so thankful for all that we have. Even if we do need a new slow-cooker lid.