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Well, here we are, almost a week after Thanksgiving and we all survived! By now the guests should be gone, the kitchen cleaned, and the fall decorations replaced with Christmas decorations…or something like that.
This year we were blessed to have all 5 of our kids and their grandparents with us for Thanksgiving lunch. With shift work, retail work, fire calls, and in laws, this is an increasingly rare occurrence and we enjoyed it tremendously!
One thing that I’ve told myself I want to start doing is analyzing what went well, what worked (and what didn’t). Why DID this year go so smoothly even though I only have one burner working on my range and an oven that bases its performance on its moods. Yes, my oven has moods; doesn’t yours?
There were several things that WORKED this year and I think they made things easier and more enjoyable for all of us.
You know the saying If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy? Well, I think there’s another saying that works as well: If mama ain’t stressed…neither is anyone else! We guide the hearts and attitudes in our homes and I am making more of an effort this season to make sure that my heart and attitude are in order.
So, what worked? Here’s the list, and I’ll explain in more detail below:
*Planned and cooked many things ahead of time.
*Delegated more – yes, someone other than mom can cook – and they probably want to!
*Used paper plates, napkins, and disposable containers – clean up was a breeze!
*Bought a craft kit for the younger kiddos from Hobby Lobby and took turns helping them.
*Had a DVD and some games set up in case it was too rainy to play outside.
*Planned and provided some healthy choices for the littles, so that they wouldn’t get tummy aches from all the desserts.
It sounds simple doesn’t it? It really is, but if I don’t think about it ahead of time, I will surely forget something.
Planning and preparing food ahead of time!
You’re probably thinking well, of course that works, don’t you do that every year? Sadly, no, I don’t. I make a list, and I plan the food, but I usually cook everything the day of Thanksgiving or maybe the night before.
This year we started on Tuesday, and I delegated more. Our oldest daughter and our daughter in law both brought side dishes. Kate and Jill made all of the desserts on Tuesday with little supervision, and I successfully tried a new recipe for dressing and prepped the rest of the sides on Wednesday night.
The only thing we had to do on Thursday was warm everything and make the gravy. I borrowed a roaster oven from a friend and Johnnie cooked the turkey in that, which freed up my oven for all of the sides. I’d never used a roaster oven before, but that will definitely be changing. Here is one I’m considering:
Paper plates, napkins, and disposable containers have been a game changer for me. Growing up, my mom pulled out the best china plates and sterling silver for big family meals, so that’s what I thought I was supposed to do too. It makes for a gorgeous table…and a whole lot of work cleaning everything up.
These days we use paper plates when we are hosting over 8 people and save the “good dishes” for smaller crowds. I ordered some aluminum foil pans with covers from Amazon a few months ago when I was working on freezer meals and have been impressed with their sturdiness and how easily they stack in the freezer. We used the same things for most of the side dishes this year.
Craft kits were a huge hit this year. I bought this set at Hobby Lobby on one of their rotating sales for 50% off, then found glue bottles just the right size for small hands. Young aunts and grandmas took turns helping the kids with these and it was something they really enjoyed.
DVDs – I kept all of the Barbie DVDs that my girls watched and we always have those on hand when the little girls are here in case someone gets tired of visiting and playing with the adults (hey, everyone needs a break sometimes!) I have to say that I was hesitant to buy Barbie movies when my girls were little. I wasn’t sure what kind of message they would promote. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised at the strong female roles, friendships, and morals they display – along with some really catchy tunes. 😀
Amazon has a great deal on the Barbie Princess Collection right now, which includes my favorite: Barbie in The Princess and the Pauper!
Games, games, games. Although we spent most of our time visiting and taking pictures this holiday, my family loves to play games. Some of our favorites are Headbandz, Pictionary, Phase 10, and Uno. If everyone wants to play, Chickenfoot and Jenga are great games that very young children can understand and join.
Healthy choices for the littlest members of the family. I know a lot of people believe that when it comes to meal time, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit and I agree with that too, on a daily basis. But while we’re picking all of our favorite recipes that we’ve had for years, why not consider the ones who haven’t developed a taste for green bean casserole just yet?
It only took one text message to make sure we’d have some favorite fruits on hand for the under 10 crowd – now they would have something to fall back on to keep them from getting cranky or their parents from getting exasperated when the kids wouldn’t eat anything. Definitely worth the effort!
Prayer. Hospitality is not something that comes naturally to me. Even when it is only family, if it’s more than 5 or 6 people, I struggle. Is the house clean enough? Will there be enough food? What will they think of the decorations? And the yard? What if cranky Aunt Agatha shows up and says something to make someone cry? The list goes on and on of things that I worry about not just the night but the entire week before a gathering.
This year every time I started worrying about something, I prayed. I didn’t pray for God to calm my nerves or make everything go smoothly (okay maybe I did that once or twice). I focused my prayers on asking God to use me to bless my family and anyone else I came in contact with throughout the holidays. By thinking of others and their needs, I didn’t have as much time to worry about what might go wrong. And guess what: nothing went wrong!
I hope my list of things that worked this year helps you in some way. If you have anything to add, I’d absolutely love to hear what you have to say. I always need all the help I can get.