Every year for as long as I can remember, my Aunt Terry and Uncle Andy have hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve at their house and my parents have done Christmas Day. (And I say “parents” loosely, as my mom always does 99.9% of the work. Sorry, Dad—I just call it like it is.) And every year, Mom and Aunt Terry spend the weeks leading up to their respective holidays running around in a frenzy trying to get everything done. Sure, I help Mom make the Christmas lasagna and bake some cookies to bring to Aunt Terry’s house. But for the most part, the rest of us get to eat lots of delicious food and revel in holiday cheer relatively stress-free.

A couple of years ago on Thanksgiving, as my aunt and uncle debated about whether the turkey was done and my cousin Kim and I stood at the kitchen counter stuffing our faces with chips, I looked at Kim in mock horror and said, “Oh, my gosh! One day we are going to have to do this!”

“Can you imagine me trying to cook a turkey?” Kim asked. “I’d probably burn down my house!”

Fast forward only two years, and suddenly, I found myself in charge of Thanksgiving. We decided to stay here in Colorado Springs this year since we’ll be heading to New York for Christmas. Much to our delight, Keith’s siblings, Pat and Ken, and Ken’s wife Beth and youngest daughter Ashley decided to fly out to spend the holiday with us.

Keith and I had absolutely no idea how to prepare a turkey. We didn’t even know what kind or size to buy. We envisioned a scene out of “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”: We’d all be sitting cozily around the Thanksgiving table. Keith would make some kind of cheesy speech before cutting into the turkey, when it would promptly burst open with a sizzle. Everyone would give us fake smiles and tell us it was delicious as they proceeded to crack their teeth on the dry, overdone meat.

In an effort to avoid that horror, I began to prepare for the holiday a month ago. I asked my mom 800 questions about turkey prep, got her potato pie recipe, and began a shopping list. I called Aunt Terry and peppered her with questions about how to make stuffing. And I went online to find a few recipes of my own.

I’ll admit, I went a little crazy: This was my first holiday, and I wanted it to be perfect. I bought a roasting pan, a pretty turkey platter, a gravy boat, turkey lifters, a baster … you name it, I bought it, even if I had no clue how to use it.

About 10 days before the holiday, I began to drag Keith around town, gathering ingredients. We made several trips to the commissary, Safeway, and Costco. I dug out the china, fancy silverware and table linens a week before and insisted we set the table right then.

At one point in the middle of all the madness, I called my mom and shouted, “Holidays suck when you’re the one hosting them!” I didn’t really mean it, of course. It was my way of telling her I finally understood all of the hard work she and my aunt put into giving our family such memorable, fantastic holidays. And yes, I was a bit stressed out. But in reality, I was having a great time. After all, this is what the holidays are all about—shopping and cooking and decorating, all in preparation of bringing family into your home to make memories. I finally felt like a grown-up. I felt like a mom!

Even with all of my crazy preparations, things still did go wrong. Our microwave decided to stop working the evening before Thanksgiving. (Thank you, Wendi, for lending me yours!) The cheese slicer cracked while Keith was preparing the cheese and crackers. Mom’s potato pie didn’t cook long enough in the middle. (It was still delicious, though.)

But for the most part, everything was absolutely perfect. Our 16-pound Butterball was moist and cooked just right. The stuffing and other side dishes were sooooo yummy. And, because I got all of the hard work and stress out of the way ahead of time, I was able to relax and enjoy time with my family on Thanksgiving Day. Keith and I slept until 7 am and watched some of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with the twins before starting on the food. Once the appetizers and side dishes were all prepared and the turkey was in the oven, we went out for a 45-minute walk with the family. We watched football, played with the boys, and drank my homemade sangria. And everyone had such a great time. All of that hard work and running around was absolutely worth it.

Us on Thanksgiving — a little blurry, but I love the smiles!
Getting ready to carve our first turkey!
The whole clan about to dig in (minus Pat, who always seems to be the one to remember to take the picture). No cheesy speeches were given!

I am super proud of myself and of Keith for successfully pulling off our first holiday! Even though the boys won’t remember it, I hope it was the first of what will be many happy holidays for them. And I hope you all had an equally fantastic Thanksgiving!

Now, Keith and I are ready to give the boys a Christmas they won’t forget. We have lots of fun things planned here in Colorado before we head to New York, where we’ll spend Christmas Eve and Christmas at Aunt Terry’s house and Mom’s house, like always. We can’t wait!

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