When my first marriage ended, the day before Thanksgiving in 2003, I took a deep breath upon returning from court and began meal preparations for my first major holiday on my own. I set myself (and my raw nerves) to the comforting task of marinating pears for a compote, then started on the bread-sage stuffing. Why? Because for as long as I can recall, I’ve cooked elaborate dinners for the holidays.

During my first marriage, our family shared hosting duties for the holidays, but the times when it wasn’t my turn didn’t mean I was off the hook. I contributed side dishes and desserts to the groaning board so the burden of cooking an entire meal wasn’t borne by the host. That, however, was all in the past. My son would join me, and my cousin, for my first post-divorce Thanksgiving. That was it. Taking the smallest turkey I’d ever roasted out of the oven, I marveled at its lightness. And cried.

One month later, at Christmas, I said goodbye to all that and performed a variation on the theme. My cousin brought her nephew, my son came with his girlfriend at the time, and I rounded out the rest of the table with a young violinist from the Ukraine, who was studying at the conservatory where I worked. She brought her mother along. And, for the first time in my entire life, turkey was not featured on the table. Instead I prepared a standing rib roast from one of Ina Garten‘s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks.

This was my new family dynamic, and the start of a new tradition.

It can’t have been easy for my son, who at the time was in his early 20s. He was now required to divide all of his holidays in two; the first half of the day was spent with his father, the latter half with me. Those mornings and early afternoons dragged on so! It seemed strange to be alone in the house on a holiday. I probably hugged him far too long and far too tightly when he arrived. But so it went, each year, until the year I remarried.

My new husband had taken a job in Virginia, and I was now living nearly 500 miles from where I grew up and lived my entire life—and 500 miles from my son. Whereas holidays had presented a mere logistical inconvenience, now the geographical stakes were raised to challenging heights. Would I be able to spend at least one holiday with him? And what of my husband’s sons? How and when would we see them? The oldest is in graduate school in Illinois; the youngest had just started college in Ohio.

As it turned out, I wasn’t able to see my son at all that first year after our move. His work schedule simply didn’t allow him enough time off to make the trip. I cannot tell you how that rocked me. Things fared a bit better with the other boys; they drove to Virginia the second week of December to have an early Christmas with us. But again, what orbits they had to navigate! The eldest and his girlfriend drove from Illinois to Ohio to spend time with his mother and brother. Then, with his brother in tow, he drove from Ohio to Virginia. Then it was back around and up to Ohio to drop his brother off, and westward to St. Louis, so his girlfriend could see her family. And back to Illinois. It was like a 1930s movie, where a map of the United States with moving, dotted arrows illustrated a character’s travel progression from Point A to Point Whatever. The mind reels.

Last year, John and I decided that it was our turn to give the kids a break and do the driving. We left for Ohio early in the morning the day before Thanksgiving. Once there, we stayed with my son and his girlfriend. John’s sons joined us the next day, and we all enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner together in a suburb of Cleveland. In a restaurant. For Thanksgiving.

That took some getting used to. Never in my life had I set foot in a restaurant on a major holiday; it went against every cooking and baking gene in my body. I had always felt nothing but sadness for Ralphie and his family in A Christmas Story, forced to eat Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant after the Bumpus hounds devoured their turkey.

The meal was traditional enough and tasty enough, I suppose. But that was hardly the point. The goal was to be together: one scattered family gathered for a few brief hours around a table laden with food that might (or might not) allow us (allow me?) to pretend we were in the old homestead, however new that homestead might be.

It was more than enough that we were together and healthy.

It’s true, as the old song says, that there’s no place like home for the holidays. But when you create a new family, and circumstances toss your family hither and yon with no viable base of operations, it helps to remember another song—one that can serve to brighten your thoughts with a clarity that allows comfort and joy to shine through:

Home is where the heart is.

This post was originally featured on Marci’s blog, The Midlife Second Wife. Photo via

One of the best parts of being part of this whole blogosphere is the sense of community.  I know that some can’t understand how I would want to give and receive suggestions from total strangers, but…it doesn’t feel like that.  Of course you have your occasional bad apple; however, most of the time the words are shared with genuine help in mind.

So I have a question for all of you…

I am not new to parenting.  I have been a mama for nine years. I love my son and I love being a mom but some days are hard…maybe it is just harder for me than most.   It seems like that after I scan all the happy Facebook pictures of wonderful summer vacations and picnics and water play.

What is new for me is being a homeschooling mama.  Many of you know the struggles that resulted in pulling my TBP out of the neighborhood school and then working really hard to bring my happy, clever, engaged boy back to me.

I am okay with the education part; it helps that I’ve been a teacher for 20+ years so I understand the planning and teaching and curriculum aspects.  Been there…done that.

The part that is hard for me is the number of hours in each day… there’s a lot.

My son wakes up full steam ahead at 7:00 and while I appear to be awake, I’m not fully among the living until 8:00.  He plays video games while I slowly begin my morning.  Mid morning is when school begins and we are consistent about doing math, science, and reading everyday.  We add other social and learning opportunities throughout the week too. On most days, he finishes school before lunch and then we have the afternoon together.

Now, I love my son, but this later afternoon time is when I begin to struggle.

I need a break.

He doesn’t.

I don’t know if it is because he is an only child or not, but I am exhausted with all the chatter, the attention, the questions, the energy. I have tried to encourage “quiet room time” but that hasn’t worked.  I have tried implementing quiet mama time, but that results in just more video games for him and I’m trying to avoid that so…

What do you do?

How do you keep your only child busy, entertained, or just contained for a little bit so that you don’t lose your mind.  This used to be only a summer issue, but now it is a year round issue and I’m getting a bit freaked out about the many all day, everyday, days ahead of me.

As I write this, I’m partially joking but mostly…I’m really not.

Any advice for this mama with the intense, quirky, always questioning singleton?

This post was originally featured on Kelly’s blog, My Twice Baked Potato.

It’s almost 11pm and I’m still working. Yes, I know lots of people work late (I was in the restaurant biz for 13 years). I’m not complaining. I chose a job (read: I got tired of being laid off) in which I get to work late in order to have a somewhat flexible work schedule.

More flexibility means I get to play a SAHM during the day and burn the midnight oil every night. It’s as close to having it all as I can imagine. Case in point: I brought lemonade to the teacher staff meeting at 2 pm on Monday. I got extra points because it was “homemade” (It wasn’t. I made it from concentrate but I sliced a lemon and tossed it in the pitcher. #singlemomhack).

But I digress. The reason I’m working late tonight is because I missed a deadline. A very important deadline. One that could mean the difference between working while my children are in fun camps every day this summer or working while my kids whine “I’m bored” every day this summer.

Because I missed the deadline, just sending the proposal just won’t work. I must include a persuasive e-mail to convince the recipient of my proposal (a very attractive, young, child-free woman) to accept it. And because I can’t face an entire summer listening to whining kids, I’ve done something I’m not proud of.

I pulled the single mom card (holiday edition). Don’t judge me.

Dear Young & Child-free Colleague,

Please find attached to this e-mail my proposal for your consideration. You may notice, from the date stamp on this e-mail, that I missed Friday’s deadline so clearly expressed in the guidelines you graciously provided in October. I’m asking you to accept my proposal anyway because I am a single mom.

It may be tempting to ignore this fact as irrelevant but I implore you to allow me to explain.

Consider that from the moment a mother-to-be announces “I’m two weeks late,” the way she experiences the passage of time changes forever. And after three years of different methods of checking off time (from trimesters to days to weeks to months), noting the passage of time returns to semi-normal and the yearly calendar reappears in our homes (along with living room furniture and some select fragile items).

But, while the majority of our work culture sees the calendar as a way to mark the passage of time from deadline to deadline, mothers of children older than three mark the passage of time from holiday to holiday. And, especially for working moms, this adds complication to meeting any deadline, especially ones set after the month of October.

You see, while November and December may offer opportunities for the child-free worker to take a personal day to shop, punch out a few minutes early to do some home decorating, bake goodies for co-workers, or use a lunch hour to mail hand-addressed Christmas cards, November and December offer working mothers (especially single mothers) no such opportunities. Single mothers must protect every single personal day in the case that Junior gets sick. Oh, it’s tempting to leave a little early on Friday like your co-workers but single mothers know they must be the last one to leave to make up for the times they left early in the spring to see the last inning of their kid’s baseball game or attend a parent-teacher conference at the last possible time slot (which is offered at 3:30 pm). And the only thing single moms are bringing to the office to share are the germs they picked up from the daycare center.

And so, as a working single mother, I am asking you to accept my submission two days past the deadline. Of course, I acknowledge your thoughtfulness in formatting “Submissions due November 30, 2013” in big, bold, red font. But I ask you to understand that I hope you will appreciate that mothers everywhere know that date as THE DAY AFTER THANKSGIVING.

Commonly referred to as Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving is the dreaded day in which moms across these great United States finish washing dishes and attempt to keep the kids from killing each other while their husbands (if they have one) watch football for 22 hours. There is no way any mother is getting near a computer on this day.

And as much as I appreciate that you generously e-mailed the proposal guidelines 30 days prior to the November 30th deadline, I must point out to you that is THE DAY BEFORE HALLOWEEN. I don’t believe I need to explain the madness of that day.

And so, on behalf of all mothers and in especially single mothers everywhere, I ask you to accept my belated proposal.

Respectfully Yours,

Susan

Photo courtesy of The Fabzilla.

It’s safe to say that a dancing baby is one of the cutest, funniest things you could ever see, right? Well, that’s why for today’s MommyTube video we picked this clip of an adorable baby jamming out to “Single Ladies” by Beyoncé! There’s not much else to say here except that this baby’s got some moves!

 

This is my all-time favorite entrée item. My sister, Grace, does this recipe by feel and taste, so the amounts are not exact, but you can taste it and change it according to your preferences.

Ingredients:
2 cans of yams (I made this with fresh yams one year, but the truth is you can’t tell the difference and canned is so much easier).
1 can of frozen orange juice
1 can of pineapple rings (not bits!)
4 Tbsps. of butter (melted)

Directions:
In a Cuisinart combine the melted butter, yams (drained of course), and about 3 Tbsps. of concentrated orange juice. Add one of the pineapple rings and a little of the pineapple juice from the can (about 1 tbsp.). Mix well and taste. Now you can adjust, with a little more of any of the ingredients above until it’s so delicious you want to sit down and eat it with a spoon.

Bake in a casserole dish at 350 degrees. But every 10-12 minutes you have to stir it, because the edges get too hot and the inside is not hot enough (kinda like your ex-husband – or as my friend says her Was-band). Once it is really hot take out of oven, cover with one layer of mini marshmallows and put in broiler for 1 ½ minutes. Now you are going to want to run and do other things, BUT DON’T! You have to watch it like a hawk because it loves to burn as soon as you get your back turned. When the marshmallows are golden take it out and cool for 10 minutes and enjoy!

Flicka

[Image via www.ryanbakes.com]