Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  Fall is giving way to winter with the first snowfalls.  Holiday music can be heard in department stores everywhere.  My wife can be heard complaining about holiday music in department stores everywhere.  And we all begin to look forward to eating ourselves into a tryptophan- and gravy-induced coma.  And for me, that also means it’s time to get off my lazy butt and get to work.

     A few years ago I took over the responsibility of Thanksgiving dinner.  This was not a burden thrust upon me, understand.  I volunteered.  I thoroughly enjoy the cooking (and I’m not too bad at it, either, believe it or not).  And it’s always nice to have everyone over.  I find it fun.  And the cooking is really not so much work, especially given that I have the assistance of my wonderful wife, without whom I would never be able to deliver such a magnificent feast.  I’m sure that without her I’d probably manage only to hurt myself…or embarrass myself…or embarrassingly hurt myself…
     My menu always includes a huge roast turkey and stuffing, homemade mashed potatoes and gravy, made-from-scratch rolls, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and usually enough desert for about four times as many people as would ever possibly show up.  I begin working the day before, preparing everything I can ahead of time.  Time management was the hardest part of learning to cook for me.  When I first started out I could never make everything finish cooking at the same time.  There would always be something done way too early or too late.  Thanksgiving dinner, however, has to be perfect.  I don’t want to disappoint anyone, after all, by screwing up their favorite side and so I’ve turned it into an exercise in patience and meticulous planning.
     And still the dinner is not even remotely the hardest part.  Before I even begin shopping for my annual feast, I set out to clean every surface of my house.  After all, with two children under seven in the house, it seems to be constantly in a state of disarray and there’s always some chore I’ve put off for far too long.  Like cleaning the ceiling fan blades, for example.  How embarrassing.  Usually by Halloween I’ve begun formulating a list of chores to do.  And the first thing on this list is to pick up all those toys.  The first thing on my children’s list, however, is apparently to put them back on the floor.  As quickly as possible.  In as many rooms as possible.  (They’re really good at it too.  I turn my back and playthings are scattered all over the place.  I don’t even hear it happen.  I swear they’re like little messy ninjas.)  I just cleaned the house yesterday and today there are dolls and action figures and cars and Barbie accessories everywhere I look.  I don’t understand it.  There’s a little plastic Scooby Doo on the living room floor.  Daphne’s on the dining room table.  Shaggy’s in the bath tub with Polly Pocket…  It’s like the aftermath of an epic, Toy Story kegger.  Barbie’s passed out in the back of her convertible.  Ken’s naked in the closet.  Mr. Potato Head is wearing a Cabbage Patch Kids dress.  There’s part of an Optimus Prime Halloween costume on top of the fish tank and a Little People school bus in the laundry hamper.  There’s a plush Spongebob Squarepants in the refrigerator!  How does that even happen?  One of Polly’s shoes was inside the sock I pulled out of the dryer this morning.  It’s out of control!
     Assuming I have any hope of staying ahead of these toy ninjas, I still have to sweep and mop and vacuum and dust.  The laundry has to be put away and the dishes absolutely must be clean before I start cooking.  I’ll need all the space I can get when I start prepping that turkey.
     I’ll save the windows for last, like I always do, in the naïve hope that they will stay clean at least long enough for someone to see them.  But, alas, I will barely have the first room done before I turn around to find little hand prints smeared across one or more of the panes.  Or perhaps the three-year-old will simply be licking the glass.  Again.
     And I’ll have turned my back again by this time, so let’s not forget to pick up those toys…
     Is it all worth it in the end?  Of course it is.  I look forward to it all year long, actually.  And I have no one to blame but myself for letting those ceiling fan blades get so dusty.  But I do wish the ninjas would give it a rest for a while.
     And what is going on with Shaggy and Polly in there…?