There is a proverb that says, “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  This year my plans did not happen as I’d envisioned.

Only two of our six adult children were coming for Thanksgiving this year.  But between them we still had six grandkids ages 9,8,5,3, 20 months and 8 months.  And five were boys.

Thinking through the logistics of who would sleep where, what we’d eat, and when we’d read the Thanksgiving story occupied my thinking off and on for several days.  Finally I decided that, for the sake of everyone’s sanity and ability to participate in our annual traditions, we’d have a really nice dinner on Wednesday night shortly after everyone arrived.  Then we’d take a break for the older kids to play and for the parents to get the little ones ready for bed by 8 p.m.  After that, I assumed we’d have a nice evening with a special dessert, coffee, and a peaceful time reading the story with the three older grandchildren, followed by all of us sharing what we were most grateful for this year.

Did I mention that things did not go as planned?

When we reconvened in the dining room at 8 p.m. for our dessert and sharing time, no little ones had been put to bed.  So I reminded myself to be flexible and go with it. We began eating our dessert, and my husband, Dennis, started reading the Pilgrim story. The two youngest boys were playing with our Little People Mayflower ship in the corner of the room and the baby was content, but babbling and cooing.  Two minor distractions, but still distractions.

Then the 20-month-old had a blow out in his diaper and his mom left with him.  The older three were coloring, but kept whispering to each other, asking to borrow certain crayons and interrupting the story to ask questions. We passed the book to our son-in-law to read a chapter, but he had a hard time focusing with all the activity his five were creating. Even though he did it, I was feeling and absorbing his tension.

Soon the baby switched from cute babbles to crying.  Our daughter tried all the tricks known to first-time moms to get her baby to quiet down.  None of them worked. She didn’t want to miss out, so she and the baby stayed at the table. It was now my turn to read and it was clear to me that no one was paying attention anymore.  It had turned into an endurance test.  I skipped the entire last chapter and just read the last three paragraphs of the book as a way to conclude. I was stressed.

We took a quick break, then in relative peace we all shared our lists of what we were thankful for.  All grandkids were still at the table, but their pajamas had been put on while we tried to read, and they were finally quiet for some reason.

The next morning we had our traditional Thanksgiving breakfast, loaded up the cars with food, all necessary children and baby gear, and small overnight bags for our trip to my parents’ family farm. Arriving at midday, we spilled out of our cars and began our annual Peterson family gathering.  It’s a lot like a family reunion with my three brothers and their wives and kids. And sometimes we have lots of extras who come along with one family or another for the holiday. The day went smoothly until just after dark when one of my teenage nephews disappeared. He was found doubled over in a bed, sick.  A few hours later a second teenager, my niece, crashed into bed with the same miserable flu bug.  And in the middle of the night another nephew began throwing up.

At 7:30 the next morning, Dennis was sitting in a deer stand in the woods when he got a phone call from our daughter, Ashley.  She had returned to our house with her husband and five boys while we stayed at my parents’ farm over night.  They were up and getting ready to leave for Memphis (where his family lives) when they discovered water leaking through our living room ceiling.  Ashley said there were buckets of water dripping on the new wood floors, the newly reupholstered couch, the bookshelves, and the table. When Dennis told me about it, I cringed. It was the Friday after Thanksgiving.  Who could we call at 8 a.m.?  What would the damage be?

Oh, and I forgot to mention—my allergies acted up Thanksgiving evening, which sometimes happens at the 150-year-old farm house, and I was up half the night with asthma and sneezing.

After saying our very early goodbyes to my weary siblings who’d been up half the night with vomiting children, and after washing our hands at least five times, we reloaded the car and headed home to see if we could find the source of the leak and assess the damage.

The end of the story is my kids got the water all dried up so there was very little to clean up and dry when we arrived home. We discovered the source and it was an easy repair. None of us got the flu bug, and after a great night’s sleep on Friday we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our weekend.

I share this story to encourage us all to remember that holidays, like ordinary days, are less than perfect.  We work hard to make memories with our children when they are little and when they are grown. Sometimes our efforts seem to succeed and sometimes we feel we have failed miserably. I learned a few things from this year’s plans that went awry. We will try again next year.  It’s the cumulative effect that matters in the end. And it’s always about giving thanks in all things whether it’s during the Thanksgiving holiday or in our very ordinary days.