Monday, December 02, 2013


I had a moment. But I think anyone who is spending their first holiday so far away from family deserves to have a moment. We were excited to share this holiday with a few close friends, neighbors and our American missionaries, but everyone was so excited and began inviting moms, brothers, daughters, grandkids, boyfriends and people I had never even met.  While all of our family would be gathered around the table with those they loved, I would be spending $90 on a turkey to feed almost complete strangers. So I had a moment. But what good is it to have a grandma Judy around if not to talk some sense into you.  She's never celebrated a Thanksgiving before but she understood the true meaning better than I did. It's a time of celebration, it's a time of sharing, it's a time of gratitude, it's a time of growing closer to those around you.  We would have plenty of food, we would make room for everyone and we would have a night to remember. And we did just that. We ended up with around 35 people, an eclectic mix of missionaries, fellow expats, neighbors, church friends and everyone in between. The level of excitement leading up to the big day was tangible. My neighbors put so much thought and effort into making this day special. They would come to me for my approval on dishes they wanted to make, they bought a new suit coat for the occasion, they scoured pinterest for the best way to present the turkey, Judy adopted that turkey like it was her own little baby and they even surprised me by setting up this gazebo with twinkly lights while I was out. And of course trying pumpkin pie for their first time ever was on the top of everyone's bucket list (no pressure). I was determined that the lack of Libby's and the lack of big orange pumpkins wasn't going to stop me.  I did my research and found that the NZ crown pumpkin would be the next best alternative and with the help of my chef and possibly the world's dullest knife ever we eventually got that thing chopped, cooked, skinned and pureed on the night before the big day.

One nice thing about creating our own holiday is that we could pick what day to do it on. We decided on Friday since it wasn't a school night and also so that we would be celebrating on the same day as the states. So while the kids were at school and Jason was at the office, I went to work.  I missed, like really missed, being in a busy kitchen with my mom, sisters, sister in laws, grandma, cousins or at least just a friend. Even Ryder ditched me for Curious George and a nap on the couch, so it was just me and a little Christmas mix on Pandora. Which actually ended up being really nice and enjoyable in its own sort of way.

I had a major crust emergency (where is Crisco flavored butter sticks when you need them? Oh yeah, thousands of miles away sitting on a walmart shelf), the mashed potatoes were a fail (all potatoes are not created equal and I missed those russets sitting at a walmart near you next to the Crisco), the oranges and cranberries we stuffed in the turkey to make it more moist did not make for the best gravy drippings, poor Ryder was suffering from a major diaper rash because somebody was too busy making pies, stuffing (Margaret, I think of you every time!), rolls, fruit pudding, potatoes, gravy and turkey to remember to change his diaper and poor Kylie was doing some sort of flip and hit her head on some sort of pole (to this day I'm still not exactly sure what happened) and ended up with a huge goose egg resulting in her curled up on my bed for a good hour in the depths of misery and endless woe, determined that she was going to be left mentally disabled.  So not everything went off without a hitch, but the stuff that really mattered was flawless.

Ryder is thankful for "Julie mom". I am too.

The food...oh the food. Judy was right, we ended up with so much food, which is never a bad thing. Those Kiwis couldn't wrap their brains around sweet potatoes with marshmallows as a side dish and then a pie made out of a pumpkin as a dessert. I kept finding the sweet potatoes on the dessert table and the pie on the food table. And just to toot my own horn, the pumpkin pie was amazing. It was worth writing home about, literally. One of the guests went home and emailed all of his friends and family over seas to tell them that he had pumpkin pie for the first time and loved it.

Instead of going around the table and saying what we're grateful for, we had everyone write down three things they are grateful for then we put them in a hat and took turns guessing who the list belonged to. It was such a fun way to get to know everyone better and reflect on how truly blessed we really are.

The entire week before this was cold and rainy, we're talking winter coats and a roaring fire. Today was the only day on the 10 day forcast that had sun.  I'm not narcissistic enough to think that the sun came out just for our Thanksgiving dinner, but I do believe in tender mercies and was grateful for this one.  When Judy heard the weather was going to be nice she insisted we had water balloons for the kids, because what is a Thanksgiving dinner without water balloons?

In this time of thanksgiving I have so much to be grateful for, this little family of mine and extended family overseas will always be at the very top of my list, but tonight I am grateful that our New Zealand family is close to the top of that list as well.


Ali said...

Fantastic!!!! Oh it's horrible being challenged - and then we find the right person to challenge us the right way (Grandma Judy!) - and all of a sudden the world got bigger, better and happier ... because we stepped a step outside where we wanted to be. YES! Great story... and encouraging... and challenging :-)

This time it's a HUG ... Thanksgiving Hug from the Alps,

Tyson and Dawn Jolley said...

I've been waiting for this post! I'm glad the food was mostly perfect and that the company was big! Sounds like you may never need Libby's again! But, I am going to be selfish for a sec and say that I can't wait to have thanksgiving with you guys here in a couple years!

Cammi said...

Every time I read about your adventures with Grandma Judy, I think of the conference talk from Boyd K Packer about his wife being worried to send her children off, and him saying "there will be a grandma there..." I am proud of you for seeking out an opportunity to learn and grow and stretch outside of your comfort zone. And I'm thankful there is a grandma there for your family. :)

Jodee said...

Why yes, thanksgiving and water balloons... just what I was thinking!
Sounds like the PERFECT Thanksgiving. You are wonder woman to host that many people for dinner! I am super impressed. But then again, it doesn't surprise me, you are amazing!

Andi said...

I can see you feed and entertain 35 people. Your cooking is amazing!

Brenda said...

Thanks from the bottom of my heart for feeding and being so kind to our son Dallin...Elder Nevitt. He loves your family and your cute kids. He even commented on the yummy food! You are the answer to our prayers out here in Queen Creek, Az. Again, thank you for everything!
Brenda Nevitt

Chelsea said...

^ how cool is that! Elder Nevitt from QC. This post is reminding me how much I have to learn from you! I love that you hosted Thanksgiving with that many people and I'm sure they loved being around you and your family and felt so welcome. I know I would never take that up if I moved to another country. Heck, I still hope to never have to cook my own turkey. That is the truest Thanksgiving ever. I hope I can be like you someday!

p.s. I can't believe you made pumpkin pie from scratch! so awesome. and I'm laughing about the "crisco flavored butter sticks" or rather the butter flavored crisco sticks. I made my very own apple pie from scratch just yesterday with the butter crisco but let me tell you it looked awful. Even when I you tubed how to make a lattice pie crust. I will try try again though. Yours looked delish.

Janessa said...

Have your moment, by all means, have your moment! The thing that makes you amazing though is that after your moment, you brush yourself off and go out and grab life by the horns and throw a big party. There is going to be a great big hole in NZ when you guys move. You are creating friendships and memories that will last beyond a lifetime. I loved reading the comment that one of the missionary mom's left. How sweet. I'm so lucky to be your sister and can't wait to spend the holidays with you again!