Prepping a Thanksgiving meal is a formidable task: Days of prep, hours of cleaning, hands grudgingly shoved into turkey innards — the list goes on.
Fortunately, this year some of us moms will have something to make the whole process easier: A toddler.
Not sure you’re up for it? Here’s a handy step-by-step guide to making it through the day with your little helper.
1. Crawl out of bed before the sun. Don’t worry about waking toddler; she’s already up.
2. Pull the (finally) thawed turkey out, and remove the giblets bag. Set bag aside — while grimacing — and wash hands.
3. Frantically stop washing hands to grab giblets from toddler. Wash toddler’s hands while chanting “Gross, gross, gross.” Throw away giblets.
4. Prep the stuffing, being sure to let toddler help break up the dried bread. Plow through 20 slices, then wait — patiently — while toddler meticulously breaks her slice into 700 miniature croutons.
5. Stuff the turkey (“Gross, gross, gross”).
6. Put the turkey in the — “Stop! Don’t touch that, it’s hot!” — oven.
7. Take a break. Just kidding! Time to clean!
8. Start with the essentials: Bathrooms. Entertain toddler with Macy’s parade, taking great care to tune out the banter lest you go stark raving mad.
9. Bathrooms are clean!
10. Toddler needs to go potty. Say encouraging words — patiently — while toddler accidentally potties on the floor. Clean bathroom.
11. Do a quick sweep of the living room, encouraging toddler to help put away her toys.
12. Vacuum. Relish your inability to hear the parade announcers over the roar.
13. Start preparing the cold dishes, frequently offering toddler fruits from your fruit salad prep space. Beam with pride as she accepts your healthy offering before scampering back to look for the Snoopy float.
14. Hubby’s up. “Is the turkey in?” he asks. Tell him yes. “Did you give the dog the giblets?” Tell him yes. Send him to watch the parade, then quickly dig through the trash for the giblets. Give them to the dog.
15. Take a bathroom break. Discover’s toddler’s healthy breakfast tossed into the toilet. Fish out fruits. Clean bathroom.
16. Pick up the paper. Sift through Black Friday ads, neatly sorting into yes, no and maybe piles. Give Hubby the hardware ads and toddler the toy ads, clearly telling each to circle no more than five items of interest.
17. Forgot an ingredient. Run to the store.
18. Upon returning home, linger in the driveway to check Facebook in peace and quiet.
19. Breeze through the front door to discover toys and newspaper ads all over the floor. Notice as you’re picking them up that there are WAY more than five things circled in the Home Depot ad.
20. Wonder if it’s too early to open the wine. Note that it’s 10:07 a.m. — “Double digits!” you tell Hubby — and decide it’s not.
21. Remember company will be here soon, and take toddler to get dressed. Pick out a cute, fall-colored outfit and style her hair.
22. Skype with out-of-town family immediately before toddler spills something on cute outfit.
23. Realize toddler still hasn’t eaten breakfast and offer her cereal. Don’t be discouraged when she refuses; she’ll eat eventually. After all, it’s Thanksgiving!
24. Turn on the game. Indulge for five minutes until toddler makes known she would rather watch “The Little Mermaid.”
25. With Pinterest example at hand, carefully craft vegetable tray into turkey-shaped masterpiece of carrot, celery and pepper slice “feathers.”
26. Rush to your room to get dressed. Choose something festive but not frumpy.
27. Ask Hubby if this shirt looks too frumpy. Unsatisfied with his answer of “Um, no?” quickly change one more time.
28. Re-enter kitchen to find Pinterest turkey platter on the floor and veggies half eaten by the dog.
29. Interrogate toddler and dog. Unable to conclusively prove guilt, grudgingly declare both innocent. Dump remaining veggies into a bowl and call it good.
30. Guests begin to arrive. Graciously offer drinks and snacks while playing fridge Tetris with their potluck dishes.
31. Turn the game back on but realize you’re still walking around humming “Part of Your World.”
32. Toddler reaches a guest’s drink. Reassure guest it’s no problem while mopping up Coke from the tan carpet.
33. Change toddler’s outfit. Opt for something darker and more spill-friendly.
34. Refill your wine glass — a little fuller this time.
35. Begin carefully plotted oven rotation, pausing frequently to yell “Don’t touch that! It’s hot!”
36. Give in to toddler’s pleas — “Pweez, mommy?” — to try out the electric mixer on the mashed potatoes.
37. Scrape mashed potatoes off floor, counters and cabinets.
38. Change toddler’s outfit. Cover with tarp.
39. Let toddler help set the table — but not the China.
40. Turkey’s done! Call in Hubby to carve it.
41. Tell toddler no, she can’t use the electric knife, no matter how many times she says “Pweez.”
42. Time to eat! Raise your (third) glass for a toast to great family and friends.
43. Watch toddler push food around on her plate. Like all great mothers past and present, remind her about the starving children who would be more than happy to have that plate of food.
44. Start one round of dishes while you have the energy. Put the pies in the — “Don’t touch that! It’s hot!”
45. Pie’s done! Toddler is suddenly hungry.
46. Declare you’re ready for a nap and receive a chorus of “Me too!” from your guests. Toddler, who is never tired, is not among chorus.
47. Send home your guests with full tummies, happy hearts and the leftovers you don’t want.
48. Change everyone into pajamas, and settle in for a nice Christmas movie to end the night. Drift off to sleep to the sounds of Christmas carols.
49. Toddler has to potty. Rise from your slumber, and say encouraging words — patiently — while she almost makes it to the toilet this time. Clean bathroom.
50. Emerge to find toddler and Hubby cuddled up and fast asleep on the couch. Pour one more glass of wine, and turn off the alarm. You don’t need to go Black Friday shopping. You already have everything you need.
— Stephanie Nusbaum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.