12/01/2013 06:08 pm ET Updated Jan 31, 2014

Black Thursday

"Christmas ain't Christmas till somebody cries," says Donkey, in Shrek the Halls.

It's only Thanksgiving and even now I'm searching for the box of tissues. I'm already stressed and I like my family. Most of the time.

I'm trying to be grateful, even when my mom claims the chicken broth is vegetarian.
"Mom, there's a chicken on the box."
"That's just advertising..."

My brother interrupts, "Are you sure this is a tablespoon? I mean, it says tablespoon but I thought tablespoons were bigger."

My mom confirms the measurement and suggests he puts the mixer on low.

"I think I gotta do some more beating, first," he says.

I look at a crock pot on the table, an easily accessible weapon. I agree, friend, I agree.

I decide to leave homicide to the truly troubled and focus on being grateful. Fortunately, with the chaos comes their Griswold-style comedy that makes them so loveable (and great article fodder).

I'm grateful for my mom, who really just wants to be sure I'm getting my protein. For my dad, whose tryptophan-induced nap may cause the house to burn down when he nods off, cigar in hand. I'm thankful for my brother, who makes up for lack of cooking skills with admirable enthusiasm and his new dog, who acts as a fluffy conversation barrier while bringing the animal tally to three dogs, one bird (deceased), and one Cat.

I'm working in the kitchen when my mom looks over at the turkey, "I think he has a broken leg."
"Mom, he died of massive head trauma. I think a broken leg is the least of his problems."

She rolls her eyes at me and continues to butter the Butterball.

Then, out of the silence comes, "Does anybody want to pet the turkey?" Only the fierce, southern woman that is my mother can look at an unpardoned, skinned bird, and turn him into a cartoon. "Catherine?" she says, "you want to name him?"

Along with turkey and casseroles, vegetarian jokes are a Castellanos family tradition.

Walking out of the kitchen, I declare, "Let them eat turkey."