In my B.K. era (Before Kids, or Before Kaos, or Before Konstant Losing Of My Mind, but that, I suppose, would be B.K.L.O.M.M.), I enjoyed taking on Extreme Holiday Baking.
I reveled in making lists of the various homemade treats I would create, then keeping a tally of the number of each I created (often doing double and triple batches to maximize my output.) They would be gifts for my co-workers, my husband’s co-workers, neighbors, and of course, gifts to myself. Baking was a delightful, introverted activity in which I could pour 100% of my focus.
So although most years I see the logic that I can no longer, at the life stage I am in, bake and actually enjoy it, I do still get the wistful, annual urge to bake every December.
This year was especially strong as we’d picked up an Alabama cookie cutter on one of our field trips, and it just seemed right – we needed to do some baking in celebration of our Alabama History project in addition to Christmas.
So I chose one single item: Gingerbread Cookies.
It seemed simple enough, except that Gingerbread Cookies have more steps than Forrest Gump’s FitBit on a Long Run day.
1. Make the dough.
2. Let the dough refrigerate.
3. Roll the dough.
4. Cut out the cookies.
5. Bake the cookies.
6. Make the icing.
7. Color the icing.
8. Decorate the cookies with icing and toppings.
9. Let the icing dry.
10. De-ice the kitchen, paying special attention to the splattered, hardened icing on the grout.
11. Give up on the grout icing and resign yourself to having a new hue of kitchen floor cracks.
12. Wash 5 baking pans and 8 icing bowls, all with glue-like icing now coating their every surface (and your every surface, as well.)
But my holiday spirit of optimism outweighed the risks, and so I set out to do the impossible. Bake with children.
And not only bake while in the ownership of children, but actually bake with children.
(Not bake with children as the ingredients, although I might’ve been tempted a time or two, but bake with the assistance* of children.)
* The equation of helpfulness when baking with the assistance of children is scientifically proven to be:
((.034 x child’s age) + (.034 x child’s age)) / number of children
So my personal level of efficiency equals out to be:
.306 + .17 / 2 = .238, meaning I am running at approximately 23.8% of my normal efficiency when allowing my children to help me.
I hedged my bets by making the dough when the children were busy playing Lego with their father, then let it refrigerate overnight.
But the next day, it was time for helpers.
(Why yes, that is, as Noah calls it, his ShadeStache. It’s pretty spectacular. And definitely aids his baking game, along with his game with the ladies.)
The kids each took turns rolling out the dough (or, more appropriately, patting the dough lightly with the roller while getting flour all over their clothes),
Then took turns cutting out cookies. Which, with the exception of a lobotomized Gingerbread Man here and a mirror image Alabama there, went fairly well.
My friend and History Cohort Carla Jean was coming over to help decorate, and I’d already put her off once due to the time it took to make it this far in the process, so I had asked Chris to preheat the oven to receive my states and men.
…But when I arrived at the oven with my first and second tray…it was cold.
And no, it wasn’t a faulty husband. Of course the oven would break. Because it has recently decided to panic in high-pressure moments…like Thanksgiving Day.
(It worked just fine the day after Thanksgiving and the day after that and so on…until I was ready to bake cookies.)
So after turning it off and on and off and on and unplugging and replugging it and deciding it was truly not going to perform that day, I did what anyone would do in that situation: I filled my trunk with raw men and land masses and drove around the block to Not-Crazy-Renee’s house.
(But not before texting Carla Jean and backing up our décor date by 15 more minutes.)
Renee and her family welcomed me in, graciously loaned me their oven, and happily took their tip of warm cookies.
Then I rushed back home, trunk filled with Gingerbread goodness, and began making the icing just as the kids were about to jump out of their skins with the NEED to decorate cookies.
Chris got all the toppings out for me, and then we began the coating of my kitchen with sugary magic.
Noah was immediately into it.
Well, both kids were,
But Ali was more studious and processed,
while Noah simply glowed.
After the first few cookies, I told myself “There’s no way we’ll finish decorating all these. There are twelvety-thousand, and I know my children – they will get bored at cookie number 6.”
But they didn’t. And in fact, they kept exclaiming how amazing this was and how very unbelievably much they were enjoying themselves.
And, in a complete life plot twist, we finished decorating every single one of those cookies – in a fraction of the time it would’ve taken me to do it alone. My efficiency formula was completely turned on its head.
Now I realize that a good citizen of the internet would have staged these cookies on a lovely holiday platter with perhaps a tiny pile of ginger in one corner and a loopy line of icing outlining the opposite corner to really stress their achievements and in hopes that you would add their artistry to your Pinterest board,
But I am not that person.
I’m more of the Rusty Scarred Cookie Sheet Chic type.
p.s. – I’m sending out a few Christmas-ish cards this year to blog readers. If you’d like one, email me your snail mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org.