Sunday, December 10, 2006

Making Christmas Cookies with Kids is Fun...for the first three minutes

You know how some kids lie compulsively? Not to get out of trouble but for the sheer heck of it. And when you're a kid, you suspect they're lying. But you go along with it.

Hey, maybe their dad really did play professional baseball and basketball and football. Maybe the kid really does have an automatic place on the Arizona Diamondbacks when he grows up. Who knows?

But then he says a really obvious lie, such as, "I met Babe Ruth." And that just blows all his other assertions out of the water.

Well, that's how I feel today when I read that a celebrity thinks baking Christmas cookies with her children is fun. That's like saying that natural childbirth is fun. People have their reasons for doing it, but having a hootin' hollerin' good time isn't one of them.

Baking with kids is rewarding, to be sure. At times, it is laugh-out-loud funny.

But it stops being fun around the time you scrape cookie dough off the ceiling, the school papers that need to be signed and returned, the broken nativity set that needs to be glued, and the dog's eyebrow.

When you sweep the entire house for the third time, only to realize that your middle son is following you around, slapping his tummy and disappearing in a cloud of flour and sugar.

When you have to throw away a huge ball of dough because your son brought it with him into the bathroom to pee.

When, later, your sons throw-up from all the excitement, and argue about who yuked more times. Everything is a competition for those two.

I know it was from the excitement and not from the dough, which you can't eat anymore because of the raw eggs. In the old days, raw eggs were considered a healthy part of a balanced breakfast. My mom would crack a few into our orange julius and voila--instant protein.

But now, raw eggs are deadly. So you have to be the dough police.

Yes, everything is more complicated these days. I remember a time when only three dinosaurs roamed the earth: the T-Rex, the brontosaurus and the triceretops. Now there are 70 zillion, which makes the books your kids check out at the library very, very long. Especially at bedtime.

But back to the cookies. Obviously, making them is an important tradition in our house. We do it every year. I love to see the boys carefully decorate cookies, using m&ms for eyes. I love when Richie holds the empty jar of red decorative sugar and asks, "Where did it go?" When right in front of him is a cookie buried under a mountain of red sugar. I enjoy seeing J.J. belly up to the table and dig into a bowl of icing.

"Well, I never," he must be thinking. "Warm ice-cream."

Other aspects are not so fun. For instance, I think that if something is called 7-minute icing, it should not take seven hours to make. The cookbook people should figure in at least an hour for separating egg whites from the yolks. The recipe should also call for 12 eggs--10 being practice eggs, not two. Not everybody has been to the Culinary Institute of America, you know.

Everybody has their rewarding but not fun Christmas traditions.

My late grandmother Mume had a tradition of getting in a fight at Christmas Eve Mass. This was to reserve half a pew for our family near the front. Then during a quiet part of Mass, she would loudly tell us what her elderly adversary did to tick her off.

That woman, squeezed with her family into the pew in front of us by an inch of their lives, would look back at us, not believing her ears, and Mume would say, "Look at her. She's looking at us."

Hey, Mume didn't get to the church four hours early to watch a three-hour early upstart take what was rightfully hers.

For other people, the tradition is buying a tree that is two times taller than their ceiling and trying to get it to fit by yelling and cursing at it.

Others enjoy hanging lights on the roof while standing on an antique ladder resting on an icy sidewalk.

Still others enjoy finding a parking place at the shopping mall at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Why do we do these things?

To make memories.

Ourr parents and grandparents have taught us that not every holiday memory has to be sweet. That would be like only eating cookies for Christmas dinner. Something would definitely be missing. The Chinese food.

Now maybe, maybe, some of you reading this really do think making Christmas cookies with children is fun. I think that is wonderful.

As for me, I could only honestly say this if I was making a commercial for valium.

"I think making Christmas cookies with my children is fun," I would say. "But it used to cause me anxiety. Not anymore. Now I trust Xanax for all my holiday baking needs. It is the one ingredient I never forget."

Cut to me laughing merrily as egg yolk after egg yolk slips into the 7-hour icing.

Oh, who needs it? Christmas wouldn't be the same without a heeping spoonful of anxiety.

3 Comments:

Anonymous mom said...

Precious blog!!!! After Johnny threw up in the kitchen at our party the other night, we were sitting in the livingroom with 6 stagglers at 2:00 am and out of the blue, the Christmas tree fell over. Some of the joys of the holiday that I'm already laughing about!!!

2:06 PM  
Anonymous Peggy said...

Whoever says cooking with childfren is fun is LYING!!!
I chose to drive thirteen hours in the car by myself with three children under seven just so their grandmother could bake with them in OHIO... There ain't enough valium in the drugstore for warm baking memories!
Not that I have an opinion.

3:47 PM  
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