I love Christmas — love, love, love it. I’m not glad it’s over and I’m already mourning its passing.
However, there is one thing I can happily watch disappear in the rear view mirror and not miss. At all. And that, my friends, is the next-level baking that is completely out of hand around the holidays.
Now, I can bake. Give me a recipe and I can toss a few things together and pop out a delicious cookie or cupcake. And for the majority of the year, people welcome that. Co-workers cheer when you bring in straight-up chocolate cupcakes sans frosting in July. And if you grace them with rice crispy treats in the spring, you are treated as a virtual office goddess.
In December, however, there is an expectation of more. Your rice crispy treats should be shaped like reindeer. Your cupcakes should resemble melting snowmen. Your Nestle toll house chocolate chip cookies should be dipped into something, impaled with a stick and given the face of an adorable yuletide character.
Since I have the fine motor skills of a kindergartner, I cannot and will not be making faces on any food — unless a Pinterest fail meme is my intended goal. I refuse to even attempt rock-star-level baking.
So when my 3-year-old’s school had a delightful event last week where parents could make a gingerbread house with their child, I was nervous. I showed up with the rest of the adults, only there was a palpable difference between them and me.
They had a confidence — a gingerbread house swagger — as they sat down on tiny chairs and began constructing homes made with frosting and graham crackers. They knew how to do it. I smiled and feigned knowledge, but I was fooling no one.
I copied the others and broke graham crackers, but my breaks were jagged and not of equal sizes. As I slathered frosting with a Popsicle stick and attempted to sugar-weld my walls, I couldn’t help but notice that all the other adults had walls that would stay in the upright position, whereas mine tended to slowly lean until they were just broken crackers sitting on a plate.
I added more and more frosting, which also added more and more weight.
I was so focused on my terrible work that I didn’t even notice my daughter was downing vanilla frosting like it was her lunch until I heard the mother across from me say to her child, “Don’t put that in your mouth. Everyone was touching those sticks so they have lots of germs.”
My eyes raised to my white-mouthed child who was having the time of her life, the germ-ridden stick protruding from between her teeth. Awesome.
I managed to get the walls to all lean in on each other long enough for the kiddo and I to stick candies on the exterior of the structure. And it was a bonafide Christmas miracle when I set a roof on top of the house and it didn’t collapse; God bless us, every one.
After that we literally just stuck edible items to every frosting surface before calling it good. We set ours beside the rest of the houses, and our sub-standard unit blended nicely. The visual cacophony of candies and frostings and licorices rendered ours nearly unnoticeable.
Unfortunately, my daughter’s wonderful teacher made a picture collage a few hours later that showcased every student’s gingerbread house, and she sent it out to all of us parents as a special treat.
Any guesses as to which student’s structure looked like it had been through an earthquake?
Lynn Kirkle is a writer and lives in Omaha with her husband and five children. She writes twice a month for momaha.com, and can be found on Twitter @LAPainter.