O my God, when I’m with grandsons, I lose decades. Such fun! But after a museum-sprinting, pizza-eating, pillow-fighting weekend, I feel 157 — and look it. Still, OMG, thank You for every tackle-hug — and the sweet time warp of being a grandma!
During my childhood, Christmas cookies had such a short life expectancy that baking them hardly seemed worth it. The December appearance of a mixing bowl at our house ignited a war to determine who would “help.” When Mom or I dared take a restroom break, the kitchen was plundered by cookie-starved barbarians.
The first holiday stay at my future in-laws’ home completely muddled my Christmas cookie worldview. Perfect reindeer, Christmas trees and Santas were baked, with no fear of masked marauders. After decorating them like a culinary Michelangelo, my future mother-in-law openly displayed her creations on kitchen counters.
It was like visiting an unguarded art museum.
A kind woman, she chose not to prosecute me. When I married her son, she gave me her recipe!
Forgetting my brothers now lived hundreds of miles away, I baked a typical triple batch. My new husband and I ate little stables and mangers until Valentine’s Day — and loved it.
When our eldest, aged two, took her debut Christmas-cookie-baking lesson, the initial batch of dough hit the floor. Experimenting with the mixer’s beaters, she distributed another batch on the ceiling. Finally, I shoved a bowlful into the refrigerator to chill. She parked in front of it.
Toddler: Cookies ready yet?
Mommy: No, honey. They have to get cold.
Toddler: (Yanking on fridge door) Don’t want cold cookies!
Mommy: We’ll bake them, but first, they have to get cold.
Toddler: (Suspiciously) Okay.
Mommy: I’ll set the oven timer—
Toddler: For the ’frigerator??
Mommy: (Looking heavenward) When it dings, the cookies will be cold.
Toddler: Okay. (Sits in front of oven.) Timer ready yet?
Later, she mixed frostings so that her mossy green and dark blood-red Christmas cookies could have graced a vampire’s holiday table.
New sons-in-law, however, scorned cookie cutters as insults to their rugged individuality. They custom-designed mutant mittens, alien reindeer and Christmas carburetors. With the appearance of additional little helpers over the years, we once again turned out dozens of Christmas vampire cookies.
Worst of all, Grandma sneaked store-bought dough into the equation.
Now, a few years later, the grandchildren make their own — circumventing Grandma’s appalling shortcuts — and bring them to family gatherings.
With them taking charge, our family’s Christmas cookie history should flourish for generations to come.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What favorite cookie will you bake (and sneak) this Christmas?
O my God, Thank You for my dad, who starts each day with a booming, bass chorus of “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Yet this past week, when I traveled to celebrate his 90th birthday, he extended his usual greeting: “So . . . how much weight have you gained this time?”
Thank You that this Monday morning, I’m back home, a thousand miles away. But OMG, how I miss my reverent, rascally dad!
This past weekend, when our two-almost-three-year-old grandson was staying with us, an odd November tornado also dropped by our area for a visit.
Thankfully, our little guy slept through much of the storm, then seemed to enjoy the novelty of the accompanying power outage. We cuddled and read stories by the light of a camping lantern and flashlights and sang songs about the wise man who built his house upon a rock.
We comforted him when the thunder and lightning and wind grew too scary. But the scenario reminded me of years ago when my little ones — and a God surprise — comforted me.
Purple-blue clouds raged and roiled in the yellowish sky. Enormous trucks roared around us on the interstate through curtains of blinding rain, shaking my little car like a wet terrier. Tornado warnings crackled on the radio. But my preschooler played contentedly with her Barbie® Dolls in the backseat. My two-year-old munched the crackers I’d given him.
How I envied their serene trust in me! If only I possessed such faith.
“Let’s pray Jesus will take care of us!” I said in the bright mommy-tone I always use when all is lost.
They bowed their heads and folded chubby hands. Their sweet prayer calmed my terrors.
“Look!” I cried.
An exit loomed ahead. We would leave this nightmare and seek shelter!
Even as I pulled into a truck stop and parked, the rain began to diminish.
I turned to my children, almost crying with joy. “Jesus is with us!”
“’Course He is.” The two-year-old stared at me. “I see Him.”
“No, honey,” I patted his little hand. “We can’t see Jesus. But He’s with us all the time.”
My toddler looked at me as if I’d lost my mind. “Jesus is right there, Mommy!”
My stomach, which had quieted, lurched anew. “Wh-where?” The hair on my neck prickled. “Where’s Jesus?”
He pointed an indignant finger. “There!”
Slowly I turned around, quaking.
On a nearby semitrailer, a huge colorful mural of the smiling Savior with wide-open arms offered us a hug.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you remember when children taught you a thing or two?
Is there anything more fun than sneaking a walk when you should be hard at work?
Perhaps balancing the national budget, achieving world peace and losing four dress sizes rank above it. None of these, however, appear imminent. So I pilfer little thrills, like kernels of candy corn, when I can.
Autumn’s tawny, sun-freckled face grins from every yard and field, a mischievous TP-er who messes with trees so we have to clean up many-hued clutter. Scraggly flowers, survivors with colorful personalities, mix well with show-off mums. Ragged, brown corn and soybeans look weathered and friendly as smiling scarecrows that guard small-town yards and grocery store produce sections.
Al mellow and unhurried. Autumn urges me to enjoy its relaxed aura while I can.
However, calling my husband to spring me from jail isn’t the best way to celebrate fall. Forcing my steps past, I promise myself a trip to an orchard.
Squirrels, sociopathic larcenists, don’t worry about raising bail. They freely steal fruit, walnuts and acorns, which they hide in my flower pots—their personal storage units. Fall squirrels are like spring dandelions, fluffy and cute. I love both … in other people’s yards.
All paths lead to the elementary school, easily evidenced by a trail of kid stuff: a flattened baseball hat; a pink bicycle abandoned near a stop sign; a plain strawberry Pop-Tart®, no doubt rejected because someone wanted frosted chocolate with sprinkles. Scholarly endeavors are verified by broken pencils and crinkled homework. How long has this rain-faded permission slip lain here?
Rows of cars at the school speak of the commitment of teachers, administrators and staff. I pray for them, as the place — even when recess is not in session — emits energy unmatched by Hoover Dam turbines.
Ditto for Taylor University. A substantial portion of its science building’s energy needs are supplied by geothermal, solar and wind power. However, the pulsating between-class rhythm of skateboarders, scooter-riders, cyclists and joggers who don’t even notice they’re jogging prompts another energy question: Couldn’t the remainder be supplied by students, who regard midnight as the start of prime time?
I seek quieter streets, where I can saunter, unmolested by the vigorous and motivated.
Instead, yards teem with home improvement projects, and on the town’s outskirts, farmers driving giant combines lumber into fields, braving clouds of chaff. All strive to complete their tasks before cold weather.
In the face of so much diligence, goofing off is downright tough. I head for home.
But that doesn’t mean autumn and I won’t try to play hooky tomorrow. …
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite goof-off season, and why?
When our children were small, I maintained a camping list as complicated as a theological treatise. It grew so wise and wonderful that our daughter, now taking her family camping, borrowed it. “I don’t want to forget anything.”
Ha! Campers always forget something.
I balked at handing over my ragged, penciled/inked, 25-year-old list. Part of me celebrated. No more worries about taking Scooby-Doo Band-Aids, the only kind our five-year-old would accept. But I sniffled anew over our empty nest.
I sobbed, “My camping list. …”
Hubby’s face stiffened in his familiar you’re-insane-but-I-won’t-say-it expression. He didn’t protest, “But you hate lists.” Or even, “You didn’t lose it 25 years ago?”
Still, he couldn’t comprehend how listings of bug spray and Imodium® evoked tender memories a mother could cherish.
He did offer to make a new list.
Eyes shining, he plopped beside me. “What do we want on our camping list?”
“We”? I had sort of wanted to do … anything else.
He read me. “If we collaborate, we won’t forget anything.”
We discovered — gasp! — that we define “essentials” differently.
He cannot survive without disgustingly healthy oatmeal raisin cookies. I refuse to leave the driveway without my beloved Pecan Sandies Shortbread cookies. We do agree that a hike without trail mix is like a cruise — not that we’ve taken one — without a buffet.
Hubby stood firm on one point: no melty, messy chocolate chips.
I stood firm. Trail mix without chocolate is not trail mix.
Believe it or not, we completed the list before Christmas.
In hopes of rescuing your future campouts, I include tips on camping items that should never be forgotten:
- Rain tarp. Leave behind extra clothing (who cares what you look/smell like?). But don’t forget a rain tarp, for which — at 2 a.m., with water drip-drip-dripping on your forehead and your children/grandchildren floating away — you would pay a million dollars.
- Buckets. Bailing with your spouse’s shoe will make a tenuous situation worse.
- Coffee. Overlook a drinker’s joe or means to brew it, and she may tie you to a tree and invite bears to dinner.
- Entrance rug. Leave it behind just once and you’ll sleep with a stampede of muddy footprints across your pillow.
- Pillows. You may have included enough bags of marshmallows to substitute, but you’ll share your sleeping bag with a tribe of hungry raccoons.
- Swimsuit. Bring both pieces.
- Blanky. Do not forget your child’s blanky, eyeless teddy bear or one-armed Barbie® Doll. If you do, for the sake of the entire campground, be prepared to break into a small-town Walmart at 3 a.m. to find a substitute.
- Soap. Finally, pack separate soaps. Otherwise, you might find yourself outside the men’s showers, yelling at your dearly beloved to remember your needs, then explaining them to the park ranger.
The good news: even if we’ve forgotten camping list essentials, we’re still married.
But with a new, untried list … with no Scooby-Doo Band-Aids … will we survive the next camping trip?
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What item would make the top of your list? (Hint: Room service does not count.)
Empty nesters like me have forgotten the, er, thrill of the first-day-of-school drill, right?
I may forget where I left my car … in my garage, because I walked to the store.
But I still can feel Mom brushing my hair into a tight ponytail that relocated my eyes. Before the bus arrived, she asked if I’d changed my underwear, then hugged me goodbye.
Clutching a box of unbroken crayons, I entered a classroom that smelled of chalk dust and my teacher’s flowery perfume.
We were issued information cards to give our parents. I could read and knew my address and phone number. One blank, however, stumped me.
After school, I asked Mom, “What’s sex?”
She straightened. “Honey, where did you hear about sex?”
“It’s on the cards—”
“The school cards.” I handed her mine.
Why did she chuckle? “The school wants to know if you’re a girl or boy.”
“I’m a girl!” Mystery solved. I felt immense relief.
She probably felt more.
Fast-forward 25 years. My eldest, starting kindergarten, also knew how to read. We had practiced our address and phone number. I had instructed her about sex blanks.
She donned her Strawberry Shortcake backpack. I plunked my toddler into a stroller.
The school, though located across the street, seemed a world away.
“Time to go,” I said brightly.
“I want to go by myself.”
My heart shriveled. “But—but—all the other mothers get to come.”
“I don’t want you to come.”
“You might get lost!”
“We visited my room. Two whole times.”
How had she mastered a teenage eye-roll? “Uh—”
She looked carefully both ways and crossed the street. But at the school’s entrance, she paused.
She needed me! To my two-year-old’s delight, the stroller and I galloped madly toward the school.
But my kindergartener had disappeared.
Now I paused, chewiing my nails. Should I risk another eye-roll?
Instead, I slunk home and suffered. Had my child indeed found her classroom?
Or had aliens abducted her?
When the school’s dismissal bell rang, the sight of the familiar little figure saved my life. “How was school?”
“Okay. But I didn’t like the cookies.”
She’d found her room! She’d filled out her information card herself. She knew her sex.
But she had balked at the teacher’s listing her race as white. “I told her you said I was pinky-beige.” My daughter groused, “She put a ‘W’ in the blank anyway!”
Apparently, my child had taken our racial discussions to heart. …
Ah, the first day of school. I may be a spectator now, but I haven’t forgotten the thrill of the drill.
As if I ever could.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What first-day-of-school memory stands out for you?