O my God, a few days ago, I traveled south to a special middle-school concert. Yesterday, I traveled north to a special Christmas violin recital. This morning, I’m headed home, a little tired. But OMG, thank You that I’m a grandma groupie!
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 Thanksgiving! Feasting, fussing, playing and praying, our four generations celebrated Thanksgiving with everything in us. Today, however, I will make lunch for two instead of 18. I walk without laming myself on Legos. Quiet reigns again in our empty nest …
OMG, how I miss that marvelous mess!
I know exactly where to find ice cream in my hometown. So do thousands of academics, farmers, ball teams, Bible study ladies and motorcycle gangs.
Ivanhoe’s has served area ice cream addicts for decades.
So that evening I forced myself to leave Hubby and the others — hoisting a piano above their heads — to seek a grocery.
Consulting his phone, Hubby gave me directions, then bowed his head and prayed. “At least, we’ll see each other in heaven.”
Okay, so I needed 13 tries to navigate endless roundabouts. By time I found the address, I had viewed the outskirts of Louisville, Chicago and Japan.
I finally found Hubby’s designated grocery store.
It had not yet opened for business.
Sitting in the store’s soon-to-be-blacktopped parking lot, I realized my family could have moved the White House’s contents since I left.
I reached for my cell phone … that I’d left at home.
A vision of my grandson, stuck-out lip quivering with disappointment, gave me courage to try again.
I would accomplish my mission the old-fashioned way, like my father before me.
His method? Pick a direction and trust God to lead to a store/motel/gas station/restrooms.
I found auto repair shops, upscale tattoo parlors, and … marinas. In Indianapolis?
Like Dad, I tried one more road … that led to a health food store.
Desperate, I entered and found ice cream!
Soy cranberry and papaya bark.
In despair, I sank to the floor.
Then spotted it on the bottom shelf:
Not carob. Not tofu. Not even yogurt.
I bought it and arrived as the last piece of furniture was moved into place. Not even Hubby possessed the energy to roll his eyes.
Smiles that reigned as our grandson blew out candles morphed into frowns as I plopped ice cream on pieces of cake.
“It’s not healthy,” I promised. “Honest.”
“Yes, it is.” My other grandson pointed to the label. “It says this ice cream came from healthy cows.”
“Taste it,” I pleaded. “Real chocolate chips, see?”
My family is nothing, if not broadminded — especially when starved.
Smiles returned. Birthday Boy ate two big helpings.
Everyone needs character-building tests, challenges that demand their all.
But I’m glad my usual ice cream quest requires only a three-block walk to Ivanhoe’s — without a single roundabout — to choose from 100 sundaes.
Now, there’s a challenge. …
Where does your favorite ice cream quest lead you?
Sixtyish adults who tent camp with grown children and grandchildren ranging from six months to age ten are certifiably insane. But my husband and I reached new levels of lunacy when we accompanied a large percentage of our family group to cave.
A forest hike would bond generations, educate little descendants, and keep them off campground roads inhabited by dinosaur-like RVs. They would view a cave like those immortalized in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
However, half the campground’s population also had braved this wilderness journey. Unlike Aladdin, we stood in line … then remembered we hadn’t brought flashlights.
Despite my Boy Scout husband’s protests, the herd crept forward with only dim illumination from our phones and a son-in-law’s small flashlight. The temperature dropped 15 degrees. Chilly water dripped down my back.
Who knew what might dwell within these cold, drippy underground walls? Injun Joe, the murderous cave-dweller who terrorized Tom Sawyer? Dragons breathed down my neck. …
“I’ll bet this cave has bunches of bats!” my grandson enthused. “I think cave spiders just crawled up my leg.”
Shades of Shelob! With The-Lord-of-the-Rings passion, I brushed him from head to toe.
Now shaking off a hundred imaginary crawlies, I fervently wished he’d kept his scientific curiosity to himself.
The ceiling dropped. Walls closed in. My hips, still inflated by Christmas fat, might wedge in a fissure forever.
Would my skinnier descendants return to camp, mourning my demise, and console themselves with the four buckets of chocolate chip cookies I had baked? Would they not bring me even one to ease my passage into the next world?
Primeval fears solidified when someone called, “Time to crawl.”
My sanity finally kicked in. “No. I’m going back.”
Others turned thumbs down. The grandchildren registered a vehement protest. Our son-in-law sided with the kids. He pressed on, taking them and the only flashlight.
Now gripping my husband’s belt — I hoped — I trailed him through the darkness. Eventually, we arrived at the cave’s mouth. Whew!
Hiking to the cave’s exit, we awaited the adventurers. Anxious minutes dragged. …
Fortunately, they appeared before we summoned the National Guard. Everyone returned to camp to celebrate survival with an appropriately unsafe hot dog roast — and cookies.
Have you ever taken your kids/grandkids spelunking?
The U.S. government’s recent studies concluded that women purchase 85 to 90 percent of all greeting cards. How many thousands that report cost, no one is saying. Uncle Sam could have asked any mall shopper and received the same information for free. But we women consider the research money well spent … because we like to be proven right.
Let’s discuss the origins of these fascinating communication tools. The Chinese sent Happy New Year cards centuries ago. Apparently, the Egyptians also shared in the ancient greeting card market. I find elegant Oriental characters and pictures easier to imagine than a card containing hieroglyphics. Gushy sentiments conveyed by zoned-out, staring people and creepy birds and snakes? Egyptians no doubt could distinguish between “I love you madly” and “Death to you, neighbor, and your loud 2 a.m. parties,” but I would find it challenging.
With polygamy the norm among ancient families, spending statistics might have been reversed: perhaps men spent more on cards than women. Take, for example, King Solomon, who boasted 700 wives. Every day was his anniversary.
No records have survived to tell us how much Solomon, Confucius or Cleopatra paid for a card, but I’ll bet contemporary consumers shell out more. Gone are the days when we “just bought a card” to commemorate an occasion. Today, it often proves cheaper to “just buy a gift.”
Craftsy folks have returned to creating handmade cards. Recipients of these works of art ponder how special they make them feel — and suffer intense guilt if they dare toss them. (The cards, not the givers.)
No grandmother can dispose of a card sporting a pink seven-legged puppy and two purple Doritos that states, “Gadma U nice.” My current grandkid card count is 937. I’m thinking of building an addition to house my collection. Or at least, adding another refrigerator or two.
However, the following are greeting cards I would rather not receive:
When illness strikes, I don’t want cheery thoughts. What I’d really like: “Enclosed is an official edict from God commanding you to stay in bed three days, during which no one is allowed to ask you about dinner.”
Most women would treasure Mother’s Day cards with similar language: “Mom, I love you enough to clean bathrooms.” Or, “To the perfect mother of my children: you have not, do not, and never will look fat.”
Brace yourself: I am about the reveal the ultimate romantic card that knows no gender prejudices, covers every occasion, and never becomes obsolete.
Front sentiment: I love you.
Inside sentiment: I’m sorry. You were right.
Sign your name.
What card would you like most to receive?