I’ve decided I’m not cut out to make gingerbread men.
Small house; small kitchen.
Small children; male, not-dainty, bulldozer-type children.
Sugar; red dye and sprinkles; and corn syrup. And children who’ve been cloistered in the house for days. DAYS.
Gingerbread is a recipe for trouble.
I tried to break out, briefly, in a desperate run to Walmart when grandma stopped by to watch the little ones. The parking lot was full; the isles packed. I made it as far as toothbrushes before my cell phone buzzed. Grandma had gotten called in to work. I left. That was Saturday. It is now Tuesday. Christmas Eve. It has been over a week since most of my children have been beyond the snowbanks around the house. Ice-laden branches hang low. The ground sparkles; white, pure, and deadly slick. Looking through the clear cold morning; there are dark spots in the city around me. No power. No escaping.
That is, unless you work in retail. My husband didn’t get any snow days, though his store lost power briefly yesterday too. On a rare Daddy moment when he got home before the kids went to bed, the two year old asked him, “Daddy, do you live here?”
So as ice pelted down out side, the boys asked if we could make gingerbread men. I did what any stressed, logical stay-at-home mom of boys two days before Christmas would do. I said no. We’re making gingerbread ninjas instead.
We pulled out the bowl and started to mix ingredients. I dug around for the extra bag of flour and realized there wasn’t one. We called grandma. Yes, she was working nearby, but could run to the store quickly and grab a bag. She arrived; the boys tore open the paper packaging to dump it into the big container as I cooked supper. “Don’t play in the flour bucket!” I hollered. Too late. Sigh. It turned out to be bath night.
The next morning, I scrubbed oatmeal off the counter to make a space to roll out dough. “Rolling pins make good weapons,” my seven year old commented mildly, wielding the wooden cylinder by its loose handle. “Too bad we only have one.”
“Isn’t it, though.” I responded. We smoothed the dough. The two year old begged to help from his disadvantaged point on the floor. I alternated holding him with floury hands and letting him fuss, dejected, on the linoleum. The four year old jumped up on the stool and smacked down cookie cutters in the center of the dough. “No more room,” he announced. “I’ll eat the edges.” The six year old offered to help him.
After a dozen, the baby woke, hungry. I nursed him while the boys jockeyed for position on the stool. A fine layer of flour made the kitchen almost as treacherous as the ice world outside. “Look, Mom, I cut out some shapes with a knife!” the four year old announced. The seven year old was schooling his little brother in the finer points of knife use. I stopped nursing.
We ran into lunch time. I slapped sandwiches together amidst the aroma of cinnamon and cloves. The baby fussed. My sister called to say she’d just gotten a new puppy and could they come by to introduce him to the boys? My kids were ecstatic. I scraped dried dough off the counter and dumped dishes in the sink. Somewhere around the 10th cleanup of little puppy’s excitement on the rug, I decided we’d wait till the next day to attempt decorating.
The next day, I took a deep breath, and pulled out the sprinkles. The boys sat in earnest anticipation around the table. They grabbed ginger ninjas, spooned on icing, and decorated with the gusto of a young boy. Stuck inside. For days.
“I know what happens when you get a lollipop near your eyelash,” my four year old announced. “The same thing with frosting.” He knows these things. I watched him lick his fingers, eyes closed, enraptured by the sugar. Crash. He fell off the chair. I picked him up while he blubbered. The two year old took the opportunity to dump all the red sprinkles on his plate. There may have been a cookie underneath. He didn’t seem too bothered by such details.
The sugar started to kick in after a couple dozen, and interest waned. The cookie ninjas were suddenly more occupied with fighting each other than being frosted. The two year old got washed off and went to play legos with red-stained hands. The four year old fell off his chair. Again. We discussed the rules of gravity and keeping your eyes open when licking cookies (yes, I had that conversation), and I made the official decision to dispense with gingerbread cookie making for the rest of the year. Or maybe the rest of my life. Either way.
Maybe next year, we’ll plan cookies without sprinkles. There’s a thought.