Lately I’ve been throwing myself into baking and prep for Christmas, as I do every year. Every year I whip up a massive amount of food and goodies so that everyone can have a relaxing, magical holiday. Because do you remember how that felt as a child? When the holidays were magical?
I want that magic again, I really do. But sometimes, it is really, really difficult to make it happen.
My kids have been steamrolling toward the holiday with a kind of manic, no-holds-barred, all-out war on peace and sanity. The younger two have been at each others’ throats at a rate previously unseen. Warm holiday moments with the family have become something akin to forced labor as I try to drag them through holiday activities kicking, screaming and hurling insults all the way. My dire warnings about naughty kids who get no presents have fallen mostly on deaf ears. I think Neve suspects where her bread is buttered, and further knows I’ll never ruin Christmas just to teach those jerks a lesson, and Oona is simply following suit.
How I get around that one without actually cancelling the presents…..I haven’t got that figured out yet.
Fortunately, I have seem to instilled in them the joy of giving. For two weeks they’ve been collecting things from their own bedrooms and wrapping them up to give to one another, and to people they know. It’s lovely, but it’s also aggravating when your six year old wants to gift a lovely stuffed animal you paid good money for to the dog (or worse, one you made). But they do genuinely enjoy making things for each other and their friends and family.
The past few weeks, therefor, have been a rather mixed bag for me. There’s been the goodness of having friends over more nights than not, and there have been some quiet moments in the evening where everyone is entranced by a Christmas movie and snuggled together on the couch.
Today, though, I realized I was headed toward a low point. I was wrestling with the problem that my younger kids don’t necessarily need to be rewarded for their deplorable behavior, but that I don’t want Christmas to be sad. I was feeling bummed out by the weather; upper 70’s and pouring. I had to deal with nasty mud and flies and just general wet-weather grossness while feeding the animals. Plus my head was aching from the rain, and I had myself set to make three different batches of cookies.
Baking, you see, is how I express my holiday joy and attempt to regain some of that magic.
So Paul took the girls to their Scouts event so I could get to work (they sang carols and did crafts with the residents of a nursing home).
Immediately I realized I had to go to the store, as I was perilously low on butter and dishwasher detergent. Off I trudged to deal with the Sunday-before-Christmas grocery store crowds. I got what I needed, came home and set about getting the dishwasher loaded up to make room for baking. And realized I had forgotten the dishwasher detergent.
No big deal! I whipped up a batch of dough that had to chill before baking, and headed back out.
I had now wasted over an hour just running around, and soon it would be evening feeding time.
I grabbed the dough from the fridge and rolled it out to cut with my Springerle mold.
Lo and behold….I couldn’t get the dough to NOT stick to the mold. I chilled it again while working on some butter dough for Linzer cookies and got some advice from a friend.
Back to the Springerle dough. Still sticky, even though I had added flour and chilled it and now it was next to impossible to roll out.
But I persevered! I would have a batch of cookies finished, damn it!
Finally I discovered that I needed to keep the dough a little thicker than I had, and the mold worked like a charm. For a few. Then it got sticky again. So I went to my butter dough since I’ve worked with that millions of times and never had an issue. I really needed a win, here.
It, too, was waaaaay sticky. And then it hit me: humidity. It was massively humid outside, and not much better in.
Once I adjusted the flour more, I had success all around.
But it was feeding time and I was fast losing steam.
I texted Paul to see if he’d bring me home a Gingerbread Latte. When he said yes, I headed out the door into the rain, mud and poo, some of the spring restored to my step.
I returned to the house ravenous. The rotisserie chicken I had picked up for dinner mocked me with its deliciousness from the kitchen counter, and I ate all of the skin off of it. Still, I wanted more. But Paul and the kids were in town, and this was supposed to be dinner.
Two wings and part of a breast later, I got back to work with the cookies. I was disappointed with how little I’d accomplished for the day and my feet were aching. The one thing pushing me to finish using up all the fresh dough in front of me and getting it all baked was the thought of that beautiful, luxurious latte I’d be getting soon.
By the time Paul did get back, I was starving again, my head was hurting again, my feet and back were aching, I was tired, cranky, and it was nearly 8:00. I barely had one plate of cookies finished and it felt like so very little for how hard I’d been working.
When Neve walked in the door holding my coffee, it was like the heavens had parted and all would be well. This would be a wonderful night of accomplishment and snacking.
And then Pippa ran to Neve, jumped on her, and knocked my beautiful latte to the floor.
It splashed and pooled all over the kitchen floor, its heavenly aroma assaulting me with the cruelty of knowing it was not to be.
Then the knowledge that I would have to clean it up.
I cried. Big, ugly ears.
Tears for my lost promise of a salvaged evening. Tears for my frustration with my family. Tears for the crappy weather and my headache. Tears of exhaustion. Angry tears.
I was on full-scale meltdown and I needed a time-out.
I went back to baking and knocked out two different batches of cookies.
Sometimes it all gets to be too much and I wonder why I do this to myself. Then my day goes to crud and I realize I do it because I love it. I love baking. I love Christmas. I love my terrible family.
I do it for love.