The Gingerbread House



I have to confess that every year in December a strange feeling comes over me. Oh, it's not like I start adopting stray cats or wearing men's shoes or anything like that. It's more like a sudden desire to do all of the domestic things that I wouldn't think of doing the rest of the year -- like making bread from scratch or crafting nifty items out of coat hangers and pairs of old pantyhose.

Now, this may not seem so shocking to you, but let me just say that I'm the type of person who glues loose buttons on sweaters and who considers baking tossing a frozen pot pie onto the microwave and pressing start. So you can imagine what a stretch this is for me. Frankly I have no idea why this happens. Maybe I'm subconsciously trying to make up for lost time. Or perhaps it's my way of building lasting family memories for my children. Or maybe it's all of the rum in the eggnog. Whatever the reason, it has happened again this year.

I know because the other day my children and I tried to make a gingerbread house. Now, if you are sitting there thinking that a person who can barely make a sandwich has absolutely no business constructing an entire gingerbread house, you are right. But, let's face it, only certain types of parents are strong enough to resist a Gingerbread House Kit with the words "Fun" and "Easy" in big, red letters on the top -and I'm not one of them. Besides, it came with everything we'd need: frosting mix, gum drops and prefab gingerbread walls. All in all, it would take fifteen minutes to piece together. Twenty, tops.

My children listened as I read the directions out loud. "To make frosting, add one cup of cold water to confectioners sugar and stir until thickened."

Then I measured the water into the special cup included with the kit and poured it into the bowl. Then my son stirred it.

But after about 13,000 strokes, I began to suspect there was some kind of problem.

"Mommy, can I stop now?" my son pleaded. "My arm's getting tired."

I couldn't understand why the frosting was still so thin but, as I reread the directions, it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, "one cup" meant the first line on the special plastic cup and not the second. Naturally, since I couldn't take the extra water out, the easiest thing to do would be to put more confectioners' sugar in. But my kitchen being what it is, the closest thing I could find was a handful of flour and eleven packets of Sweet and Low.

I sprinkled them in when no one was looking then I continued reading the directions: Let frosting stand for two hours. TWO HOURS. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be the one who has to tell two over-excited kids that I was only kidding about making a gingerbread house RIGHT NOW, but that I will be sure to call them over in a few hours after the frosting sets. Nooooo thank you.

Now at this point most normal, intelligent people would have given up and wandered away to watch Christmas specials on television. But, instead, I slathered frosting on the edges of the walls, stuck them together, and dried the house with my blow dryer.

Then I dabbed frosting on the roof so my children could stick the gumdrops and eight tiny, plastic reindeer on the top.

But, indeed, if my past experience with Christmas has taught me anything it's that moments like this just don't last. So, frankly, I wasn't too surprised when all of the reindeer slid off the roof and were buried beneath a pile of loose gumdrops.

"Cool," my eight-year-old daughter said. "An avalanche."

Call me weird, but as I stood there blow-drying the remaining gumdrops to the eaves, I secretly longed for January when I could go back to my old, undomesticated ways.