I always have this holiday vision. Not of sugarplums dancing in my head. Wouldn't know a sugarplum if it rang my door anyway. Rather I dream of having a cutesy gingerbread house and perfectly decorated sugar cookies. And every year I fall far short of my expectations. This year is no exception.
There I was searching for the perfect gingerbread house template online. Something simple and small. I found a basic one but was afraid I didn't have enough dough for the dimensions. So I cut down the paper templates a bit and reduced the slope of the roof. I was calling up old middle school geometry wisdom and modeling my paper cut-outs for size.
Then I rolled out the dough after letting J have a go at it first. I cut out my templates rather approximately and removed some dough for windows and doors, too. Then it was in the oven for 10 minutes followed by cooling on a plate.
Meanwhile J had found my iPad and was "liking" things on my Facebook account without me knowing. Perhaps even liking my own posts and passing me off as a narcissist. That's when I realized I had been going about this all wrong. Plus she told me the Charley Brown Christmas music I had put on was "sad." And though I normally love the 60s jazz myself, I had to admit it was perhaps not always so joyous for today's seven-year olds.
So since I had my main pieces cut, I let J roll out and cut cookies to her heart's content with the remaining dough. She's come a long way since her three-year old self. At seven she proclaimed herself an "artist" as she expertly cut out her snowflakes and angels. And I switched iTunes to my Bollywood's greatest hits album. We were improvising Bollywood dances while the cookies cooked.
Once the house pieces had cooled, I used my royal icing to start assembling the gingerbread house. Two side pieces, stable. But all four walls and the roof, err, not happening. Total cave in.
I tried saving the structure, reconstructing, bracing. But my front piece with the door now had a crack and J was seriously doubting my architectural skills. I had to laugh. I started eating one part of the roof and just used the remaining piece for a flat roof. At least it tasted good.
But this is just another example of me aiming high and falling low. And often ignoring the most important thing: spending time with my daughter and having fun. We did end up having fun but not before my perfectionist tendancies nearly made me scrap the whole thing.
It's the old battle between doing and being. I get so absorbed in "to do" lists and think that everything will be great when that list is done. And I often forget to have fun while "doing." In the holiday season we seem to have so many more things to "do". Or "make."
Make pastries for the school Christmas market, for colleagues or students. Do the Christmas shopping, of course. Make Christmas meals and organize visits. Do the decorating of the house just so. Do the caroling or church events. And while all of these things can bring joy and fulfillment, I mustn't forget what I need to "be" this season.
I need to Be Generous. Not just by buying presents. Anyone with a credit card can do that. I need to be generous in my words, in my acts, more forgiving of my husband, child and myself. Be generous to those outside my inner circle: charities, the homeless.
I need to Be Cozy. With all that "doing" and "making" I forget that some couch time and holiday movies or reading are also great soul food. Relaxing with my family, That's more important than a perfect house, and heaven knows I'll never get that anyway.
I need to Be Present. If I keep telling my little girl, just a minute, hold on a sec, I'm not being with her and enjoying the moment. It's such a balancing act being a mom anyway, but I need to just be there for her and put aside some of the things on my list.
And that goes for me, too. I need to Be Here Now and enjoy the season instead of waiting for everything to be perfect to feel contentment.
So my gingerbread house wasn't perfect this year. But after a day the royal icing had cemented the structure well. We kept decorating together the next day (to Echosmith on youtube, this time). I put the frosting on the candies and she placed them. I added a chimney.
It's an improvement on my gingerbread ghetto a few years ago. Maybe an Alabama gingerbread barn that is in need of repair. There are chinks where the light comes through this house. But it's not too bad and I hope it has made some nice holiday memories for Juliette. And in a week we can look forward to eating it while we're being cozy and chilling.
To be honest, I will still keep my "to do" list and hopefully get some of the things actually done on it. But I will also keep in mind my "to be" list and try to maintain that precious balance.
So friends and family, Be Kind to yourself and others this holiday season and I'll try to do the same!