7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 201)

December 28, 2012 | 42 comments

Today I shall use my 7 Quick Takes post to present to you my Top Seven Moments of Christmas 2012:

— 7 —

The Friday before Christmas, my five- and six-year-old daughters got it in their heads that they were going to put up a lemonade stand. Daunted not at all by the fact that we didn’t have lemonade and there was nobody around to buy their beverages, they went ahead and set up shop. The closest thing to lemonade they could find was some old pineapple juice at the back of the fridge, but there wasn’t even much of that, so they took a used plastic bottle, poured in what was left of the juice, and filled the rest with water.

I took pity on them when I saw them confidently sitting behind their little table on the sidewalk with their pitiful bottle of pineapple-water, so when a group of UPS employees approached on bikes I decided to give the girls some tips. I pointed out that potential customers might wonder what was in their bottle there, and that they should assure them of the quality of their product. So when a harried UPS employee walked up to give us some packages, my five-year-old pointed to the yellowish liquid that they were selling and proudly told him, “It’s not tinkle!”

Oddly, he declined to make a purchase.

— 6 —

This same five-year-old daughter had the honor of being the Star of Bethlehem in her preschool play, a job which mainly entails standing behind Mary and Joseph and holding up a cardboard cutout of a star. Unfortunately she was so elated to be on stage and see all the people she knew in the audience that she held up her prop for only a few seconds before setting it down so that she could gleefully wave at everyone. As cute as it was, I kind of bristled when the narrator teacher got to the part about the great star that led the wise men to Bethlehem, and leaned over to grumble to my dad that she was messing up the play because she wasn’t following instructions.

Without taking his eyes off his precious granddaughter, my dad noted defensively, “They say it was a variable star.”

— 5 —

The entire family came to Christmas Eve Mass with us since some of our kids were in a manger scene performance that was part of it. It was, of course, extremely crowded, and 15 minutes before Mass began the 1, 700-person-capacity church was standing room only. Our pew happened to have a few empty spots in right the middle, and a group of men decided to go for it. They successfully squeezed past everyone at the end of the pew, but when they passed my mom, who had our 18-month-old baby on her lap, the baby reached out and grabbed one of the men in the rear (in her defense, I think she was trying to pull on his shirt). My mom was horrified and immediately exclaimed, “It wasn’t me!” Joe happened to see all this play out, and was not able to resist taking that ball and running with it. He loudly wondered (through gasps of laughter) what proof she had that it was the baby and not her, and during the Sign of Peace reminded my mom that we grab hands only during this part of the Mass. I fully expect that he’ll still be giggling about this weeks from now.

— 4 —

Per the longstanding family tradition, we let the kids open gifts of new pajamas on Christmas Eve night. I was worried that they’d be disappointed that it was just jammies, and I can’t say that it was the most thrilling moment of my son’s life. But for my girls, it was a different story. When I had worried that they wouldn’t be excited about their gifts, I had not realized that my mom had purchased pajamas with matching doll pajamas. The only downside of the situation is that they seem to perceive that they have reached the pinnacle of the human experience. Evidently, once you’ve experienced the ecstasy of dressing up your favorite dolly in jammies that are identical to your own, it’s all downhill from there.

— 3 —

I’m not sure that people believe me when I say that we’re a family of late-sleeping night owls. Finally, I have irrefutable proof:

On Christmas morning our one early bird woke up at 8:30, ready to go downstairs and see what Santa brought. We were able to hold her off for a while while her siblings slept, but at 9:00 decided it was time for the kids to get up. I could not drag them out of bed, even though they hadn’t stayed up all that late. I roused my three-year-old to exclaim that Santa had come and brought her AMAZING presents, and her response was to wave me away and turn over to go back to sleep. It was only with great effort that we were finally able to get everyone up by 9:30. Either my children are holy people who are utterly detached from base material concerns, preferring prayer to trivialities like Christmas presents, or they got all of my non-morning-person genes. Based on their reactions once they finally got downstairs, I’m pretty sure it’s the latter.

— 2 —

I made my last gingerbread house a couple of days before Christmas. Because I secretly hate myself, I only bought one kit for all five children to share. Setting out the bowls of colored candies and icing and telling the kids not to touch them until they had my permission had about the same effect has setting out bowls of hydroponic catnip and telling a bunch of feral cats not to touch them until they had my permission. Then we finally had the thing sort of set up, even though it looked more like a condemned shack than a charming confectionery cottage, and Joe thought he’d come by and lend a helping hand. He pointed out that one of the walls was leaning, and gently moved it to get it upright, and, well, this was the result:

This happens every year. The kids still had fun decorating their gingerbread abstract art piece, but this is the end for me and trying to decorate three-dimensional assembled desserts.

— 1 —

Luckily, we have a great new Christmas tradition I can break out next year. After the gingerbread disaster, I announced that we’d make some Santa cookies. It seemed to work beautifully in the pictures I saw on Pinterest, so obviously nothing could go wrong there. Unable to deal with making fresh cookie dough, I bought a tube of pre-packaged stuff at the store. Unable to deal with the hard work of reading the instructions about proper baking sheet size, I grabbed the first flat metal thing I saw from the cabinet and had the kids put their cookie dough circles on that. Evidently the recipe had called for some kind of large cookie sheet, and I had used a small jelly roll pan. Alas, instead of perfectly round white cookies which we could decorate to look like Santa’s face, I pulled from my oven one hard, crusty, brownish mass. All the cookies had melded together, and I was left with a pan-sized, dessicated brick. I tried to cut it into squares, but it was so hard and dry that my repeated stabbings with a steak knife only served to break it into jagged pieces.

I turned to the kids and announced that, at long last, they would get to participate in the tradition of making Christmas shards! For those of you unfamiliar with this great hours-old tradition, that’s where you carefully create cookies that are jagged and asymmetrical, and then you pretend that they’re shards of ice that you’ve found upon a cold winter’s day. And then you decorate them to make them festive:

The best part was the look on the grandparents’ faces when they came over and the kids joyfully announced, “Look, we made Christmas shards with mommy!”



  1. nancyo

    Everyone slept until 10am around here, but my kids are about 20 years older than yours! I love the shards; surely that’s a repeatable tradition?

  2. jen @ Saving Kaia

    My godmother sent us a gingerbread train to assemble this year and my dad was shooed from the kitchen any time he would comment about how one side was listing or reach to fix something!

  3. Tammy

    Lord have mercy Jen I love your writing! You make all of life’s little boo-boo’s into such fun! We also have the Christmas Eve pajama tradition. My youngest is 16 but opening new pajama’s on Christmas Eve is one tradition everyone loves. We then hop in the car and ride through the neighborhood (where everyone has luminairies and lights) singing Christmas songs. The grandchildren thought getting into the car in our pajamas was a hoot!

  4. TracyE

    4. We skipped the gingerbread house COMPLETELY this year. I managed to keep sidestepping the question. I detest it. So I quit.
    2. We do PJs also and several months ago I was informed by several members of the fam that they had enough PJs and really hoped they didn’t get any this year. They got new pillows instead. There was mass confusion and though they do LOVE the new pillows…they still occasionally mutter, “I can’t believe we didn’t get PJs”….
    1. Almost just wet my pants reading that. We can never bake together. I also have a propensity for skipping directions, etc…especially when it comes to Pinterest…I’m more of a skimmer of details and apparently there is a lot of info in the details…ah, whatev! Love the shards!!!

  5. Mrs Suburban Failure

    So, every super crowded mass, Christmas Eve, Day, Easter Vigil, Easter Sunday, we always have room for one or two in our pew, somehow. And four or more insist on trying to squeeze in. Every.Super.Crowded.Mass. I’m beginning to wonder what God is telling me by these repeated actions.

    We have a gingerbread kit of Spongebob’s pineapple in our home that hasn’t been broken open yet. Hmmmm…maybe a project for Daddy and kids while I work this weekend.

  6. Micaela @ California to Korea

    Christmas shards! And doll pajamas! You had me giggling with this one, Jen. Thanks for sharing, and Merry Christmas.

  7. Leah @ Unequally Yoked

    Love that your dad mustered his astronomy-nerdery in your daughter’s defense!

  8. julie

    Looking at your wonderful gingerbread house I could commiserate. We have the tradition of doing that house on Christmas Eve. Every year except the first one turned out similar to yours. Last year I remembered the gingerbread houses we did with the my class that I taught years ago. We get the little carton of milk or this year orange juice. The size of the way milk comes at school. WE empty that, put it on a plate and use gram crackers on the sides and roof with some white frosting from the can. They then decorate the plate and house with candies, pretzels, gumdrops, redhots…they each have their own and then eat it later in the season if they want. It’s a much easier idea and they each have the ability to have their own. Good luck!

  9. The Boring Blogger

    Wow, I thought I was the only one with mad baking skills! Our cookies looked a lot like your “Christmas Shards.”

  10. Tina

    This year I got really smart and bought a PRE-BUILT house–WalMart carries them for $2 more than the other kind. Money’s tight, but my sanity was well worth that 2 extra dollars!

    Oh, and I can’t imagine sleeping in that late! My children (11, 11, 11, and 9) woke me at 5:55am for Christmas morning!

  11. Jay

    Merry Christmas! Hubby made a gingerbread house with our 4 little ones, he started 26th and ended decorating yesterday 27th. The kids were disappointed 26th when after the roof was put on the instructions said to wait 2-3 hours so that is why it was a 2 day project. Wilton has premade gingerbread men cookies to decorate. My MIL got them at craft store Michaels. That could be a good alternative to the house:)

  12. Hannah

    We did matching mommy, daddy, and toddler jammies this year to surprise grandparents. Unfortunately the only matching ones we could find were grinch jammie. Oh well.

    You didn’t think of calling them icicles rather than shards?

    Grandma made wanted to make a gingerbread house with the toddler but Grandpa suggested that feat be left for next year so I bought then a rice crispy treat house kit. See last weeks post for the creative decorating of the hair with the frosting..

    Ahhh joyous holidays!

  13. Joy

    Oh my goodness, these are so funny!! I was just thinking about how kids frame us — my son (14 months old) seems to enjoy passing gas really loud in crowded places like grocery stores and Target. And I still carry him in an Ergo, so it sounds like me. Plus, it’s impossible NOT to blush, which only makes me look more guilty. I feel for your mom, I really do. πŸ™‚

  14. Lisa

    Christmas shards! Brilliant. This is the stuff of great family stories and traditions πŸ™‚

  15. Sally Thomas

    Those Christmas shards are about my speed, which is why my daughters (19 and 9) do all the baking, and I don’t even try any more. I think that baking has its own whole acedia category: flour, sugar, butter, sloth, despair. That’s my kind of cookie recipe.

  16. Johannes

    You don’t know how lucky you are. My oldest son just turned 7 and we still have not gotten our 3 boys to sleep til 6 am. Yes, 6 am, ever! Even w travel between Europe where we live and USA w 7!hour time change plus jet lag, 5 am is standard in our cloister here. Enjoy your good luck on sleepers!

  17. Leanne

    Christmas shards. Classic. πŸ™‚

  18. Mamabearjd

    Hot glue the house together then cover it with frosting! (This year I actually bought 2 pre assembled from central market. I had just had my hair done and pretended I was the cool aunt. Expensive but kept me from yelling at everyone when they went jackal!)

  19. Jenny

    the comment from your dad is all the more awesome in light of episode one of minor revisions. Hahahaha, love it!

  20. melissa

    I love the Christmas shards! I was laughing so hard I nearly passed out. The best part is that all these stories remind me so much of my childhood adventures. Your children will be sharing these stories for years to come.

  21. Connie Rossini

    Your kids are hilarious! If you didn’t already have a reality TV show, I just might suggest one. Continued blessings on your Christmas!

  22. Rebecca

    How awesome your kiddos like to sleep in!

    Love the gingerbread house – I’ve never had one stay standing either.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  23. priest's wife (@byzcathwife)

    Merry Merry Christmas! Thank you for a great year of read material (both here and at NCR)

  24. Lena

    I too rec’d new pajamas on Christmas Eve and put them on right away. So what if I had to order and pay for them myself.

  25. Jamie

    Hahahahahahaha I am still laughing my head off over here. I love that you can make my life feel normal right now.

  26. Amanda Rose

    Gingerbread house horrors! Year after year we were given kits and so I finally mastered the secret of the glue/frosting. Yes, that frosting is actually like a chemistry experiment. I made sure to have extra confectioners sugar, because I often added to much water and had to thicken it up so it would hold the house together. I was tempted by a cute set of those giant pre-made Gingerbread men this year, and then thought it would be a really nice Christmas without the confectioners glue to be chiseled off the counters.

  27. Claire

    I had to wake my almost-5 year old just after 8. He had his traditional morning cup of milk on my lap, and then snuggled with me for what seemed like forever despite several reminders that there were surprises in his stocking.

  28. Marcia@ILaD

    I love your humor and the constancy of your upbeat spirit! As always, thank you for sharing πŸ™‚

  29. Maria

    Hahaha! Thanks for the laugh. I’m so glad i’m not alone with the gingerbread house disaster. I actually bought a pre-made house this year without realizing it! It was so much better. The house stayed put so we just had to decorate it however we wanted. I’m buying pre-made again next year or make it using the milk carton or juice box per one of your commenters’ suggestion.

    Merry Christmas Jen! Love your show btw.

  30. Hevel

    We gave up on gingerbread buildings a while ago. We just decorate 2D. πŸ˜€

    Have a great 2013!

  31. Jenna@CallHerHappy

    I’m pretty sure I can’t decide which of these I laughed at harder. I think I actually woke my sleeping toddler. Totally worth it! Merry Christmas πŸ™‚

  32. Kerry Wolf

    Ha ha ha, Jen I love your blog so much! You always make me laugh, and feel more like a normal person, knowing I am not the only one who experiences cookie disasters and the like. Whenever I am getting twinges of extremely poor mom-self-esteem reading blogs of seemingly perfect moms with amazing culinary, gift wrapping and overall organizational skills, I know where to come to feel better–and please realize, that’s a compliment! You rock!

  33. Axis Mundi

    I have similar luck with baked goods so we make caramel apples on Christmas Eve. The kids help peel the caramel squares (easier and safer than caramel from scratch) and dip the apples in mini chocolate chips, coconut and chopped nuts.

  34. Kari

    I am still laughing … this post was hilarious!!

  35. Charity

    Oh my gosh, you’re killing me. You really know how to make us all feel good, Jen! The gingerbread house and the Christmas shards. That is what I needed. My night is complete!

  36. Kathie

    A tip for next year’s gingerbread house: My Mom started this tradition a LONG time ago. Save some cardboard milk cartons and cut/tape in the shape of a house. It does NOT need to be fancy, just 4 walls and a roof. Then glue on graham crackers with icing. Let sit for a few hours before decorating. This eliminates the anxiety/trouble/engineering expertise of assembling the structure and everyone can get down to the business of decorating which is all anyone wants to do anyway! This works great while the kids are small. When they are more advanced gingerbread construction workers, you can use the serious stuff! Happy Christmas – I love your blog and enjoyed your talk when you came to the Boston area last year!

    • elizabethe

      But… how are you supposed to eat it?

      You’re supposed to eat the gingerbread/graham cracker house right? Why else would you make lovely gingerbread? My kids would never tolerate decorating a cookie that they couldn’t eat.

      i honestly don’t know the answer to this question, I don’t do gingerbread house decoration.

  37. elizabethe

    Jen I am laughing out loud here. that was one of your funniest posts. Thank you!

    And this night owl is dying of jealousy of your late-rising children. My kid is up at 6:30 every morning in the winter and with sunrise in the summer. No matter what time he goes to bed at night. My other kid sleeps a little bit later but not much.

    I finally — after only about 4 years of having one or two small people bound down the steps to wreak havoc on the house thus putting me behind on housework before I even wake up — hit on the idea of putting a new crafty type thing on the table for him/them to do while I’m dragging myself out of bed. So far it’s working. I’ll keep you posted.

  38. elizabethe

    So, one last point on gingerbread houses. If you truly want to feel inadequate, and you live near or are visiting Washington D.C. near Christmas, go to the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and visit the basement. A local spiffy hotel always gives a miniature (but not that miniature) gingerbread replica of the Shrine. It’s truly amazing and my kids love going to look at it.

  39. Karen

    Pre-built gingerbread kits are the BEST. But when they sell out (and they sell out first!) and you are left buying the house in pieces, the hot glue gun is your miracle worker. I hated the whole gingerbread house building until I read the hot glue gun tip on the King Arthur flour website. Now it’s all about the happiness of decorating, not being a construction engineer.

  40. Ouiz

    I am CRYING over here, I’m laughing so hard! I think your husband’s comment about “we grab hands ONLY” during the Sign of Peace is hysterical… Oh wow… thank you for this post!

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