When you edit the essay section of a parenting magazine like I did for four years, you get used to reading a lot of stories that start with what I liked to call the “breathless” paragraph. They usually go something like this:
It’s 7:00 am and I just realized I forgot to pick up the juice boxes for my son’s classroom party, which is a problem because I need to get to work in an hour because there are 176 unanswered emails on my Blackberry, 30 of which are probably from my boss, and I haven’t even showered yet which wouldn’t be such a big deal but I haven’t washed my hair in four days because I’ve been so preoccupied with the presentation I have to give next week, and don’t even get me started on my daughter’s birthday party on Saturday which I’m pretending isn’t happening even though every single one of the 22 kindergarteners we invited is coming and…why is my cell phone in my six-year-old’s lunchbox?
You get the point, right? I understand the impulse. It’s resonant and relatable and I have written some version of that paragraph dozens of times — on this blog and elsewhere. In fact, when I logged on this morning to write this post, that’s how I wanted to frame the fact that it’s the holidays and yet somehow have not sat down for a family dinner once in six nights. (And the next few nights don’t look so promising either.) I was going to talk all about my 36-hour whirlwind business trip to Austin; about the panel discussion I needed to prepare for which translated to dinner-from-the-freezer two nights in a row; about how I promised the girls I’d make them gingerbread cookies, so made the dough on Saturday, placed it in the freezer to chill for an hour, and, yet seven days later, there it sits, still chilling. You promised! One of my daughters shouted into the phone on Wednesday night, as I worked through my missed train home. “I’m sorry. We’ll do it later this week, I promise.” When I get home, the vintage gingerbread man cookie cutter I picked up in Austin in a fit of optimism sits on the counter taunting me. My life! So messy and chaotic! So incredibly rich with mess and chaos.
The news from Newtown redefines breathless. If I learn anything from it, I hope it’s to remember what matters.
Half-Finished Gingerbread Men
adapted from Martha Stewart
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup dark-brown sugar
4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup molasses
Sift together flour, baking soda, and baking powder into a large bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, blend butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Mix in spices and salt, then eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Divide dough into thirds; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate until cold, about 1 hour. (If you are a better person than me, you will not interpret this to mean “Refrigerate until cold, about seven days later, after national news event puts things in perspective.”)
Preheat oven to 350°F. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface until it’s about 1/4-inch thick. Cut into gingerbread men with gingerbread-shaped cookie cutter. Place on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and refrigerate until firm, about 15 minutes.
Bake cookies 12 to 14 minutes, keeping an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn.
Photo credit: Ali Libfeld