Every year, I buy a gingerbread house kit and the kids bicker about how they are going to decorate it. One child is a perfectionist and one is not and I am left to mediate and yell, "Don't lick your fingers!" and "Stop eating the candy!" and "Oh god! Look at the floor!" This is how we make memories.
I have no idea why I bought that very first gingerbread house all those years ago. I didn't grow up with the tradition so I can only assume that I wanted to do things differently than my parents did and by "differently" I mean "better." I probably had grandiose visions of starting new traditions and guiding little hands to create a magical, edible house to symbolize the Christmas season.
I didn't know then that the gingerbread in those kits is a second cousin to cardboard and that I would never want to eat any part of the house given that kids are filthy little beasts who have questionable hand-washing skills and a tendency to stick candies to things using only their saliva as adhesive.
But here we are, 11 years into the gingerbread house tradition*.
Right before Thanksgiving, I picked up a simple gingerbread house kit while I was at Ikea--a steal at $5!
There are two important things to note about that statement. One, I bought it before Thanksgiving which means that Zeca had three weeks to ask me "When are we doing the gingerbread house?" Every. Single. Day. Two, there is a reason that it cost only $5--it contained only the gingerbread. No candy. No icing. I will say, however, it is the only gingerbread house kit I've ever opened that smelled even remotely like something a sentient being would eat.
Miguel is on a three week residency at the rural campus of his school and won't be back until next Friday which means that he will miss out on much of the festive holiday activities, including the gingerbread house. What this also means is that this is the first year that Zeca was able to make a gingerbread house without intense micromanagement and quality control.
So, this past weekend, Luisa, Zeca and I ventured to the store and Zeca got to pick out the candy she wanted for her gingerbread house and yesterday was the day to put it all together.
I made the icing and directed her in using it to create a structurally sound gingerbread house but the rest was all her and I think she enjoyed bossing me around for a change. We decorated the roof and placed shutters and put the trees in the yard and placed our santa and sleigh on the roof and then she said, "And now it's time for the gummy bears."
As it became clear to me that she was going to use an entire bag of gummy bears on the lawn, I spoke up, "That's a lot of gummy bears." She said, "It's a gummy bear party! Don't worry--the parents won't find out until they get home," and then she laughed and said, "Just kidding but not really." And in that moment, her adolescence flashed before my eyes and I vowed I would never leave her home alone. Ever. And that was before I noticed the green gummy bear passed out by the evergreen tree.
We had a great time making the house and she was very proud of her work.
This morning, I noticed the whole front yard was cleared of guests. I counted the icing footprints left behind and determined twelve guests were missing so I said, "You ate twelve of the gummy bear guests!" She shrugged and said, "That's what they're for." I hope those little bears didn't bring hostess gifts to the party because they gave with their lives.
*Full Disclosure: We skipped last year when I didn't mention the gingerbread house, hoping to let the tradition die. There was much sadness when Christmas was only a few days away and they kids remembered and I told them it was too late.