What is Normal?

The last few months of 2012 proved to be challenging, and my focus was on family. Though I’m not making excuses, it was a necessary sacrifice. But wow! I have missed you! I’m a “little” behind on my posts, so rather than skip the whole Holiday season, or load you up with out of date ramblings, I thought I would share the last post I wrote and never published. I hope this will break the ice between us and you will forgive me for being so delinquent.

December 2012

I could easily fill this post with all the reasons why it was difficult to retain family traditions this year, but I won’t rant. I could tell you about my son spending his first Christmas far from home, or missing my husband on Christmas Day as he travels around the world, carrying packages for hopeful shippers (hmm…no red suit or sleigh, but jolly just the same), but I won’t whine. I could cry for myself and all those who have suffered the loss of a loved one and find it difficult to celebrate, but I won’t shed another tear.

When hubby and I started our family, we combined our childhood memories and formed new family traditions. We were excited about the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, Halloween, Valentines, and Santa Claus. We had so much fun!

Around the time my boys were three and four, and my daughter was just a baby, my best friend from high school “bragged” about how much fun it was to bake Christmas cookies with her two young children and gift them to friends and neighbors. The thought of bringing my boys into the one place I was always scooting them out of—the kitchen—was daunting, but hey, there was more fun to be had, so a new tradition began. Hubby videotaped while we helped the boys roll, cut, and decorate. They sneezed, coughed and sniffled their way through two dozen sugar cookies. It was gross, funny, and an epic fail because not one cookie left our house.

Over the years, the boys lost interest and became the tasters while my daughter and I kept the tradition alive. Every year, we bake our little hearts out, determined to create the most impressive cookies, and every year, few cookies leave the house.

I am not a good cook or baker, but I am ambitious. The first time I made my mom’s infamous stuffing/dressing for Thanksgiving, my hubby smiled and raved about how good it was, even though our throats were burning from an overdose of sage.  I have learned to take shortcuts whenever possible to ensure success. It is hard to make cookies from scratch when you can purchase pre-made dough, but this year, we were armed with a brand new cookbook!

The first batch of chocolate chip cookies melted into each other and covered the pan like one giant pancake. Oops, too many hands in the pot? So the next day, I made the second batch while the girls were at school. I was focused, determined, and added the ingredients meticulously. Once again, flat and crisp. Baffled, I counseled with my friend as to what could have gone wrong and even considered buying a tub of pre-made cookie dough. But no! I still had plenty of supplies so I gave it another try, waiting patiently for an hour to allow the butter to soften at room temperature instead of nuking it for a few seconds in the microwave. Failure!

“We can just call them chocolate chip crepes,” my daughter said.

But I was on a mission. If I had to bake until Christmas day to get those cookies right, that’s what I was going to do. After twenty-five years, I have finally mastered a few recipes and even have a reputation (with my kids, anyway) for making the best chicken n’ dumplings and chicken pot pie. I wasn’t about to let a simple cookie get the best of me.

According to my new cookbook, all the recipes had been triple tested by Good Housekeeping. Who was baking these things? I decided to burn our new book and use the recipe on the back of the Nestle Toll House Morsels package and much to my surprise, they were beautiful and delicious. Finally, our cookies made it into the pretty boxes, and then sat on the kitchen counter, awaiting delivery. A few even made it out of the house.

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It was our goal to show our Chinese exchange student a traditional Christmas, but this year was far from the norm. In keeping this post lighthearted, I won’t tell you about all the drama, the tragedy, or the travels that came our way. Instead, I will tell you that in spite of it all, I was aglow on Christmas morning. The two girls and I opened presents with my hubby on one computer and my son on the other (skype, you gotta love it). We laughed and joked, and when the girls got preoccupied with gifts, the guys conversed as they sat side by side on the coffee table. We even took a family photo in front of the tree.

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What is normal, anyway? Life keeps moving forward, the world keeps changing, and we change, too. 2013 holds the release of Magestic Rain–the second book of the Magestic Dreams Trilogy–the return of my son from Japan (that should be interesting!), our exchange student will return to China (we will miss her), and my daughter will begin her Senior year of high school. Beyond that, I’m just as curious as you are. So, tighten your belts—it could be a bumpy ride.

Happy New Year!

Categories: Holidays | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “What is Normal?

  1. Shirley Householder

    Karen, Now I can start my new year with a good laugh, as I can see myself as I try the cookies. I enjoy your stories as much as I do anything. Good to have you in the family and I want to know when the new book comes out, as I enjoyed the first one.Love, Shirley

    • Hello Shirley, I have missed you! Hopefully, things will start to settle down and I can get back to the things I love, like making you laugh. You will be one of the first to know when Magestic Rain is published–I’m saving a signed copy for you! Love

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