Friday, December 19, 2014

I'll be Home (Ec) for Christmas

Google “Home Ec -- I mean Family Consumer Science -- Christmas Lesson Plans” and what do you get?

Christmas Cookie Lab. Christmas Cookie Bake Sale. Christmas Cookie Sampler. Christmas Cookie Comparison. Christmas Cookie Swap. Healthy Christmas Treats (there's one in every crowd).

Ask the students, right after they fill out the Spooky Halloween Treat Lab evaluation, what do they want to do next?

“Make Christmas cookies.”

So when the principal asked me “Would your classes like to make cookies to serve during semester tests?” I said yes. (Actually, I gave him the “are you kidding?” look.) Then I asked my students.

Do you want to bake Christmas cookies? “Yes!”
For the other students? “Ummm....”
You can have some, too. YES!

I was feeling pretty confident in their abilities. After all, they made snacks for a conference-wide, school administrators' meeting last month. AND had recipe requests. All semester these kids have done incredible work in the kitchens. Sure we hit a rough spot with the “healthier options” recipes, but I think whole wheat Snickerdoodles are an acquired taste.

Some students have… contributed more than others. Some have... put forth more effort than others. But each of these students has made me incredibly proud at least once this semester.

All that ended with The Great Christmas Cookie Catastrophe.

I'm not blaming the kids. I should have known better than to use untested recipes (stupid Google search). I should have watched the oven timer more closely (and made sure they used it).

I should not have tried to buy Billy Joel concert tickets on-line as soon as they went on sale while trying to supervise the creation of a batch of festive, fudge-brownie cookies.

I felt like Goldilocks. One batch of cookies was over-cooked. One batch was under-cooked. One batch was... why did I approve an anise-flavored cookie anyway? And there is not enough time in a 45-minute class period for the students to do all the baking and cleaning.

To top it all off: I didn't get a ticket for the Billy Joel concert in Minneapolis.

Ouch. Way to kick a girl when she's down, Target Center ticket program. (It's not sold out yet, but I haven't liked the “best available” tickets they've “suggested” for me. I'm gambling here. Really, you think there's not gonna be one single, odd seat left on the floor? )

Final. Straw.

Camel's back? Broken.

So I stood, forlorn, in the kitchens as the students filed in for homeroom. I was stressed, surrounded by piles of inedible cookies, mountains of dirty dishes and flour-covered counters. And I was ticket-less.

There were tears.

Yeah. No. Really.

I cried.

Over cookies.

It was a brief, silent, ragged breathing, just a couple of tears overflowing type of cry. Not my proudest moment.

Wound. Too. Tight.

But one sweet boy talked me down. “Are you ok, Mrs. Salemink?”

He helped clean up the mess – a mess he didn't make! – and helped me sort out and salvage more cookies than I thought possible.

Santa's weepy elf might have to fill in a little around the edges (I'm just not sure high schoolers are ready for anise-flavored cookies. I'm not sure any one is, no matter what the Albuquerque Convention and Visitors Bureau says.) But it looks like the Home Ec – I mean Family Consumer Science – classes will help make semester tests (and Christmas – I mean winter – break) just a little brighter at West Branch High School.

Now if the Target Center would just cut to the chase and pony up a front row, center stage ticket we could put this whole ugly scene behind us.

And have a Merry Christmas. Cookie.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Be Good for Goodness Sake (Or Not)

The Queen Mother has always had a bit of an ornery streak. So I shouldn't have been surprised by her conversation with Santa at the nursing home Christmas party this afternoon.

“Dorothy, have you been a good girl this year?” Santa asked.


That's my mom.

Santa was momentarily taken aback. He didn't immediately re-check his naughty/nice, but there was definitely a split-second of speechlessness. This 89-year-old, wheelchair-bound, white-cotton-candy-haired, quiet, gentle lady just told Santa she hasn't been a good girl this year?

Who would expect such honesty with Christmas looming on the horizon? Who would expect such truthfulness with a sleigh-full of goodies hanging in the balance? Who would expect such a midwest-candid “nope” delivered straight to Santa's rosey-cheeked face while he is still clutching her present in his gloved hand?

Me. I would. Yup. That's my mom.

After they recovered from the initial shock, everyone at our table had a good chuckle. None more so than The Queen Mother herself.

I laughed too, although I was more than a little disapointed in Santa's timing.

You see, Santa stole my speaking role. The Queen Mother and I have our set patter -- our little shtick -- and he horned in on my part. Each time I leave after a visit we go through the same routine: I kiss her cheek, hug her and squeeze her hand. I tell her “I love you. I'll be back soon. Be good.”

She wrinkles up her nose, sticks out her tongue and laughs.

So I squeeze her hand, hug her again, kiss her cheek and whisper “Be good. I love you.”

The second time I usually get a begrudging “I'll try,” accompanied with an exaggerated sigh and an eye-roll that rivals that of my teen-age daughter for theatricality.

Such drama begs my rejoinder: “Good, because someone has to do it, and it's not gonna be me!”

We do mix it up occasionally. Sometimes I'll tell her “No dancing on the tables!” This never fails to get us a strange look from whichever unexpecting nursing assistant is within earshot. Not that The Queen Mother ever danced on a tabletop (that I know of), and neither have I (that I remember). Although there was that one time she balanced the empty tortilla chip bowl on her head....

Sometimes she beats me to the punch and she tells me to be good. Then I get to deliver the world-weary sigh, roll my eyes and whine “Well, I'm so busy I guess I won't have time to get in trouble.”

The curtain call is always the same: One more hug, one more hand squeeze, one more kiss.

I pause in the doorway for one more goodbye. One more glance at this familiar stranger.

I search for that spark of orneriness that is my mom.

Her eyes shine. She is still there.

One more “I love you.”

Don't behave.