December is one of those months where the "crazy" threatens to overwhelm the "calm" around here. Between school and work functions, holiday planning, and family traditions, it's about all we can do to keep our heads above the egg nog. I'm sure we're not alone here, am I right? The older kids roll with the punches pretty well, but Z and Iz are young enough that it is still necessary for us to have some control over the chaos. They need to maintain just a semblance of their every day schedule or else we all pay the price.
Jason and I do not want to overwhelm the younger kids with tons of high pressure situations over the month, but we want to be able to establish traditions and let the older kids have a great holiday season. It's a delicate balance, but we've found a few ways to make things easier on ourselves. Over the next few weeks, I'd like to share a few of our pre-Christmas activities with you, along with a couple of tips to make your life easier--no matter how many kids you have!
One of our family's favorite Christmas traditions is making cookies for Santa. Young or old, big group or small, this is one activity that everyone loves. When we first started this (waaaayyyy back in the late 1990's), I was determined to make this our ((cue announcer mega voice and flashing lights)) PREMIERE CHRISTMAS TRADITION!!! Cookies from scratch, picture perfect icing, and--of course--everyone smiling every step of the way in photos worthy of family magazine placement.
Reality check, please! Small children + high expectations = spectacular fail. Those of you with very young children (or hopes for future young children) may want to commit that formula to memory. It will serve you better than high school algebra. I promise.
At some point I do still want to find the "perfect" sugar cookie recipe but, in my life as the mother of multiple children, I routinely forget to make the dough on time. Most sugar cookie recipes call for some "sit in the fridge" time and I just can't seem to remember that. So, in the meantime, we cheat. You know those pre-made packages of sugar cookie dough in your refrigerated section at the local grocery store? Yup. We roll those bad boys out and go to town. It gets the job done and I have one less thing to stress about.
The kids help in the rolling and cutting process but we're so involved with the extra flour and whatnot that I never get a picture. I'm not going to lie, they each cut out about three and then get bored and wonder off. Jason and I mix up a batch of glaze and divide it out for five colors. Here's what we usually start with:
My boys take this decorating business serious, folks. Here's Sam, circa 2007.
Jake: same year, same determination.
Zander, 2008. (I can't believe he's only 2 here; he's twice the size that Izzy is now!)
I don't know where they get all that focus and intensity from...
I don't have any great pictures of it, but we have tons of sprinkles, jimmies, and non pareils too. We just pass out the cookies and get to work. You might have noticed that our family uses paintbrushes for the decorating. I don't know if there is a better way, but this way is a lot of fun. Contrary to what the above pictures show, there is a lot of laughing, singing, and joking during this activity. We usually pop in some sort of Christmas cartoon or turn on the radio.
(Note for projects requiring sprinkles or glitter-type supplies: Use one of those disposable plastic table cloths to aid with clean up. All you have to do is gather it up and shake it outside. We started doing that last year after we bought our new table. I'm probably the last mother in the world to think of that, but just in case there's someone else out there I figured I would share.)
Here's your finished result:
Cute, huh? They are yummy too! These cookies keep very well stacked in airtight storage containers. You can throw some bread in with them to help them stay fresh. We just put a layer of wax paper between every layer of cookies. Everyone gets to eat one after our decorating fun. Then, just before bed, each child picks out a special cookie to leave on Santa's plate. (We always do our cookies on Christmas Eve.)
My only other sanity saving tip would be to make sure you start early enough for post-activity baths. Especially if you have a Zander.
Or a Sam.
What kind of cookies does your family leave Santa? Do you have any additional sanity-saving tips for baking/decorating cookies with kids? Please leave them!