So, there was, like, 50,000 things to do before Christmas, give or take a thing or two. Mentally, the engine was on overdrive, the heart palpitations had set in and then, boom, Cara got sick with a raging fever. It's like racing down the highway late for work and then stopping dead in a sea of red brake lights. There's nothing that can be done in either case.
Cara tapped my shoulder to wake me up last Thursday before dawn. I opened my eyes with a scowl on my face, fully expecting Ryan to be the culprit, when I saw Cara standing there. It turned out, she had a fever so high, she felt nauseous. I was so grateful that she wasn't heaving on me or the carpet, I was actually nice. For me. In reality, and unlike Ryan, Cara never wakes me up unless she's really sick. The last time she woke me up during the night, which was about a year ago, she had mono. So...I try to be decent to her when she comes in to get me. 'Cause that's the kind of mom I am.
(Notice: neither of the kids goes to wake up Mike. That's just a non-starter.)
Luckily, Cara's pretty easy to deal with when she's sick. She just watches TV. And this time around, she didn't even eat for two days (I HAVE to get this illness come January, after all the "holiday fesitivites", a.k.a., reasons to eat cookies for breakfast, are over.)
So Cara missed school on Thursday and Friday, but I picked up her school work Friday afternoon so she could do it over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon, when I was going a little crazier--washing all the sheets and towels of sick germs, going through a year's worth of photos of Cara and Ryan to find one that wasn't just plain idiotic for the Christmas card, hitting a couple of stores on the "LAST SATURDAY BEFORE CHRISTMAS" as all the papers touted it, even though it WASN'T the last Saturday before Christmas--Cara handed me a notice from her bookbag. "Attention Parents: We'll be having a cookie swap in our classroom. Please have your child bring in a batch of their favorite cookies and a copy of the recipe Monday."
Now, I had planned to make Christmas cookies. We always do. It's just that this year, I was thinking of putting it off -- until after Christmas or something. "Don't be sad, guys. We can make President's Day cookies."
But with this notice staring me in the face, I realized Sunday was going to be a do-or-hit-the-bakery situation. I wasn't a thrillin'.
But, to take a breather from all the mayhem, I kept my plans to get together Saturday night with high school friends, who this time included Stephanie and Pat. In remembering some of our good ol' days, I recalled one holiday party where Pat's mom made really awesome treats. At the time I was like, "These are great! How did you make these?" And his mom was like, "It's chocolate chip cookie bars. Instead of making drop cookies, you just spread the batter out in a pan. It's faster." Pat is one of four boys, and I'm one of five kids, but for some reason, my mom never made these pan cookies. She'd just as soon grab a box of Entenmenn's. Maybe that's why I was like, "What is this foreign cookie bar you speak of?"
Nevertheless, I never made chocolate chip cookie bars. Everyone was always cool with the regular cookies.
So come Sunday, Ryan and I got the cookie party started. We made gingerbread cookies for him. Then we made a batch of chocolate chip cookies -- for Cara's class. I'd make the "family chocolate chip cookies" later.
By late afternoon, Ryan got an invite to a buddy's house. And Cara's friend Alex asked her to go shopping. I, meanwhile, was left decorating the chocolate chip cookies. By the time I was done, I was thinking, no way am I making a whole new batch. You could say I wasn't really into it any more. In fact, I decided the finished cookies were for us, not Cara's class. In further fact, I was ready to buy a package of Oreos for Cara's class with a recipe that read: "Drive to grocery store. Buy cookies. Rip open. Happy Holidays." But it occurred to me that that could be perceived as a peevish downer.
Plus I had butter, eggs and chocolate chips staring me in the face. And that's when it hit me--stand back-- "Hey, cookie bars! They're faster!" I'm telling you, it's a steel trap, that mind of mine. Lightning quick,too. ... It's frightening, really.
...It's The Best Time Of The Year
After I got the cookie bars in the oven, I went to pick Ryan up from Andrew's house, and his mom--my friend Cindy--gave me a Dunkin' Donuts Box o' Joe she had leftover from a family brunch that morning. Not being a coffee drinker, she couldn't use it. But she knew where to turn.
I brought the joe home and set it on the kitchen counter until I could find room for it in the refrigerator. Mike, meanwhile, thought he'd try to straighten up the place.
Mike: "What is this 'Box o' Joe?' Can I throw this out?"
Me: "Are you crazy?! That's coffee!!"
Mike: "In a box?"
Me: "Cindy had a brunch and this was leftover."
Mike: "But why is it in a box?"
See, that's a question that shouldn't even be asked. HOW LONG has Dunkin' Donuts had Boxes o' Joe? C'mon!
Anyway, we got the kids to bed. I decorated Cara's cookies, printed out the recipe, cut the cookie bars up and put them in Ziploc bags. Then I moved on to doing Christmas cards. (And Mike wondered why I'd want a Box o' Joe.) Around 1 a.m., I'm heading upstairs when I hear Ryan making a noise that sounded remarkably like a crying frog. I went in and felt his head. A fever was starting. Of course.
Well, at least my list of 50,000 was about three items lighter.
--Catherine Schetting Salfino