The Gingerbread Incident

Kevin happily decorating a pre-fab one from the store.

Re-blogged from Notes From The Cookie Jar, this is the family story that started me on my writing journey years ago when I wrote about it for Canadian Living. Since then, I mastered the art of gingerbread house making by working in a high school Foods class where I learned the ins and outs of the craft and was forced to paste on a smile and teach kids how to do it. Nothing like spending your work days in a sugary gingerbread hell to finally master the skill, right?


Many years ago, I slipped into a phase in my journey of motherhood that I'd like to call the "Martha-land" phase. I blame a certain domestic diva that was popular at the time, because for some reason I became enthralled with crafts, making homemade baby food, bread, the whole deal. Plus working. Oh, and being a foster mom too. Besides that, we also owned our own business.

Can you say insane?

So the Christmas that Kevin was three, I decided that I was going to make my own gingerbread house. From scratch, of course. My Mom did it that way, and I was going to as well. My kid needed a gingerbread house to make his Christmas complete, or so I thought. I baked the pieces, inwardly gloating as the gingerbready smell wafted through the house. They looked so perfect and I was content that I was the perfect mother.

Or so I thought.

A few days later after work we had the icing made, the candy bought, and were ready to decorate. Except I had forgotten one crucial detail....I had never put a gingerbread house together before. No matter, I was confident that I could do it. I am woman, I am the gingerbread baker, hear me roar!
Except the pieces wouldn't stick. The walls would sadly list to one side, as if the house had been through a hurricane. They would occasionally fall apart. The roof just continually slid right back off as if it had been greased with butter, not sticky, sugary, icing. Instead of a house I was ending up with 6 slabs of gingerbread in a pile of icing, as if the Big Bad Wolf had come and blown it down.

"Mommmmm.....can't we decorate it?" Kevin popped yet another handful of Smarties into his mouth. Note to self: a three year old will take advantage of a parent busy trying to put together a gingerbread house by eating all the candy. This was not working out like I hoped. I began to get more and more frustrated, seething by now, slathering more and more icing on the gingerbread only to watch it fall apart seconds later. Finally it did so for the last time and I did something I've never done in my life.

That gingerbread house went flying across my kitchen like a rocket, hitting the opposite wall and exploding into a shower of candy, icing, and cookie pieces.

Yes, that's right.

I threw it.

Clear across my kitchen.

Kevin sat there, dumbfounded. He knew that he had tantrums, but he'd never seen me have one before. Then he promptly burst into tears.

"We'll never have a gingerbread house!" he wailed. Any thought of satisfaction over destroying that thing evaporated and I was enveloped with Mommy-guilt. How could I have done that? Aren't I supposed to be an example? I left the room for a minute to calm down, then returned and took Kevin in my arms.

"Honey, we'll make another one." I stroked his blond hair as he eyed me suspiciously.

"You won't throw it again?" his eyes narrowed.

"No. I won't throw it again. I promise."

The next day, and every year after that, I have tried less to be the domestic diva and more to just do things with Kevin that are fun for both of us. The trip to the store to get our pre-made gingerbread house kit is now a family tradition, and we spend a Saturday afternoon drinking hot chocolate and decorating it. I buy pre-made pastry shells for butter tarts, gingerbread dough, and spend the time with Kevin instead. Who needs to be domestic diva? However, Kevin never forgot my temper tantrum, because years later we were buying a kit at the grocery store, and the cashier paused and looked at the package.

"Oh, so you're making a gingerbread house!" she grinned at Kevin, who smiled wryly back.

"Ya, Mom tried to make one from scratch once but she got so mad she threw it," he sighed and rolled his eyes. "These ones are much, much safer."

These days I'm known to create them for kids at work to decorate.