Holiday Traditions and Tips, Single Parent Style

Five years ago I bought my first gingerbread house kit, an impulse purchase for the kids and I to do in celebration of our first Christmas in our new house. I was strangely excited about it — until I couldn’t get the icing to thicken well enough, or the walls to stand straight, and saw the horribly decorated, lopsided and OSHA-challenged monster we ended up creating. Where was the cute house shown on the box?!

I hated it and tossed it as soon as Christmas was over. I don’t even think I could bring myself to take a photo of it or I’d show you.

The kids, on the other hand, loved making that stupid thing. Loved it so much they asked to make another one the next year. The next December I lowered my expectations (to nil) and used a few tricks I had learned since the condemned housing project of ’03. The house came out better and I recall I got it to stand straight(er). The next few years brought more experience and more experimentation, yielding better results like the one in the photo above from ’06.

We’ve been making imperfect, crazy-looking gingerbread houses each December and I guess it’s become something of a tradition for the 3 of us…exactly the kind of thing I suggest for single parents in this month’s Imperfect Parent column. Reminisce with me about my early holiday expectations and let me know what’s worked — and hasn’t worked — for your family.

(Did you see my gingerbread house this year? ;) )

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11 Responses to “Holiday Traditions and Tips, Single Parent Style”

  1. T | December 3, 2008, 11:40 am

    Ha!! I love the big White House. Yeah, you WISH!!!

    Hope your holidays are merry and bright!

  2. Steve | December 3, 2008, 12:19 pm

    so what tricks did you learn? My 3 year old keeps looking at those kits and we’ve been resisting but maybe it’s a good tradition to start and any upfront help would be appreciated!

  3. The Exception | December 3, 2008, 3:40 pm

    This is so very true. I had to give up my desires and expectations early. I remember reading the books and knowing that I wanted to create my own traditions, but that isn’t as easy as it sounds. Instead, they seem to create themselves. We travel for the holidays, we eat out for Thanksgiving, and we make a big deal about my daughter’s near Christmas birthday. The traditions are more about being together and surprises – even home made gifts – over anything else. I let the holidays unfold now – no expectations. There is far less stress!!

    (Oh we try and add rock climbing into the mix as that is a favorite)

  4. Terry | December 4, 2008, 11:39 am

    OSHA-challenged monster? Heh,heh.

    Hey, at least you made the gingerbread houses, Susan! I bought a kit 10 years ago, and I’ve yet to use it. Maybe this year….

  5. Lori | December 4, 2008, 11:55 am

    You are braver than me! I wouldn’t know the first step in making a gingerbread house(even with the kit!!)
    You are right about the holidays as a a single parent! You have given great advice. Main thing..enjoy the time with your children, they grow up way too fast!

    Happy Holidays!

  6. Danielle | December 4, 2008, 4:50 pm

    Nice job, Chef DuBois.

  7. Burgh Baby | December 5, 2008, 10:33 am

    Yeah, I’m thinking you must have stayed up all night for that one you made this year!

    Thanks for reminding me that I want to build a house with Alexis! I’m all about giving OSHA reasons to cry.

  8. terri | December 5, 2008, 8:48 pm

    Hi Susan! My 15 year old daughter loves those gingerbread houses too and I have to restrain myself to keep from correcting the listing walls and drooping candies. She loves them and that’s all that counts, I guess. “YOUR” gingerbread house, however, is incredible! ;-)

    Irene at Our Little Piece of the World suggested I come by and check out your blog. She has this idea (which I might have given her) that I want to try my hand at writing something more than a blog. She mentioned that your blog would be a great place for inspiration so I came over to check things out.

  9. Susan | December 15, 2008, 11:24 am

    Terri, thanks for stopping over. If you could see this year’s real gingerbread house you might never come back, though! I apparently didn’t know my own strength and managed to break one side of the roof into two pieces while trying to get it to set. I managed to sort of patch it with icing, and my daugther suggested it would make the gingerbread people’s escape from a burning house that much easier. So there you have it.

    Steve, btw, sorry for not responding earlier about the things I’ve learned all these years. One trick is to buy a gingerbread kit with pre-made icing and a plastic tray (complete with grooves for the walls) to help you build the gingerbread house more easily. I got this year’s kit at Target and it worked well (before my brute strength cracked the roof). I’ve also resorted to using a hot glue gun to put the walls together. I like to think of that as being creative rather than cheating!

  10. treemama | December 15, 2008, 10:47 pm

    we go to a Christmas tree farm and hack down our own tree, throw it in the car and bring it home.

    the girls adore this process!

    so first year single mama, said, “do you really want to go to the Christmas tree farm?”

    so, single mama, got a wagon, a saw, and a half hour later with muddy knees and arms that were like Jello we had a tree, and single mama, put it in the car and put it up in the house.

    it was SOOO hard, but it’s a tradition i wouldn’t give up just because of the split.

  11. Heather | December 23, 2008, 11:37 pm

    We went with the sleigh this year. Much easier to assemble.

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