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Saturday, April 25, 2015

We Salaried Our Kids

Photo by khrawlings 
When we tell people that we give our children a salary, we’re usually met with narrowed eyes, pursed lips, and brows that twist into the non-verbal equivalent of, “So you’re raising them to be spoiled, entitled brats devoid of any work ethic or financial acumen?”
Or something like that.
But the concept came to us via some friends whose three kids have all grown into independent and fiscally responsible adults. Donna told me, “We got so sick of hearing, ‘Mommy! Buy me this! Daddy, can I have that?’ So we decided to just give our kids the money we would’ve spent on their clothing, activities, toys, and whatnot. Then it was up to them to budget it.”
We’ve been running this program for a couple of years now, and so far it’s resulted in some great things—and a couple of not-so-awesome things.
How It Works
On our children’s ninth birthdays they receive their first month’s salary of $135.00. They also receive six envelopes, into which they sort their bills as follows:
Tithe: $15.00
Bank Account: $27.00
Clothing: $30.00
Activities: $30.00
Gifts: $15.00
Fun & Self: $18.00
Like any good, Christian* parents, we want to teach our kids the concept of First Fruits: that you give to God off the top. His is the first “bill” you pay each month. Hubby and I tithe ten percent of our income, and we require that our kids do the same.
*If you’re not the spiritual type or you’re not on board with church-y stuff, this system still works. Just change the offending account title from “Tithe” to “Charity” or “Philanthropy” or “As If I’m Giving God Any of My Hard-Earned Money What’s He Ever Done For Me?” Or whatever works for you.
Although 10% of $135.00 is, of course, only $13.50, we originally launched our kids’ financial program at $150.00 a month, but quickly discovered they amassed way too much slush in their Clothing envelopes—they’re not buying leather car coats and Prada pumps, that we know of—so we dialed that account back from $45.00 to $30.00. But the kids elected to keep the Tithe amount at $15.00, and they put it in the offering plate by themselves. (Really. I watch them do it. My mama didn’t raise no fool.)
Photo by chiaralily
Each month $27.00 goes into their savings accounts. I physically hand them the money, then have them return it to me to put in the bank. This hand-over, hand-back looks and feels very silly. But I do it because I want them to see, touch, and understand that money is a physical thing. Their bank accounts do not mystically grow like Jack’s magic beanstalk to the golden goose; the balance increases because they are in fact, adding to it each month, with funds they might have preferred to apply to a new bike or a super-wham-o-dyne Lego set. Or to put a contract out on one of their siblings.
Our kids have to clothe themselves on $30.00 a month. Typically they’ll tell me when they need something and I’ll shop for it while they’re at school. Then they can decide when they get home whether they like it or they don’t, in which case they either pay me for it or I return it.
My son, however, is prejudiced about shoes. Specific styles and colors and brands are coveted; others are verboten. I have proven incompetent to identify which is which, except to note that the ones he likes tend to be $60.00 and higher, while his nose turns up at the bargain-basement off-brands I select. So he goes to the shoe store himself. His own money in his own fist has proven a good motivator for shopping around, comparing prices, and looking for deals. He didn’t buy the first, cool, $75.00 pair of soccer cleats he wanted. Instead, he waited for a sale at the sporting goods store and bought shoes that came in under the price line he set for himself. Good man, good man.
The Activities account provides for extras and events outside regular educational expenses, for which Mom and Dad foot the bills. For example, our son pays the bi-annual $80.00 registration fee to play on his soccer team, and when our older daughter wanted to take gymnastics, I signed her up and she paid $127.00 for the class.
Daughter's Vision of
Gymnastics Class

("Sofiya" by NFG Photo)
That daughter, however, has a tendency toward capriciousness, such as begging to take a class, then refusing to participate if the teacher absurdly insists on teaching useless nonsense like somersaults before starting the students on net-less trapeze acrobatics. But I’ve discovered that I’m less psychologically invested in her performance when she’s the one spending the money. I can shrug and say, “Whatever. It’s your dime.” And she’s less flippant about blowing stuff off when she had to pay for it. Sweet.
One of the biggest surprises this plan held for me emerged from how the kids manage their Gift money. I figured they’d be greedy little stooges when it came to fête-ing their friends and family members on birthdays and holidays. But they have proven just the opposite. They know what their friends like, and they save up the money they need to buy it.
Our son has been stashing Gift money away for nearly a year so he can buy his younger sister a Nintendo 2DS for her next birthday. The boy is not given to altruism or empathy when it comes to the sister who nuked his Only-Child status, so I suspect this has more to do with providing himself another Mario Cart flunky to decimate. But hey, at least it looks like generosity.
The Fun & Self category is far and away the most active of all their accounts. Alongside their monthly salaries, they amass with their discretionary funds birthday and Christmas money, as well as anything they earn outside the house.
The boy socked money away for months to get himself a Nintendo 3DS XL. When his stash approached the full price of a new one his dad suggested they look online for a used model. They found one on eBay, so my shrewd, strategizing, ex-military man finessed the bidding wars and won. Instead of dropping $200.00 for a new game, they procured a nearly mint-condition refurbished system for $132.00. And the boy cares for it like it’s an orphaned baby wallaby. Because he knows exactly what it will take to replace it if he loses or breaks it.
The Good Stuff
Donna was right. The kids don’t beg anymore.
Photo by Eric
Their ninth-birthday salary comes accompanied by a gift-bag full of new chores. They start doing their own laundry, which for me means no more sorting girls’ Underoos by the size printed inside the waistband, or trying to remember whose socks are striped and whose have polka-dots. The care and feeding of the cat also gets handed down. Trash collection and curb duties begin. Furthermore, when I require assistance with dinner prep or cleanup, household cleaning support, and/or outdoor garden labor, substandard work may mean taking a pay cut that month.
And instead of yelling, pleading, yanking my hair out, or suffering a hypertension-induced stroke, I can simply charge my children for their random acts of stupidity. If the boy misses the bus because he was playing a videogame instead of watching the clock, he pays the Mom-Taxi $10.00 for a ride to school. When the little princess uses an entire, brand new bottle of shampoo to generate for herself a luxurious bubble bath, she can replace it out of her salary. When an assigned chore is forgotten or ignored or delegated without parental authorization, the slacker pays whoever ended up doing the chore. Especially if it’s Mom.
The Stuff that’s Not Working So Great. Yet.
Photo by corsner
Motivation. One of our son’s buddies started a dog-walking business which is reportedly mighty lucrative. Given the number of canines in our neighborhood, I suggested Son might do the same. He considered it only briefly before responding, “Nah. I get enough money in my salary.” Oh, crud. Have we de-incentivized entrepreneurialism?
Over/Shorts. The music teacher at our daughter’s school informed us that Daughter really needs private violin lessons, because she has already advanced beyond the other kids in her instrumental class. (Thinly veiled progeny-bragging right there, in case you missed it.) Music classes run to the tune of $25.00 or more per half hour per week. That adds up to way more than Daughter gets in her Activities fund in a month. We may have to work out some sort of funds-matching scheme, perhaps linked to her weekly practice time and instructor feedback. And if she ever masters The Devil Went Down to Georgia, I’m covering all her fiddle fees, forever, period. Potentially retroactively.
Oversight vs. Natural Consequences. Pokemon cards are a major problem. Our older daughter would spend every nickel she gets on those maniacal little scraps of marketing genius. When she asked to spend $32.00 on one single card, I put my foot down.
However, when she begged me to front her $1.00 to play the Claw machine in a restaurant lobby, I cut her a deal. “If you win, you just have to pay me back the $1.00 when we get home. But if you lose, you owe me $2.00.” She agreed. Three times in a row. I came out $3.00 ahead that day, and she learned some hard lessons about interest and house advantage. (My daughter’s grandmother says that was cruel. I say I learned from the master.)
The Bottom Line
I’m liking the salary structure, and it’s working for us. And in truth, we’re not giving our kids anything other parents don’t allocate theirs; we still provide food, shelter, clothing, and everything else children need. It’s just coming in a form that gradually transfers the decision-making off our shoulders and onto theirs.
And isn’t that the whole point of parenting? To work yourself right out of a job?
Now, if I could just get a salary for this…

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Falling With Style

Photo by Paxson Woelber
For spring break this year we took the three kiddos up to Stratton Resort in Vermont. Hubby deemed all our skiing skills progressed enough to warrant a trip to a peak higher than 1000 feet of elevation, which is pretty much all you get around the mid-Atlantic basin.
It’s always been my husband’s dream to have a skiing family. For our tenth anniversary he called in the grandparents to babysit and took me to the mountains of West Virginia for my first experience of blind terror while hurtling downhill uncontrollably on waxed two-by-fours.
I mean skiing.
A blizzard struck on our way up the mountain, and we found our car snowbound on the quickly drifting shoulder of the winding pass. Thick swaths of snow fell out of the night sky and piled up on our stranded vehicle so quickly we feared if we didn't get out now we might never be able to. “We’ve got all our gear and it’s only five more miles to the top!” exclaimed my intrepid husband with his customary can-do optimism. “We’ll just hike it!”
Visions of the Donner party swirled through my mind. One of us is going to die, and he’s bigger, stronger, and even more stubborn than I am. He’s going survive this by eating my half-frozen carcass somewhere between here and Snowshoe.
I have never been happier to see anyone than when Cody, an employee at the ski resort, came down the mountain in his beefy truck and rescued us. An angel in a 4x4, Cody saved not only our lives, but probably also our marriage.
Thus began my odyssey in the snow.
Falling and Crying
The first phase of learning to ski, I discovered, consists of falling. A lot. I spent most of the first day of my ski adventure crumpled in a heap on the side of the mountain, weeping, skis and poles and limbs jutting out in various directions like the aftermath of a chopstick fight in a ramen shop. Why? Because Hubby thought he could teach me.
I should’ve known better. I taught high school back in the day. People who say, “Those who can, do; those who can’t do, teach,” are full of crap. A good teacher must not only know how to do the thing being taught, he must also know how to explain, demonstrate, transfer, infer, deduce, induce, and scaffold. He must be able to identify as well as remedy both cognitive and performance errors. He must exist in two minds at one time: that of the expert and of the initiate. Teaching is as much art as science, psychology as methodology, intuition as intellect.
My husband has internalized the physics of skiing to such a degree that he doesn’t even know what he can't remember that he forgot about learning.
Our marriage—and my body—seriously on the rocks by the end of the first day, he signed me up for a real lesson the next morning.
Bruce the Ski Instructor saved our trip from going down in the annals of family history as The Time Mom Cudgeled Dad With Her Ski Boot. Bruce taught me useful things like how to stop, how to turn, how to snow plow, and that it’s easier to get up after a fall if you remove your skis first. Oh. Duh.
“And if you really get in over your head, take off the skis and just hike down the mountain.” Thank you, Bruce.
On our way home after the trip I decided that I would never again strap those things to my feet.
When Hubby asked if I had a good time, I smiled enigmatically.
“What was your favorite part?” he pressed.
“The Jacuzzi.”
Falling and Swearing
Several interplaying factors caused me to renege on my vow of abstinence from skis. First, Hubby often gets his way through simple relentlessness. When he wants something he gnaws at me like a beaver at the trunk of a Sequoia:
What don’t you like about skiing?
We’ll get you another lesson.
You look really cute in your snow pants.
Do you want to be a quitter?
We’ll go somewhere that has a Jacuzzi.
Photo by Ian Page-Echols
Second, I hate to lose. If the skis at Snowshoe didn’t beat me altogether, I definitely took a beating from them. Whenever I start something new my ill-conceived mantra is, “How hard can this be?” I usually discover pretty quickly that it’s actually pretty stinking hard. Then my upper lip curves into this sneer, and my shoulders stiffen. “I’m going to get this if it freakin’ kills me.”
Finally, I am a recovering people-pleaser who sometimes falls off the wagon. I realized, with no little gravity, that Hubby’s dream of having a skiing family lay entirely in my hands. I could either help him realize it, or I would crush it completely.
“Okay,” I capitulated, with more resolve and resentment than felicity or goodwill. “I’ll go again.”
We took the children with us after that, and enrolled them in ski school. The boy came out of his first class swishing circles around me. “I’m better than Mom!” he sang gleefully as he slalomed down a blue run on one ski, spinning backwards from time to time to taunt me.
That winter I graduated from falling and crying to falling and swearing.
Falling and Swearing You’re Going to Get This if It Kills You
“You cannot take a third first-timer lesson,” Hubby decreed. “You’re going in level two.”
I generally lack confidence more than skill, so given my choice I’d prefer to be the shining star in a remedial class rather than Forrest Gump in a group of the gifted and talented.
My ski instructor coached me to practice making left turns.
“I can only turn right,” I explained.
“You can’t go down a mountain circling to the right,” he insisted.
“Why not?”
Truly, my body would not cooperate in the opposite of its preferred direction. One leg asserted dominance. The other submitted. The one would not relent; the other could not speak up for itself.
Something about that reminded me of how I ended up back on the slopes again.
Our daughters’ skills were progressing, too. Because one of them has a tendency to get so focused on her area of interest that she loses sight of everything else—and thereby lost sight of her family and went down a slope the rest of us did not—Hubby put us in a line to go down a new run. The boy first, followed by me, then the girls, with Hubby bringing up the rear.
My son found the easiest path and led the rest of us. He frequently turned back to ask, “Are you okay, Mom?”
What has happened here? I thought. Is this not the child to whom I gave birth? Who I nursed, and rocked, and coddled? Whose boo-boos I kissed and hand I held? And now he is leading me, caring for my well-being and safety. I saw a glimpse of the man he was becoming, and it both saddened me and made my heart swell with pride.
Later that night, when he pushed one of his sisters into the hotel pool and dunked the other one and cannonballed so hard he sent a tidal wave over both his parents sitting fifteen feet away, I thought, “He’s not so big I can’t spank his obnoxious little butt.”
Falling and Laughing
For our fifteenth anniversary Hubby took me to Mont Tremblant in Québec.
I have died to the hope that vacations will ever again consist of warm pursuits. Sunbathing on a beach? Forget it. Scuba diving? Give it up. Cruising the Caribbean in a sailboat? Perish the thought. He’s already strategizing how to get the whole family down to Chile or Peru or Argentina this summer, where it will be the height of the South American winter and ski season.
Marriage is all about sacrifice, and I have been martyred on the altar of powder and après-ski for the sake of mine.
Hubby stuck me in another lesson—a blue run class—and said he’d be back to get me for lunch.
I was not alone at the bottom of the group this time. Andrew and I vied for last place as we kept a friendly competition going about which of us fell more often, and more sensationally. After about my tenth tumble down the 45-degree piste the instructor glided over to help me up, again. “Are you all right?” he asked with sincere concern in his eyes.
A lesser woman would’ve been crying by now. But I’d lost all sense of shame. Or pride.
“Totally okay!” I said, and sprang back up.
He nodded, clearly relieved. “That was spectacular,” he complimented me. The other students applauded.
Yep. If I can’t impress, I’ll entertain.
A Skiing Family
Hubby has realized his dream; all five of us are now competent skiers.
And Vermont was actually, really, surprisingly enjoyable. I finally got it. I understand the basic mechanics of skiing and can perform them with a reasonable amount of acumen. Skiing is no longer ceaseless hard work, fighting the mountain every moment to keep from being jettisoned off into the trees and dying in a lost, whimpering pile of brokenness.
It’s good for our family, too. We have something we can do together that no one is likely to outgrow or get bored of. There are always bigger mountains, steeper slopes, and new skills to master.
And as a good friend pointed out when I was just beginning this journey, we are a family of five. Five is an odd number. The hubby and the son already like to ski together, their skills fairly commensurate with each other. In just a few years the little one will be old enough to accompany her older sister on the lifts and trails.
And I will be the odd mom out. Welcome, but unnecessary. I will be at the lodge, all by myself.
But don't cry for me, Argentina.
‘Cause I’ll be in the Jacuzzi.

Echo Valley Ranch

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Saturday, April 11, 2015

My Couch to 5K

People often equate middle age with cresting the apex of a mountain. Hence the expression, “over the hill.” But I think they’ve got it exactly backwards.
The first half of your life rolls right along, aided by gravity.
There’s hard stuff, sure: learning to walk while tripping over your own feet and smacking into walls and coffee tables and fireplace tools; middle school, which would be more aptly named The Socio-Psychological Gauntlet of Terror; and navigating the swirling eddy of relationships, marriages, children, mortgages, and/or careers.
But in general, things skip along fairly seamlessly. In most cases the body works pretty well. The memory is a shiny new file cabinet with smoothly gliding drawers and a zippy-quick, snappily-organized classification and retrieval system. You sleep through the night; your digestive and gastrointestinal tracts accept, process, and eliminate pretty much anything you feed them; and the only physicians seen on a regular basis are the dentist and possibly an optometrist.
The physical aspect of the second half of life, however, often resembles Sisyphus pushing a boulder up Mt. Everest more than it does said boulder rolling back down it.
Things just don’t work as well anymore. CRS (Can’t Remember Sh—Stuff) Syndrome sets it, you may not eat a single bite of anything with impunity, and you start putting all your specialists on speed dial.
I realized I had traversed the trough of my life-valley midpoint one day, and was now shouldering my rock uphill, when I received a phone call from my husband while on my morning constitutional.
Day Zero Minus One
“Honey,” he said. “I locked myself out of the house without my car keys and I’m late for a meeting.”
Only a quarter mile from home, I took off at a dead run to deliver my husband from his plight. One hundred yards later I slowed to a jog. Another fifty yards and I switched to a power-walk. Half-way home I doubled over, heaving and gasping, a stitch in my side that felt like Jason Voorhees carved out my liver with a machete.
I was on the varsity track team! I thought. (Thirty years ago.)
Something akin to raw oysters oozed up out of my lungs and I spat them onto the sidewalk.
I could kid myself no longer: I’d grown soft, slack, and paunchily decrepit.
If the zombie apocalypse occurred, I’d be one of the first meat-sacks taken down.
Day 1: Run 1 Minute, Walk 2 Minutes; Repeat 10x
The Couch to 5K program I found promised to get me running five kilometers in eight weeks’ time.
*Check with your doctor before undertaking any fitness regimen, especially if you have any health issues or are over forty years old.
Hey, they say forty-five is the new thirty. I’m good.
Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes, repeat 10 times.
Easy-peasy lemon squeeze-y!
Day 2: Rest Day
Oh yeah. I did half an hour on the road yesterday. So today I hit Dunkin Donuts as a reward. (Note to self: three Boston Creams in a row is a bad idea. Bad. Note to reader: Boston Creams are tastier going down than coming up.)
Day 3: Run 2 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute; Repeat 10x
I realize today that skinny jeans and Birkenstocks are unsuitable for this program.
At the shoe store I discover walking shoes, hiking shoes, cross-trainers, racing shoes, motion control shoes, shoes with cushioned stability, biomechanically neutral shoes, and lightweight trainers.
I find a pair of gray and pink Filas on the clearance rack for ten dollars. I have no idea what they’re designed for, but they’re cute and they fit.
Day 4: Rest Day
Three blueberry muffins with cream cheese and a large hazelnut coffee are only a marginally more nutritious breakfast than the Boston Creams were.
Day 5: Run 3 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute; Repeat 7x; Walk 2 Minutes
Three minutes? This is psychotic!
I start counting my steps, because numbers got me through childbirth: “When I get to fifty this contraction will be OVER!”
120 running (lurching) steps take me one minute. That’s about 3600 steps to complete the required running for the day.
I can do this. Right?
Day 10: Walk 30 Minutes
I am walking maniac. I can walk forever.
With a magazine in one hand and a Frappuccino in the other, I own the trails. Till I wander off and smack into a tree. The newly streamlined Martha Stewart Living provides little cushion for my nose. I curse the dwindling production of print media.
Getting in shape hurts.
Day 15: Run 5 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute; Repeat 5x
Today, I discover where the phrase “get the lead out” must have come from. My buttocks bounce, but not in a Beyoncé or J Lo kind of way. More like someone pinned two plastic bags filled with buckshot to the seat of my pants.
Day 20: Run 6 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute; Repeat 4x; Walk 2 Minutes
I encounter another runner on the sidewalk this morning. She’s about 5’10”, and maybe almost a hundred pounds soaking wet. With her long blonde hair pulled up in a ponytail and cute pink headband, which matches her pink spandex tank and pink spandex running pants, she looks like Jessica Simpson’s tighter-bodied stunt double.
Because I do not belong out here with the fit and fabulous, and I’m sure she would laugh her pink bobbysocks off if she saw me, I turn a corner and run the other way, loathing my cheese-ish thighs and the blue sweat pants I borrowed from my husband to contain them.
Day 25: Walk 30 Minutes
Limp, more like it.
I time myself with the precision of a special forces black ops military strike, hitting “start” on my watch’s timer the moment my foot steps out the door, and “stop” on 30:00:00 as I collapse onto the couch.
Day 31: Run 13 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute; Repeat 2x; Walk 2 Minutes
I keep waiting for that runners’ high they talk about, where the pain evaporates and euphoria carries you on angel wings, like Hermes hurtling effortlessly through the Grecian clouds.
Runners are either a pack of bald-faced liars, or they’re smoking crack. It just hurts. Every stinking step.
Day 35: Rest Day
My pants buttoned today, without the aid of a rubber-band extender.
Day 40: Run 18 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute, Run 11 Minutes
I remember today that jogging is an ungodly and un-scriptural activity (“The wicked flee, though no one pursues” [Proverbs 28:1]) and consider abandoning this program on biblical grounds.
However, I also note that I have not spent any time with my new friend, perimenopausal insomnia, during the last 30 days.
Day 47: Run 24 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute, Run 5 Minutes
Dressing this morning, I found something strange about my Victoria’s Secrets—okay, my Fruit-of-the-Looms. They were… baggy. I buy a smaller size. Happy Dance!
Nearing the end of the seventh week, the end is in sight.
Day 50: Run 27 Minutes, Walk 1 Minute, Run 2 Minutes
Every time I hit the pavement my body tries to tell me I can’t do it. That this running stuff is cruel and unusual punishment and I need to stop before something snaps, collapses, or falls off. But if I press through that, and tell my legs and heart and lungs to suck it up and move, they stop arguing. They fall in and put out.
It felt good today. I think I… liked it.
OMG. Who am I?
Day 51: Run 28 Minutes, Walk 2 Minutes
I pass another runner on the sidewalk today. A heavyset man, in shorts and an oversized T-shirt. Beads of sweat form on his brow and soak into the neck of his shirt. He hasn’t got much of a stride, but he’s working it.
You go, friend! You can do it! We’ve all got to start somewhere, and I’m proud of you.
I’d like to high-five him, but that would just be weird. Right?
Day 55: Walk 30 Minutes
I don’t really want to walk, because it kind of feels like wasted time. But I do it, because the schedule says to.
I’m so close!
My skin looks really good. Must be all the water I’m sucking down after my runs.
Day 56: Run 30 Minutes
I run 30 minutes.
I did it.
I really did it.
From Now On
I learned something during the eight weeks of my Couch to 5K program: I don’t like exercise.
Actually, I knew that already. This experience just confirmed it. I’d much rather be writing, or painting, or knitting.
Or eating.
But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” so I’m going to keep running. Because it’s good for me. Because it makes me stronger. Because I can snarf more brownies with fewer consequences to my middle-aged hips.
But the biggest reason is because it will remind me, every time I hit the pavement, that I did something I didn’t think I could do. That even uphill battles are winnable.
That I’m not giving in or giving up.
Not even close.
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Friday, April 3, 2015

Real Resurrection Cookie Recipe

He is Risen!
My children and I make Resurrection Cookies every year, on the Saturday evening before Easter. It’s a delightful time to reflect on the actual meaning of the holiday, to foster a sense of family unity and graciousness, and to bring Christ’s sacrifice out of history and into the home.
He is risen!
1 cup of whole pecans (Almonds will do, or walnuts; if all else fails, have your kids stuff their pockets with the free peanuts at Five Guys and use those. Shell them first.)
1 teaspoon of vinegar (If you’re out of vinegar, vodka works. Don’t ask me how I know that.)
3 egg whites (Good luck separating eggs if you sampled the vinegar alternative above.)
a pinch of salt (That’s more than a sprinkle and less than a dash. What sick mind comes up with measurements like that? Give me numbers, you pseudo-Martha Stewart sadist.)
1 cup of sugar (If you don’t have that much sugar in your house you have more significant problems than I can address here.)
zippered plastic sandwich bag (Get one made from an industrial strength polymer, if you can procure it. Trust me.)
wooden spoon (I’ve also used a rolling pin, a hammer, and the side of my own fist. The last one hurts and leaves marks, but is very psychologically satisfying.)
tape (Any kind will do, based on the trustworthiness of your children. In my house we use Kevlar-reinforced duct tape.)
Bible (Why are you looking for an explanation on this one? Do you not know what this is, where to get one, or why one might consult it at EASTER? Heathen.)
Summon your children to the kitchen. This may require disconnecting the Wi-Fi and/or cable. Tell them to stop griping, because “We’re baking Resurrection Cookies and this is a cherished family memory in the making so sit down and be quiet.”
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important; don’t wait to do it later. You’ll screw up the cookies before you’ve even started. (Don’t worry: there will be many more opportunities to screw them up as you go along.)
Tell your son to stop poking your daughter in the temple.
Place the pecans in the zippered plastic sandwich bag and let the children beat them with the wooden spoon to break the nuts into small pieces.
Take the spoon away from your son and give it to your sobbing daughter who has a welt swelling up on her forearm. Take it away from her when she knocks her brother in the head with it. Give it to the little one, who wields it like a mace and bludgeons one of her siblings in the teeth. Take the spoon away and smack it on the counter to make your point about being kind and gentle with one another, thereby breaking it into two pieces. Get an alternate weapon instrument to finish off the nuts. Pick up the baggie and discover that the shattered nuts have shredded the cheap plastic and are now littered like gravel across your kitchen counter.
Read John 19:1-3 and explain to your bruised and weeping children that after Jesus was arrested he was beaten by the Roman soldiers. (See how nicely this all comes together?)
Let each child smell and taste the vinegar. Put one teaspoon of vinegar into a mixing bowl. Read John 19:28-30, and explain to the children that when Jesus was thirsty on the cross he was given vinegar to drink. If you forgot that you were out of vinegar and substituted vodka, give each child an aspirin and some tomato juice. Agree that you won’t tell Daddy they dropped the remote in the toilet if they don’t tell him about this.
Add the egg whites to the vinegar. Eggs represent life, which must be why we hard-boil them, decorate them with pastel colors, and hand them over to a white rabbit to be delivered to our front yards on Easter morning. Makes perfect sense to me. Explain that Jesus gave his life to give us life. If the children ask for further clarification on what eggs have to do with Christ’s death and resurrection tell them to stop thinking so much and eat another Salvation Peep or some Sanctification Jelly Bellies.
Read John 20:10-11. Sprinkle a little salt in each child’s hand. Let them taste it and brush the rest into the bowl. (Which is completely gross, because who knows where their grubby little paws have been, and now you’ve got hand-germs and tongue-bacteria in your cookies. Yummy.) Explain that this represents the salty tears shed by Jesus’s followers, and the bitterness of our own sin. Read Luke 23:27.
Then take the tape away from the kid who’s been messing around with it and spend fifteen minutes extracting it from the hair of the offending child’s nemesis. If you elected to use duct tape, abandon all hope and get out your scissors or pruning shears. Call to see if your salon has an opening prior to Sunday morning church services. Or drape your child in a headdress and tell everyone she’s re-enacting Mary’s discovery at the tomb.
Get the sugar. Drop it on the floor when one of the kids takes a swing at another one, misses, and connects with your elbow. Clean it up as you sweetly tell your children it’s no big deal and everyone makes messes, darlings. Get more sugar. Add it to the bowl and read Psalm 34:8 and John 3:16. Explain that the sweetest part of the story is that Jesus died for our sins because he loves us all and wants us to know and belong to him.
Smack in the back of the head the child who mutters, “Everyone except her.”
Get between that child and the insulted one who shrieks, “Hey!” and goes after her sibling with bared teeth and extended claws.
Meanwhile the third child dips into the bowl for a handful of sugar and spills half the mixture on the floor.
Scoop it all back into the bowl. (It was already germ-infused from the little snotwads’ hands and mouths. What’s a few more microorganisms at this stage of the game?) Beat it with a mixer on high speed for 12-15 minutes until stiff peaks are formed.
The children will have vacated the kitchen by minute three of the mind-numbing mixer step. You will not see them again. Read Isaiah 1:18 and John 3:1-3 to the cat. Explain that the eggs’ white color represents the purity…
Oh, criminey. Just give it up. They’re gone. It’s over.
Have a drink.
Eat some of the candy you bought to put in their Easter baskets. They don’t deserve it anyway.
Have another drink.
Start to feel re-invigorated.
Stand up and take a deep breath.
Bellow, “We’re finishing these @*%# Resurrection Cookies! Get back in this kitchen right now!”
Sweep the broken nuts off your counter and into the bowl, and mix well.
Slap spoonfuls of the stuff onto a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. Explain that each mound represents the rocky tomb where Jesus’s body was laid, and that if they don’t sit down, shut up, and listen quietly to Matthew 27:57-60 you’re going to make sure they each get a burial mound of their very own right this stinkin’ minute!
Put the cookie sheet in the oven. Close the oven door and turn the oven OFF. Seal the door with a piece of tape. Threaten to burn their favorite toys if they crack that oven open even one centimeter before tomorrow morning.
Read Matthew 27:65-66, and tell them you don’t care how sad it makes them to do all this work and then leave the cookies in the oven overnight, because they deserve cookies even less than the people who mournfully buried Jesus and left him in the tomb on Good Friday. In fact, they are less deserving than the godless hypocrites who crucified Jesus and...
Okay. Deep breath.
“Off to bed now, children. Mommy loves you.” (See Evening Vespers.)
On Easter morning, open the oven and give everyone a cookie. They’re hollow! The tomb is empty!
Read Matthew 28:1-9. He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
“Um, Mom? They’re not hollow. They’re actually kind of gooey in the middle.”
“Ew! What’s this green, fuzzy thing sticking out of mine?”
“Mommy, did you forget I’m allergic to tree nuts—gaack!”
* * *
Get dressed in your Sunday finest, scrawl “new Epi-Pen” on your weekly shopping list, and head off to church. Tell your Bible study group, to whom you bragged about your annual theological baking foray, that the cookies turned out splendidly. Pray God will forgive you for what you said under your breath about the woman and her perfect little band of Mickey Mouse Club children who hand out homemade cross-shaped cutout cookies, decorated with multi-colored royal icing and sugar glitter and say, “Bless you on this Easter morning!”
Then go home and bite the ears off your children’s chocolate bunnies. Tell each kid that one of the others did it.
Happy Easter.

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