Jan Gambino Jan Gambino's Blog

The Gingerbread House that Reflux Built 12-19-2008

Long ago when my youngest daughter Rebecca was a baby, I decided it would be “fun” to make a gingerbread house with the girls. I still don’t know why I thought it was a good idea to take on such a task with a 5 year old, 3 year old and a baby who barely slept an hour at a time and was sick non stop due to Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD) and asthma. It just goes to show you how a mixture of exhaustion and stubbornness can combine to make a Reflux Mom press on no matter what. The first attempt was the most memorable and reflux almost caused the tradition to collapse in failure. But I am getting ahead of myself. The story does have a happy ending.

So there I was with three children under the age of 5 baking gingerbread walls and roofs after putting them to bed and before collapsing into a tired heap. Then I would get up through the night to take care of Rebecca and start the day all over again well before dawn. We were all really excited about making the house with great anticipation. Like so many days when you have a baby with reflux, it turns out reflux is in charge of the schedule.

Around 2am on the day we were to make our house, Rebecca woke up with new worrisome symptoms. By 4am we were in the emergency room and she was admitted to the hospital. It would be days before she was released, Christmas Day to be exact. So daddy, whose culinary skills at the time included making coffee (from scratch, not instant) was put in charge of the frosting and assembling of the now famous gingerbread house. There were many, many urgent phone calls to Rebecca’s hospital room about how to assemble the mixer and the difference between powdered sugar and granulated sugar. A neighbor was brought in to help with assembly which I understand included high level structural supports from tooth picks and straight pins. I think there was some discussion of the merits of using wood glue but maybe I am embellishing the story. The result was a very structurally sound, sugar and candy coated masterpiece. The girls were excited beyond words.

The next year, I was hoping to avoid gingerbread house making and just stick to cut out cookies but the girls asked again and again, “When are we going to make the gingerbread house?” I tried to wiggle out of it but they insisted that it was the most wonderful part of the holidays for them. So a holiday tradition was born in our house. Over the years, the houses have changed shape and complexity. No matter how old the girls are, they still enjoy spending a few hours covered in frosting and nibbling on gum drops as we make our houses.

As I write this, the kitchen is well stocked for our annual gingerbread house making tradition. This weekend, if the reflux will allow, we will bake the gingerbread and spent a few hours together creating our sugar and candy coated houses.


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