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Michelle's column: Gingerbread and the gift of time

I took last Thursday off from work. I had to. I had something very important to do.

I had to go help make gingerbread houses.

My brother and his wife have 5-year-old twins who are in kindergarten in Hastings. One boy, one girl. Everything is exciting and busy when those two are around.

A couple of weeks ago, my sister-in-law sent me a text message, asking if I would be available to go to school with the kids and make gingerbread houses with them. I didn’t know what day of the week it was on, I had no idea what time. I just sent a message back saying, “I’d love to!”

For years, I’ve gone into Farmington’s schools and taken pictures of kindergarteners making those little houses with their grandparents, parents or other guests.

It’s cute to go in and watch them carefully select the candy decorations, and to clean their frosting-covered fingers by sticking those fingers in their mouths. I’ve really enjoyed taking those pictures, because I can just feel the love between the children and their guests.

So when my sister-in-law asked if I’d be available to go help the kids with their gingerbread houses, of course I jumped at the chance.

The experience was no less wonderful than I’d expected. I picked up their 14-year-old sister from Hastings High School, then the two of us went down to Pinecrest Elementary.

The kids were just coming out of phy-ed when we found them in the hallway. My nephew saw me and yelled out, “Michelle!” He took my hand and led me into their classroom, telling me all the way about the contents of his plastic ice cream bucket that would be used for his gingerbread house.

My nieces paired up at the table next to us, but the teacher came over and asked if they’d like to sit with my nephew and me. So there I was, sitting around this little table, on these little-person chairs, surrounded by three of the six kids I love most in this world.

It was absolutely wonderful.

For the next half hour, we decorated gingerbread houses. My nephew and I worked on his together, while my nieces worked on the other one. Of course, I had a camera out — you can take the girl out of the newspaper, but you can’t take the newspaper out of the girl, I suppose — but these pictures I only shared with my family, not the entire community.

I enjoyed my experience immensely. After years of seeing others make those gingerbread houses, the time I spent with my nieces and nephew was everything I’d expected that little event to be. We scooped frosting out of the can on our fingers. We snitched Skittles and gummy bears from the candy decoration pile. We got sticky with sugar, we made silly faces for the camera. And we all had a whole lot of fun.

It was an early Christmas present for me. It was the gift of time with my nieces and nephew, and it’s a gift I’ll not likely forget anytime soon.

Merry Christmas, Farmington and Rosemount.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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