Tara Crooks
Limitless Contributor

When I was growing up, as soon as school was out for the Christmas break my Grandma picked me up and brought me to her house. We spent the week up until Christmas baking. I am not kidding, the entire week. We baked for neighbors, friends, the retirement home (where my brother and I were also sent to perform Christmas carols to Grandma's accompaniment), and our family. The woman embodied Christmas.She is what I think of when I think of Christmas. She always made sure that everyone had their favorite treat so that everyone felt special.


We'd sit down with a list of what cookies were to be made. We made a plan for what would be baked on what day based on the time it took for different cookies to chill, whether or not they had to be baked/no bake or were candy, etc. Then we'd go over the recipes and list out all of our ingredients for our very large grocery shopping day.


This time was magical. I knew that then, because I looked forward to it every year but I appreciate it now even more. She let me get messy, she let me help. She gave me my own apron. What I didn't realize was that while I was having fun I was learning a lot too. I was learning how to make a plan, how to measure things, how to give selflessly, and so much more. She was a treasure.


It's no surprise that when I grew up and Grandma was gone that I continued this tradition. For many years — before I had children — I baked on my own. I bake for our two large extended families. Every year I make ten to fifteen different kinds of candy and cookies. When I had children I bought them their aprons — Wrena "Cookie Maker" and Chloe "Cookie Taster". I taught them to measure. I've let them get messy and they are my helpers.


This week is baking week at the Crooks house! I've rounded up a list of what everyone wants and this past weekend we made our shopping list. Wren — my oldest — commented, "Wow, mama, this is a lot of stuff. This trip is going to be expensive." Cue proud mama who was happy she recognized monetary value (we've been working on that one). I explained to her that yes, it is expensive but when you consider how much it would be to buy each of these people a present and/or how much it would be to purchased these baked goods at the store it made a little more sense to her. It was a learning moment, one where I feel I taught her that the value of the cookies wasn't just in the ingredients but in the thought, the love, and the time that we were taking to bring someone joy.


We always talk about money, but we should also talk about value. Sometimes it's not the most expensive/inexpensive thing; it's what you actually get for your money. Sometimes value isn't about money at all. It's about the investment — and the investment can come in many forms. I learned that from my Grandma.


Merry Christmas!