Here's how to host one in five easy steps:
- Send invitations. When your kid goes off to college, so does a sizable chunk of your social life. So shoot out a quick Evite or e-mail to your friends - the parents you hung out with at scouts, music or sports events for all those years. Name a day - a Sunday or Monday evening works beautifully, because it gets the finished care packages to the post office early enough in the week. Tell your guests to bring three dozen cookies to exchange.
- Gather supplies. Round up small, cardboard mailing boxes, such as the flat rate priority mail boxes you can order for free from the U.S. Postal Service. Get a box or two of ziplock-style bags or stacks of disposable plastic containers for packaging cookies; tissue paper, bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts to keep the contents from shifting; and several rolls of packing tape and scissors. Seasonal embellishments, such as Halloween or Valentine stickers, for the outside of the boxes are fun too.
- Gather grown-up snacks: The cookies are for the kids. Provide wine and cheese, or coffee and cake for the grown-ups to nosh on while they catch up on where everyone is and what they're doing.
- Enjoy your party! As guests arrive, have them set their cookie platters out on a large table, near the mailing supplies. After everyone has had a chance to eat and chat for an hour or so, explain the exchange - each person gathers an assortment of three dozen cookies by taking a few cookies from each platter. With 12 guests, each person takes three of each type of cookie. Fewer guests take more per platter. More guests take fewer. Just tell your guests to keep a running tally in their heads!
- And finally... Snap a photo of all the moms and print copies on the spot, or make cards wishing the college kids a splendid semester and have everyone sign them - TJ's mom, Matt's mom, and so on. Nestle the cookies in the boxes, using tissue paper, bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts for padding, then tuck the notes inside and seal the boxes. Tomorrow, everyone will go to the post office and mail their own. And in four days or so, happy text messages will start popping up on parental cell phones.