I suppose I should have learned my lesson after the yo-yo incident when I was a kid.

After watching countless commercials during the holiday season showing kids doing all sorts of tricks with yo-yos, I put a yo-yo on my Santa list and a bug in my parents' ear.

What happened on Christmas morning was an example of "be careful of what you wish for." Santa had left me a yo-yo - and he probably should have left an elf who knew CPR.

I tried to do the walk-the-dog trick and the next thing I knew, the yo-yo string was twirling around my neck. Luckily, my brother had asked Santa for a Swiss Army knife and was able to cut me free.

Unfortunately, I made the same mistake the next year when commercials they showed on "Popeye Theater" brainwashed me into asking Santa for a pogo stick.

However, there was a positive side to this when I tried out my newly unwrapped pogo stick early on Dec. 25. I couldn't do that any better than I worked the yo-yo.

At least my folks were able to make the living room brighter when they put in a window to fill in the hole in the wall that I created on my maiden voyage on the pogo stick.

It wasn't until quite a few decades later that I realized that my mom was a lot like those commercials when it came to another holiday tradition. She made baking cookies seem much easier than it really is.

This was not noticeable when I was just eating the cookies. It became much clearer when I had to help with the baking.

I realized that Mother didn't have some of Santa's elves moonlighting as cookie bakers, but it didn't dawn on me how much time and effort went into those cookies.

She would keep baking until she filled up with cookies several of the large tins you used to get when you bought 5 pounds worth of potato chips.

After lining each of those cans with waxed paper, she would cram them with tollhouse, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies. She concentrated on producing quantity and not variety.

With my two brothers, sister and me to take care of, she stuck with the perennial favorites. Scientists may eventually discover the origin of the universe, but they will never be able to explain where she found the time to do all that baking.

After all, she was still cranking out meals to satisfy our virtually insatiable appetites.

Cookie central was a metal shelf that pulled out of an old-fashioned cupboard. Covered with tea towels, this is where cookies went to cool before being placed in their respective containers.

Of course, quite a few of those tollhouse, peanut butter and oatmeal raisin cookies never made it into the cans. We kids usually attacked the tollhouse cookies exactly one degree below the boiling point of bittersweet chocolate chips when they came out of the oven.

In retrospect, Mom must have had to bake a couple extra batches of each of those cookies so there would be enough to make it into the cans. That way there would be something to offer holiday visitors.

I got my first real inkling of the time and effort my mother put into Christmas cookie baking a few years ago when she wasn't feeling well. My wife, Jo Ann, and I volunteered to bake the tollhouse cookies under Mom's supervision.

Jo Ann usually bakes pizzelles, tassy and anise cookies, so she had some idea of what she was getting into. For me, the experience was another yo-yo around the neck and pogo stick through the wall.

Just assembling the ingredients was a challenge. Inevitably, I forgot at least one key ingredient and had to make a quick trip to the supermarket.

Combining these components was not too bad. I favored using the little-bit-of-this and a little-bit-of-that method, but Jo Ann was no fun. She actually insisted on following the recipes.

It's after the ingredients are combined that the tollhouse baking gets harder. The batter is the consistency of partially hardened cement, so the electric mixer is not an option.

Since we don't keep an outboard motor in our kitchen for such mixing, there was only one option. Using a reinforced wooden spoon, I had to stir the batter.

Luckily for us, the spoon did not break off in the batter. The process got a bit easier after that, at least for me. Jo Ann spooned the proper amount of batter on cookie sheets for delivery to the awaiting oven.

However, even this step was not easy. It required a continuous shifting of cookies from the bottom to top rack, the scraping off of cooked cookies and the reapplication of the batter.

Poor Jo Ann wound up looking like the fireman on a steam locomotive shoveling cookies in and out of the oven.

However, we were eventually left with enough cookies to last a few weeks. That is why I don't mind helping with the Christmas cookie baking.

I look at it this way. A yo-yo is a no-no, a pogo is a no-go, but a filled cookie can is a perfect holiday plan.

(Walt Kozlowski, a freelance writer from Mount Carmel, composes Walt's Way for each Sunday edition.)