Friday, February 19, 2016

How I Ruined My Daughter's Birthday

I actually started ruining my daughter's birthday about a week before the big day itself. What can I say? I'm a planner.

But before I share all of the gory details, let me back up a little.

Actually, this whole story is me backing up a little, since it's been a full week since her birthday, and I'm just getting around to chronicling it's many failures. Anyway.

February 2004
This is Rachael. Sweet and smiley from the very beginning, the precious bundle of awesome that first made me a mom. She was a horrible sleeper, early talker, late walker, and had a larger vocabulary at age three than most adults that I know.

She has since overcome most of these things. At age twelve, she is now a terrific sleeper, walks just fine on her own, and her vocabulary is largely limited to facts about Fall Out Boy and Doctor Who. But she's still smiley, and I still love her so.

Which is why I felt so awful when I not only ruined her birthday, but just continued to ruin it through the day. Ready for the story? Okay, here goes...

Listening to the box...

First of all, I ordered a gift that arrived five days prior to her birthday. Planner, remember? And of course, when UPS delivered the large-ish box and she immediately asked, "WHAT'S IN THE BOX?!" (because she is also nosy), I told her that it was her birthday present. And that she wasn't allowed to hold the box, or shake it, or even smell it. So she listened to it instead.

Because, you know. Maybe it was going to meow at her or something.

I didn't make that up, by the way - that's what she actually suggested. So her little sister ran with it and told her that, yes, we actually got her two kittens for her birthday, and if she couldn't hear them meowing inside the box, then they must be dead.

She knew better. I promise, she did. But it still opened up an incredible opportunity for us to tease her about her box of dead kittens for five days leading up to her birthday, because that's the kind of family we are. So that's the first way that I ruined Rachael's birthday.

The next opportunity presented itself on the day before her birthday, when I decided to bake her cake ahead of time. I had a busy evening ahead of me, so I thought I'd bake the cake, let it cool, and frost it in the morning. No problem...baked the cake, headed off to rehearsal, even hit the gym afterward. I knew I'd be late getting home, so I texted the hubby and asked him to please take the cakes out of the pans.

When I rolled in around midnight, he woke up just long enough to tell me that he wasn't able to get the cakes out of the pans. Like, he tried, and just couldn't.

And immediately, I knew that my plan had gone horribly wrong.

You see, Rachael had requested the most chocolate-y cake EVER, and had picked out double fudge cake mix and some kind of fudge-y icing, but I had decided to go her one better and make it even more super amazingly awesomely chocolatey. So I dumped a whole bag of chocolate chips into the cake batter before baking. Yep. 

I mean, chocolate chips melt when they're baked, right? So wouldn't the cake be better with little bits of melty chocolatey yum baked inside?

Well, let me tell you what really happens, lest you ever be tempted to try this yourself. THEY DON'T MELT, not really. They get soft and lump up a little, but mostly what they do is make your cake dense. Think very large, very wet sponge. That crumbles when you look at it, much less touch it. It wasn't coming out of the pans without a fight.

But fight it I did, because birthday cake and midnight and too late to go back to the store for more cake mix. So I wedged the first layer out of the pan and plopped it onto the cake plate, only about half of it stayed in the pan because I am so smart. So I did what any good mother would do - I scooped out what stayed behind and plunked it back into the hole in that layer of cake.

It was at this point that I realized that there was no way - none - that I would be able to frost this monstrosity. So I manhandled the second layer on top of the first, with no icing in between, because at this point, insert-bad-word-of-your-choice-here. Then I dumped the whole can of icing on top and smeared it around.

No, I did not even attempt to put any icing on the sides, as touching them created a crumbly chocolate avalanche. So there you have it. A lump of dense, damp, but VERY chocolate-y cake-like creation, smeared with chocolate icing in exactly 1/3 of the places where icing should be present. And then I went to bed.

Early the following morning, Rachael woke me up, anxious to open her dead kittens birthday present - which I had, by the way, eventually wrapped. She was very excited to be the proud new owner of a ukelele - which she had talked about wanting to learn to play, but never actually asked for, because she probably figured I'd say no. (I will say that's one thing I'm actually pretty good at it - catching little gift ideas out of their conversations and surprising them later. Yay, me!)

And then it was time for our birthday morning tradition: birthday pancakes. These aren't just any pancakes, though - these are made with cake batter in the mix, accented with lots of sprinkles, and topped off with a sweet glaze instead of syrup. It's basically birthday cake for breakfast, but it's only a couple of times a year, and it's their birthday. So I pulled up the recipe from Chocolate, Chocolate and More and got started. Mixed up the batter, dumped in half a jar of sprinkles, things were going great!

Birthday pancake batter, with lots of sprinkles!

While the pancakes were cooking away on the griddle, I started gathering ingredients to make the glaze. Milk, vanilla, yep...hey, my kitchen cabinet was looking especially good! The hubby had just gone on a little cleaning spree and de-junked it for me, organized everything, the vanilla practically jumped right into my hand!

But, something was missing.

I had two or three half-bags of powdered sugar in there, undoubtedly left over from Christmas baking. But I didn't see them anywhere. Where could have put them?!
Turns out, he had put them in the trash. Because...I don't know, in Man World a half bag of powdered sugar equals trash?! He didn't have a good explanation for it, either. But in the meantime, I had a glaze to make, and no powdered sugar. I did a quick Google search - what in the world can I substitute for powdered sugar?! Turns out, there IS no good substitute for powdered sugar. I found a few sites that gave lengthy, scary descriptions about how you can double-boiler granulated sugar to make it work approximately the same way, but well...ya'll know how crafty I am in the kitchen. And fortunately, my children also know this, and assured me that syrup on the birthday pancakes would be just fine.

And it was, I guess. Only it really wasn't. Because they were supposed to have glaze. Plus, mom guilt.

Now, there wasn't much to do on her actual birthday, it being a Wednesday in the middle of nowhere and all. I asked her if she wanted to go somewhere, and she did. She wanted to go to Dollar Tree. To look for a headband for Valentine's Day. I tell you what, my girl knows how to party.

Determined not to mess up lunch as spectacularly as I had messed up breakfast, I took the girls to Chik-Fil-A.

And much to my amazement, nothing went wrong while we were there.

I guess the rest of her day was okay, just not exciting like I think a birthday ought to be. Which leads me to my next confession of mom guilt: I did not throw my child a party this year. It's the first birthday ever that she hasn't had an elaborately themed party with quirky decorations, games, favors, and a cake that had taken me hours to decorate and also wasn't falling apart on the sides.

There is a reason for this, though: she had decided several months earlier that she needed tickets to see Fall Out Boy in concert - even though the concert isn't until March - and that it could be her birthday gift and she didn't need a party and we could probably even not feed her any more until March, she just desperately needed those tickets. So, the tickets are a thing. It's exactly eleven days now until the concert, and I know this because she's been updating me every single morning since the countdown was over 100. So her real gift is coming. The ukelele was a bonus. But still no party. And I still feel bad about it.

But, we made it through the day, and she said she was happy to mostly stay at home since, for homeschoolers, birthdays are 100% a school holiday. 

Rachael got a ukelele, but the cat got the box.

Once the hubby got home, we had dinner (why is it that food is always the highlight of my day?) and I busted out the cake wreck. 

Less bad.

Once I added the candles a little decoration on top, it did look a little less bad. If you looked at from directly on top and not from the side at all, not even a little bit.

And Rachael was happy with it, because chocolate, and cake. Even though once we tasted it, it had an oddly coffee taste to it. And in the spirit of full confession, we each had a slice that night, and the rest eventually found its way into the trash. But there was ice cream too, so the night wasn't a total loss.

But, you know, I was feeling pretty rotten by this time. No party, token gift on her actual birthday, messed up the pancakes, just plain ruined the cake. What a stinker of a 12th birthday.

So I went to her room before bed, gave her hugs and kisses and told her how much I loved her and how proud I am of her, and apologized for the rotten birthday.

And my girl. She said, "are you kidding?! This has been one of the best birthdays ever."

I think I'll keep her.

And I'll make sure that her next birthday is even better.

* * * * *

This post is linked up at Diana Rambles and Kitchen Fun with My Three Sons. Stop by and find lots of awesome blog links at each site!


  1. Kristin, this is hysterical and touching and fabulous...and so encouraging. Because I, wacko mom, have ruined more birthdays and Christmases and Labor Days and average Thursdays than I can count. You are a gem, and your birthday girl sounds like a chip off the mom block. P.S. Nothing can really be ruined if there is edible chocolate cake involved.