Happy Birthday to Me

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March 23rd was my birthday. As an adult and a parent, it’s not like I expect a lot of streamers, balloons, presents, or even free time to use the bathroom uninterrupted. I’m just mentioning it to explain why there is a picture of dessert at the top of this post.

Birthdays=cake. Right?

Right.

My side job involves monkey-typewriter skills to produce content for those annoying webpages you go to when you search for party ideas and find you’ve landed on a collection of pictures stolen from actual artistes but leechingly getting the ad revenue for them. I’d say it pays the bills, but it’s more like funding peanut butter on a tortilla for all three meals at college.

What? Oh, yes: CAKE.

I found this Chocolate Easter Egg Nest Cake while researching ideas for Easter Desserts for Some Purpose That Will Rank High in Search Engines. It looked fancy. It looked tasty. Above all, the directions looked doable.

Maybe I just wanted to make that edible nest thing.

Point is, I bought (most of) the ingredients. I harvested that instant coffee. I mixed the flour and cocoa and yoghurt into chocolate cake. And, who helped me? Not those lazy children. Not that husband-who-works-a-steady-job-so-I-can-afford-something-called-“yoghurt”-as-opposed-to-“yogurt.”

Actually, my oldest son did help me. We (mostly) followed the recipe, substituting for the fact that NO STORES around our little suburb had Woolworth’s Gold Greek Yoghurt nor Woolworths Gold Hand Finished Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringue.

I’m no professional baker, but I’ve made my share of cakes. From scratch. And, not just “scratching” open a cake mix box. Although we followed the directions, the cake turned out like a round brick. The Sahara Desert has a moister surface than it did.

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Still, I whipped my own meringue, filled the darn thing, drizzled hodgepodge ganache over the top, and perched that cute, actually-inedible nest up top. Jellybean birds flew through the window and laid their little clutch inside it and the birthday cake was ready to serve.

I suppose I hoped the filling and topping might soften up the cake slabs. I optimistically hoped the cheap brand of instant coffee we found at Whale-Mart would not make it taste like overpowered, cheap instant coffee. I also get a bit pigheaded when I start a project (I like to call it “tenacity”).

I even forged ahead when we had to pickax a few holes in the top in order to place some candles.

But the chocolate rock stayed solid, its meringue/cream/sugar innards gooshed out when we attempted excavation, and the darling chocolate and vermicelli nest chewed and digested much like actual twigs.

We all tried some. You know, after singing about birthdays and happiness.

“I like the jellybeans,” my second-oldest said. “Can I have more?”

“Cake?” I asked.

“Jellybeans,” he and two brothers answered.

“Sure,” I sighed.

Determinedly, I sliced myself another piece. I dolloped the escaped filling atop the bits of pumice I removed. “Welp,” I told my husband, swallowing broken brick and teeth, “Maybe next time I’ll not bake it as long.”

The sweet man adopted his encouraging face. “I’m proud of you for trying it.”

“Can we have more jellybeans?” Asked the dog, the cat, and the rat.

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Easter Hunt

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The scratched wood floor finally looked clear, though that status didn’t extend to its edges. A bit of green poked from a nook. Pink showed from an under-couch cranny. A wrapper crinkled from directly beneath her slipper.

Ann sighed, and stooped to free the purple foil from her sole. It stuck a bit stubbornly, finally releasing itself with a parting gift of caramel. At this moment, she felt a small tug at her left pant leg. She looked down at a three-year-old-grin looking up.

“Can I eat this?” A chocolate-mouthed creature asked. It proffered an unwrapped egg in its brown-tipped fingers.

Ann thought it might be her youngest child, and addressed it accordingly. “Sure, Jane,” she tiredly answered. Jane, as she proved to be, smiled the beatific smile of the sugar saturated young, shoved the chocolate into her mouth, and ran off. Ann cringed, hoping Jane would not feel inclined to touch or kiss anything. Realization hit; pants examined. She sighed, telling herself the brown barely showed against the natural, washed-out black of the yoga pants. If anything, it matched a few other spots.

She kneeled to extract the pink object under the couch. It made a light rattling sound. Sitting widened thighs against middle-aged cankles, she carefully opened the plastic egg. Broken bits of candy shell rained a light powder upon her lap. Two half-clad Hershey’s eggs rolled inside the plastic halves within her grip.

“Those are mine!” Will said, suddenly at her side. Ann hadn’t heard him approach; had, in fact, been calling the boy for the last half hour to come clean up his mess or she was going to throw it away. As always, she was amazed at how quickly the children could move when given their definition of “proper motivation.”

Will stuck out a hand to accept the shells’ inner contents. His mother obliged. He closed his fist; she winced. Leaving her with a parting scowl of entitlement, he ran off after his sister. Into thin air, she couldn’t help thinking. Distractedly, she looked down. She brushed at the dust, which removed the larger bits.

Thinking she ought to take advantage of her current position, Ann ducked to search the remainder of The Land Beneath the Furniture. She carefully ran a hand along the floor, internally recoiling at the questionable feel to unseen objects her fingers brushed against. Bravely, she pulled a few into light. Two broken Hot Wheels cars, hair elastics, Lego bricks, stale bread crust, a doll head, and half a plastic Easter egg tumbled out with an escort of crumbs and dust. She looked at the mess, extracted the half shell, and pushed the rest back out of sight. They’d know where to find Barbie’s head if they thought to ask for it.

Ann kneel-crawled over to the green egg in the corner of the room. She picked it up; opened it over the hardwood. Some loose change was exposed. It looked to total 57 cents. She considered keeping it -payment for a morning’s maid-work. She knew, however, that this was the very 57 cents her eldest had collared Will over just an hour prior.

“Mary!” Ann called, from her sit-squat on the floor.

“Whaa-aaat?” a pre-teen answered. The response seemed to come from Ann’s bathroom, upstairs.

Two reasons now presented themselves for bringing her daughter hither: the money, and removal from whatever of Ann’s makeup Mary was surely testing upon her face. “I found your money!” Ann shouted.

A pause, then, “Okay!” Overheard; a drawer closed, an item dropped and was scraped against the floor as it was retrieved, a drawer opened and closed again, and footsteps exited across hard tiles. Soon, Ann’s keen ears heard Mary’s soft footsteps majestically skipping down the stairs.

A deeper-lipped twelve-year-old than Ann was accustomed to seeing sauntered casually into the room. Mary also seemed to have tried some blue eyeshadow and pink blush. The results were somewhat frightening, but Ann pretended as much ignorance as her daughter. She held the egg and its change out, waiting for Mary’s deliberately slow walk to bring her close enough to accept the offering.

Mary finally reached her mother, took the egg, and studied her face for reaction. Little sleep and years of practice with Will’s antics had trained Ann well. She simply nodded, then intentionally exaggerated her attempts to rise from the floor in order to give Mary time to exit.

Sure enough, Ann got to her feet just as Mary was walking out the arched doorway of the family room. Ann sighed, but proudly noted the progress she’d made with the room. It had taken the better part of two hours, but the dusty floor was finally clear of all the leftovers of the morning’s hunt and after-party.

She walked over to the garbage and threw away the wrapper, half shell, and some more pants dust. “Mo-o-o-o-o-o-om!” Jane sang loudly, entering the room as she did.

“Yes, Jane?” Ann asked.

“I just lo-o-ove Easter egg hunts!” Jane sighed, grabbing both her mother’s legs and swinging a bit. She paused, and looked thoughtful. “Do you, Mommy?”

Ann looked down at her still-filthy angel. She could still feel the bits of under-couch detritus on her fingertips, the sensation of a coin-filled egg upon her palm, and could see her oldest’s smeary-lipped expression of nonchalance. Ann glanced at the pile of discarded plastic egg shells she’d gathered in the hours of cleaning. Finally, she looked back to her innocent child’s face.

“Of course I do,” she answered, smiling in return.