There’s a charming little ditty that Alice sings when she gets lost in Wonderland:
“I give myself very good advice. But I very seldom follow it. That explains the trouble that I’m always in . . .”
This is a girl after my own heart.
Her insightful self-evaluation rang true for me, most recently, the other day as I was preparing for my son’s first birthday.
Now I have been to some ca-raaazy first birthdays. Multiple cakes. A life size pirate ship crafted out of cardboard. Bouncy castles. Bubble machines. Meanwhile, the boy or girl of the hour is mindlessly playing with a wooden spoon in the corner. Or just screaming.
I was determined to resist the take-out-a-second-mortgate-for-a-party-junior-will-never-ever-recall pressure and have a low key, love filled birthday for my little love.
But there was one thing I was not willing to release.
I felt obligated to bake the cake. I kept thinking back to a photo taken on my birthday as a little girl. I’m wearing a pink dress and leaning over to blow out the candles resting atop an adorable ladybug cake, as my blunt poker straight hair swings precariously over the flames. Who filled that cake with equal parts love and chocolately goodness, you may ask? My mother, who is a birthday guru of sorts.
My week was absolutely nutters so I decided to go with Betty Crocker white cake mix and only whip up the icing from scratch. I patted myself on the back for releasing so much. “What a relaxed mom I am!” I thought. “Not the least bit high strung. I should give mom classes or something.”
Yeah. Or something.
Despite my shortcut with the mix I still spent the better part of my evening whisking up cupcakes, a cake, and two varieties of shocking blue icing that consisted of butter, sugar, and . . . well that’s pretty much it. Upon completion, I surveyed my handiwork, and gave myself a mental high five. Eshet chayil! Woman of valor!
I covered the cake with foil and left it on the stove, ready to be slathered in icing the following day.
Fast forward: Saturday morning 7 am
I sleepily hauled my thirty pound birthday boy down the carpeted steps. After plunking him in his play area, and his bottle in the pot on the stove, I plunked myself on our beige suede couch, my eyes half open.
Suddenly Asher started squeaking. I peered over the island to see which drawer of breakables he had ambled his way into. But he was standing in front the stove, his pudgy arm outstretched: “Da! Da!” he chanted. ‘Da’, apparently, is code for: “Mom! There’s a massive cloud of grey smoke rapidly spiraling up towards the ceiling!” I bolted over to the milk, which was exactly how I left it: sitting idly in a pot of lukewarm water. The cake, however, was a different story.
I had turned on the wrong element.
The cake pan was completely burnt through, Betty Crocker’s easy as 1-2-3 cake with it.
High strung mom was back with a vengeance.
I completely lost it.
See, I had to be at a CPR class in a hour, after which we were heading directly to the party. All i had cared about was baking this stupid cake. The only requirement I had given myself to earn my awesome mom badge was this stupid cake. And I had failed. Epically.
My husband heard me trying my hardest not to scream obscenities and padded his way into the kitchen at that blessed moment.
I was crumpled in a heap on the ground, lost in an extremely attractive combination of self-loathing and self-pity.
He took in the scalded pan, the smoky haze, the aforementioned crumpled wife and said,
“Isn’t this the kind of stuff you’re always writing about? Aren’t you always talking about not getting worked up about the things you can’t control? About accepting yourself and the mess ups that are just part of life?”
I wish I could say I appreciated such sage wisdom in the moment. But i did not. I was too busy furiously mixing up a new cake.
*Cue Alice in Wonderland charming little ditty*
Suffice it to say, I’m not exactly proud of how I handled the whole catastrophe. In the end, Ash bulldozed the cake, and that was the end of it. I probably could have iced up some leftover shepherd’s pie and no one would have been the wiser.
I still have the burnt cake pan. I’m actually not sure if I’ll throw it out.
Perhaps I’ll rock it as a bold new accessory.
I will call it the awesome mom badge.