‘C’ is for cupcakes or cake pops or cake or CRAZY CHAOS
I remember the moment my daughter was born. It was exhilarating and a huge relief to finally see her and hold her after many months of praying for her conception and, of course, the months I spent carrying her. Those first hours, days and weeks were difficult, yet overwhelmingly tender. When I think back, I have to put my hand on my heart and just recall those memories as fondly as they deserve to be remembered.
Why is it, then, that the anniversary of my daughter’s birth nearly consumed me with guilt, inadequacy and a little bit of lunacy?
We celebrated Cecilia’s second birthday Saturday with a party at my parents’ house. I always intend for my children’s birthday parties to be small, but when combining my family, my husband’s family and a couple close friends who are like family, it turns out to be about 35 people. Not exactly the intimate gathering I dream about in my head.
Before I tell you about the actual party, though, I need to go back. Let’s start with invitations. C.C. discovered “Sesame Street” characters a few months ago even though she’d never even seen the TV show. She likes Elmo, Cookie Monster, Abby, Oscar, Telly and all the others. So of course we would have a “Sesame Street”-themed party.
About a month before Cecilia’s birthday, I went to the party store, naively thinking I’d buy three packs of overpriced Elmo or Abby invitations, fill them in with my fancy scrapbooking pens and snail mail them with overpriced stamps. Because all of the adults in our families needed to have Elmo invitations, of course.
Browsing the aisles at the party store, I found Elmo and Abby thank you notes, but the spots for the invitations were empty. Apparently, Elmo and Abby invitations were in high demand. I went to find an employee at the balloon counter.
“Do you have any more Elmo or Abby invitations? Or could I order some?” I asked.
“Let me check.”
I followed the nice lady back to the land of little girl and boy birthday supplies. She discovered what I already knew: thank you notes, yes; invitations, no.
“How many packs do you need?”
“Three,” I replied.
“Do you want me to call another store and ask if they have some they can send here?”
“Um, OK. That’d be fine.”
Back to the balloon counter we went. I stood opposite the employee while she was on the phone, nervously awaiting the answer to the very important question of “DO YOU HAVE ANY ELMO OR ABBY INVITATIONS?”
The person on the other end of the phone line was doing the talking. Then the balloon lady said to the phone, “I’m not sure. Let me ask.” Turning her head toward me, she inquired, “How old is your child?”
I hesitated, then eventually responded, “She’ll be two.” The lady went on talking into the phone receiver, responding with, “No, first birthday invitations won’t work,” leaving me to ponder my ridiculousness. Cecilia would never know whether her invitations had Elmo, Abby or, heaven forbid, Iron Man on them. And most of the invitations were being mailed to adult family members. FOR WHOM WAS I GOING TO ALL THIS TROUBLE?
The store employee broke my inner monologue. “They have two packs of Elmo invitations. Would you like them?”
“Oh. Yes, please.” So I gave her my phone number, and she called me two days later. I picked up the exorbitantly priced, crazily coveted, yet adorable, multi-colored Elmo invitations. That evening, I chose five pen colors – red, green, blue, purple and orange – with which to fill in the lines. I addressed the yellow envelopes and adhered the included Elmo sticker on the back.
I’m sure the few children and mostly grown-ups were so happy to get the invitations in the mail. The people who received them, that is. Two packs of invitations left me several short of the number I actually needed. A few, poor left out souls got measly Facebook messages as their invitations. No Elmo. No colored pen. No sticker. They’re probably still fuming.
Next on the birthday party planning agenda: cupcakes, cake pops, cake or some combination? Much like the invitation situation, when I get an idea about how I want something to look, I have a difficult time “settling” for anything else. Cecilia got a toy “Sesame Street” building, house thingy for Christmas. It opens up and has two floors and a roof. In my head, I pictured perfectly executed Elmo and Cookie Monster cupcakes sitting on each floor and on the roof of the toy house.
So I started calling bakeries, asking 1) if they could make the perfectly executed Elmo and Cookie Monster cupcakes I was envisioning and 2) how much they would charge. Most of them gave an enthusiastic “YES!” to the first question. The answer to the second question left me thinking that “C” might have to be for “cake” and not “cupcake.” Three dollars per cupcake when we were talking at least three dozen to feed all those grown-ups was not only completely unreasonable but just crazy. WHY would I spend $108 on cupcakes? FOR WHOM WOULD I BE GOING TO ALL THAT TROUBLE?
It looked as though my dream of furnishing the “Sesame Street” house with cupcakes would go unfulfilled. So I decided to investigate Elmo and Cookie Monster cake pops as well as a plain ol’ cake.
I figured two dozen cake pops – 12 Elmo and 12 Cookie Monster – would be plenty. They were reasonably priced, so I ordered them with little trouble and arranged for them to be delivered to my mom. AND I had found a cute little “Sesame Street” bucket at the party store. It was only TWO DOLLARS, and I knew I could display the cake pops in it. At least the cake pops would be easy. Well, easy for me. I’m pretty sure all the people on Earth who make cake pops have a special, artsy, crafty, Pinterest-inspired area waiting for them in heaven.
Though opposite my coupon shopping nature, I decided to skip price checking for the cake. One day after I picked up Elliot from school, we stopped by our local, go-to bakery, where I begged, “Can you please make a reasonably priced Elmo or Cookie Monster birthday cake? I’m the one who called seven times and interrogated you about Elmo or Cookie Monster cupcakes, but I changed my mind, and I think a cake is going to be more reasonable.”
“Yes, I can do either. The Elmo is holding an ice cream cone, and he has on a birthday hat. And the Cookie Monster is holding a birthday cake.”
“Oh, you have special pans?”
The baker lady held up her pointer finger and then walked away. I thought she was going to escort me out of her bakery because of my lacking cake knowledge, but then she disappeared into a closet, and I heard metal banging. One of her employees enlightened me, “She’s looking for cake pans. She should’ve sent me back there. I organized all of the pans.”
A minute or so later, the baker lady emerged with two pans, both fitting the offered descriptions. I studied them and stammered, “Ummmmm…” and “Hmmmmm…” I’m very articulate when I’m making life-altering decisions about birthday cakes.
“How much are they?”
Forty-five was not exactly a number for which I was hoping, but I like supporting local businesses, rather than huge chain stores. “Ummmm…OK.”
“And how many pieces of cake do you think we’ll get from these?” I asked.
“How many pieces do you need?” she countered.
More stammering. “Ummmm, 30 or so?”
“You might be able to get 30 if you cut them small.”
I turned to Elliot. “What do you think, Buddy?”
He chose promptly: “I like the Cookie Monster one.”
“Me, too. He is holding a birthday cake. We’ll take the Cookie Monster one!” I announced.
After all that, this is how the cake pops and Cookie Monster cake turned out.
While I did assemble the cake pops in the bucket, I had no direct part in creating the masterpieces. Therefore, I am permitted to brag. DON’T THEY LOOK FABULOUS?
After Easter/birthday dinner and an Easter egg hunt, the time came for cake festivities. I have to say, Cecilia did amazingly well through it all. She loved being the center of attention, with everyone singing to her. And, of course, she told me her favorite things about the party were the cake pops and the Cookie Monster cake.
I, on the other hand, am convinced that the do-you-want-chocolate-or-white-cake chaos – immediately followed by the does-anyone-know-where-the-cake-plates-are and can-someone-hand-me-the-plastic-forks pleas – are designed to send introverted birthday party planners like me into hibernation. After I sloppily executed the here’s-some-melty-ice-cream-that-I-had-to-touch-to-get-it-off-the-scoop routine, I cut myself a slice of Cookie Monster’s googly eyes and sat down at the dining room table. I let out a sigh and complained to those around me, “There has got to be an easier way to do that.”
My husband ignored my cry for introverted pity and bluntly stated, “Don’t forget, she still has to open gifts.”
I didn’t intend for this post to be a two parter, but I have so many thoughts about birthday party gift opening that I am going to save them for another blog.