When I was little, my mom always made me a homemade birthday cake. I never had a store bought cake and therefore decided in my own mind that they were somehow inferior. Now, that I have my own kids, it has always been an unspoken rule that I would make all of their birthday cakes. I take great pride in planning, baking, decorating and serving my homemade cakes (sometimes I cheat and use mixes, but I always decorate them myself). They never look professional and they always have little finger marks in them, but they are my creations and they always reflect the theme of the party. Although I am sure the kids remember the jumpy houses and the ponies and dancing the limbo, the cakes have become some of the fondest memories of my kids’ birthdays for me.
I clearly remember sobbing at 10 pm the night before my son’s 2nd birthday because I could not get his train cake out of the pan. I baked that one 3 times before I actually got one that didn’t break. I remember the first time I worked with fondant, the tons of decorated cupcakes that outnumbered the guests at my littlest daughter’s 2nd birthday and the replica of Wrigley Field that required my husband’s help (what is an outfield?). I remember the bird cookies that had to accompany the bird cake and decorating them to look realistic because my 7 year old would know the difference. I remember begging my husband to help me squish pink and white gumdrops together to mold small shrimp for the top of my daughter’s “Sushi” cake.
So, tonight I am staying up late trying to figure out what kind of cake to make for my soon to be 5 year old. She is having a gymnastics party and I have lots of ideas, but very little time. Maybe this year will be the year I finally buy a store bought cake. Yeah, probabably not.
I taught my 6 year old son to knit today. He is home on Winter Break from school and was bouncing off the walls. I was trying to tune out the kids fighting, running, yelling, and generally being kids so I plopped on the couch with a new knitting project and tried to focus. Within minutes, “my overly active, never sit still, can make any furniture a trampoline” son sat down next to me and asked me to teach him. I was reluctant at first. There was no way he could do this without getting frustrated and waving my knitting needles wildly. This was going to end in another trip to the Emergency Department. Besides, I was not going to let him practice on my very expensive fancy yarn that we got on our “date weekend” to New Orleans a few months ago (http://www.pagewoodfarm.com/flora-fina.htm). But, he insisted. So, I had to find him a set of needles (they were in the computer desk, of course) and some spare yarn (skeins of yarn for hundreds of unfinished or more likely never started projects are stashed in every drawer and every closet around here). I did not think he would have the patience to wait for me to gather what we needed and cast on enough stitches to start a scarf and then wait for me to be able to show him what to do.
I was WRONG. He not only waited patiently, he watched over my shoulder as I carefully cast on 20 stitches and then knitted the first 2 rows. When I tried to sit behind him and take the needles in both of our hands, but he said “I got it, Mom. I watched you”. (Really? It took me weeks to get the hang of knitting.) I knew he was capable of focusing on something he is excited about (usually a new toy or a superhero movie that I have finally agreed to let him watch). I also knew he was good at spatial relations (like his father, the architect) and figuring out complicated diagrams (like Legos). What I did not expect was that he would make mistakes (only a few) and ask for help without getting frustrated and that he would stick with it most of the day. He even asked to take it to the library and sat with me knitting while the girls picked out books.
An added benefit was that as he was knitting, he was talking to me. He rarely talks to me. I mean he asks for food, and snuggles occasionally and refuses to go to bed and tattles on his sisters and says he loves me (usually when he wants something). But, he doesn’t talk to me about anything important very often and if I try to initiate a conversation he gets embarrassed or too silly to talk. The knitting changed all of that in a way that even the focus of building Legos cannot. Today, I heard all about the kids at school, his teacher and her dog. I heard about his favorite songs from music class. I heard about his fears that his friends might tease him for learning to knit because “they do not know how fun it is and they might think it is only for girls ” (not sure how this could be my kid). I heard about his future dreams “he wants to live at home forever” (ugh!). I also heard about how he thinks about people who are homeless a lot and wants to donate his warm scarf once it is finished.
The other thing I heard that I have not heard in a while is a calm, silent, focused, happy boy.
I have spent the weekend frantically getting ready for a craft show that I theoretically have had 50 weeks to prepare for and complete my sewing. I make and sell reuseable, washable, food safe snack bags. It is somewhat of an addiction. I am happy to do away with plastic bags in our home and who doesn’t love strolling through a fabric store picking out adorable prints that you know your kids will love. Unfortunately, my kids love the new prints a bit too much. The minute I pulled out the sewing machine from it’s seasonal hibernation, the kids appeared with a list of projects. One wanted a ninja mask and a pillow, one wanted a baby sling (sorry, no time), one wanted a belt. There go some of my profits and my fabulous new superhero print.