Today Everett turned six. When he went to bed last night he said “This is your last chance for some 5 year-old sugar!”. And during the day today he jumped on Chris and said “There’s your first six-year old pounce!”

His birthday celebration started yesterday (Friday) at school. Chris and Melissa stopped by his school around 10:15 in the morning to observe the school tradition: everyone sits in a circle while the birthday child holds a globe and walks around a sun in the center, one lap for each year. The children sing “The earth goes round the sun tra la la, the earth goes round the sun…”. Then the birthday boy walks around the circle and shows everyone one picture from each year of his life.
Finally they sing happy birthday. That is usually the end of it, but Everett also asked if he could put his brother and sister in the show-and-tell basket. Ms. Tierra nixed that idea, but she didn’t object when Everett asked us to get Teddy and Gwen out of their car seats. We did, and the babies were a huge hit!
They both scooted over to the table in the middle of the circle and started to play with the globe. The kids thought they were hilarious, and Everett was so proud to be their big brother. He is indeed a great big brother – he is very loving and playful toward them, and they often start giggling as soon as they see him. Melissa and I have often commented that Everett gets more responsibilities simply by virtue of how responsible he is. He cares for the babies a lot, and this could come in especially handy over the next 6 days when Chris is out of town and Mom is flying solo. More on this later.

On Saturday Everett got up around his normal time. Chris was at work in the morning, finishing up some things before his trip. Around midday we were frantically getting ready for Everett’s party and for a house showing. Molly came at 1pm and took the babies during the house showing until 3pm. Then we went to Wild Card Gymnastics to get setup. We were thankful that Everett still felt up to having a gymnastics party because he hurt his knee at a birthday party about a week earlier – he was running and collided with a concrete pole. He has been limping and complaining about it ever since then, but it doesn’t really prevent him from doing anything so we haven’t looked into it further.

There were 20 kids at Everett’s birthday party including a special guest: Margaret brought Mary from Indiana just for the party! The first hour was gymnastics and the second hour we were in the party room.
The theme this year was Perry the Platypus and Frozen, two of Everett’s favorite shows/movies. We had two cakes: the Perry cake was a complete disaster (see below); the Frozen cake was, appropriately, an ice cream cake on top of which Chris and Everett built the North Mountain out of Rice Krispies and then built an ice castle out of rock candy.
It was beginning to melt when we got into the party room so we sang Happy Birthday right away and served cake and juice. Then we opened presents, and finally we played pin the tail on Perry. Success!

In the afternoon Mary came over to our house with her Mom (Margaret) and her younger sister Lucy. Everett and Mary made yard-stew in a bucket. We had pizza and salad from Balistreri’s, and around 6pm they got on the road home.

Cake Disaster
Let’s just come out and say it: the Perry cake was a disaster. We are submitting it to Cake Disasters and are expecting an award. Keeping with his background as an engineer, Chris feels it is important to perform a failure analysis when things don’t go as planned. The following account points out some critical flaws in the construction process, and some lessons for future years.

Background: Chris and Melissa have a lot going on. Just this week we attended a funeral for Chris’ grandfather, bought a house in Utah, had several showings for our house in Milwaukee and planned Everett’s birthday party. This is in addition to the huge amount of work that Chris has going on right now and the incredible effort that Melissa puts in to take care of the twins, who are becoming more mobile every day. These aren’t excuses, just an accurate portrayal of the circumstances right now.

Despite this level of activity Chris still wanted to make a Perry cake and a Frozen cake for Everett’s birthday. He started by trying to create a rock candy castle from a super-saturated sugar solution, which he setup a week before the party. By about Tuesday we realized this failed, probably because he mis-measured the ingredients. Ok, on to the next task. Chris kept fiddling with different designs until Wednesday, at which point Melissa used her Wife Intuition and suggested that he may not be able to bake two custom birthday cakes from scratch before Saturday. First she suggested that Chris use box cake, and then that we just buy a sheet cake for one or both of them. Chris was going to so no to both of these ideas, but then used his Husband Intuition (if there is such as thing) and decided to listen to his wife. He bought cake mix for the Perry cake and we ordered an ice cream cake from Baskin Robbins for the Frozen cake.

On Thursday night Chris baked the Perry cake using our giant cupcake form. At Everett’s request the bottom of the cake was vanilla and the top was chocolate. Problem 1: the cakes would not release from the pan, even though it’s made of Teflon and we used cooking spray. Chris managed to pry the bottom half out, but the top half was pretty badly damaged. He set things aside to cool until Friday. This is not the first time this has happened with this cake pan. Perhaps in the future we need to use butter+flour.

On Friday night things really started coming unglued, so to speak. The bottom half of the cupcake was Perry’s head, which Chris cut into a cylinder shape. Then he mixed up some Perry blue icing and made a beak out of Rice Krispies. The top of the cupcake was going to be Perry’s hat, but because it wouldn’t release from the cake pan it was more of a lumpy chocolate crumble, so Chris cut a circle out of galvanized steel to support it. Problem: fluffy box cakes are not dense enough to support steel and other structural elements. Chris tried to support it using wood skewers through the bottom of the cake, but these slid to one side and then the entire top slid off the bottom. At this point Melissa came in the room and lamented that the cake was a complete loss but congratulated Chris for his effort. However, Chris was not ready to quit. He re-iced the head and made marshmallow fondant for the hat, reasoning that it might contain all of the lumps. Problem: fondant is smooth, but it doesn’t hide underlying structural problems. The final product resembled a hat full of golf balls rather than a sharp-looking fedora. Chris decided to leave the hat off until the last moment before it was served. He used the remaining fondant to make the eyes. Chris and Melissa were delighted and agree that it was unmistakably Perry! Unfortunately we do not have a photo of the cake at this stage.

The next day we picked up the ice cream cake and built North Mountain on it, complete with the ice castle. When we arrived at the gymnastics center we put it in the freezer and Chris took it out about 40 minutes before it was time to serve. Problem: it was hot in there, and by the time we served the cake it was oozing liquid chocolate out the sides. In the future we should move it to the refrigerator before serving rather then room temperature. We also discovered that in the warm temperatures the eyes and icing had started sliding off Perry’s face. To make matters worse, the entire Perry cake tipped over during transport. What the hell – let’s serve it anyway! Here is the result:

Comments (2)

2 thoughts on “Six

  1. I admire both the ingenuity and persistence of engineering the cakes! (Next time try lining the cake pan with wax paper.)

    Did Everett appreciate the experimental nature and learning experience of the project? Not all kids (or adults) would, but of course this is not just any kid!

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