birthday girl, i’m sorry ::::
Peach started kindergarten this fall. And she just turned six this month.
On the first day of school, we walked over to the school as a family, Grub in tow and Sky-Girl asleep (as usual) in the stroller. New sparkly backpacks half the height of many kindergarteners dotted the campus, walking en masse, a children’s exodus. Cell phone cameras hovered between every parent and his/her kindergartener, a controlled chaos, each vying for the video frame of their child looking brightly into the camera. Or crying. That is, the kids and the parents were shedding tears.
I knew I would not be one of the sweetly crying mothers, hanky in hand, at the launching of my little girl into school. I pride myself in stoicism, keeping a steely face in the throes of others’ blubbery and weepy emotions, nary a gooey or tear-streaked face. I am a master of that reserved countenance.
Then I dropped her off on Day 2.
My remembrances of Peach in daycare since an infant perhaps steeled me at first. It was then, alone with Sky-Girl on the walk home, Eat and Grub long gone to work and preschool, that I felt myself tearing up, realizing that my first baby is growing up. She was cautious to ride her bicycle without training wheels for almost a year, hardly touching the bike. Now she can’t wait to get out and ride her Big Girl bike, proudly showing the neighbor kids that she doesn’t have to use training wheels anymore. She likes to listen to pop music and wiggle and laugh. She asks poignant questions about God’s existence: Does God die? He died for us? Why? After a play date with some friends with a divorced mother, she wondered how kids could have two daddies. She wants to be so independent at times, staggered with a deep insecurity in new situations. She loves to draw. She likes to write story books. She “reads” books to Grub, recounting colorful tales based on the illustrations. Peach can be selfish; she can be kind. She dotes on baby Sky-Girl and tells her she loves her multiple times a day.
And so we planned a birthday party to celebrate her sixth birthday, remnants of my weepiness pervading my start back to work from maternity leave and trying to plan the party. I really wanted this birthday to be a fun one for her, in this new part of her life in starting school, becoming more and more independent, growing up.
But there were problems.
The jumpy house didn’t happen. The strawberry birthday cake wasn’t what she wanted, even though Peach did a great job frosting it herself. And happily decorated it with Hello Kitty sugary cake toppers. But she reminded me more than once that it wasn’t the right cake. The grocery store cake that I hastily ordered Eat to buy the morning of the party was tastier, taller, and much prettier. But it still wasn’t the cake she wanted. And there was no jumpy house.
I’ll explain. She asked for a Strawberry Shortcake cake. The cartoon character. Convinced that I could find Strawberry Shortcake cake toppers and candles at a local party supply store on my only off day last week before the party, I did no other research to locate such items. No Internet search. No online ordering. Nothing. The party store did not have anything remotely like Strawberry Shortcake. The hard sugar Hello Kitty cake topper crunchies were the best I could do.
Oh, but I could make a strawberry cake! With a cake mix, even, to save time. This plan would have worked well if my usual expectation of three sleeping children by 8:30PM followed through, but Grub and Sky-Girl had other plans. I’ll set the scene: it’s the night before our morning party, Grub will not go to sleep unless I am in the room with him. Despite my explanations that I am feeding an almost-asleep Sky-Girl, he is dissatisfied with my answer. The louder he protests, the more awake Sky-Girl is. And she is also louder, smiley and cute, ready to play. It was a late night cake baking experience, and it was not relaxing, Grub hovering, Sky-Girl wiggling in the sling. That tension must have infiltrated that cake: while it was custardy, it wasn’t a delicate, tender bite. My custardy strawberry cake was meh. Just meh. But the frosting — yes, only the frosting — is worth posting a recipe for today.
And the jumpy house, well shame on me and my online ordering. I apparently didn’t do it correctly, and just registered for access to the company’s site and didn’t actually purchase the princess-theme jumpy house rental for the morning. (Even though, oddly enough, I had used the company the year before without a problem with online ordering.) We didn’t realize my lapse until the morning of, when all the guests were patiently waiting for the appearance of that jumpy house, after phone calls, anticipation, then apologies. The kids were fine, entranced by the amazing balloon twister (she could make anything!), but I was embarrassed.
Despite these mishaps, my issues, Peach still had a good time, mostly. The origin of the cake really didn’t matter, and we had candles and sang Happy Birthday, the grocery story cake adorned with butterflies and Peach’s name written in purple frosting. She had fun running around with her friends in the grass, each showing other their balloon animals. She held my hand.
Happy Birthday, sweet Peach. You are now six years old. It seems like yesterday when I first held my preemie five-pound peanut in my arms. You are an amazing girl. I love you.
One year ago: brown sugar rainbow cupcakes
Two years ago: revelatory caramel cake, lemon cupcakes with lemon cream cheese frosting, and saffron sables
- ½ cup butter, softened
- 2 (each 8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
- about 1½ cups frozen (or fresh) strawberries, thawed and pureed (you will need ½ cup of puree for the recipe)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract (some lemon or strawberry extract are real flavor boosters, if you have them)
- 1 pound confectioners' sugar (I tend to use less sugar than many recipes. If you like an extra sweet frosting, add more sugar.)
- Beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an stand mixer until creamy.
- Beat in ½ cup of the strawberry puree and the vanilla (or other) extract. (The rest of the puree is leftover -- I drank it in my honey chia limeade -- the recipe is posted already.)
- Gradually add confectioners' sugar, beating until smooth.
- Spread frosting in between layers and on top and sides of cake (this is enough for a two layer 9 x 13-inch cake). Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries and Hello Kitty cake toppers, if desired. Keeps refrigerated for several days.