Monday, July 25, 2016

Belated Birthday Celebration

It only took an extra month, but we finally got Jacob's birthday party scheduled.  Between family schedule conflicts, other events, and one random miscommunication, we were finally able to settle on a day (only a week ahead!) and run with it.  We really wanted to be able to have as many of Jacob's cousins there as possible because he likes playing with them, particularly on his turf, so it was a priority to work around their family's hectic sports schedule to make that happen.  And thankfully, it did!

One of the big developments this week was that our central air died.  On Wednesday night I noticed that the house felt a little warmer than normal, and sure enough, it was two degrees warmer than the thermostat was set at.  Normally when that's the case the air is running, and it wasn't.  A couple minutes later, as I was getting ready for bed in the bathroom, I heard this buzzing sound.  I realized it was coming through the vent from the basement, but when I got down there I didn't hear anything.  But a couple minutes later I heard it again, and when I went back down and waited, I confirmed that it was something in the furnace or A/C unit.  It was like it was trying to turn on but couldn't.  Ugh.  The timing was extra terrible because of the party and because we're in a weather pattern of high 80s/low 90s for a solid couple weeks and our house is really tough to cool down naturally.  We have a few ceiling fans, but even with open windows it's very challenging.  The house has been getting up into the mid-to-upper 80s each day, then cooling down to the upper 70s/low 80s by morning.  It's not pleasant.  Craig and Jacob have been sleeping in the basement, and even Carter did last night.  However, I like my bed, and once I'm laying down the heat doesn't bother me too much, so I've stayed upstairs.  But the days have been pretty brutal.

Honestly, part of the problem is that the heat just makes everyone so cranky!  It makes me so much more impatient (you know, like when you're trying to get a child to change into their PJs and you're sweating just sitting there convincing them to put down the toys), and it's exhausting to exert any effort on household tasks.  Dusting and vacuuming the house before the party was awful!  Add in the prospect of paying more than $6,000 to replace everything, and you've got a recipe for disaster mood-wise.  Oh, I guess I didn't mention that our current system is more than 25 years old, so a simple repair probably isn't worth it as we could find ourselves in the same position soon enough down the road with another part.  And since everything is so outdated and super inefficient, it really makes the most sense to just replace it even if we sold the house without updating we'd probably have to make concessions for it anyway.  But the price tag is painful, to say the least, and we're still debating how we want to go about this.  But for the weekend the party had to be our focus.  With all of this stuff going on in our house, the party seemed a bit daunting, but we got it done!  I took care of the inside stuff and the food, and Craig did a fantastic job of cleaning up outside so our patio, pool, and yard all looked presentable.

As usual, my main focus was the cake.  I don't know if I'm just getting better at this or if I'm just lucky, but while I had thought about the cake thing a lot leading up to it, I wasn't really that concerned as the day approached.  Even though we had planned two--yes, TWO--cakes.  I don't know why I thought that was a good idea, but I guess the bright side is that if something gets messed up, there's a backup.  A few months ago Jacob and I had talked themes, and he decided that he wanted to use his army guys to make a battlefield cake.  Right around the same time we were lamenting his inability to eat store-bought ice cream cakes, so I guess I figured I could try my hand at making one.  And then I came up with the brilliant idea that the army guys could be battling each other.  And so the dueling cake idea was born.  For a brief time he talked about changing to a lacrosse cake (no idea how to pull that one off), but fortunately I reminded him of the original idea and he hopped back on board.

Of course, it turned out I should have planned ahead better on the cakes because as I shopped for everything the day before, I found that Wegmans no longer carries my beloved green Funfetti frosting that's been a staple on many of my recent cakes (Jacob's baseball field, Carter's road and Paw Patrol cakes), and my late evening trip to Target proved unfruitful as well (they still carry it, but were out).  So I faced having to overload on food coloring to get a useful green, and crossed my fingers that everything else would go smoothly.  I baked later than I wanted to on Saturday and managed to get them layered before bed.  I didn't bother with a crumb coat because my storage options were limited and the heat of the house had me nervous.  In between baking I thawed and froze one layer of ice cream, then fumbled my way through an in-between layer of fudge and crushed gluten-free K-Toos (like Oreos but gluten-free and nut-safe for our nephew).  It was a bit sloppy and awkward, but even if it didn't look pretty, it had to taste good, right?

Sunday morning I frosted the regular cake and added the last layer of ice cream to the other one.  Later I whipped up the ice cream cake frosting, a pudding and Cool Whip concoction that would freeze well and give me the dirt-colored covering that we needed.  That was a mess, but somehow it worked!  I may never do an ice cream cake without A/C again, though, as it was harrowing getting each new part done before the existing part melted! 

As the party drew closer I brought Jacob over to decorate the regular cake.  It was a bit nerve-wracking as he just wanted to place guys willy-nilly and didn't want to listen to my possible "enhancements".  But eventually I got him to slow down enough to explain some ideas, like a dirt path of crumbs and piped-on rocks and tufts of grass.  Once he saw what I was doing, he was loving it.  I reined him in on placing guys so they didn't totally overwhelm the cake, and this was the end result...

After the ice cream cake had a chance to refreeze after the last step, we repeated the decorating process (quickly!) with that one.  Jacob deemed this the "beach" cake (Normandy, perhaps?), and the green was seaweed.

And here they are "doing battle"...

The funniest part of this, as cute as they turned out, is that there is a mix of Revolutionary War guys and traditional guys (WWII?) on both cakes.  There are cannons on both, and even a dying guy on one.  Oh, and I nixed Jacob's idea of blood on the cakes, although I suppose the red on the bottom of the one could be construed that way.  Either way, I was very happy with them, all things considered.  I liked being able to involve Jacob, and he was really excited about them, calling them the best ones ever.  It's rare to get any compliments from that kid, so I will take it.  Maybe that's why I put myself through this every year...

Back outside, the party was going well.  We got a good turnout and the weather moderated a bit so it was actually pleasant outside.  It's amazing what a little less sun will do!  We had a wonderful dinner of burgers and dogs with a lot of yummy sides (including these great little roasted potatoes I found on Pinterest the day before), and then it was time to open gifts. 
Two things: 1) He refused a chair because he just wanted to open them immediately; and 2) That's our nephew Grant with the Captain America mask.  Carter was harassing people most of the afternoon to wear it, because he wanted to be Spider-man and chase bad guys.  Most of us took a turn at some point.
It turned out to be a major Lego birthday, as that's pretty much all he got!  He did get money, which we will certainly be encouraging him to save and NOT spend on Legos!

After that it was time for cake!  The battling cakes were officially brought out, and they survived the trip! 

Getting sung to!

Blowing out the candles!  He jumped the gun after we sang the traditional song and blew out a couple candles...since apparently he forgot that we always sing "Sto Lat", a traditional Polish song!
All in all, it was a great party.  I was able to relax and enjoy the end in particular, before a sink full of dishes in a hot kitchen awaited me.  Even still, I did one round of dishes, put Carter to bed, dried and put away the first dishes, then did another round and went out to the pool to chill out for a bit.  It seems to be a bit of a post-party tradition for me.  I think I just need a few minutes of peace and quiet and weightlessness after a busy day on my feet. 

So another successful party and cake(s) are in the books!  Now onward to big decisions and final vacation planning!

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