A celebration of parenting with Katrina Roe

Monthly Archives: January 2010

I know, I know.  I said this website was meant to be a celebration of parenting, but I can’t be all sweetness and light (especially when my child’s sick and I haven’t had a good sleep for about three years!)  So today I bring you my top ten list of the most annoying things about life after baby!

1.  Port-a-cots.  Seriously.  Those things are designed to send any parent crazy.  Every time I get one side up, the other side collapses, then the legs slide out from under it and I’m doing the splits trying to manoeuvre the leg back into place, only to discover that one of the inside poles is in a slightly wrong position and it won’t budge unless I collapse the entire Port-a-cot, which then ends up in a mangled mess at my feet.  Then if, by some miracle, I manage to get the entire cot set-up  without doing gymnastics, and if by a miracle the child in question actually manages to sleep on the rock hard mattress in a strange place, and if I manage to then get the Port-a-cot packed up again without slipping a disc, then the chances of actually fitting the so-called Port-a-cot into it’s so-called portable bag are about as likely as me taking a Virgin flight into space for my next holiday!  Do you think they would allow Port-a-cots on a space flight, by the way?  (No really, I do love my Port-a-cot, as long as somebody else sets it up!)

2. Negotiating locks on the kitchen cupboard doors.  C’mon.  Think back to that time before you had kids.  Don’t you remember how annoying it was to go to someone else’s house, try to help yourself to a drink, only to discover that all the kitchen cupboards had child-proof locks on them?  Trust me, it sends all your visitors balmy.

3. Baby gates.  Why is it that nearly every baby gate has a completely different opening mechanism?  It’s like trying to work out how to flush public toilets in Europe.  Every one is an IQ test.

4.  Getting kids’ music stuck in your head.  Picture this.  You’re in the shower, innocently humming a tune.  Then suddenly you realise you’re singing The Wiggles’, ‘Rock-A-Bye Your Bear’.  And you’ve been singing it non-stop for three days.  AAAAHHHHHH!

5.  Even worse is playing kids’ music in the car… when your kids aren’t even there.  You’re halfway through a journey when you suddenly realise that you don’t actually have to listen to Bananas In Pajamas any more.  AAAAHHHH again.

6. While we’re on the subject of cars, let me just say these three little words: Food In Cars.  If you’re like me, you can get used to toast crusts on the kitchen floor, but that doesn’t mean you want them all over the back seat of the car.  And then there’s that half-eaten, shrivelled up, moulding-at-the-edges apple that sneakily rolled underneath the front passenger seat a month or so ago, not to mention the sippy cup of milk that fell down the side of the baby seat and turned solid three days ago!  Surprise!

7. Things disappearing.  Ever since that little person learned to walk, random things just keep mysteriously disappearing or getting destroyed.  My favourite magazine – ripped to pieces.  My sunnies – snapped in half.  My bikkie – eaten before I can get to it.  My mobile phone – hidden in a train carriage.  My car keys – flushed down the toilet.  Sigh. Why is it never that hideous vase from Aunt Martha that gets “accidently” destroyed?

8. Having to check the toilet for collateral damage before visitors come.  Don’t you just dread that innocent request: “Mind if I use the bathroom?”  Suddenly your heart’s racing.   Who used it last?  “Er… just let me check it.”  Sure enough, there’s toilet paper sprayed from one end to other and a little un-flushed deposit at the bottom of the bowl.  Nice.

9.  Oh that reminds me… toilet training.  Fullstop.

10. Knowing your only trip to the movies this year will be to see the next Disney musical offering, with a super-predictable story-line, saccharine music and a singing hot-dog.  Life can be so unkind.

11.  (I know, I said it would be ten but I just thought of eleven…)  Never being able to finish a phone-call, book, meal, cup of coffee, movie, text-message, email or conversation without being interrupted!  Naturally I’m writing this blog while my daughter’s asleep and even then she keeps interrupting!

What would be at the top of your list of the most annoying things about life with kids?  Please feel free to add to this list!

PS.  I love my daughter.  I really do.

The Fairy Garden Cake

If there’s a gene for baking, I don’t have it.  It’s not that I can’t cook.  I can create a tasty risotto, a hearty casserole, a mean laksa or an enjoyable salad, but when it comes to baking, well… it’s just not my cup of tea.  But for some reason, when you become a parent there’s suddenly all this pressure to effortlessly throw together flawless themed cakes, involving six different layers, intricate patterns and enough food colouring to power a short flight.

Just to exacerbate my sense of baking inadequacy, Birdy’s birthday cakes have to be egg and nut free.  The first year I tried to do egg, nut, dairy and gluten free (to accommodate everyone) and that cake turned out looking more like a greasy potato wedge.  After a few trials, we found a reliable egg-free recipe called a whacky cake.  So this year, with a successful train and kangaroo cake under my belt, I decided to create an original theme: a fairy garden cake.

A lot of effort went into designing the cake.  My creative hubby made some formidable roses out of fruit roll ups, while I came up with a licorice footbridge concept.  We decided to use lollypops for mushrooms and nerds (lollies) for pebbles on a path.  I was pretty excited about the concept and thought Birdy would be thrilled to bits when she saw it.  All I had to do now was make the cake.  That’s the easy bit, right?

Well it turned out to be harder than I thought.  Birdy’s (very small) party was scheduled for 3.30 on Sunday afternoon.  I decided to bake the cake on Saturday afternoon, allowing plenty of time for decorating.  I thought it might be nice to make a butter cake this year, rather than a whacky cake.  I would just use egg replacer instead of egg.  The batter looked good and tasted great.  But when I opened the oven door after 50 minutes, the cake sank.  Then when I turned it over, the whole thing fell apart…  Into little pieces.  What could I have done wrong?  Then suddenly I remembered.  With all the distractions, I had made Cake Number 1 without eggs, but completely forgot to add egg replacer!  Bummer.  I had a laugh about it.   At least I knew where I’d gone wrong.

Later that night, when Birdy was in bed, I made Cake Number 2.  I carefully mixed the ingredients, added the right amount of egg replacer and had every expectation that this cake would work.  I waited about an hour before opening the oven door.  Again the cake went flat.  And when I turned the cake over, it fell apart.  It was obviously undercooked and quite heavy.  Perhaps my oven was slow… Maybe there was something wrong with the recipe.  I called my Mum and my sister at about 11pm for a long drawn-out analysis of all the possible causes of my baking failure.  They suggested I go back to the whacky cake recipe, which worked so well last time.  But no, I wanted to prove I could make a butter cake.  So I compared my old family recipe with the Woman’s Weekly butter cake and discovered our recipe had almost one third more butter.  Someone must have made a mistake when it was converted from ounces into grams.  So that was why my cake was so heavy and greasy!  I decided to make a small single batch cake in the morning using the Woman’s Weekly recipe plus egg replacer.

So at 10 am on the day of Caillie’s party I made Cake Number 3 – the most basic, small plain cake you’ve ever seen.  But it still sank in the middle!  It would have been the most pathetic little fairy garden in the history of the world.  I pictured our tiny little group, singing a forlorn Happy Birthday, over a miserable little cake, with a half-collapsed fairy sinking into the mushy centre of the cake.  Perhaps it would be better to have no cake at all.   In my mind, I started practicing how I would break the news to Birdy.  “Sorry darling, there’s no birthday cake this year.  The fairies have stolen it.  Nevermind, have a grape instead.”  What would a fairy rebellion look like, I wondered?  I could see a little group of three-year-old fairies beating me up with their magic wands, crying for cake and begging their Mum’s to go home.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.

At 12 pm, I rushed out to the shops to get the ingredients for a whacky cake.  I made a double batch, prayed like mad, baked it for an hour, turned the heat down, baked it for another 10 minutes, debated with myself about opening the oven door, decided against it, turned the heat down, waited another five minutes, thought about opening oven door again, had visions of cake sinking in middle, decided against it, turned the heat down again, waited another five minutes.  Finally after an hour and twenty minutes, I worked up the courage to open the oven door.  It was now or never.  If this one flopped in the middle, I was going to make scones and tell Birdy that fairies have birthday scones instead of birthday cake.  Everybody knows that, right?  At 1.30 pm on the day of the party, I opened the oven door and… it was… perfect.  By the time it cooled, we had half-an-hour to decorate it.  Just in the nick of time, the promised fairy garden cake emerged from the wilderness.

Scattered around the kitchen bench were the crumbling remains of the three previous cakes. We were going to be eating trifle for the next three week.

But at least I wasn’t going to be beat up by five disappointed little fairies.  Disaster averted.  Public humiliation avoided.  Nervous breakdown prevented.  At least until next year.  Like I said, I just don’t have the baking gene.  Maybe next time I’ll pay my sister to do it.

Have you had any birthday cake disasters?  Do you find  the kids’ birthday cakes a cinch, or do you lose sleep over them for weeks?  What have been your most successful party cakes?

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