Since he just got home from a week away on Friday and proceeded to immediately mess up the house and encourage the children to do the same, I had a decision to make. Clean the house, or prepare an elaborate birthday meal complete with his choice of cake. Since it was his birthday, and he's happy to live in a pigsty, I went with the latter.
I waited until after lunch, when the kids would be playing quietly or watching TV. The one room that did need to be cleaned for this task was the kitchen, so I went about the business of loading the already pretty full dishwasher. At our house, if we want to run the dishwasher, we have to make sure the washing machine isn't going at the same time, so we don't overtax the well pump (or something), so off to the laundry room I went to make sure I hadn't put on a load and promptly forgotten all about it. I hadn't, but I figured while I was there I'd pull the dry stuff out of the dryer. When I did, about four broken wax crayons came out with the laundry. The Captain's recently-grubbied duffle bag, instead of being its usual vibrant red, was still red, but with various streaks of colour all over it. After a little investigation, it turned out I had dumped something of Firstborn's in there, not noticing that he'd put a handful of crayons in his pocket. So, before everything was set and forever ruined, I had to rush it all back into the washer with every detergent, color-safe bleach and general stain remover I could find, run it on hot, with a cold rinse, and cross my fingers.
But that wasn't all. The dryer was a disasterous mess, and that took even longer to fix. After several empty five-minute runs on the hottest setting, each followed by a vigorous wipe with an old cloth that I knew would have to be tossed afterwards, some toothbrush scrubbing in those tricky corners, and, despite my blog from just a few days back, a healthy dose of swearing ( I never said it wasn't a great stress reliever!), the dryer was as good as it was going to get, and I was ready to get back on track with the birthday dinner.
Now, because the washer was going to be on for the better part of an hour, I knew that the dishwasher wouldn't be running anytime soon, and whatever was left on the counter was going to have to be washed by hand, something I like to avoid like swine flu. This slowed me down by another ten or fifteen minutes, and by the time I was ready to prepare the cake, I was starting to feel the time crunch. But I still had a few hours, and if the cake went in right away, it'd be cool enough to be filled and iced by the time the Captain walked through the door.
I mixed and blended and greased and floured and got the cake into the oven. About now, it became clear that Rosemary's Baby needed a diaper change, so I whipped the wet one off and ran back to the laundry room for a clean one, to find that the washing machine, which is old and quirky, had shut itself off. Groaning, I pressed some buttons and got it going again, but before I was out of the room, Firstborn's scream of "Mommy! He's peeing on your bed!" sent me into yet another panic.
I raced to my room with the clean diaper in my hand, to find Rosemary's Baby sitting on a large wet stain on my bed, and Firstborn standing there looking at him, hands on hips like an exasperated old man. I pulled off the sheets that had just been washed the day before, and attempted to soak up the stinky wet mess he'd left on the mattress. While that pet odour stuff you can buy at Wal Mart is pretty good for these kinds of things, I think it's safe to say that when (or if) the little monkey ever decides to start going in the potty, we will be burning all the old furniture and replacing it. The only silver lining I could find in this incident was that he did it on the Captain's side.
So, by now, I was alarmingly behind schedule, and realized that if I wanted to prepare this meal without going mad, I was going to have to do some more dishes, and this slowed me down even further. Before long though, the cake was out of the oven and cooling, and I was slicing and marinating a steak for Ginger Beef (the Captain wanted Chinese and there is no such thing as takeout here in the back of beyond). Things were looking do-able. All I needed now was to leave the kitchen for two minutes to look up a recipe online. What could possibly go wrong?!
When I returned, recipe in hand, Rusty--the dog who is never full--was sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor covered in crumbs and looking like she'd won the lottery. I was confused until I glanced over at the cooling rack. THE CAKE!!!
She'd eaten the lot, and I had no choice but to let out a horrified shriek, or risk spontaneously combusting right on the spot. When I composed myself (after several more swear words and a little more therapeutic shrieking), I hung my head and slogged back to the shelf for the baking book. You can't have a birthday party without a cake.
By the time the Captain got home, I think I probably looked like the Bride of Frankenstein. The kitchen was a mess, the laundry room was piled high with tomorrow's wash (because I had to get that dishwasher on at some point), the rest of the house was still a disaster and Rusty had a stomach ache. But in the end, the birthday boy got his special dinner and the cake made it to the table in time, so a happy birthday was (eventually) had by all. Thank goodness it only happens once a year.