I woke up this morning thinking about cake. This is the first year that my son Nata has been in "school". That means this is the first year there has been an additional cup cake requirement on his birthday (on top of our family cake eating needs).
I was SO GOOD yesterday when I made a double batch of yellow cake from scratch and managed to get it in the oven before heading out the door to the Banifandou School to teach art. You see, with three sons, I have now done seven boy birthdays, and I am figuring out that a birthday dinner can be a bit chaotic if you don't plan ahead. And so I did.
The problem is, I set the timer and left. the job of taking the cake out of the oven to... someone else. I came home to some cupcakes that were a little too done to serve to people. Long story long, before I ate breakfast, I was working on another batch of cupcakes.
Good thing too. Hubby got the kids off to school and came back to tell me that there are 33 kids in Nata's class (something I should have already known) and the teacher wanted to serve the cupcakes around 9:30. At 8 am this morning the temperature in my kitchen was over 100 degrees. That's Niger in the hot season. I started repeating my mantra, "We choose this life. We love this life..."
So I iced the cupcakes at the table in the dining room. Where it was probably 95 degrees.
It's so funny how stressy a mommy can get on a boy's birthday. I kept telling myself to breathe deep and enjoy the day. The HOT, HOT day. About noon, I started chuckling to myself as I remembered Nata's second birthday. We arrived (purposely) in Niger on April 19, 2010. It was the last day we could fly back and keep Nata as a lap child. And it was torture. He screamed and cried as we blew out the candles with sweat dripping down our faces. There is one photo of Nata on that day. He is staring off into space next to our friend Julie as she smiles with her party hat on. I didn't blog about him that day. We were in survival mode.
Today we were a little more rested than last year. In the hot season, many days, there is a general survival mode feeling amongst us all. We were with out internet for most of the day. We were without water most of the day. There are dishes stacked up in the kitchen. The boys had a bucket bath. The water filter is dripping very slowly. We used up all the ice.
Tonight I remembered this.
Nata's first birthday. I had him tied on as I made the cake. I remember telling myself we would be okay. We would make it through that day in the HOT, HOT kitchen as long as we kept drinking. We were suffering.
Nata didn't know it was hot today. He knew he was THREE. He knew there was CAKE and PRESENTS. I, like on years past, was reflective. I spent a lot of time thinking about him and a lot of time thinking about the pressure I put on myself as a mom. The cake, the presents perfectly wrapped. The family dinner with everyone smiling and having fun. My ideal of the perfect birthday. In my ideal perfect birthday it is 76 degrees. The three year old does not throw a tantrum. Why do I set myself up for dissapointment with these unrealistic ideals?
I'm glad I was born in a holiday obsessed culture. My African neighbors pass each year without celebrating the day of their birth. No presents, no special dinner, no cake. I like the pause to remember the day my sons were born. It was raining in Richmond. I woke up with the sun hoping this would be the day. That April twentieth was the coolest one I've spent in three years. It was a beautiful day. Full of tears and joy and new life. Now I can't imagine my life without Nathaniel, so full of action and affection, such a gift to our family and our world. He is loved and treasured and smiled at wherever he goes. He is full of joy and affection. He speaks French. He loves with everything he has. He is my Nata. Happy Birthday boy.
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