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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Day I Took a Road Trip to Hell

Husband is in this seemly never-ending struggle to deploy (the unit he's currently assigned to has been in Baghdad since October, but he was in PA school until June, so we've been spending the last three months trying to get him over there - with the Army saying, "He'll deploy next week, for sure." Then the next week comes and they realize there's something else they forgot to do to deploy him, so it gets pushed back another week. The whole thing is really annoying. It's not that I want him to deploy, but if he's going to, I just want it to happen so we can move on with our lives and stop living in this "this is our last weekend together" mindset. That's just too exhausting, no matter how much we love the guy.) As part of the pre-deployment process, he had to attend a course at Ft. Sam Houston (in San Antonio - I was so jealous) for medical providers deploying to combat zones (basically a crash-course in how to treat acute war-related injuries). So I figured, if Husband was off playing Army for the week, the kids and I should take the opportunity to visit my dad up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; we usually make an annual trip up there around this time, and it would help pass the week without Husband (I usually road trip without him, anyway, so it would be "normal" for us).

Ant's birthday party (complete with Despicable Me Minion Cake) was on a Saturday, and since the most recent move, we're now much closer to my dad (Pop-Pop), so I was able to convince him to come down for the party, wait around on Sunday to help watch the kids while I packed, and then caravan up north with me and help out on the stops (the only thing that make me nervous about road tripping with two little kids - how do you handle stops alone? 10 month old, + almost 3 year old + public bathrooms + two arms = not enough arms). The drive up went well (thanks to Pop-Pop), despite one hysterical fit in Burger King (I'm still not sure why that one happened - also, their guacamole is not very good, which shouldn't have been as surprising to me as it was), and then we were there, in Pop-Pop's completely not baby-proofed house, with a giant pool out back that just begs little boys to sneak out there and run around it in the hopes that they'll slip, and it will get to eat them. Or maybe I'm just paranoid.

The first day and a half went great, other than the constant need to watch the children, which got old fast (and resulted in me not getting to lounge around reading "A Song of Ice and Fire," as naively planned). Then Wednesday morning happened.

We woke up early, woke up my younger brother (both of my brothers also came to visit from Arizona), and went to eat breakfast before our planned trip to the Sioux Falls Zoo (if you're ever in Sioux Falls for any reason, I suggest going to the zoo - there's also a museum there called the Delbridge Museum. Apparently, some super rich guy in the early 1900's or something had too much money and too many guns, so he went around the world, killing as many animals (including endangered ones) as he could find. Then he had them stuffed, often in comically ferocious poses, and when he died, he donated them all to the city of Sioux Falls.) I was feeding Sweet D, and Ant was eating/playing around on the bar stools in Pop-Pop's kitchen, as he had been since we got there (they're pretty cool saddle-style stools). I heard him slip, followed by the unmistakable *thunk* of hitting his head, and the ubiquitous howl of a constantly-being-injured, usually whiny, almost 3 year old. I turned to scold him (good mother that I am), and froze.

There was my sweet little boy, climbing back up the stool, crying and howling, with blood literally pouring out of his mouth. My first thought was one of resentment, "why did we spend the last two nightmare years with Husband in PA school if he's not even going to be here when the kid turns into a blood-fountain?!"

I scooped up the boy, spraying blood all over Pop-Pop's kitchen, carried him to the sink and started trying to locate the source of the blood. "Please don't let it be his teeth," I thought. Through his hysterical screams, I could see all those beautiful little white dots, shining brightly through a flood of red. Okay, it's not the teeth... so what is it? Gums? Tongue?

Then I saw it. A gigantic flap of tongue, sticking up in the middle of his mouth. It was like two tongues in one, but the second one was smaller and facing the wrong direction. And blood was pouring out from under it.

Panic. Call Husband.

Husband doesn't answer.


I looked at my little brother, who was standing in a state of shock with that unmistakable "I'm never having children" look on his face. "We have to go to the ER," I told him. He nodded in celibate-terror agreement.

In the meantime, Husband left class to call me, I explained the injuries, and he agreed that we should go to the ER. So off we went.

I'm forever indebted to my younger brother for coming with us and helping with Sweet D. He pushed her in the stroller around the ER parking lot for 30 minutes while I took Ant inside. I don't know how I would have handled both of them myself (well, actually I do, but it would have involved a lot of crying and screaming from all parties, and anyone else in the ER would have been much worse off for it). We got Ant to stick his tongue out (after much coaxing and promises of baby rhinos), and the doctor informed me that it would heal on its own, then sent us away with nothing (which I later learned, via Husband's frustrated outcries, was not the appropriate course of action on the doctor's behalf - she SHOULD have given us a prescription pain killer).

Back to Pop-Pop's we went, with the world's most pathetic little boy. He couldn't swallow or talk because of the pain, so bloody drool was dripping from his face (for the next two days), and he could only make "uh-huhs" or "uh-uhs" noises to communicate. As I carried my tall-for-his age, drooling, grunting, filthy little boy into Walgreens (and I myself was unshowered and covered with splattered blood) to buy him popsicles and medicine, the disgusted glares of the check-out lady made me realize I looked like an impressive sample of trailer trash, hauling around my clearly mentally retarded, angry (and evidently spoiled and injured) child. The only difference was that I have shame; so I was embarrassed.

At Pop-Pop's house, he curled up into a ball on my lap, whimpering continuously, and refused to move. We watched a movie until he fell asleep, and I put him down in his bed upstairs. He woke up after an hour or so, screaming hysterically. When I got into the room, he looked at me and pathetically cried (as deciphered through swollen-tongue screams), "you left me, Momma!!" Stab me in the heart.

The rest of the day wore on with more drooling, whimpering, and grunting. By about 6pm, I realized he hadn't had anything to eat or drink since his two bites of peanut butter bread at 8am, moments before he tried to bite half his tongue off. I called Husband, who proceeded to incite panic in me, telling me if he didn't drink something soon, he was going to get dehydrated. He gave me warning signs for dehydration and told me they'd have to hook him up to an IV if he did dehydrate. Panic. I tried begging and forcing him to drink; neither worked. Then I realized his drool output would be a good indicator of dehydration. And based on the current saturation level of his shirt, I still had nothing to worry about.

He went to bed the first night still having not consumed anything since 8am. We were all (Ant, Sweet D and I) sleeping in the same room, which, generally speaking, wouldn't be much of an issue. Sweet D still wakes up 2-4 times a night, but Ant is a fairly heavy sleeper. So I was surprised when he woke up screaming hysterically at 2am.

I ran over to him, and he looked up at me, moaned, and proceeded to throw up all over my shirt. Fortunately, he hadn't eaten since 8am, so there wasn't much to throw up (the doctor had warned us that he'd likely throw up because of the amount of blood he swallowed during the blood-fountaining, and it's a basically a rule that 3 year old are only allowed to throw up in the middle of the night or in moving vehicles). I rushed him to the bathroom, lifted the toilet seat and pointed to it, telling him, "throw up in here!"

He gave me a confused look, dropped to the ground, and threw up again, down his shirt and on the floor.

I picked him up and set him on the counter, pointing to the sink and telling him, "throw up in HERE!"

Again the confused look, followed by more vomit on his shirt, my shirt, the counter, and the floor.

So I handed him a towel and said, "throw up on here?"

He was done throwing up.

We went back to bed where he promptly passed back out. The drama had woken Sweet D, who had woken Pop-Pop, so I retrieved her from him, and nursed her back to sleep.

Fifteen minutes later, Ant was up again, screaming and retching. I ran to him and grabbed the towel, putting it in front of his face.

He screamed angrily, shoved the towel out of the way, threw himself backwards onto the floor and proceeded to vomit straight up in the air, ensuring the widest coverage of clothing and carpet. I tried to sneak the towel in to catch it, but this only upset him, causing him to roll back and forth as he projected vomit in a 180 degree arc above his head.

As soon as he was finished, he passed out in bed again. I picked up screaming Sweet D and nursed her back to sleep.

Repeat 15 minutes later, complete with floor-rolling and full-carpet-covering vomit.

And an hour after that.

The next morning, I felt like a zombie. Ant still couldn't eat or take pain medicine, but he was finally able to take some sips of water and chocolate milk. He had no recollection of his impressive show of preschooler incoherence the night before. We went to the zoo, played with some friends, went swimming in Pop-Pop's pool, played with Crayola colored bubbles (which stain EVERYTHING within a 50 foot radius of them), and by dinner time, Ant was able to eat some ice cream. Quite a bit of it, actually.

We were planning on leaving in the morning, so I was praying for a decent night's sleep. I was already nervous about how I was going to handle both kids by myself, and I knew I needed to be well rested so I wouldn't accidentally kill us all. I got us all asleep by 8:30pm, and everything seemed great.

Until midnight, when Ant woke up screaming hysterically. I ran over to him and asked what was wrong (meanwhile, Sweet D woke up and joined the screaming). He refused to open his eyes or quit screaming, but he managed to yell, "GET IT ALL OUT OF MEIN BED!"

Assuming he was talking about his blankets and toys in his bed, I took them all out. Wrong.

"PUT THEM BAAACK IN MEIN BEEEED!!!" For some reason, he's German when referring to his possessions.

I put them back, but he kept screaming. After trying another 10 things, I finally lost it. "ANT. STOP SCREAMING AT ME!" It snapped him out of it. He finally opened his eyes, looked right at me, then promptly laid down in bed and zonked out instantly. I picked up screaming Sweet D, nursed her back to sleep, and fell asleep myself. For all of 15 minutes.

Then the screaming started again. Cycle through the process of trying to figure out what he wanted, end up screaming back at him, and he falls asleep instantly without responding. Nurse Sweet D to sleep, sleep for 15 minutes. Screaming. Nurse. 15 minutes of sleep.

And so on, for the next 6 hours.

In the morning, I felt like death. There was no way I was going to be able to handle packing, loading the car, and driving 6+ hours back home - including making multiple stops with two incredibly dependent little humans. Practically in tears, I trudged my way through preparing to depart. I loaded the cargo topper on the car, threw the rest in the back, and managed to get the kids ready and into the car. And then I did something I've NEVER done before.

I trick Ant into taking benedryl.

He HAS constant allergies, and he takes zyrtec every day - but we ran out of his prescription before we left for South Dakota, so he hadn't taken any in the last five days (not that he would have taken it with his giant, swollen tongue, anyway). And we WERE heading back to Kansas, where I knew his allergies would be acting up again. So technically, it wasn't JUST to get him to sleep in the car.

But mostly it was.

And it worked.

But about 40 minutes into our drive, I was passing a pick-up pulling a U-Haul trailer. Since we were in South Dakota, we were going in excess of 80 mph. As I was pulling up along side her, she decided to come into my lane for no apparent reason. It all happened so fast, I didn't get a chance to honk until my left tires were already in the grass in the median. She frantically (at least it appeared frantic to me, but in retrospect, I may have just been interpreting her very large, feathered, 70's hairstyle as "frantic" and her actual implied emotion was something else entirely) pulled her car back and mouthed "sorry." My usual reaction would have been to glare or make choice hand gestures. But after the week I'd had, I just lost it. I had to pull my car over on the shoulder, where I burst into hysterical tears and shook violently for about five minutes.

Like typical self-centered children, neither of my kids reacted in any way to this incredibly uncommon maternal outburst.

Back on the road (we passed the U-Haul lady again, but I didn't realize it until we were well past), we made it all the way to Lincoln, Nebraska without stopping. Then Beatrice, Nebraska (near the NE/KS border). Then into Kansas. Once we passed the state line, I was committed. No amount of screaming from the children or urgent need to urinate was going to keep me from making it home without a pit stop.

And we made it. Without a single stop. In just 5 hours and 45 minutes. We were finally home, and the nightmare was over. And I didn't even pee in my pants. I just wanted to buy new air fresheners for the car for no reason, not to cover up the smell of urine soaked into the driver's seat.

(In case you're concerned, Ant is back to his normal self. He can eat and talk again, and he's no longer a drooling, grunting, mentally questionable puddle of whining. Though his tongue does still look pretty gross...)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Adventures in Caking: The Making of the Minion Cake

The Minion Cake!!

My son just turned three. We had a party for him, and some family and friends came over to help us celebrate. They were all pretty blown away by the cake I made for him, but the truth is, even if it had just been me, my husband, and the kids, I would have made the same cake. I got one comment from someone who said my kids are the luckiest kids in the world (to get awesome cakes on their birthdays, etc). It's such a sweet thought, but my first reaction was, "why? I did this cake for me." I guess I should just not tell the kids that, and they can live their lives in ignorant bliss, believing their mom would "sacrifice" an entire week of her time to bake them ridiculous birthday cakes (yes, I foresee this becoming a tradition in our house - hopefully I'll be able to live up to each cake wish!).

Several people asked me how I made the cake, so I thought the easiest way to share was a photo blog entry (also, I know this doesn't count as a "real" entry, so please forgive me - I SWEAR I'll work harder at updating regularly - I'm just waiting for my life to settle down for a second - please forgive me, loyal fans (i.e. Joe)).

Without further ado, here is how the Minion Cake came to be:

First, I tinted and sculpted the little features out of Wilton (store-bought) fondant. I also use Wilton coloring for all my cake decorating. It's easy to work with and cleans up well (even if it looks like it will stain your counters forever - so far, it's always wiped up clean for me). I use the store-bought fondant for the external features because it hardens quicker and sturdier than my homemade marshmallow fondant. But tinting it is a mess. Anything with black food coloring is a mess.

I made the goggles out of the Wilton fondant, cut into strips (with a ruler and pizza cutter), and let them harden around soda cans. Then I molded the eyes to fit inside them, added pupils and eyelids. After the eyes set for a few hours, I turned them over and shoved toothpicks in them (so I could put them on the cake later). I let all this stuff harden for about 5 days. It gets hard overnight, but I had too much to do, and it was nice to get it done so early and not have to worry about it again. After they'd hardened for a couple days, I sprayed the goggles with edible silver spray. It didn't seem to have any affect on their texture or hardness, which was a concern I had after reading other people's reviews of it.

The "3" candle, gripped in a little minion hand, waiting for the cake to exist.

I baked the cakes that would become the minions about 5 days in advance, too, and froze them. I used 6" round pans and the Wilton sports ball pan.

Four days before the party, I made all my homemade fondant. Three batches. Fondant is very messy. I plan on making a photo blog with my fondant recipe and tips. I'll try to do that in the near future. :)

Scraping yellow pre-fondant out of the bowl. It's hard work!

All my little features, sitting out to dry. The hair and arms were made with (store-bought) gum paste. It's the first time I've ever used gum paste. The only difference I really saw was that it was harder to get the lines out of it than it is to get a smooth surface with fondant. It worked nicely for the hair, and it weighs less, but otherwise, it seemed almost more difficult to work with. Maybe if I knew how to make all those fancy flowers, I'd have more of a purpose for gum paste.

The base cake, crumb-coated and chilling in the fridge overnight before it gets fondant. It was cream soda cake with root beer frosting (and eventually, root beer fondant).

The smaller minion - I crumb coated him with strawberry frosting (he was lemon cake), then carved his mouth out of the frosting. Also, he was two 6" round cakes and a half of the Wilton sports ball pan.

Stacking the taller minion. I used bubble tea straws as supports to keep the cakes from sliding off each other. He was chocolate cake with chocolate frosting.

All three cakes, crumb-coated and chilling overnight before they get fondant!

Fondant on the little minion! His mouth is just another piece of fondant that I cut to fit, then I molded little fondant teeth.

The fondant-covered base cake. The rivets are just fondant balls (a lot of fondant on this thing). But the root beer flavoring worked GREAT in the fondant. I actually liked it more than normal vanilla. The only issue was that root beer concentrate is very dark - it would only work for a fondant that was being colored a darker color, or something that could easily incorporate the brown of the flavoring.

Taller minion with fondant and hair. His lip is just a small, rolled piece of fondant, stuck in with a tooth pick. Then I covered the whole thing with the yellow fondant and used the back of a paring knife to draw the mouth lines.

Blind, naked minions in my fridge.

Overalls! Again, just rolled out fondant, cut with a pizza cutter and ruler.

He looks like an idiot farm boy or something.

The "stitching" on the overalls was one of my favorite features of them - it was done with a tracing wheel (like the thing used in sewing).

My kitchen was a giant mess of confectioner's sugar. But the Boy is getting excited about his cake!

The "G" symbol was cut out of a rolled out piece of gum paste.

Big minion's "G" symbol.

And one on the cake, for good measure.

Sightless minions in my fridge!

The completed cake.

A lot of screw-ups with the fondant on the back (and a minor incident with the taller minion's goggles, because I didn't take into account how rounded his head would be - oops!). But I definitely learned from this time, and my fondant work will be better on the next cake. :D

Husband made fun of me for my attention to detail, but I think little things like the hinges on the sides of the goggles are what make the cake work.

It's kind of sad to think that my little boy probably won't even remember this cake. Hopefully I'll just keep learning and making cooler and cooler cakes that he can remember more easily as he gets older.

My sweet little minions. I got very emotionally attached to this cake.

Sitting in my fridge, smiling at me!

A fair likeness, if I do say so myself!

He WAS happy about the cake...

Tasting the fondant!

The inside of the chocolate minion - you can see the layers and the bubble tea straws used for supports. I also had both minions on their own round cake boards, sitting on top of the base cake, with supports going through the base cake (the minions each weighed quite a bit and I was concerned they would crush the base cake).

The inner workings of a minion cake.

Losing a goggle...

Happy Birthday to my favorite Big Boy!!

Also, check out my cake's page on Coolest-Birthday-Cake's website!