It’s Maia’s Birthday this week. So as usual I am spending my nights going over “the list”.It’s all in order and I’m nearly ready, but I haven’t fully recovered from the stress of preparing for Joel’s Birthday.
Each year we say the same thing: “Can we just be normal this time, a couple of presents, I don’t have the time..”. And each year this intention goes down the drain. My Birthday comes first, in May, so he sets the bar. There’ll be giant helium balloons, large across-the-wall handmade bunting and far too many presents for a young adult.
Because he’s gone to all the effort (which is not easy with two young children), I cannot then disappoint with, in comparison, a measly card and a couple of gifts. This year to make matters worse, he’d upped his game further and gotten creative.
One envelope contained a “token” for a year’s worth of Audible, (something I’d been curious about) which meant he’d actually listened every time I complained that I don’t consume enough books and had taken the relevant problem-solving action. (This and he got tired of me repeatedly proclaiming “I want to listen to books on the go, in the in between moments, I’m going to get Audible!”). Well now thanks to Joel I have the delightful rich southern drawl of Matthew McConaughey accompanying me as I drive the children to their various activities. It’s brilliant, I feel almost productive, absorbing a book whilst taking Maia to Stagecoach. Win win.
Joel had also put together a photo album (personalised, with “288 days of Leo” in gold down the spine) where he’d stuck (self-adhesive, not slide-in) around 50 – again well-chosen – of our happiest post-Leo memories, then written amusing captions beside each. It took him nearly four hours. I know because I had the children.
Now I’ve always done photos albums for Joel’s Birthdays but this one was another level of attention-to-detail. I was chuffed. But also slighted miffed because all of this meant it was on me to reciprocate. Which I did. The freshly-painted bunting, usual albums and framed prints of Leo’s feet, check. Hip-hop art work (he’s an avid hip-hop fan), vegan hamper (still a vegan, it has unfortunately stuck), theatre tickets (this one was possibly more for me than him), check.
But this year I went the extra mile, pushed the boat out and attempted something I’d have previously thought impossible. I baked. I baked a perfectly edible, somewhat delectable actually and even visually pleasing VEGAN cake.An eggless, butter-less, oat-milk infused Flora-ridden Victoria sponge. Joel claimed it was “amazing”, scoffing two generous slices a day until it was gone. I wasn’t so keen but rode the wave of pride that I’d been able to bake it, ice it, hide it AND clear away all hints of any baking activity.
He knew I was baking a cake but only because he asked 700 times whether I was and by the 100th I got annoyed and snapped “WHY DO YOU HAVE TO RUIN IT!! STOP ASKING!! THERE WILL BE NO CAKE.” By the end of his Birthday I felt like I’d pulled off some huge complex event.
I’m doing it all over again this week. For a straight talking no-nonsense will-tell-it-like-it-is-to-my-face soon to be eight year old. I do hope she’s happy with her shop-bought Rainbow cake. This time I’m pouring my energy into wrapping her ridiculous number of presents. Her bunting also needs painting. It is a lot. Wish me luck