It’s your sister’s birthday today! How wonderful.

You have offered to make her a chocolate cake for her birthday.  None of that from-a-box stuff, either. A real, honest-to-goodness chocolate cake. Baking’s easy. You’ll do it during your baby’s morning nap, so it has plenty of time to cool before you take it over to your other sister’s to be frosted.

This is your first mistake.

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Nap? What’s a nap?

So your baby wakes up after half an hour, just as you’re measuring out the chocolate and turning on the double boiler. No big! He’ll sit in his exersaucer, in full view of the kitchen, while you put the cake together. It’ll be so great. He’ll get to play with toys, you’ll get to bake — you can even put Christmas music on. You’ll bond as you share with your son your love of baking! Real, honest-to-goodness baking. Real ingredients.

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Wait — why is the exersaucer empty? Why isn’t your baby sitting nicely in it, banging his toys around and talking to himself while your stand mixer whisks the eggs?

Oh, that’s right. It’s because your baby has developed a sudden phobia of the stand mixer and cries whenever you turn it on. That’s cool. You guys can just sit in the living room and take a break from baking while he recovers. Stand mixers aren’t scary, baby. They are an essential kitchen appliance. Mommy loves her stand mixer so. Not as much as you, of course. But a lot.

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Mommy also loves the fact that she just had to use the America’s Test Kitchen recipe that required five separate components: chocolate, butter, flour, eggs, and buttermilk. The messier the kitchen is, the better the cake tastes. Am I right??

Okay, it’s time to try some more baking. Maybe your baby can hang out in the living room — just for a few minutes! — while you get back to those eggs. Try adding some sugar and turn the mixer on.

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Your baby can also take a few minutes to check his baby email.

But wait. Are those tears you hear? What’s wrong with your trusted old Kitchen Aid stand mixer, baby? What did it ever do to you? You can tell Mommy.

Well, maybe Baby Einstein will help. No one needs to know.

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So it says ages 9 months and up. Your baby is 8 months old. It’s totally cool. Forget what the American Academy of Pediatrics says about babies and screen time. Please. Just sit in your exersaucer and discover the sky, baby. Go ahead. Discover it.

It’s video time! Take a few cleansing breaths and then get back to work. Go ahead, turn the mixer on. Your baby is enthralled by the classical music — he’s getting so cultured! Look at you, exposing him to Mozart. You’re such a great mom. This is so much better than the Katy Perry and Kesha you subject him to in the car.

Heh. There’s more crying. Look, it’s not that you don’t appreciate your baby making his thoughts and feelings known. It’s just … you have to get this cake done. It’s your sister’s birthday. It has to be baked now so it has time to cool. No, you can’t wait until the afternoon nap because that’s too late. No, this isn’t a perfect world. Can your baby just … hang in there? Maybe?

Your husband, on the phone, suggests that maybe your baby would like to play upstairs in his crib while you finish putting the cake together. It really won’t take long. You just have to whip the eggs and then add the butter and buttermilk and flour and chocolate. Totally not a big deal at all. It won’t take longer than five minutes. Seriously. Just let your baby do some independent free play for a while. Let him explore his toys with all five senses. Upstairs. In his crib. You’ll have the monitor on! No big. He won’t hear the mixer.

No, he won’t hear the mixer. But what you’ll hear is pitiful crying. Sounds like your baby isn’t all that interested in independent free play. Go upstairs and see if you can get him to calm down. Dry those tears. Tell him he’s all right. Tell him you love him very much, but that this cake has to be finished now.

Repeat this process 4-6 more times while you finish preparing the cake. Tell yourself you’re allowing your baby to build character. Keep at those deep cleansing breaths! They help you resist the urge to bang your head against the counter as you listen to your poor baby scream. Is the smell of chocolate making you nauseous yet?

At last your cake is prepared! Rescue your baby from his crib-prison and recover with a little more Baby Einstein. Discover the sky together. You guys are bonding. Hopefully his imprisonment won’t cause him to associate chocolate cake with intense fears of abandonment in the future.

Your cake is prepared, but you’re not quite done yet, Mommy: you still have to actually bake it. Will your baby sit nicely in his high chair while you butter and flour a couple of pans? Will he watch calmly while you put them in the oven? Will you remember to set the kitchen timer?

No?

It’s okay. You totally know how much time is left on these cakes. You’ve done this enough times. It’s all good! You’re a yogi. Remember your pranayama. You guys can sit in the kitchen together and have lunch while the cakes bake, and together you’ll start to smell a delicious chocolatey aroma fill the room.

Look, if you imagine it enough times, and in enough detail, it’ll happen.

Your cakes are baking away and looking beautiful. It’s time to throw caution to the wind! Your baby is clearly getting tired. There he goes yawning and rubbing his eyes again. It’s time for a nap! It’s time to leave the cakes in the oven while you go upstairs to feed your baby and put him down in his crib! It’s totally cool! You can totally make it back downstairs in time to get them before they’re overbaked.

Your baby, mercifully, goes down for a nap without any drama. But what’s that you smell as you come back downstairs? A delicious chocolatey aroma filling the kitchen, right? Right? Isn’t that what you visualized?

No, it’s something … burning. It’s … the cakes. They’re burning. It was time to take them out of the oven five minutes ago. Your caution: it was thrown to the wind. Your gamble: it did not pay off.

However, your cakes, while dark around the edges, are not unsalvageable, although it’s not like you would accept defeat at this point. You’re eating birthday cake tonight if it breaks apart into dry crumbs on the plate and feels like eating sawdust. Fortunately you taste a bottom corner — one cake sticks to the pan, adding insult to injury, but it tastes all right.

This is going to be your sister’s best birthday ever.

Now what was that you said about the messier the kitchen, the better the cake?

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Sadly this is just half of your kitchen. This cake is going to be AWESOME.

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