Saturday, April 2, 2011

Zombie Calliou

For LE's much-belated 4th birthday party, I thought it would be really easy to make a Calliou cake. I mean, Calliou's just a round head with simple line-drawn features, right? How hard could it be?

Making Calliou-colored frosting wasn't too hard, but when it came time to put the face on, most of the guests had arrived so I didn't feel like dragging out the cake decorating stuff that I, in fact, do own. Thinking about what MacGuyver might have done in such a situation, I resourcefully poked a hole in the foil top of an unopened tube of Chokokrem.

Drawing Calliou with Chokokrem turned out not to be as easy as I thought it would. Still, the kids were really good sports about pretending it looked like Calliou. It's really funny seeing a bunch of 3-5 year olds humoring a grown up.

Anyway, frosting is frosting, and this was homemade buttercream spread on an instant cake so it all worked out.

Later, LE got into the photo effects app in my iPhone, and Zombie Calliou came to a fitting end.


Nomad said...

One time - and never again- I tried to make a fancy schmansy chocolate cake with Marzipan. Nobody told me it had, (and absolutely had) to be kept cold. Suddenly the whole thing began to stick to everything and I felt like I was working with chewed gum. The more I fiddled with it, the less appealing the project was, until at some point, I just told myself, "Ah, Tahellwidcha!"

I have made some chocolate homemade cakes that have caused women to fall at my feet in rapture. The secret is..(come closer) the secret is to make the cake so rich that when you eat one slice you feel like melted chocolate is coming out of your tear ducts. Also adding a shot glass of chocolate liqueur to the icing made that delightful burn in the back of your throat too.

Stranger said...

You're way more ambitious than I am, Nomad.

And your chocolate cake is making my mouth water just thinking about. My family's way is the handed-down chocolate banana cake from my grandmother. But I've never even gotten around to doing one of those. Besides, with a four-year-old, frosting is a very contentious thing in our house...

Anonymous said...

Dear Stranger,

I’ve followed your blog for three years now as a silent reader but after your recent birthday post felt obliged to say something. I fully expect that you will delete this comment. That’s fine. My concern is certainly not for you to publish the comment but to read it for yourself.

It’s obvious that you don’t love your husband and are in a holding pattern with him, whether because you are actively afraid of leaving or cannot think what else to do. It’s also clear that this relationship is casting a deep shadow on your feelings towards your son. Honestly, if this cake is the best you can do for him on his birthday, then I would describe it as a gesture of indifference or even passive-aggressive dislike towards him. Somewhere in your mind, there is a single negative gestalt whose components include your husband, Turkey, your son, and your life. Your response to your awareness of these problems is humor, condescension, and irony. However, being articulate is not a substitute for having feelings, and it does not absolve you of what you are doing to your son. I submit to you that none of the teyzes you chastise so frequently would treat your son like this; they would ensure that he had a proper birthday, with a proper cake, and that he grew up feeling actually valuable, whereas in your custody he may develop into a sad and confused little boy—which is a shame, because he is adorable and intelligent. He does not deserve the cake that you made for him, which to me is the perfect emblem of your attitude to motherhood.

You know, as Americans say, there’s a time to s*** or get off the pot. You can live this strange simulation of a life and inscribe some fairly deep wounds on your son (and yourself). Or you can do what has to be done—leave your husband, if that’s what it takes for you to develop actual feelings and responsibility towards your son. It’s all very well to make fun of strangers for commenting on your son’s state of dress in a playground, but I submit to you that this birthday episode is proof positive that your son, in your current state of mind, means less to you than he does to a random teyze. In the final analysis, one’s feelings for a child come across in what one actually does for the child; that cake, to me, is so hideous that to seriously present it on your child’s birthday signifies something very close to contempt or else laziness. Nor do I find it coincidental that your son found a way to create a digital bonfire for that cake. You find the creation of the cake humorous as a defense mechanism, and you try to cloak it with yet another needlessly articulate but ultimately shallow blog post, but in your heart you know that no good parent would have created something like that abomination for their child, much less preserved it for the Internet.
Of course the temptation on receiving this letter will be to be angry at the messenger and further absolve yourself of responsibility, but that would be a pointless distraction. I do not clam to be a better parent than you, and I would surely hope that anyone who saw me radically short-changing my children would call it to my attention and prompt a gut check. That’s the spirit in which I write this letter. Please know that you have to turn your life around, or you will not be its only victim.


Stranger said...

Jeez, I knew it wasn't a very good cake, but an abomination? Couldn't it just be I don't love Calliou very much?

Telling me I don't love my son is a bit much, especially in the absence of knowing almost nothing else about me (or his multiple 4th birthday parties) other than what I choose to post (unless you, in fact, do know me in real life-- then this is just a rather creepy comment you could just as well have emailed to me).

You should dig around for the picture of last year's football cake. You may simply find there's just a pattern of me being really crap at decorating cakes. With homemade buttercream frosting.

It strikes me as very 1950s to equate perfect cakes with love for one's children and good parenting (there were some poignant scenes in "The Hours" about this). Does that mean if I loved my son for real like the teyzes do, I would have bought him a nicer cake? Exactly how much time or money should I have spent on the cake for it to mean I love my son enough? Would the whole rest of that birthday celebration I prepared for him make up for the cake in the loving-my-son department? Will I cause him less damage if I leave all future cake-related issues to someone else who loves him for real?

Would you honestly have been reading my blog for the last 3 years if I just wrote about how great my boy is? I daresay the Internet and every playground in America has enough of that going around. Sunshine and lollipops are super and nice, but don't make for very interesting reading. And without conflict, there's nothing really worth writing about anyway.

I would assume my feelings about my son are just a given. Try living a day in my head with whatever gestalts you may find in there and see how it feels. Then see how it feels for that fragile little fellow to be the only thing in your life that's real. Then try crossing a street in Istanbul with his sticky little hand in yours and see how much sleep you can get afterwards. Day after day. I'm not blaming Istanbul. Istanbul has got to be one of the most thrilling and evocative places on Earth. I just can't forget the darkside of my human animal love for my kid, which is a constant, gripping terror that something could happen to him.

As for my relationship with my husband, well, I can't really argue with you there except to say I'm way ahead of you on that one, and I'll even go so far as to thank you for a much-needed kick in the ass. However, a foreigner must tread carefully in a country that doesn't always look kindly on strangers in a legal sense, if she intends to keep her boy. Most parents, no matter how crappy it looks from the outside, are just doing our best in our given situations.

Anonymous said...

Hi Stranger,

I do understand much of what you're going through. I wrote my comment from the perspective of someone who has been in the position of your son--that is, a person wounded by a bad relationship between parents. My feeling is that, when parents do not love each other and are in an active stage of fighting, then it is almost unavoidable that one or both of the parents will start to reflect their feelings on the child.

What I feel is that, if enough time goes by, a parent can fail to separate the dislike for the other parent from love for the child. Love for children always starts out genuine and untainted, but it can be contaminated over time by the bitterness we carry towards other people in our lives.

I don't doubt your love for your son at all. What I doubt is that you can maintain the love he deserves, and that you can give, under what you yourself call the given situation. As a parent (of multiple kids) I have been guilty of neglecting my kids during precisely those times that the given situation has been difficult. That's why I chose to leave the given situation and create a new one that would give me the additional emotional breathing space to dedicate more of myself to my kids.

I do realize in retrospect that some of what I wrote was harsh. My response to you was conditioned by my own memories of being a kid who could not receive a mother's full love because the mother was unhappy. Your responsibility as a parent is to be happy so that your kid(s) can be happy. It is odd enough for another stranger to write, but I do care about your son because he reminds me of myself in many ways, and I would want you to be the best you can be so you can be the best for him.



Nomad said...

Attack of the concern troll.

Speaking for all the four year olds out there, I would much prefer a homemade cake to those tasteless ones you find in the shops. Abominable perhaps but is it edible? That's the only thing kids care about. Anybody can go out an buy a fancy cake and there's way too much of that kind of store-bought kind of love out there.

Please get off your high horse and keep your perfect cake = perfect motherhood comments to yourself. It is very rude.

Aunt Sis said...

Well I'm sorry, anonymous, but you're way off base. Sarah's family, of which I am a part, loves children no matter what else is going on. Try another tack, please. This one doesn't work.

Erika said...

Well, on another note. My husband (Turkish) wondered what kinda name is Calliou any way.

Your Calliou cake reminded me of a Mickey Mouse cake my mom had made for me on my 5th birthday. It is the only cake she made like that. The following year a little brother stepped on the scene and ruined my sweet life as the only child. This marked the last of the fancy homemade cakes (there was a Wonder Woman cake at age 4). I like to believe that mom loves me the most and she didn't want to make my young brothers jealous. So I had to endure stupid old store bought cake.

figetyknits said...

Wow. Anonymity really allows people to let loose their opinions about things which they know nothing about. The idea that a homemade cake, made and presented with love, could in fact signify so many horrible things is so absurd I just don't know whether to laugh or scream. What a total crock. In what universe is throwing a party, baking a cake, and celebrating your kid's birthday "radically shortchanging" your child?

I think the cake was awesome & the fact that you & LE are honest enough with each other for you to both laugh at his burning cake creation speaks volumes for your relationship & your love for him.

Stranger said...

@ Erika, the best I can come up with for Calliou is that it's a Canadian name or something. The show takes place in Canada. I think that's why everyone in Calliou is so nice to each other all the time.

My mom made super special and intricate homemade cakes for the three us on most of our birthdays. They must have taken hours. Nonetheless, if someone asked me about the things my mom did to make me know how much she loved us, the cakes wouldn't be the first thing that came to mind because there are so many other non-material things.