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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

happy birthday to a happy happy guy.

My youngest son turned six today. I can hardly believe that I am writing that.

When I had babies (I think... yesterday?), I would look at those people who had kids, (you know kids, those age 5-12 people) and think What do you do with them? They're ungainly, their teeth are too big and they are skinny and smelly and they talk too much.

Now my babies are all of a sudden kids. They do have big teeth in their little faces, and they do smell sometimes. I can admit that once in a while I wish they would just shut up for a minute. But, they are so wonderful. They are intelligent and they keep me on my toes with their questions and their observations. They are funny and warm and helpful to each other. They are learning at amazing speeds and trying new things out all the time.

The baby of the family is Andrew. He is funny and witty and charming. He is a people-person to the extreme. He can quickly gauge a person, find out what he or she would like to see and/or hear from him, and deliver it. I don't mean to make him sound like Eddie Haskell, because he's not. He doesn't want to simply make you like him, he just wants to make you happy. As a two-year-old, I actually called him reasonable. I don't know many reasonable two-year-olds. He also definitely realizes that life is much simpler and more pleasant when everyone is happy. He rarely fails to do what he is asked, and he often doesn't have to be asked, before doing chores or being helpful. He gets himself up and ready for school, completely independently, every morning. He notices when I have folded laundry, and puts it away on his own volition. He holds the door when my hands are full, says please and thank you, and willingly shares his toys and snacks. He cleans his room, does homework, and practices piano, without my having to nag him.

Of course, there is a flip side to this, too. Because he can read others so well, he knows just how to push their buttons; a skill he uses readily with his older brother and sister. He can needle them and drive them to violence like nobody's business. 

He is physically coordinated, and although he may never be a star athlete, I feel confident he won't embarrass himself, either. He's comfortable with a ball in his hand, he is ready to take on any challenger at dodgeball or tetherball, and he holds his own on his baseball team.

He loves to be the center of attention, and he is pretty skilled at doing so without being (too) obnoxious. He will put on antics and try ever-more daring feats, if he knows he has an audience. He can tell a whopper like no other, as well. All through preschool, his teachers would have to ask me to clarify if his stories were true or not. Some, like the skiing mountain in his backyard, and the twin brother named Jeffrey, are clearly just tall tales. Others, though, can be pretty believable (like the swing set he and his dad are supposedly building in the garage, and the reptile show that allegedly came to school and let him hold a snake). As a matter of fact, I guess I was checking with his teachers to find out what was true as often as they were checking with me. There were two weeks where he came home every day to tell me about a new student. Daily he told me what he and Jacob had been doing together. I was happy to hear the had such a great new friend for a quite a while... until the teacher informed me that there was indeed no new student.

He strives to be cool, and to act older than his age. He won't kiss me goodbye in front of his friends, or hold my hand on the way to to school. He loves surfers and skaters, won't wear anything with stripes (too babyish) or a collar (too nerdy). He is up-to-date on current music and movies, and won't cry in front of anyone. 

He is in kindergarten now, and although he is reluctant to learn to read, he is growing in leaps and bounds in every other arena. It is amazing to witness. He is engrossed in math, loves the songs they sing in the classroom (although he is too cool to actually sing them while he is at school), and believes wholeheartedly that "Zero the Hero" comes to his classroom every 10 days to leave treats for the kids.

I count myself lucky indeed to be able to spend this kid's childhood with him. He makes my life so very much more fun, day in and day out.

And fairly often, at night, he really is still my baby, when he falls asleep on my shoulder.

We are having some friends from school over next week to celebrate his birthday. Today, though, was meant to be special in every way for him.

He got to choose breakfast (donuts), lunch (McDonalds ... yuk), and dinner (Islands). I notice he didn't give me any opportunity to try and get some veggies on a plate for him. Don't you worry, though... I fooled him (and I'll get to that later).

My husband took the kids for a tour of a local farm preservation/museum this morning, and this afternoon we went to a local candy shop. He had proclaimed that he wanted "a big, swirly lollipop" instead of a birthday cake.

However, you can't put birthday candles in a lollipop. 

So, of course I went ahead and made him a cake.... 

I made a chocolate cake with a peanut butter filling. I am not a cake decorator, by any means, so I left it unfrosted, with a layer of chocolate chips baked into the top. It was a bit too crumbly for me to try to frost it and have it come out looking decent at all, so I didn't attempt it (and risk a total failure).

But here is the biggest secret of the whole day... and if you ever tell any of my family members, I will never ever speak to you again.

Chocolate Beet Cake

Oh, yes, I did. Stop looking at me like that. He didn't even want a cake in the first place, remember? And he doesn't know I fed him beets.

I got this recipe from the Abundant Harvest Organics newsletter (tell me it wasn't providence that a chocolate cake recipe came the week of Andrew's birthday), and I didn't alter much. The only changes I made were to make it in two round layers (9-inch pans) and to add a layer of peanut butter cream in between (I thought this would help in case it tasted too beet-ish, but it didn't).

Unless you knew there were beets in the cake, I don't think you would notice anything was different. Certainly my family didn't. There is the tiniest earthy edge to it, but the chocolate is so rich that you really aren't thinking about anything but chocolate while you eat. 

Here is the recipe from Abundant Harvest:

    • 1 ¾ cup flour
    • 1 ½ tsp baking soda
    • ¼ tsp salt
    • 3-5 steamed beets, quartered, save liquid
    • 1 ¼ cup sugar
    • 1 cup oil
    • ½ cup juice from beet cooking
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 tsp vanilla extract
    • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate, melted
    • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350. Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan. In a bowl mix flour, baking soda and salt together. In food processor puree cooked beets that have been drained, should be about 2 cups. To the beets add sugar, oil, ½ cup of beet juice and beat on medium speed until well combined. Add eggs and extract. Add the flour mixture to beet mixture and mix until well combined. Add melted unsweetened chocolate. Pour mixture into baking pan and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly over top of batter. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool. May be sprinkled with powdered sugar if desired.

And here is the recipe I used for the peanut butter layer:

Cream together 1/2 cup peanut butter, 1/2 cup butter, and 1/2 cup powdered sugar. Spread on bottom layer before placing top layer on the cake.