Somehow this weekend, I was roped into throwing a birthday party for Jerry. You know, as in Tom and Jerry. Tom wasn’t invited.

Anyway, the mystery of how I ended up doing this was soon solved when my dearest husband came home with yellow cake mix and chocolate frosting in a can. I have to admit, while those things are good, I was planning on making everything from scratch. I enjoy baking with my girls and somehow, it seems wrong for me to pour things out of a box, add a few eggs and presto, instant desert. Part of this come from remembering baking with my own mom when I was a kid and it’s a memory I want my kids to share.

Anyway, we made the cake out of the box. Originally, it was going to be cupcakes, except that I realized I had no cupcake liners. So, a double layer yellow cake was poured into two pans. After much negotiation and laying out of the plan, it was agreed that we would frost the cake after room clean up the next morning.

Room clean up was accomplished with only marginally smaller amounts of berating and nagging. We rearranged and actually came out with more space.

Then, I could no longer avoid my fate. It was time to frost the dreaded cake. I thought I’d seen somewhere where you trim the cake so that its all the same size. This was my first mistake. As I sawed through the edges, I revealed a crumbly moist inside that was very much not in the mood to have frosting stick to it. So I figure I’ll layer it on a little thicker and it won’t crumble all around me.

Half the tub went in the middle of the cake. Then I got the brilliant idea to nuke the frosting to make it just a smackerel easier to spread. Except of course, my domestically challenged self made it too thin. So I kind of smear it around the sides, hoping the thin frosting will act like glue for the rest of the new tub of frosting I had to run to Walmart and buy.

Sadly, my little cake was more of a fiasco. My dearest husband, who put me up the whole predicament proceeded to harangue me mercilessly in the cat’s voice and then could not actually believe how much frosting I managed to put on the darn thing. I actually got upset and both girls immediately started saying stuff like, “it’s okay mommy, jerry will still eat it.” – this from the 3 year old.

So we’re standing in the kitchen and both girls have mashed 2 pink candles into the cake. We light the disaster and the four of us sing happy birthday to a cartoon mouse.

It was one of those moments that hurt my heart because it was so achingly normal. I just stood there for a second and watched my kids and couldn’t believe that we’ve been together for 5 months now. At that moment, I loved my kids and all the fighting and the crying and the yelling was gone. For one moment, we were a normal family, with parents who weren’t tired and stressed out and partially crazy.

My family doesn’t have a normal baseline. One of us has been deployed or across the country or both for the last five years. You read about those dual military couples that have only gone through 1 or 2 deployments? We’ve gone through 3 in 5 years and I know there are families out there that have even more under their belts. Granted, I haven’t been gone the whole time but I can’t help but wonder what the cumulative effect of all this upheaval in my kids lives will have.
I can’t dwell on it. I have to just take the moments like the one yesterday and hang onto them but at the end of it all, I think that’s all any of us can do, whether or not you’re in the military.

So happy birthday, Jerry. Thanks for giving me one of those bright, shining moments that has been all too rare since redeployment and for liking the cake even though it looked like crap.