It was such an innocent little activity. The kids had been playing play dough all morning. I'm not a huge fan of play dough but, we had gone all summer without pulling out the play dough and so it was time. I said "Yes!" but inside I silently protested, knowing the mess all four big kids would make as they patted their patty-cakes and cranked out "snakes". Oh well, this too shall pass. I could absorb.
Nathan's birthday is tomorrow. I can't believe my baby will be 1! This past year has flown in so many ways. Being that his birthday starts a run of birthdays (Isaac and Steve are both three days later) and since he is so small and doesn't know the difference, I decided to make him a giant cupcake as a cake and call it "Done!".
I had finally gotten 98% of the play dough picked up. The kids did a pretty good job putting things away and then I had gone around trying to get the sticky crumbs off of the floor. Never mind the play dough stuck on the bottom of my sandals or the renegade purple somehow smeared on one of the chairs. I was feeling smug and accomplished. I had made it through play dough without losing my mind. And a bonus-the baby was still sleeping. He had somehow slept through the chaos right outside his door and I had a few minutes to myself to start his cake.
The kids begged to help me. I often let them but, this time, I had just absorbed enough play dough to make my mama patience reach its limits so, I declined their willing hands and sent them to jump on the trampoline. Every five minutes one of them came to the door asking to "help." Every time I said, "No!" I felt more guilty. However, I stuck to my guns. Better to feel guilty than to snap at someone due to low patience. I needed to do this one solo.
I got everything dialed. It's a fairly easy cake to do and it turns out so delicious. Since I was making him a giant cupcake I had to use a special pan. I had actually inherited this pan. A few years back I had borrowed it from a friend for one of my kids' birthdays and when I went to check to see if the cake was done, the skewer I used went right through the bottom of the silicone. Long story short, I bought her a new one. And whenever I used the now broken one, mine, I put foil on the bottom to keep it sealed. Easy enough.
Knowing that the top pan can be a bit tippy (the cupcake pan is actually two pieces-the bottom of the cupcake and the top), I made sure it was centered and upright, then shut the door to turn the rest of the batter out into some cupcake tins. When I went to put the cupcakes in, I was horrified to discover that the top had still somehow managed to tip and had spilled its very fluid contents all over the bottom of my oven.
I was talking to my mom. I quickly hung up. And then I tried to troubleshoot the problem. I knew that quite quickly that nice, chocolately batter was going to be a smoldering mess. How did I clean that mess up when the oven was still so hot. And what was I supposed to do with the cake? How could I get it baked?
At this point, the kids had gathered inside and were staring blankly at the open oven covered in ooey-gooey, soon to be charred, chocolate goodness. Everyone offered to help. How sweet. I declined but allowed them to stand back and watch. Everyone was shouting out ideas. I blocked them out, nodding my head at each of them and smiling broadly, but inside I was formulating a plan. A plan that I hoped would work.
I got out a set of BBQ tongs, a wet rag and got to work mopping up the oven bottom. Maybe I could still somehow manage to get this cupcake baked. I started feeling better. I even mentally patted myself on the back saying, "Wow! You're handling this with such poise. And look at those engineering skills. Steve will be so proud."
As soon as those thoughts went through my head, I started to see the flames. Oh, no worry. That's just a bit of the batter burning. It'll burn off quickly...kinda like when something drops on the oven floor and burns up. It smokes for a bit then goes out. Oh yeah. No worries.
Then a few more flames started leaping. And I realized that the fire was actually coming from the burner underneath the oven floor. Some of the batter had somehow leaked down there. My carefree attitude started to deteriorate a little. This could be a bigger problem.
I let the flames leap for awhile (okay a minute) as I was trying to figure out what to do. The fire was contained in the oven. I wanted to see if it would burn out but I didn't want to wait too long. Meanwhile, the children were all calling out helpful comments like, "Mommy!!! The fire is climbing the sides of the oven! The flames are getting bigger. Mommy, do something! DO SOMETHING! Throw water on it." You know, stuff like that. As the fire gained steam, smoke billowed through the house.
I had to do something. I turned the oven off. And reached for the baking soda. A few handfuls snuffed that nasty fire out. We all took a deep breath...or at least tried to. As soon as we did, we were gagging from the smoke. But soon enough, with all the windows open, the smoke began to clear.
I immediately called Steve. As soon as he answered he knew something was wrong. I never call him in the middle of a workday unless it's important. I explained what happened. I had already dealt with it. The fire was out. I just needed to hear his voice. I needed him to tell me it was all okay-to feel grounded again. He quickly assuaged my nerves and gently told me he was proud of me for handling it well. Not sure "well" is what I'd call it but, anyhow. When I got off the phone with him, I felt much better. He had confirmed my plan to clean it up and had advised me what to do when I tried to turn it back on once all the batter was mopped up.
Of course, after dealing with the fire, I thought of a brilliant plan. Hindsight 20/20 I tell you. I should've just let that batter bake all over the bottom of the oven. Then I could've come back 5-10 minutes later and just scraped it all up with a metal spatula. I mean, that would've been way smarter!! Oh well, next time. Wait...let's hope there isn't a next time.
Once the oven was cooled down, I cleaned it. And I had the spectators go in the other room. Being the Curious George's they are, they didn't like it one bit and kept clambering into the doorway. I shooed them multiple times and kept on at my mission. Too bad for them. I wasn't going to have any more catastrophes. Play dough and a fire were enough for me.
My next door neighbor graciously let me bake the cupcake in her oven. I promised not to spill it and even put it on a cookie sheet as insurance. Phew. I was glad I was able to save it. I didn't have the gumption to make another cake. No, not today.
All is quiet now. The oven is clean. I think the disaster is over. But I'm not sure. I haven't tried to turn the oven back on yet.
We'll see how it goes.
Never a dull moment.
Just another day in paradise.