Once upon a time, (21 years ago to be precise), in a strange land, (a village on the north shore of Long Island, New York), a stay at home Mom, (that would be me), was having a fairy tale week. I was running a craft and sewing business from our home, and for the first time ever, I was caught up on orders and deliveries. The spring cleaning was finished, so the house was sparkling, and I had found enough time to make curtains for the kitchen, which perfectly complimented the charming wallpaper that my husband had hung the previous weekend. The grocery shopping was done, (for once I had gotten everything on the list), and each item was tucked away in its proper spot. My husband was enjoying a reasonably quiet workweek, and our second grade son, Colin, had an excellent week at school, which in his case meant that he didn't break his glasses on the playground. Even our cat, Sullivan, (AKA: 'Sully'), who was having problems growing out of his mischievous kitten stage, had managed to stay out of trouble.
Life was good, and we were anticipating that it would only get better, because we had plans for a terrific weekend. My son's friend, Carl, was having his first sleepover at our house on Friday night. Saturday afternoon, Colin, already an advanced piano student, was scheduled to perform at a classical music festival, then he was going to stay overnight at Carl's house. (Carl's Mom and I had a reciprocal childcare arrangement so we could both garner some 'quality' time with adults.)
My husband and I, along with two other couples, were returning to the music festival to attend another concert in the evening, and afterwards the six of us were coming back to our house for a late supper. I would make dessert in the morning and do dinner prep in between concerts. Sunday would include church and dinner at Grandma's house. Since I had been magically transformed into a combination of June Cleaver and Wonderwoman, I was unusually organized and totally prepared. Let the weekend begin!
Carl arrived, as planned, on Friday evening, and after a few hours of snacking, playing with Legos and watching TV, the boys got ready for bed. There was the usual bouncing on the bed and rolling around the floor in fits of laughter, but pretty quickly an unnatural silence settled over the house. Wait...It wasn't even 9:30. This was much too early for boys on a sleepover to be settled in for the night!
Fearing the worst, I flipped on the hall light, flew up the steps two at a time and pushed open my son's bedroom door. Both boys were in their sleeping bags on the floor. "Mom, close the door. Carl's asleep and you're shining the light on him!" my son whispered. I stepped into the room, closed the door behind me, and asked if everything was okay. "Sure," Colin answered. "We were talking, Carl said he was tired and he just fell asleep. Listen...he snores! I'm going to sleep now too, so we can do stuff in the morning." Since Carl was asleep, it was okay for my son to give me a quick goodnight kiss, and then he asked me to "almost" close the door on my way out. I was officially dismissed and off duty, with enough evening left over to sink into a bubble bath and give myself a manicure!
By midnight, my neatly polished nails were dry, and after checking on the boys who were now both snoring, my husband and I snuggled under our freshly laundered comforter. Secure in the knowledge that tomorrow was Saturday, I turned off the alarm on the clock radio and quickly fell asleep. What seemed like only minutes later, I was startled out of a deep sleep by a little hand patting my cheek.
"Mom. Mommy. Are you up? Carl's hungry and he wants breakfast. "
I was groping the barely visible nightstand for my glasses. "What time is it?" I managed to mumble.
"It's almost 6:00," came the reply through the darkness.
"It's too early for breakfast," I groaned. "Why don't you both go watch cartoons for a while?" This was going to be a full day, and I needed it to start a tad later.
When Colin answered that they had already watched the Smurfs, I knew I had to get up. Two hungry, wide awake, seven year old boys left alone downstairs didn't seem like a good idea. It was much too early to flirt with disaster. I pulled on a robe, found my slippers and dragged myself downstairs to our beautiful little kitchen. Carl was already seated at the table.
"Good morning Carl. Did you get a good night's sleep?" I asked as cheerily as I could, considering the hour and the fact that I hadn't had a cup of coffee.
"Yes, thank you," came the reply. Now this is one of the reasons I loved Carl...he had impeccable manners. This child was also extremely bright, very articulate and well behaved. He was rapidly becoming my all time favorite little house guest.
While I filled my stove top percolator with water, I asked the boys what they wanted for breakfast.
"Pancakes please," Carl said immediately. "Yeah, pancakes!'' Colin echoed.
Pancakes??? Those were too much work at this hour of the morning. I measured coffee into the basket of the coffee pot, slapped on the lids and turned on the gas. "How about cereal?" I countered. I was doing my best Vanna White imitation as I held up a box of Golden Grahams.
"I always have pancakes on Saturday," Carl stated flatly. His demeanor had changed and he looked like he was going to cry. I decided it would be easier to make the pancakes than it would be to deal with tears. "Okay, pancakes it is," I said quickly, while I grabbed a cookbook. I didn't keep pancake mix in the house at that time, because I was still cooking everything from scratch. I assembled ingredients, plugged in the electric griddle and wished that the coffee would start perking. I desperately needed a shot of caffeine
The batter was ready and waiting by the time the little light on the griddle announced that it had reached 375 degrees. I swiped margarine over the preheated surface, glanced at the still silent coffee pot, and ladle in hand, started to turn towards the table to ask the boys how many pancakes they wanted. I never did get to ask the question because in mid-turn a black and white ball of fur flew past my face! SULLIVAN??? Yes it was the cat, who we already knew could leap tall china cabinets in a single bound, and he was headed towards the hot griddle! This all happened so quickly that I couldn't prevent the inevitable, and I watched in horror as our cute little kitten made a perfect 4 paw landing on the sizzling surface!
Within a nanosecond, Sully realized his feet were burning and he vaulted off of the griddle. The five pound cat was now in mid air heading towards a four quart bowl filled with pancake batter! The splash down that followed would have made the folks at NASA green with envy, and the image lingered in my mind for awhile because it was the last thing I saw before being blinded by batter! My glass frames and face were completely coated with the stuff, and it was dripping down my robe onto my slippers. I was so shocked that I screamed, and my husband came running into the kitchen. I quickly explained what happened and told everybody to go find Sullivan right away.
As I washed my face and glasses in the kitchen sink and wiped down my robe, my husband and the boys took off in different directions to find the cat. I was drying off when I realized that the coffee was not only perking, but running all over my clean stove. I shut off the gas, pulled the hot pot off of the burner and scalded my hand. Luckily, the kitchen was so tiny that the sink was only two steps away and I was quickly able to get my hand under cold running water. The icy stream was soothing my blistered skin and my heart rate was returning to normal, when I felt something plop onto the top of my head. I looked up, and sure enough, pancake batter was dripping from the ceiling!
Slowly, I started to survey the damage. The ceiling, cabinets, counters, floor and refrigerator had all been splattered with copious amounts of vanilla colored goo. The new curtains over the sink, and the wallpaper hadn't been spared either, but amazingly enough, the mixing bowl was still on the counter. It was almost empty, but at least it wasn't broken.
I stuck the bowl in the sink, filled it with sudsy water, scraped down the still warm griddle, then grabbed a roll of paper towels and started to wipe the mess off of the hard surfaces. It became immediately apparent that paper towels and spray cleaner weren't going to be enough to clean up a disaster of this magnitude. I needed a wash bucket, rags and the step ladder. I quickly mopped up whatever I could, then finished washing the bowl and made another batch of pancake batter. I had just finished mixing, when my husband came into the kitchen cradling our errant house pet in his arms. Colin and Carl were trailing behind.
"How did you find him so fast?" I asked. Sully always hid after executing one of his stunts, and we knew from experience that he could be difficult to find.
"I just followed the trail of batter up to our bedroom," my husband cautiously answered. He was obviously testing the waters for my reaction before dropping the next bomb. "He was shaking like a leaf in the middle of our bed. I grabbed him and stuck his feet in cold water in the upstairs sink, then cleaned him up a little. Poor guy let out a huge sigh when his paws hit the water."
It was my turn to let out a huge sigh. Unless I missed my bet, the wall to wall carpet, our comforter and the upstairs bathroom would need cleaning too. Thankfully, Sullivan seemed okay as I checked his paws and scratched him behind his damp little ears. The boys and my husband continued to fuss over him while I returned to making breakfast.
In short order, I was flipping pancakes on to plates. My husband gently set Sully down on the kitchen floor, and the sad little creature hobbled off to a quiet corner where he could lick his tender paws in peace. The "men folk" sat down to eat, and after setting up another round of pancakes, I finally got to have a cup of coffee. It was full of grounds from boiling over, but it didn't taste burned and it was exactly what I needed to jolt me back to reality. I ran my hand over the front of a cabinet, and discovered that the batter residue was starting to take on the quality of Portland cement. This sent me into a mood that even coffee couldn't fix.
While I turned the last batch of pancakes, I forced myself to calm down and began to formulate "Plan B." As soon as breakfast was done I would throw the curtains, my robe and slippers into the washer. Next, I would scrub down every surface that had been spattered, then I would hit the laundromat with the comforter that had to be washed and dried in a commercial machine. In between I would grab dessert at the local market because there would be no time to bake. If I hustled we could get this day back on track!
The remaining pancakes were ready, so I piled them on to a serving plate and placed them on the table. That's when I noticed that Carl hadn't touched a morsel of the stack on his plate!
"Is something wrong with your breakfast, honey?" I asked. Turned out that I wasn't at all prepared for the answer.
"Are these the pancakes that the cat jumped in? I think that these are the pancakes that the cat was in," Carl stated bluntly.
This turn of events seemed so preposterous, that I started laughing, but stopped short when I saw Carl's reaction. He was serious! I immediately explained that I had made another batch while everyone was off looking for the cat. Carl wasn't buying it!
"But I didn't see you make a second batch," he stubbornly responded.
Luckily, my husband jumped in to the conversation, because I was about to go ballistic!
"There wasn't any batter left in the bowl," my husband explained. "That's why there's so much all over the house." Carl still didn't back down. We had obviously reached an impasse, and further negotiation would be fruitless. I was the adult, this child needed breakfast, and it was my responsibility to resolve this situation. I did the only thing I could do...I offered Carl a bowl of cereal.
"That would be good," he said with a smile on his face.
I grabbed the cereal, a bowl, a spoon and the milk, set Carl up with his substitute breakfast, then beat a hasty retreat from the kitchen. I was on the brink, and one more thing was going to push me over the edge! On my way upstairs to change clothes, I checked out the damage in the rest of the house. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and once again I started to calm down.
After changing clothes and combing congealed batter out of my hair, I gathered up the things that needed to be laundered, brought them downstairs and cranked up the washing machine. By the time I returned to the kitchen, breakfast was over, the table had been cleared and the dishwasher had been loaded. The boys had gone upstairs to get dressed and play. My husband had brought the step ladder in from the garage, and had disappeared to do his weekend chores.
Since cleaning is my therapy of choice, I started implementing 'Plan B' as soon as possible, and by the time Carl's mom came to pick him up, I had accomplished quite a bit. My mood had also improved considerably, but not enough to stop me from jumping on my poor friend as soon as she crossed our threshold. "Does Carl always have pancakes on Saturday morning?" I demanded.
"Oh no, the Pancakes! I'm so sorry. I meant to grab a box out of the freezer and send them over with Carl last night, but it slipped my mind." She seemed very contrite as she continued. "Yes, he always has pancakes on Saturday. He's allowed to get them out of the freezer and use the microwave because he gets up too early for the rest of us."
My mind was reeling as I listened to this. Freezer??? Microwave??? I looked down at my hands. Last nights manicure had been destroyed by scrubbing, and the burn on my hand had turned a scary shade of purple. Once again, all I could do was start laughing. I explained what had happened and before long Carl's mom was laughing too.
After Carl and his mom left, I completed 'Plan B' and the rest of the day ran pretty smoothly. Colin's performance was note perfect, we had a pleasant evening with our friends and Sullivan was back to tearing around the house like nothing ever happened. I loved Carl again, and he became a regular fixture at our house every day after school when his mom had to return to work. As a thank you for the extra time that Carl spent with us, his mom gave me a book from the publishing house where she was employed. It's title - Microwave Magic!
Pretty apropos, don't you think???