Monday, October 25, 2010

It was the best place to run out of gas. Also the most humiliating,

It would be humiliating, if it weren't so ridiculous.

It all started when Peter's friend had an emergency and asked him to take over a pick up at the Bishops' Storehouse. Peter, quite fond of his friend, readily agreed. I, quite fond of my husband sleeping instead of driving after an all night shift, volunteered to do it instead.

Luckily, a friend had already requested a playdate with 3 of my children and, hearing the two left in the car crying, volunteered to take them, too. So, with my oldest left at home, I was driving my brand new and improved* Suburban alone for the 75 minute drive to the storehouse.

*Did I mention we took it to get a tune up after the drive shaft was repaired? On this first substantial drive after picking it up, I realized they somehow broke my speedometer; now it jerks back and forth in a 5 mph swing. Also, the brakes aren't working properly anymore. So "brand new and improved" really means "I can't believe I'm stuck with you until after we close on the house."

The drive there went without a glitch and the car was loaded with the needed food. On the way home, however, I found myself thinking, "Do not fall asleep. You are not tired. Do not ..." Chanting, by the way, is not the best way to keep awake. Instead I decided to stop at a gas station/rest stop to get a soda. As an afterthought, I picked up a candy bar and as an after-afterthought upgraded it to kingsize.

Walking back to the car, I noticed a wild rooster eating crumbs from the parking lot. He eyed my candy bar, I think, with jealousy. I jumped into the Suburban and started the engine.

It started and instantly died. No amount of revving would get it to turn over again.

My first thought is that the battery somehow died so I unplugged my phone, the GPS, and the XM radio (wonder why I was worried about the battery), but it did no good. Then I remembered how the last time the battery died it was really out of gas.*

*You see the gas gauge has been broken since we bought that car. At 1/4 tank it either has 1/4 tank or it is running on fumes. It was not until that moment that I remembered the gauge had been on 1/4 full when I left the house that day. Something you think should make a bigger impression on me, distracted and tired or not.

I sat in the car for a moment to savor the ridiculous fact that I had run out of gas, at a gas station, where I stopped not to buy gas, but to buy a soda. Silently praying the fumes would expand just enough to take me to the pump, I tried about 10 more times. Because surely trying over and over will fix the problem.

It did not.

So I walked back to the front of the station and bought myself one of those gas containers. The cashier regarded me curiously. After all, why would I be buying an I-ran-out-of-gas container when I am obviously already at the gas station? And if I walked here, why would I purchase a soda and candy bar before taking care of business? "My gas gauge is broken," I mutter as explanation, my eyes properly lowered in shame.

Speaking of shame, there is nothing quite like the walk of shame to the gas pump. Standing there carless while customers filling their car-attached tanks try not to notice. Their own gas pumps suddenly become far too interesting to look my direction, but I can almost hear them thinking, "There but for the grace of God (and attention to the gas gauge)..."

The rooster who taunted me.
I had plenty of time to ponder the inner thoughts of my fellow gas buyers as my first gas container was broken. After a couple minute trying to fish out the spout, I went back to the cashier and begged leniency. She replaced the offending container and I took the walk of shame again, buying my 2 gallons and taking it back to the Suburban. My only break was that the parking lot I choose was in back and had no witnesses expect the wild rooster, who I know was laughing at me the whole time. I should have shared my chocolate the first time.

Finally, the gas added to the tank, I was able to start the car and pull up to the pump.

My credit card was denied. "Please see cashier inside"

Something about using my card 4 times in a half hour triggered suspicion. I had to see that cashier one more time and explain again. Luckily, as a participant in nearly every step of my story, she understood what happened and let me use my card. "Gas gauge," I squeaked one last time as I left the store.

Finally I was on my way. I guess I'm lucky I stopped for that soda. Although the chocolate is what really calmed my smarting ego. At least I no longer felt tired at all; I recommend humiliating yourself if you ever feel sleepy at the wheel.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Guest posting today

Due to events of today, I have yet another car story to tell, but this time it is actually funny. Well, funny in a how-does-this-happen-to-me meets I-have-no-one-to-blame-but-myself sort of way. But while I contemplate how to best write the wild rooster into my tale, I'm sending you over to MMB for a guest post of mine. I sent it in months ago, and it has posted here before, but after last Friday I certainly needed a reminder! So, if you're so inclined, hop on over and read The Keeper of Bad Days.

(And just so you don't get your hopes up the wild rooster is merely a side note to the main tale)


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Friday Ended

"We're just picking up the kids and you're not getting out of the car," I impatiently snapped at the kids, "Just leave your shoes and jackets at home. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll get home and into bed."

My fate was sealed...

Here are the quick facts from the last post:
  • Elise is not home
  • Peter is at work until eleven
  • Ryan and a 16-year-old boy are waiting to be picked up 25 minutes away
  • 3/4 kids jacketless, 1/2 shoeless
  • Skunk issues in the yard
  • 2 hours past kids bedtime, approaching mine

1 0 : 3 0 P M
Like all good parents, or at least experienced ones, I cranked on the heat during the drive to help facilitate sleeping kids.  As I pulled into the roundabout driveway, I realized it was blocked by another car and backed out, slightly grazing a bush as I went.  What can I say? It was dark, I was tired, I'm driving a Suburban double the height of the bush, and backing up is not my strong suit anyway. So I pulled in the other side of the driveway and left the car running while I picked up the other kids.

As we walked back to the car, I jokingly told the 16-year-old my brain and patience shut off at 10:00 so he'd better be an angel for the ride home. (Jokingly because he really is an angel; the brain and patience part is cold hard fact.)

As we pulled from the side road onto the main country road, my car tire went flat- or so it seemed.  I pulled over to the side of the road and checked: the tires seemed fine. Being that there is no real light on New England roads, I couldn't see that well and assumed a piece of the grazed bush had gotten caught in my wheel well. Of course the obvious solution was to drive faster until whatever was caught knocked loose. (Remember the part where my brain is shut off and my helper in the passenger seat has no real driving experience yet?)

Despite the intelligence of my idea, it worked!  As soon as I hit 60 mph the bumping stopped.  Satisfied with my car fixing skills, I slowed back down to 55. And then the fun really began.

1 0 : 5 0 P M
Clunk, clunk, clunkity, chuggity clunk. I thought all 4 tires must have exploded at once! I knew I hadn't hit anything, but it felt like I was running over a ditch, or more like several ditches in a row. Luckily I had JUST COME to a part of the road with a wide shoulder.  I pulled over and put the car in park to jump out and check those tires again.  When I lifted my foot from the brake, the car began to roll down the hill. Checked again, and I was still in park. So I engaged the emergency brake. Still rolled down the hill. It is the middle of the night, on a country road without lights, and I can't take my foot off the brake without the car rolling. Oh, and as it rolled it made a nice crunching noise. Extra fun.

This is where having an angelic 16-year-old with me became important.  We took turns pressing the brake while checking the tires. Nothing. Finally, after the person with a still-awake brain asked, I remembered I had a flashlight in the back of the Suburban. It was with the flashlight that I saw the car's blood spilled all over the road. Streaking and puddling down the 3 feet the car had rolled since we stopped, it was reddish enough for me to briefly wonder if I'd hit an animal.

1 1 : 0 0 P M
I'm stuck with my foot on the brake of a bleeding car- with good tires, by the way- but, in the 10 minutes it took to figure this out, Peter's shift at work had ended.  "Ended" is arbitrary as he usually doesn't leave the hospital until an hour or so after the official end of shift. Not tonight. I called the Emergency Room and waited to be connected.

Our conversation is a little hazy.
  • I told him what happened ...
  • he reminded me we have road side assistance on our insurance ...
  • I told him I didn't have the most recent card- just as 16-year-old handed me said card from the glove box ...

I know Peter later chided me. Something about calling in the middle of the night, highly excited/upset, and rambling about car trouble. Apparently not answering the question, "is anyone hurt?" until the 5th time it's asked is not appreciated. Picky, picky.

He was on his way, I was calling insurance.

1 1 : 3 0 P M
Do you know the best time to find out your insurance has bad customer service? Well I know it isn't the middle of the night, with my foot stuck on a brake pedal, 6 mostly asleep kids in the car (many without jackets).

"We need to know where you want to take the car, then we'll give you a list of tow trucks that you will pay for and we might reimburse you for. You have to look all that up on your own."

After calling Peter to decide where to take the car, I called back insurance. After explaining that I didn't know what town I was in (there being about 300 choices on any given point of a New England country road), they transferred me and then hung up. I'd been explaining myself for ten minutes and they hang up on me?

I don't do well with idiots confrontations, so I decided I would rather apply the brake forever before calling again. (Remember that whole statement about patience evaporating at ten?) Luckily Peter arrived and checked the tires, checked the pool of car blood, and proclaimed it must be the transmission.  He called the insurance again and tried to give them directions for where we were located. After being told the roads of the intersection he gave didn't exist and giving them 50 alternate names for the roads (Thanks for that, too, New England), they finally put him on hold to find a tow truck.

1 2 : 0 0 - 1 2 : 3 0 A M 
Meanwhile I decided to take Peter's car to bring the kids home in batches. 16-year-old offered to stay behind and I loaded the oldest 4 kids into the car, leaving my 4-year-old asleep in the back of the Suburban. Arriving home, Ryan asked if he had to stay up since he was in charge.  "No," I replied, "just make sure you lock the door behind me." As I walked out the door to get the other load of kids I pointed at him and said, "Come lock this door RIGHT NOW." I walked away, pulling the door shut behind me. It was now half past 12, and I was starting to drag.

1 : 0 0 - 1: 3 0 A M
On the way back, I stopped to get Peter some food, since he hadn't eaten that day and had been planning to make a stop on the way home.  I also needed some caffeine if I was going to make the 30 minute drive to the broken car and back a couple more times. This is where I learned that Burger King is a happening place at one in the morning. Stupid lack of patience.

Back at the car, it turns out our customer oriented insurance had informed Peter that absolutely no tow trucks existed in our area that could take care of us- after a run around of 45 minutes on the phone.

It also turns out AAA will let you join in the middle of the night while currently in need of a tow truck.  One was on it's way to tow us to a shop AAA recommended instead of one pulled from a quick, random google search.

Peter had backed the car into bank on the side of the road so he no longer needed to brake.

"Why didn't you do that?" he asked.
"Remember how I am when I get tired?"
"Yes," he replied, with a sigh of resignation.

I grabbed our teenage helper -sidenote: his mom was out of town, so we couldn't call her to help us. On a plus side, that means she wasn't at home freaking out that her child was stranded in the middle of the night- and my youngest. After dropping off the 16-year-old, I headed home.

1 : 3 0 - 2 : 3 0 A M
It wasn't until I tried to open the front door and felt the resistance of the locked doorknob that I realized I had the set of keys that was missing a house key You see, I had Peter's set of keys and he had never put the key back after taking it off before our vacation last August. Despite my reminders every time he woke me up in the middle of the night to let him in.  I knew it would come back to bite some day, but I always thought it would be him that got bit.

At one-thirty in the morning, with a jacketless four-year-old shivering in my arms, I took a deep breath. Surely one of the four kids asleep inside will hear me knock and open the door. After all, how much more irritation could I have on this night? After a couple minutes, I decided to just go in through the garage.  Someone (who may be the same person who hadn't replaced his keys) had locked the garage-to-kitchen door. I tucked Matthew back into the warm car and went back to knocking and ringing the doorbell.  Now I started calling, too.  Leaving loud messages informing the kids to WAKE UP AND LET ME IN NOW.

After several minutes I decided to take a more drastic approach and sneak into the back side yard to knock on the boys' bedroom window.  They have bunk beds, so I would be knocking directly above my 12-year-old's head. As I walked around the house in complete darkness, I was relieved to see a light on in the back of the house. I was relieved, until the light revealed that darn skunk slinking around back there.

What to do? Risk getting sprayed or risk being stuck outside forever? You know what I did?  I knocked.  I was desperate and tired and ready to be done.  I then ran as fast as I could back to the front of the house.

It made no difference.  Not a single kids woke up to my risky knocking and I was too chicken to try again.

An hour after beginning I was still banging on the door, ringing the doorbell and calling the house. I just was doing it a little more desperately by then. And then when Peter called to inform me the tow truck had finally arrived, I gave up and went to join him at the repair shop.

Luckily he had my set of keys with a house key and we were able to get inside and end this awful night.  All told, we were stranded on the side of the road 3 1/2 hours:

  • I had my foot on that brake for over an hour of it, 
  • drove back and forth about 1 1/2 hours, 
  • and knocked on the door almost an hour.
For those interested, it was the drive shaft that broke, knocking and breaking the transmission casing (maybe?)  The mechanic was amazed at the damage to the shaft and said they'd never seen anything like it.  He wondered how I was able to do anything with the car after it broke loose. On a positive note, the car is fixed and back in the driveway.  I have the rental minivan until Saturday, though, and intend to use it.  I'm not ready to forgive my Suburban yet. Also, I am think we'll be switching insurance companies when we move.  And I am getting Peter a new key as he has admitted his is lost, not forgotten.

Drive Shaft
Some part of transmission


Monday, October 18, 2010

A prelude to the rest of Friday night

It wasn't until I tried to open the front door and felt the resistance of the locked doorknob that I realized I had the set of keys that was missing a house key. At one-thirty in the morning, with a jacketless four-year-old shivering in my arms, I took a deep breath. Surely one of the four kids asleep inside will hear me knock and open the door. After all, how much more irritation could I have on this night? Apparently, a lot, as an hour later I was still banging on the door, ringing the doorbell and calling the house. I just was doing it a little more desperately by then...

5 : 3 0 P M  ( F r i d a y  e v e n i n g )
The day didn't begin to derail until evening, although many of the mitigating factors were already in place. The first thing was so small, it would normally settle in the backdrop of forgettable memories: for the first time ever, my well-loved and oft-used laminator jammed. Ignoring the warning picture of crossed out silverware- right next to the crossed out hand- I dug into that thing with a couple knives and wormed the ruined paper out. Like I said, a completely forgettable event, all it did was make me late so I was hurried and frustrated. However small, though, it was the beginning of the end.

6 : 1 5 P M :
I was already deep into my drive-a-thon, harried because my laminator issues forced our time schedule back by15 minutes. I'd picked up one of the 16-year-old boys from church and dropped him and my 12-year-old off for a game night activity at a leader's house, about 25 minutes from mine down a typical New England country road. Since Peter was working until eleven and Elise was going to the local high school play with a friend, I also had the other four kids in the car.

Because they were in such a grouchy, ants-in-their-pants mood, I decided I simply could not wait to run a few errands. After all, nothing says "relaxing Friday night" like taking 4 hungry, tired, and bored kids to a craft store, then next door to a bookstore, and then across the street to Target. I really must claim temporary insanity.

8 P M :
Yes, that would be 2 hours later, we were finally finished shopping. I will glaze over the frustration, the calls of

 "Don't touch that!"
"No, we are not buying a $75 peacock puppet."
"Not an owl one, either"
         and the
"It's the price, not the animal that causes the 'No'! Stop asking me about puppets!"
          intermingled with the  
"Don't run / yell / break anything / squeak your shoes."

(Did I mention that it was raining the whole time and the temperature was dropping quickly?) You can use your imagination to fill in any gaps in the specific details.

It was now past eight. The kids were still unfed and I was about 150% past my ability to stay calm and collected. All that frustration did produce the Halloween books I wanted and the presents the kids needed for birthday parties the next day, so it wasn't a complete loss. Dollar sandwiches at a fast food drive through fixed the hunger grouchiness and I was ready to go home and put the kids to bed.

As we pulled up, we saw a skunk scamper past corner that leads to the front porch. We honked and flashed our lights, but (for some odd reason) no one wanted to run out and check if the skunk had slunk off teh doorstep or waited with raised tail. I finally decided I was the bigger person (literally, I suppose, as the next biggest person was only 9), and ran to check. No skunk could be seen, although I wish I could X-ray vision all the bushes, so I quietly slipped through the door and opened the garage for everyone else to escape inside. I then closed the garage door firmly behind me.

It wasn't until that moment that the following three facts finally came together for me:

  1. Ryan had texted me that the game night finished at 10:30,  
  2. Elise was spending the night with her friend. 
  3. Peter was at work until 11 (which means he probably wouldn't be home until midnight).

All family members able to watch the kids were GONE except me. I realized I couldn't put the kids to bed, they had to come with me to pick up Ryan and the other boy. Not only was it already bed time, I had just over exhausted them by taking 2 hours to visit 3 stores. I knew this wouldn't end well.  I just had no idea how much worse it was going to be.

1 0 P M
Time to head off to pick kids up, I was perplexed to find three-quarters of my kids had managed to lose their jackets and shoes. We had only been home 1 1/2 hours! Not wanting to be late again, I issued a proclamation I would later regret,

"We're just picking up the kids and you're not getting out of the car.  Just leave your shoes and jackets at home. The sooner we leave, the sooner we'll get home and into bed."

My fate was sealed.

(To be continued)


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tuesdays, shopping, and forgetting to buy food.

To understand the full content of this post, I must first introduce you to Tuesday. I know that Monday is the traditional dread sibling, but Tuesdays most often kicks my trash.

~ You see Tuesday is shopping day (no small feat when providing nutrition for 8 people).

~ Tuesday is also a music class for my preschooler.

~ Tuesday is also church activities night, and with Peter's schedule that often entails me bringing 3 extra kids to wait while the other 3 attend activities.

~ Tuesday is also the day (while I am already out) that I usually hit the library, craft store, consignment shop, post office, and any other random errands when they're needed.

Tuesday is a day when at least one of my kids stays after school for something and needs me to swing by and pick them up, too.

~ Finally, Tuesday is the day I realize maybe half my kids have practiced the piano maybe half the time and piano lessons are the next afternoon, so they must, must practice NOW.

Like I said, Tuesday kicks my trash quite regularly.

And now for This Tuesday:

Yesterday I decided to wear my Shape Up shoes so I could count my crazy Tuesday as workout time. I also decided to start buying supplies for Halloween costumes.  This meant constant meandering back and forth between departments, multiple times, a process I normally eschew. Extra walking + shoes designed to make walking extra arduous; I know, my brilliance is blinding sometimes.

By the time I arrived home, my legs were killing me! But despite this exhaustion, immediately after picking my son up five minutes late from after school football (I'm supposed to remember I'm a kid short in time to be on time?) and heading upstairs to use the restroom (AKA hiding in my room and reading for 45 minutes), I began dinner.

This is no small victory. Dinner has to be early on Tuesdays which usually means tacos or corndogs or fast food picked up on the way.  But today I was cooking Chicken Carbonara, a fancy family favorite. (Fancy being defined as something that take more than 30 minutes of effort on my part).

I baked and chopped the bacon and then chopped and baked the chicken.  I simmered the sauce.  With 12 minutes left before GO TIME for church, I was ready to add the pasta noodles to boiling water, reveling in my togetherness and homemaking skills.

It was not till that moment that I realized we were out of spaghetti noodles. Gone. Unless I wanted to used lasagna or manicotti noodles, there weren't even substitutes.

Wait, you might ask, didn't you say today was shopping day?  How could you be out of food?

To which I hypothetically reply, Thanks for rubbing it in, did I mention my out of shape legs are about to collapse and I've only been home for 2 hours today, most of which was spent unloading groceries with my worn out legs?

So that is why we had delivery pizza for dinner last night, ordered by Peter while I was on my way to church.* On a positive note, I have dinner ready for tonight, as long as I make it to the store again to buy spaghetti noodles.

This post would be a whole lot funnier if I didn't miss some key ingredient for one of my planned dinners every single week. Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.


*Peter would normally be the one driving to church, but Young Men's was canceled so he didn't have to go and I thought sitting in the foyer without any kids around would be quite relaxing. I was right. It was the saving grace of a hectic day.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The story of my birth

I decided to make my debut in this world a year or so after my parents met, nine months after they married, and precisely on my due date.

Labor began while my parents and my dad's best friend were in the middle of watching Charlie's Angels, which is extremely rude behavior before the age of DVR's or even VCR's.  How much more polite to come earlier, when my mother ran around the house several times vainly hoping to entice me? Obviously, my vague distaste for exercise existed even in the womb.

Despite her earlier attempts to jump-start labor, after only one major contraction my mother changed her mind entirely about that whole "delivering a child" thing. It obviously was not for her and she simply was not going to do it. My father, despite knowledge of my mother's fierce determination in most things, still realized the flaw in her argument and persuaded her to go to the hospital anyway; his persuasion taking the form of enlisting his friend's help in carrying her to the car.

I was born in rural, rural Arkansas in 1976 which  meant a few things. First of all, I would never like to wear shoes (true story) and would feel compelled to shop at WalMart (who shares its beginning in rural Arkansas).  Also, they didn't go into all those new-fangled things like epidurals or allowing the father's presence in the birth room. No, they still used laughing gas and made the father pace outside. As they wheeled my mother away, she grabbed my father's hand and left him with immortal words of wisdom: "Honey, I forgot to iron your shirts." I think they still used laughing gas just to give the husband teasing ammunition for the rest of eternity.

The rest of my birth is sort of unreliable as my mother was a little bit high and my father was not there.  I can assume that it actually happened. Pretty sure I wasn't dropped, even if that would explain a lot. It couldn't have been too horrid, either, as my mother did it 5 more times without any medication or epidural.  My siblings can thank me for their existence later.

Now anyone who has ever said, "What's in a name?" has never been through child naming negotiations. Sorry Shakespeare, but apparently there is a lot in a name. My parents were no different. My father, the driving force behind "Charlotte", made solemn vows to never abbreviate my name to "Char", a nickname my mother did not appreciate. I can't be certain what threats were made, but they must have been severe as the nickname was never used. On rare occasions when people insist my name needs shortening, I have gone by Charlie. I'm sure this is some cosmic commentary on interrupting Charlie's Angels with my birth.


I would like to preemptively apologize to my mother for the preceding story. Obviously I can only go on what I've been told about my birth and, re-reading it, it must be my father who told me. Why else the knowledge of what was on TV and the good-humored teasing of my mother? Any inaccuracies can be blamed on waiting until late to write this so I couldn't call and double check facts and/or my own faulty memory . I was born under the influence of laughing gas, after all.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

On flag football, twirls, and running without abandon

The field is occupied by 5- to 7-year-old boys and so overflows with unbridled energy. That energy undulates through the 2 uneven lines formed facing each other, ostensibly for the purpose of running The Play, as father-coaches gently guide errant boys back into place.

My son is guided often.


As the lines form...
 ...he twirls wildly, arms outstretched
and flags lifting from his side.

As the players face off...
...he hops back and forth between the lines,
a lifetime supply of offsides in every play.

As The Play begins,
a mass of boys forming a blob of running legs
and grasping fingers with the football at its heart...
...he tussles with the other stragglers
at the line for a moment
and then merrily skips behind the blob.

As the whistle blows and The Play ends...
...he begins grabbing random flags
from his nearest friends,
returning them in time to begin again
his twirling.


Then, finally, it is his turn to carry The Football. The coaches, perhaps noticing his un-firm understanding of The Plays, whisper fervently in his ear, gesturing in a certain direction. My son nods thoughtfully and, when prodded, points more or less in the same direction.

"Hut. Hut! HUT!" he calls out with great precision. And volume. When he's handed the ball it transforms him into a statue. Finally perfectly still, with a dazed expression etched on his face. "Run!" remind his coaches.

It isn't until he loses both his flags that he shakes off the stone and runs down the field without abandon.


He'll learn the rules. The seemingly random instructions will coalesce into game plans and strategy and positions. The Plays will mean something to him. Right now, I rather enjoy watching him run without abandon, twirling the game away.

Do you like watching your kids learn something new?
Was your kid ever the distracted one?
Ever been the coach of your child's team? Peter seems to really enjoy it.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Teddy Bear into an Elephant. (In cake surgery)

I've decided to take up surgery as a hobby. To be more specific, Species Changing Surgery. I have all I need: knives, prosthesis, frosting. No training needed, on the job experience is enough.  Did I mention that the animals I'm working on are made of cake? That's right, I recently turned a teddy bear into an elephant.  (Or as my friend called it, an teddyphant)

I've shown before my transformation of this same teddy bear into a monkey.  In case you missed it, here is the before/ after.

For Joseph's birthday I transformed the same teddy bear into an elephant.  I actually got the idea from the pan maker's site (Wilton Stand Up Cuddly Bear) He had wanted one for at least the last 7 months. Here is the process

1- Make cake. I use a recipe called WASC (White Almond Sour Cream), which uses a box mix and tastes yummy while adding density.

2- Cut out elephant ears from cardboard.  Wrap in aluminum foil.  Tape dowel rods to back.  Add dowel rods to marshmallow for arms and trunk.  (I put 4 for the trunk, but cut one off at the end because it was too long.)

3- Make buttercream frosting and use Wilton gel dyes to color.  I needed white, black, pink and LOTS of gray.

4- Frost front of ears pink.  The edges don't matter as they will be covered by gray.

5- Cut off bear ears.  Add elephant ears, arms, and trunk by inserting dowels into cake.  Frost bottom of feet pink.  Frost eyes following (more or less) shape of cake.

6- Start adding gray.  Continue adding gray until you think there is nothing left in life but making tiny gray stars.  Then take a break for a couple minutes to regain sanity and continue. (see how the trunk it too long?  Looks much better in the final picture with just three marshmallows).

7- Add finishing touches like outlining the eyes, adding small white tusks, making gray frosting dots along hands and feet for toes, and writing "Happy Birthday."

8- Make a wish and blow out candles.