In our own backyard... Please pass the Finger Jello....

I walked out of work early last Friday without ever looking back. "I have to go home and make Finger Jello," I declared to no one in particular as I walked out the door. Not an eyebrow was raised. Everyone within earshot of my desk was fully awar...

I walked out of work early last Friday without ever looking back.

"I have to go home and make Finger Jello," I declared to no one in particular as I walked out the door.

Not an eyebrow was raised. Everyone within earshot of my desk was fully aware that I was in charge of one of the most important occasions of any youngster's life - the fifth birthday party.

Up until this point in my grandson, Ethan's, young life, he's had grand and glorious birthday blowouts filled with crowds of little kids clamoring over jungle gyms and bounce castles, teeming hoards of adoring relatives and groaning tables full of food and cake.

This year, his mom wisely decided it was time to tone things down a bit and make the annual celebration a little less chaotic, a little less overwhelming and a bit more personal.


And since the world of a 5-year-old is easily stimulated by such basic things as going fishing, splashing around in the lake and climbing the ladder to the play loft, our house was easily the choice for his party.

With anticipation, we began to lay out our plans several weeks in advance.

"What kind of cake do you think Ethan would like for his party?" we quizzed his mom.

"I just know he'd LOVE a Transformers cake!" she replied.

And so, I was soon off on what I thought would be an easy enough mission - to find a bakery that could make a Transformer birthday cake.

As it turned out, it wasn't all that easy.

The first one I tried, the girl at the counter said they had a "Transformer" design they normally used, but admitted the little vehicle on it wasn't a genuine Transformer.

I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that Ethan would know the difference, however, since he knows every one of the complicated vehicle-turned-robots by heart. I didn't want to risk it.


The next store bakery I tried didn't offer a Transformer design at all, and the third one offered to make one if I brought in my own Transformers to decorate it.

Suddenly, what had seemed like a simple assignment had ballooned into an entire shopping trip.

On my lunch hour one day last week, I wandered up and down the aisles in the toy department of a local store and studied each and every one of the packaged Transformers. Some I was aware Ethan already had, and others were too frightening to grace the top of something as lighthearted as a birthday cake.

Some of them were too small to do justice to a quarter sheet cake, and others were way to big to be considered as cake toppers at all.

Finally, I selected a couple of the medium-sized toys, paid for them and took them out to my car to study them further. In the package, they were assembled in the shape of the innocent-looking vehicles that every Transformer starts out as. I decided they weren't very dramatic that way and that they should be "transformed" into their robot stage before placing them on to the cake.

But while your average 5-year-old can figure out how to transform them in a heartbeat, it took long minutes of concentration before I decided I had no idea where to even begin.

When I arrived back at work, I brought the two toys into the office and announced my dilemma. In a heartbeat, there was a production manager, a news editor and an account representative all gathered around trying to figure the fool things out.

Half an hour - and considerable blood, sweat and tears - later, the innocent-looking objects had been "transformed" into fierce-looking super heroes.


With that crisis behind me, I ordered a birthday cake in coordinating colors to put them on and heaved a sigh of relief.

All the rest of the planning went considerably more smoothly, that is until midday Friday - the day Ethan and the others were to arrive at our house for the party weekend. It was then I realized I'd forgotten all about making the star-shaped Finger Jello I was planning to serve as part of the birthday dinner.

I raced through my work that afternoon and cut out a half hour early, hoping that the Jello would be set up in time to cut into star shapes before the birthday boy arrived.

And sure enough, I rallied in time to get it made, and when all of the family sat down for the birthday party, Ethan exclaimed in surprised glee, "Why, Grandma Wendy - I didn't know you knew how to make Finger Jello!!"

Sensing my status as grandmother (and party caterer) inching up a notch, I couldn't help but gloat a little to myself.

"Just wait 'til he gets a load of the Transformers on the cake!" I thought smugly....

Pine Journal columnist Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: .

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