About a week before Paul’s birthday I asked him what kind of cake he wanted.

“Um...well, cake...I like cake. It’s cake! I can’t think of a cake ever I didn’t like.”

“Well, that’s no help,” I said. “C'mon now. What is your favorite flavor?”

(His eyes rolled into the back of his head and stayed there much too long.)

“All right then. What is your favorite candy bar?” I pressed, needing just the beginnings of inspiration.


“Do you want me to surprise you?” (say yes, say yes)

“OK, sure. Surprise me. You know, I liked that one Jonathan had with the candy inside. Do that.”

“I can do that, but the outside will be a surprise…?”

He shrugs and Hopesie runs up, grabs his leg and squeals, “Tiger! Paul, you are my tiger!”

And that was the inspiration I was looking for.

Mike took half the family on a week long hike, so I made the cake in semi-secrecy. I picked a luscious looking cake from Pinterest- chocolate orange flavor with chocolate orange slices on top. The recipe called for Dutch processed cocoa and warned me NOT to use Hersheys, so I ordered that from Amazon as well as the chocolate orange candy that I know I have seen somewhere local, but for the life of me can’t remember where that was. 

Then I got the notice that the chocolate orange had shipped—from England—and should arrive three weeks after the birthday party. So I planned to search for the local source, but happily the orange arrived in the mail the day before I set out to find another one. However, it had melted on the way to Florida. Of course. 

I packed my little people in the car and began a full day of errands, searching every grocery store, including the European Specialty Grocery and Deli. No luck. We ended up at Jo-Ann Fabrics to buy supplies for another project. As we stood in line to pay, I scanned the rows of candy beside the check-out and almost shrieked in delight when I found a chocolate orange on the bottom shelf!

Instead of a tried and true recipe, I used the one on Pinterest, and I should know better. But the temptation of a new recipe is so great, and the technique was new to me, so I thought it best to follow the directions exactly rather than adapt it. I didn’t notice that the recipe had no salt in the list of ingredients, because I had a three ring circus performing at my elbow, so the cake itself was rather bland, but it looked wonderful. It looked just as beautiful as the one on Pinterest, which was a miracle in itself. 

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Tiger stripes with chocolate covered coffee beans inside.

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While I made tiger stripes, these hungry ones shaped, boiled, and baked soft pretzels with precious little supervision. 

So Paul was happy, and surprised on his seventeenth birthday, though exhausted from the hike and suffering from a cold. He didn’t feel like smiling and we are fortunate to have these two pictures, because he looked dejected in all the others. 

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 I asked him to make his tiger face for you, but he refused. 

“I am not a circus animal, and I will not perform for an audience outside of this room.” But he did smile when he said it. He knows I would use a bad picture if I had to. 

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Reading his homemade birthday cards. 

And now I have a question for mothers of teenagers. Do you look at your big prickly teenaged boys and see something like this?

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The testosterone level in this house is overwhelming, and I feel something akin to grief, missing how sweet and cuddly they used to be. I have to remind myself constantly that it was hard then too. They fought, they got into everything, and they ate everything in the house, just like today. Proof:

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I miss my little tiger.

© Being Fruitful, 2012