Sometimes I Feel Like I'm Smart. Sometimes I Don't.

There have been a lot of changes in teaching since I was young and naïve, changes made to ensure that all the diminutive people of the nation get teached at real good, and get all growed up and start a website to use incorrect grammar and sentence fragments and not even care. Changes to ensure that all the wee ones learn what they are supposed to be learning. As part of some of these changes, teachers are supposed to know what they are teaching. I would consider this a good thing. In fact, there are programs that take technically trained individuals and put them in a classroom to teach math and science to the underprivileged. The popularity of these programs has skyrocketed. I would have qualified for such a programs. Based on recent personal experience, I don’t know if I would have been quite what they are looking for.


Rhiannon is a little busy right now, being a good teacher and caring about her students and the quality of education she can provide for them. I try to help out when I can, because I, too, care about the quality of education in this country. (This also qualifies me to bump my fist twice to my chest, tilt my head down and to the side and say, in my most sincere rapper voice, “Is fer the kids.”)

Last night, she was a little extra busy doing teacher-type things like going to the library and reading papers her students had written. You know, the important tasks. Teacher things.

She asked me to make cupcakes.

Sure thing.

I don’t really remember the last time I made cupcakes, if ever. I find that, much like cookies, my attention span becomes very short after the mixing in a bowl is over. At that point, I want to but the whole conglomeration in the oven in one large mass, like a cake or a ban of bars, or, in the case of cookie dough, sit down and eat my way though a third of the batter, knowing in the back of my head that there is raw egg and I shouldn’t eat any more and in the front of my head fully enjoying each and every savory spoonful.

I always feel bad later. That kind of feeling you get right after you eat about two dozens cookies worth of raw dough. I’m never exactly sure why.

So Rhiannon wanted me to make cupcakes. I’m a semi-intelligent person on occasion. What I lack in common sense, I’d like to think I make up for in my ability to score well on standardized tests. I can read and follow directions. It seems as though I would be a prime candidate to make cupcakes.

But these weren’t just any cupcakes. They were the world. Literally. (Figuratively.) Layered cupcakes. French vanilla batter, precisely measured (eye-balled) into four equal parts. One left plain. One with chocolate syrup, the last two with red and green food coloring, respectively. Four batches, four different colors. My mission, should I have chosen to accept it, was to make 24 cupcakes with two or three colors in layers in each one, with two or three of the cupcakes being identical in layer order. 24 cupcakes. 4 colors. After being frosted, the cupcakes would be stabbed with clear straws to form core samples. The students would then attempt to locate the other students with similar core samples. And, regardless if they succeeded or not, they got to eat the cupcake. From this, they learn about continental drift. (I know, it seems crazy to me too, but I’d go along with it if it meant getting a cupcake.)

In the end, it was just a round-about way to make cupcakes like any other time. I was smart. I read the instructions on the box (even the high-altitude instructions in tiny print.) With 18 cupcakes completed, I realized that I had nowhere near the needed amount of batter remaining to finish the last six.

“Honey, Houston just called. We may have a problem.”

“Your making cupcakes. I think you can handle it.”

“No, really. You should come look at this.”

She came. She looked at the completed cupcakes. She looked at me. She looked at the box. And then she realized that maybe common sense is a little more important than standardized test scores when it comes to simple things, like quantum physics and cupcake making. (In my mind, they are about the same level of difficulty.)

“You see here on the box, where it says to fill two-thirds full?”


“You see this little tinfoil cupcake wrapper?”


“Do you think you put a little more than two-thirds should be?”

“The batter is pretty colors.”

At this point I was left alone to “do the best I could” with the remaining batter and please come up with something useful. I did what I could and placed the cupcakes in the oven.

I don’t know if you’ve ever sat and watched a cake or bread bake in an oven and physically rise. Most people wouldn’t take the 10 to 15 minutes it takes to see things really start to happen. My full cupcakes where making a break for it three minutes in.

I begged. I pleaded. I curled up in a tiny ball on the floor and sobbed like a small child whose pacifier has just been thrown away on a McDonalds tray. The cupcakes relented slightly and at least refrained from mingling into one large cake on the top of the pan.

I looked at the box again – high altitude directions say to make 30 cupcakes.

Do not ask me to bake for you.

We ended up cutting off the extra pieces that hung over the edges of the cups. The point of the frosting is to obscure any clue of what colors are underneath it. If you’ve ever frosted a crumby cake and tried to keep all the crumbs out of the frosting, you know this is not easy.

I got vanilla frosting. White vanilla frosting. It doesn’t do much to hide green crumbs.

It was not my day.

I am not a teacher. I am not a baker. This is probably a good thing. Give me a call if you’re interested in quantum physics. From here on out, I’m sticking to the simple stuff.