It is already September, which means I’m falling behind on birthday cakes and presents.

Usually, I fall behind on sending my nieces cards with checks or gift cards enclosed, but this year I was able to get caught up with the girls. This may be why I’m behind on our kids’ birthdays as well as running short in my bank account.

To make up for missing last year’s birthdays, my nieces received cards stuffed with extra cash. The teller machine only dispenses twenties, so they got a little more than twice the going rate. I easily rationalized the higher amount as two years worth of birthday money plus interest. I just hope the girls understood the math and don’t expect the same amount next year.

Meanwhile, all our boys also have birthdays over the summer. The oldest enjoyed a cake and some off-key singing, but hasn’t received a present yet. In my defense, he wants something built. Considering he knows better exactly what he wants, I suggested he find plans online to download and share with us. We’re still waiting.

Several weeks later, son number two made plans for his birthday. In consideration of his alternate activities, I found it perfectly acceptable to put off the cake and present formalities. Unfortunately, it became one of those indefinite situations.

If you’ve been following closely, you know at this point that my children’s birthdays occur in age order. Some might interpret such a detail as a reflection of my innate, insane need to control things. I prefer to see it as a convenient coincidence.

By the time the youngest’s birthday rolled around, we were on vacation. Therefore, we wished him a happy birthday and made plans to eat at a nice restaurant.

Being on vacation on a small island, we were unable to secure an appropriate birthday dessert. We didn’t bring a cake because it would not have traveled well. I’m not even sure we could have squeezed a cake into the over-packed cars.

I assumed we’d be able to find a suitable cake at the beach. I was wrong. And he made it clear to us that a stack of boiled peanuts with a candle wedged at the top didn’t count—even if they were cajun flavored. We did let him order a rich, delicious cannoli at the Italian restaurant we happened upon.

He wasn’t sure at the time what he wanted for his birthday. He and I did go shopping, but three towels for $10 and $90 worth of salt water taffy was not his idea of a good gift. Since he was unable to come up with any ideas and nothing at the beach was enticing, we did not make a purchase.

We’ve been back for a few weeks, but he still hasn’t decided on a present. Personally, I think he regrets passing on the towels and taffy.

Before the middle child headed back to campus, he decided he wanted expensive shoes for his birthday. By expensive, I mean non-superstore brands that are sold in boxes. This was an easy request to fill, as he suggested it while we were back-to-school clothes shopping.

For those keeping count, I was two presents and two cakes behind at the start of school. While I was aware of that in the dull recesses of my mind, the back-to-school routine kept it just out of reach of the realm of high priorities.

Until, that is, I received a text from my middle child. It was actually a multimedia message (MMS) with a closeup of a slice of delectable layer cake. The message read, "University Towers got me a birthday cake before you." Of course, the words were not spelled out, but I understood the text shorthand.

We already knew he was planning to be home for the long Labor Day weekend. Upon receiving the MMS, I laughed out loud (LOL) and headed to the grocery store to order his cake. The cake was in the cake dish in the dining room upon his arrival.

That left me with one cake and two presents to make good on before beginning the heavy holiday shopping. I’m not too worried about my youngest’s cake, because I doubt I’ll be as late as the year he had a Halloween-themed birthday party. My confidence stems from the reminder I added to my digital calendar to pick one up this week.

As for the presents, the oldest and youngest will simply have to get back to me. If they waste too much more time on their decision-making, they may just get one of those combo-gifts I was cursed with as a child. Yes, I was a December baby.

Then again, they could wait until next year and double their budgets. And if they’ve spoken with their cousins, they already know they have a shot at squeaking out a bit of interest.


Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and author of "Thurston T. Turtle Moves to Hubbleville." She lives in Asheboro with her husband, three children and mother. Her e-mail address is