The week that Clara turned 11-years-old we sat her down and asked her what she was expecting for her birthday celebration. We didn’t have a lot of time to prepare anything, and with a vacation coming up we didn’t have a lot of money to spend. So, we would like to give her a fun experience with her family, but we needed her advice. What was in this precious little girl’s heart?

She seemed relieved to hear this. “Oh good,” she said. “Because I really don’t want a lot.”

Her mother and I let out a great sigh of relief. “Thank you, God, that we have such an understanding little girl with such a simple and undemanding soul.”

The girl nodded thoughtfully, “I really just want to have my friend Penny over and have a little sleepover. We can make some treats and watch a movie or something.”

“That sounds wonderful,” we said. “What kind of treats are you thinking about? Maybe a cake or some rootbeer floats?”

She thoughtfully furrowed her eyebrows at this. “Actually, I would like to make Macarons.”

I choked in shock. “Macarons! That’s nuts. Can we maybe start smaller than Macarons? You know there is a reason why people sell those for like, five dollars apiece, right? Maybe we can start with chocolate chip cookies or banana splits or something?”

She was clearly disappointed. “They aren’t that hard to make. I’ve watched people do it on Youtube!” But her mother and I were already standing up and pacing nervously back and forth in the room, tearing at our hair, muttering the word ‘Macarons? Macarons!’, just at the mere thought of trying to learn how to make them in the next 24 hours, and so the soon to be 11-year-old relented. “Okay okay. We don’t have to make macarons for my birthday. My second choice would be to make Mochi Balls.”

With this, her parents burst into flames. Their knees buckled beneath them and they fell to the floor, shaking their fists in the air in pain and frustration. “Why?! Mochi Balls? The weird ice cream balls that we get at the store? I have no idea what is even in those things?”

She shrugged, “They seem normal.”

But I was already pulling up recipes on my phone that made me want to stand on my head and burrow my way into the ground. “Okay. I would be perfectly willing to try to make Mochi Balls someday and fail miserably, but we can’t even buy half of these ingredients in a regular grocery store.”

Clara fell back onto the couch, exasperated with her inept parents. “Alright! I’ll have rootbeer floats, I guess…”

“Oh Clara… thank you…” we said, as we sat back down and gasped for air, waiting for our heart rates to return to normal. I rubbed at the back of my stiff neck trying to coax away a stress headache I could feel coming on.

“And I really only want one gift.”

“Okay, Sweetie. I’m sorry you’re so much more ambitious than we are. You understand though, right? We just want something that is fun AND simple. Right? So, what is this one special gift that you are wanting for your birthday?”

“Liquid Nitrogen”

There were a few seconds of silence as the air was sucked out of the room.

“I want to use it to make Dippin’ Dots.”

Her mother and I looked at each other in slow motion. I opened my mouth to respond. But it was too late. In a brilliant flash of light, our house was immediately transformed into an expanding ball of splinters and flames. “Clara!” I screamed. “What is your problem!? I’m not going to buy you liquid nitrogen for your birthday!” But it was too late. I had already seen the future. If these were her ambitions at age 11, God help us… God help us… God help us…