Birthday Cake

My son turns 2 years old today. Two on the second! A golden birthday! He was born unexpectedly early–while we were out of town on an annual family weekend trip. So, for his first birthday, we returned. Because I didn’t have access to my kitchen, we simply ordered a cake from a nearby grocery store.

One of the joys of having kids is celebrating their birthdays. Not only does it feel like a personal victory (We kept this baby alive! I gave birth to a living creature! This kid, under our guidance, is growing into an amazing human!), but it’s fun to see their faces light up when those near and dear to them gather around and look right at them, usually singing the birthday song.

But then there’s cake. Out of all the cakes–wedding, retirement, get well, engagement, promotion, farewell–birthday, literally takes the cake. Maybe the addition of candles does the trick. Maybe it’s because it’s only eaten once a year (per person, of course), but also consumed as often as once a year!

A couple months in advance, I asked my 3-year old for creative direction when it came to her brother’s birthday cake. “A fish!” she exclaimed, connecting the dots that in this past year, he has shown a fondness for fish–one of his first words and interests.

So I made this:

Fish Birthday Cake

It’s not exactly what I had envisioned. All my cakes look better in my head than on the platter. At one point, I cursed the cake for being so crumbly after I had cut it and shaped it. Midway, I thought I was going to have to scrap the entire thing and literally start from scratch–this cake was made from a mix and I had only bought one box, so starting over would have meant pulling out a recipe and flour and sugar and eggs.

Alas, it came together in an okay-ish manner. As my older sister pointed out via Facebook, it’s all about the target audience: a 2-year old. And, true to that, when I presented my son with the cake, he didn’t make mention of the design, but pointed and simply said, “Cut it! Cut a piece!” He is 2.

I’ve made my daughter 3 cakes. Her first was the face of Bumble, the Abominable Snow Monster from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I don’t have a picture of that. But, here’s her second:

Elmo & Animal Crackers

At the time she was digging Elmo and animal crackers. That Elmo is a spoon that I found online (Elmo is the handle).

Her third cake was a “crown” per her request:

Bejeweled Crown Cake

I bought a special candy mold to make those gems. I let her help me put those gold ball sprinkles on top. They were really hard and had a kinda gross flavor, but I like the way they look. And, maybe having her help me was more special than the actual cake itself.

My hope is that my kids remember these cakes with the filter of childhood magic that tints even the most mundane points of life–that their memory of these cakes will be better than the actual cake. Because for me, the joy of celebrating my kids is much more better than any cake could ever be.

Baby Names Inspired by Movies

Kylo_Ren_Article just published an article claiming that the name “Kylo” is fastest growing baby name in the U.S.–because it’s the name of the villain in the latest Star Wars movie.

I came across this article on this week and it got me thinking that there must be a lot of people out there naming their babies after movie characters–maybe even characters from television series and novels.

So I ask, would you name your baby after a character (good or bad) from a movie or book–popular or not?

The article also mentions the decline of names that have received “bad press” of sorts. Like, ahem, “Caitlyn,” “Hillary,” and “Donald.” Which makes me wonder, would you avoid a name that was recently in the spotlight even if it had special meaning or significance to your family?

I truly believe that baby naming is part process and part matter of the heart. But, this is a tough baby naming issue. You don’t want the most perfect name to get away simply based on “principle”. I say, honor your heart before jumping on the bandwagon or letting it pass by! Because, your heart is never wrong and you’ll always be confident with your name choice.

Baby Name Regrets

Bringing Up Bebe by Pamela Druckerman

Baby names and regret? Yikes. I’m not sure I would have ever thought it was possible to regret—or at least have second thoughts—about your baby’s name, but Pamela Druckerman discusses in her book Bringing Up Bébé her inner turmoil after naming her twins (boys, fraternal).

We settle on Joel—whom we’ll only ever call Joey—and Leo, who defies all attempts at nicknames. …Amazingly, I still find time to be neurotic. I’m obsessed with the idea that we’ve given the boys the wrong names, and that I should go back to the town hall and switch them. I spend my few leisure minutes ruminating on this. …Before the little ceremony [circumcision], I confess to the mohel that I fear I’ve given the boys the wrong names and that I may need to switch them. He doesn’t offer me any spiritual advice. But being French, he explains that the bureaucracy I’d need to go through to do this would be a labyrinthine and excruciating. Somehow this information, plus the consecration of the circumcisions, erases my doubt. After the ceremony, I never worry about their names again.

Now that I reread this passage, I don’t know whether Druckerman means she wanted to flip flop her twins’ names (Joey becomes Leo and Leo becomes Joey) or if she means she wanted to give them completely different names. I can find the humor in the situation: the self-admitted neurotic nature of this obsession. Been there and done that postpartum!

I can’t help to wonder, though, have any other parents regretted or had second thoughts on the name they gave their baby? What would you do about it—change it legally, call them by a nickname? Would you ever admit it? Do you have a “friend” who has experienced this? (Wink!)

Baby Naming: Happy Names According to Penny Marshall’s Mom


I read Penny Marshall’s (whose full name is actually Carole Penny Marshall) memoir, My Mother Was Nuts a few years back. Her explanation of her and her siblings’ names caught my attention:

If you notice, our names all have double letters and end in a Y. Pronouncing them, as my mother once explained, made you smile. Gar-REE. Ron-KNEE. Pen-KNEE. They were happy names, she said. Other names, such as Susan, Paula, and Katherine, were flat. To her, they were sad names. ‘And Penny,’ my mother wrote in my baby book, ‘is always ready for a hardy laugh.’

When it came to naming her own daughter, Penny Marshall landed on Tracy, the name of a girl she had liked from camp. “Tracy was a happy name, as my mother would have said,” Penny writes.

I’ll admit, this stuck with me. For my own children, I tended to lean towards heritage names, but I’m also drawn to emotive names. Out of the two options I uttered to my husband right before my son’s birth, we ended up using the happier of the two names. To me, it just makes sense to have a happy name.

How about you? Does Penny Marshall’s mom’s reasoning make sense to you? Would you choose a name for your baby just because it sounded happy?

Name Mix-Ups

Name tag required.

Did your mom yell out your siblings’ names before she got to yours? (Do YOU list out all of your children’s names before getting to the right one?) Ends up, we’re not losing our minds. This article from NPR explains why our brains scramble names. (We keep our loved ones’ names in the same “brain folder!”) This probably explains why when I was in elementary school I called my teachers “mom” at least once a year. Oops! But, my teachers were great!

When naming baby #2, #3…#100, you may worry about choosing a name that sounds too similar to your older children’s names. I say, don’t sweat it! You’re going to mix their names up anyway! Haha!

Are you expecting? Congratulations! If you need help figuring out how to go about the difficult task of picking a name for your baby, check out my guide, Choosing the Most Perfect Name for Your Baby: Demystifying the Naming Process & Honoring Your Heart.*

*Of course I earn money with each purchase of my guide, because I wrote it! But, this is my passion project and unless it gets Oprah-level attention, I won’t be retiring any time soon. I appreciate your support and I hope that my guide helps you select the most perfect name for your baby!