Aspen Princess: Having his cake and barfing it too

Alison Berkley Margo
Aspen Princess

“What kind of cake are you going to get?” my friend Amy asked. I could tell by her expression that she was holding back because she knows how defensive I get, especially when I’m wrong.

“I think we’ll just get one of those cheap cakes from City Market,” I said. She pressed her lips together but still didn’t say anything, so I felt the need to explain (not be confused with getting defensive). “You know. We just want to get some funny photos.”

Suffice it to say, she was right: it was a bit of a disaster.

I didn’t really think it through, the planning of the babe’s first birthday. What I didn’t realize until after the fact was that I was so excited about celebrating this milestone that I forgot to think about what would be best for my kid.

Like, for starters, maybe don’t plan a dinner party for a baby.

Think for just one second about the fact that the babe usually goes to bed at 7 and that by 5:30 he begins to meltdown, his precious face crumpling up like something you might hallucinate on a bad acid trip. This is why we have a nice little routine in place with dinner time, and bath time, followed by a yummy lotion massage (the babe loves this, especially when you rub his face) and story time. It’s not because we’re trying to be perfect parents. It’s because we’re desperate to get through those last 90 minutes of the day without losing it, and we all need some distractions.

So inviting a bunch of people over for dinner at 5:30 probably wasn’t the best call, but I didn’t think about that. All I could think about was the lasagna I was going to make. I obsessed over that lasagna for days. I love to cook and entertain so I take the main dish pretty seriously, taking into account the preferences of all my guests and really wanting to give them something they wouldn’t throw together at home. I ended up tweaking a recipe for easy lasagne, with no-boil noodles and pre-made marinara, and then doctored it up with ground elk (It was meat from Ryan and Brad’s hunting camp last October; how manly is that?) sauteed with mushrooms and onions and seasoned generously with garlic, rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil, and then finished off with a little wine and butter. I ditched the frozen spinach the recipe called for and used fresh spinach and homemade pesto I folded into my ricotta cheese. It was to die for, if I say so myself.

But, as you can see, this has nothing whatsoever to do with the babe. He can’t even eat solid food yet. Every time I try to give him something that’s not pureed, he starts to gag. But I’ll get to that later.

What I’m getting at is it might not be the best idea to invite a bunch of people over and overstimulate him and give him a bunch of gifts, especially when he’s still at the age where he’s more interested in the box the toy comes in than the toy itself.

Like, my 1-year-old might not really be that interested in the snowboard I bought him, considering he can’t even walk yet. You see where I’m going with this?

Still, the babe is super social and he loved seeing everyone, giggling and playing and not melting down at all.

It was me who was melting down, the sweat building on my palms, brow and underarms as I braced myself for the babe to lose it at any second.

But he never did.

So I guess you could say everything was going swimmingly until I started to think about the fact that there was no way the babe was going to make it through us eating dinner and then serving cake.

The cake would have to come first.

So we lit the candle and began to sing, and the babe’s eyes grew as big as saucers. There was no mistaking the confusion in his eyes, mingled with fear. “What are all these crazy people doing?” his expression read.

We brought the cake over to his high chair and I stuck my finger in the icing and stuffed it into his mouth.

I have no idea why I did this. Why didn’t we cut him a slice and let him play with it like a half-sane parent? I think in the back of my mind I just wanted to get it over with, which is often how I find myself feeling about rituals of any kind. They never mean as much as you think they’re going to.

He had this look on his face like I’d just tried to poison him, a mix of confusion and betrayal and shock, his big blue eyes darkening. It’s true he’d never eaten anything with processed sugar before, or anything processed at all, for that matter. I’d spent the past six months cooking and seasoning and blending organic baby food like it was my full-time job, and now I decide to stuff tres leches cake into his yap?

Then he started to gag. If that wasn’t bad enough, he projectile vomited like something out of a horror movie, filling the tray on his high chair like a lake.

In a moment of super-human mom strength, I whisked him out of there and into the bathtub where I doused him in sweet smelling baby soap and examined him for any sign of emotional trauma and begged him for forgiveness. He splashed, smiled, giggled and cooed, reassuring me that he was not suffering from PTSD.

In the end, what I really got to celebrate was his unconditional love. Thank you for your patience, babe. We’ll do better next time. And maybe I’ll research some better alternatives for your cake.

The Princess is not going to win any Mother of the Year awards. Email your love to