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Raya's Icing Smile

Just after Raya's birthday last year, I found out about a wonderful non-profit organization called Icing Smiles that involves a network of volunteer bakers who donate their time and talents to make birthday cakes for children with medical challenges and their siblings. After reading through the criteria on their website, I didn't think we'd be able to get one for Raya's next birthday so I just shared it with all of our friends instead and hoped that some of them would be able to benefit from it. Our sweet friend Whitney got to have a beautiful cake & cupcakes from an Icing Smiles volunteer baker for her birthday this summer. It was beautiful AND delicious, and I thought about how fun it would be to have a cake like that for Raya's birthday.

As it got closer to Raya's birthday, I kept seeing more and more pictures on facebook of Icing Smiles cakes and although I of course thought that it would be awesome to have one for Raya, I kept pushing the thought aside. I felt like she's doing so much better now than she was her first & second years that we needed to save the privilege for other kids who are worse off.

Sometime in September, Icing Smiles kept coming to my mind. I kept pushing it off as we were trying to get ready to move and didn't have time to think 2 months ahead. I don't remember exactly what changed my mind about applying for one, but I decided to do it and I am SO glad that I did. Even more so now that I'm up to my ears in school work and paperwork trying to get Raya cleared for preschool this week, so I just don't know how I would have had time to make her one. I was afraid at first that she wouldn't be accepted. (I seem to have acquired a little bit of doubt after spending the last 2+ years having to try and convince people that she really does have medical issues...) To my delight, I got an email shortly after applying letting me know that a cake would be made for Raya. I was able to choose flavors, colors, and a theme for the cake and was given the name of the baker who would be making it. Of course, I googled her. :) I found her flickr album with hundreds of the most adorable, beautiful, and clever cakes and that just added to my excitement. I saw a cake that she had made that I knew Raya would be totally in love with, so that was the theme I requested. This was around the same time frame that we found out for sure that Raya was allergic to wheat and a whole bunch of other things but we decided to go ahead with a traditional, allergen-laden cake anyway so the rest of us could enjoy it too. :)

Yesterday afternoon, Donny and I took Raya with us to pick up the cake. Kim, our super-talented baker, brought it out of her kitchen and set it on the coffee table in front of Raya. The look on Raya's face said it all. Her whole face just lit up and she wiggled. (wiggling means she's happy) She pointed to the characters on the cake and wiggled some more. It couldn't have been more perfect for her!

And what was the theme of this perfect, amazingly beautiful cake? Drumroll please...

See how AWESOME it is?!?!?! I was just beyond words. So was Raya. :) Here she is getting her first peek at it:
And here's Raya and her cake with the oh-so-talented Kim:
I hope that it made Kim's day to see how much Raya loved the cake because it totally made mine. :) She obviously put a lot of time and hard work into it. Here are a couple of pictures where you can see the detail a little better.
The little Uniqua popping out of the top of the cake was my favorite. :) So clever! :)
Here's what Raya having an Icing Smiles cake means to me. I spent the first year (and then some) of her life cleaning up constant puke, seeing her suffer through horrible episodes of vomiting and retching, holding her down for countless medical procedures and needle pokes, seeing her develop a complete disdain for anything edible, and wondering if ANY of it would ever get any better. I remember in the weeks leading up to her first birthday feeling sad knowing that even though I was planning to make the first birthday cupcakes that were a tradition in our family, she would want absolutely nothing to do with them. When the day came, she poked at it a little bit and fed a little of it to Mommy, but that was it. We were fortunate that she didn't vomit when we accidentally got frosting on her lip and put the cupcake on the tray in front of her. Although I was excited for her birthday that year, the happiness was greatly overshadowed for me by an increasing awareness that Raya's medical issues were scary, and they were not going away anytime soon. Her second birthday was MUCH better. She was just in a better place medically and actually took a couple nibbles of her cake. This year, the road ahead of us is still long and new bumps have recently surfaced (i.e. food allergies, difficult ones) but Raya is growing and thriving. Seeing her get as excited about something that was FOOD as she did about her cake yesterday was something that I never even allowed myself to imagine on her first birthday. Although we are still trying to find the missing pieces of the puzzle and the road ahead of us seems unending at times, moments like this give me hope that one day, we will be able to say our goodbyes to the feeding tube and see Raya grow and thrive as an oral eater.
To Icing Smiles and to our wonderful baker Kim, thank you is not enough to express how great this experience was for me as Raya's mother.
1st birthday
3rd birthday!
For information about Icing Smiles, go to or find them on facebook at


  1. This post made me teary eyed! Such a beautiful cake for such a beautiful little princess!

  2. Beautiful cake and it looks like she actually ate some of it! Yea Raya!!!


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