Birthday Traditions (and a Recipe)

“MOM. There’s a GIANT IN the corner! What IS THAT?” she frantically whispered into the dark, wrapping arms round her mama’s neck and burying her head deep.

It was the eve of Olivia’s 3rd birthday, and there was a looming shadow in the corner. Her first encounter with scary shadows in the dark.

Little did she know, her mama planted this particular scary shadow there, purposefully, while she slept.

It had started with the best of intentions, inspired by a blurb in a family magazine about birthday traditions, and parents who filled their children’s rooms with balloons while they slept so they would awaken to a celebration of helium and color and BIRTHDAY excitement!

I hadn’t counted on her waking up before dawn.

What should have been a joyful birthday morning surprise turned into a nighttime terror- a mysterious clump of giant heads with super skinny bodies looming ominously in the dark corner of the room.

I traumatized my poor child that night.

“Don’t worry baby, those are just some balloons your mama put there…” said Mike as he hurriedly whisked the balloons away in the dark.

As the firstborn, of course, Olivia has been the trailblazer of our parenting skills and beliefs. She’s the guinea pig, the inspiration for wrestling through what it means to be entrusted with a little life to shape and mold and somehow make it from birth to 18(ish) relatively intact and unscathed. And I do emphasize the word relatively- we never did fully recover from “the balloon” incident.

But, despite the slight misfire that 3-year-birthday’s-eve, one of the things our family does is to intentionally build family gathering points and traditions. Things the kids will look back on when she’s my age and say “Yeah, my family always __________.” Things that will forever tie her to this little family unit God placed her in, and give her a firm foundation from which to branch out and someday (maybe?) start her own family. Things that celebrate who we are right now.

It’s little things- like dinner around the table daily. Bedtime stories. Popcorn Movie Night on Friday.

And one big thing in particular: The Rich Family Birthday Tradition. Tweaked of course, to omit balloons that mysteriously appear in the dark. Nope, the tradition is: birthday cake and ice cream for breakfast (which for this sweet toothed family is a perfectly fitting start to the day). A kitchen decked out with a birthday theme that fits the child’s current delights (last year it was Olivia the Pig). A pile of presents to open first thing.

It’s pretty simple really. All things that we would probably do/have anyway on a birthday. But it’s the presentation- the way we do it- that I KNOW is creating memories for a lifetime! The adults- we get excited planning it months in advance. We’re like little kids, salivating over the thought of gooey cake and melty ice cream for breakfast in place of the usual eggs and toast. Thinking about hearing the squeals of delight when the little one walks out in the morning and finds our little crafted scene (we don’t tell the child what day the celebration is happening… which works at least for now with such little ones!) The excitement it produces… is out of this world.



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And in honor of birthday traditions everywhere- I am going to share our birthday cake recipe. As a family that doesn’t consume much in the way of processed or sugary foods, the idea of watching a small child consume a pile of cake and ice cream before 7am can be pretty unsettling. So we make this cake: made with an unrefined sweetener (sweeteners like raw honey and real maple syrup are packaged with nutrients and minerals in them that give them some redeeming quality versus table sugar which actually strips your body of nutrients as it is digested). It is also grain free (we tend to get eczema and tummy trouble when we consume too much wheat in particular),  gluten free, nut free, and dairy free. And it doesn’t require any fancy pants expensive flours either. The secret ingredient that makes this cake cakey? Plantains! Learn all about how these banana look alikes can be used in baking as a substitute for wheat, grains, and nuts over at the Paleo Mom! Also, you can view the original recipe (which I tweaked for our family) over at Real Food RN.

The Best Paleo Chocolate Cake Ever!


  • 2 plantains, peeled
  • 3 pastured eggs
  • 1/4 c coconut oil, melted (I bet you could also sub in butter just as well!)
  • 1/4 c raw honey (could also sub in maple syrup!)
  • 1/3 c + 2 Tb unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips, plus more for sprinkling (optional)- use Good Life chocolate chips for dairy and soy free baking!


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F). Mix all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips in a food processor or high speed blender until smooth. Mix in the chocolate chips by hand. Grease a circular cake pan or an 8x8in square pan. Pour the batter in, and sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until set.

I doubled the ingredients and made two circular cakes so I could make a double layer chocolate cake. I made a chocolate ganache type glaze for the frosting by melting a tablespoon or two of coconut oil and a cup of chocolate chips over the stove. Yum! You could also do whipped cream, or just leave it unfrosted!




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