Have you ever baked a cake with a toddler?

If you haven’t, well, let’s just say that it’s…an experience.


A cute, photo-op filled, splatter-fest, that, if you’re lucky, results in a cake that’s barely holding on for dear life.

This happened today.

You see, we’re celebrating my now-four-year-old niece’s birthday tonight while we’re all up at our lake home in Wisconsin for the Fourth of July.

And so this afternoon, part of making today special for her was to bake her birthday cake together.

She loves cooking in the kitchen, especially when it involves something sweet, so needless to say, she was having a ball.

And if you know anything about almost-four year olds, they are very independent, and want to do things themselves. And baking this cake was no different.

I’ll tell you what, the Type A perfectionist in me was doing everything I could to not just grab the spatula and make the process go a little neater and smoother.


But you know, she was just loving doing it herself. Sure we had to fish out, probably 9 eggshells, and more batter and flour ended up on the counter and the backsplash than in the bowl, but gosh darn it, she made that cake herself, and was proud of it.

And you should have seen her face when we took the cakes out of the oven.

I mean, it was a Pillsbury box mix, so those things are pretty bullet proof and will rise no matter what trauma it has endured. But she was just so excited and so proud of her cake that she made all by herself.

And as I was smiling watching her make the mess of the century, and dodging flings of batter, I realized that what I was watching is exactly like the process of recovery.

I’m now ten years into my recovery from anorexia. And not all of it was picture perfect. And in fact, much of it was a complete and utter mess.


I had an initial relapse right after inpatient. There were periods where I was battling binge eating. There were years where I was abusing exercise. Not to mention the mental anguish of negative self talk and body dysmorphia. I will be the absolute first to admit that my recovery has not been textbook.

But just like the joy and ownership my niece had with her birthday cake, I had to do the same with my recovery. No one could do it for me. I had to struggle through and get messy and fling batter and pick out egg shells myself. I had to own it.


Watching her and physically holding my hands back from helping her stir and pour and measure, I just kind of half chuckled to myself, knowing that she was owning that cake.


Being hands off is definitely something I’ve had to learn to do here recently with my mom’s stroke recovery too.

Now that she’s six months out, and really making tremendous progress, I’ve had to learn how much help is too much help. And it’s been a challenge, as the loving daughter in me want to do everything to make like easy for her but I’ve had to let go and let her struggle. Let her make a mess and pick the eggshells. Because it’s her cake. It’s her recovery.

And as much as I want to help, she’s got to be the one to do it.

Anywho, I think my niece is going to remember this birthday for a long time. The year that she made a double-decker sprinkle cake all by herself.

Fishing for eggshells never hurt nobody.


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276 responses to “Eggshells”

  1. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts. Love it. Love the connection of beauty and mess and ownership of the process that leads from mess to beauty…And love that we all are in need of recovery processes, be they big or little, at different times of our lives. Happy Happy Birthday to your little independent niece!

  2. My wife does cookies with the grand-kids. (5 1/2 and 2 1/2) They both have their own aprons.Fun to watch. It’ll be a while before she does a cake with them. Grand kids are such a joy.

  3. It’s hard to not help, whether it is helping a child bake or someone in need.
    I have had to sit on my hands a few times.
    Great post and happy birthday to your niece.

  4. It sounds like she could hardly contain her eggs-itement. Even if you found yourself a bit shell-shocked. I just hope the yolk wasn’t on you! Yeah, I really crack myself up! Well, I think I’ll whisk over to Patreon to share a few comments…

  5. That’s and experience she will remember for years and years!

    As far as “textbook recoveries,” I think those only happen in textbooks. It was the same with me, in dealing with depression. Sure, I don’t really have any problems with it now, but it was a roller coaster ride for a long time! There were many times that I thought it was behind me just to find out I wasn’t as far along in recovery as I thought.

    Congrats to you in your recovery!

  6. lol at the “almost” 4 year old making her cake. It’s a blessing that we can learn so much watching children. Seeing things through their eyes, and seeing ourselves with those same eyes. I’m happy your mom is progressing by leaps and bounds. What a blessing this is to read. You have much to be proud of, your recovery, the journey with your mom’s recovery and the joy with your family during this wonderful celebration 🙂 Hugs xoxo

  7. Wonderful, wonderful post. Thank you so much for sharing. Life can be messy and sometimes the more we attempt to help, the harder it is for those we are trying to help. Parenting and friendship is about picking up the broken pieces and being supportive without being smothering, which is very hard to do. Thank you again for a wonderful post.
    Blessings to you and all your readers:
    Pastor Lester

  8. Are you in the Dells? I rode my bike through there. You think, recovery makes it hard to meet someone? I read the part about eggshells and I’ve eaten a fair share of, uniquely made food. Just seems like many parts of life you are the master and other parts you are the four year old chef.

  9. Good one again. Great insight into recovery. The more insight you have the stronger your recovery as long as the Power is still the same. Thank you. Keep growing. John.

  10. Text Book recovery? That’s a laugh. Yes! Those periods when we experience, the struggle, are when we learn to depend on the source when we’ve been trying to manage on our own. Being a trained chef trying to cook with my kids was at first maddening for everyone. Then I discovered letting them make their own mistakes, I’ve never learned anything without them. Mistakes

  11. I love reading your posts!! I’m the kind of person that likes to be in control of things and when I can’t control things, I kinda freak out! Lol yes I’m a control freak! Good job holding yourself back and letting your niece make a cake for a birthday she will never forget!! 🙂 kudos to you for patience! It really IS a virtue!

  12. Hey you are discribing an grandmother / granddaughter experience. I miss watching my departed wife “doing crafts” with the granddaughters on Friday and Saturday. I miss my wife so much.. Thankyou for this lovely post.

    • yeah her grandmother was there too! I was just the photo-taking aunt 🙂 aw, my heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry for your loss. It sounds like she was a wonderful gma and wife. Thanks for sharing that. Big hugs xox

  13. Lovely post. Yes, fishing for eggshells is part of the life work. Messy, but with it. 😊

  14. Hi, I sent you an email but I’ve no idea if that is the appropriate way to be in contact, so I thought I’d try here. Hope the cake was as wonderful as its creation process 🙂

  15. Great analogy with the eggshells. My wife used to love putting aprons on our twin granddaughters and have them help her in the kitchen when they were little. They are in their second year of college now. Yikes!

  16. I smiled all the way through this. I loved how you connected your niece baking a cake all by yourself with recovery all by yourself … yours … and your mother’s. I wish I had read this when my own mother was in rehab after surgery. I could surely have used your wisdom then !!! Thanks for your wise words. jan

  17. What a lovely story about you and your niece. It’s hard to stand aside and let the other person take the reigns; you struggle to hold back because everything in your fiber wants to jump in and take control. But there are times we need to pull back and in doing so, we gain a better perspective on things. Great to hear that your mother is doing well on the road to recovery and mad props to you sharing your story. Stay strong Caralyn…you never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have.

    • Thanks so much Mark. Yeah, it was a really special bonding time. i love her so much! 🙂 thanks for the encouraging words. yeah she’s doing great!! 🙂 hugs xox

  18. I have two children. So, yes, I’ve baked MANY cakes with toddlers. It is messy. But my oldest daughter is now 8, and let me tell you, it’s not quite as messy now. There’s definitely a lesson here, which it seems you’ve found. Sometimes, we have to get messy, fling batter, and pick out egg shells. It won’t hurt us. It’s part of learning. And whatever we’re dealing with…an eating disorder, or something else…no one can do it for us. Excellent post. And your use of gifs is always spot on btw. Love the twitchy Mr. Krabs haha

  19. Cooking with kids is is an excellent exercise in detachment! My twin niece & nephew at nearly 8 and cooking with them is pretty similar 🙂

  20. Always a fun time. Loved watching my girls help their Mom cook and bake. Of course their favorite part was the eating and licking the leftovers. Well welcome to Wisconsin…Or as I’ve always called it God’s Country.

    • Thanks so much! Aw what special memories. Same here! My brothers and I used to fight over the spatula full of batter! Haha God’s country- right on! Hugs and love xox

  21. I love the relation of messy egg shells and recovery or just even life in general. It’s so true how we do need to “own it” to really recover. We have to do it for ourselves and when we are ready! We are in a way, like a kid who needs to “do it myself”

  22. Amazing!! I love your positive attitude towards life and recovery. There is nothing that holds us back once we face our fears and limitations.. More power and love to you😊

  23. What a wonderful story Caralyn! My little girl is one and a half, she is such a joy. I can’t wait to start baking with her and making a mess in the kitchen! I so pleased to hear that your mom is on the road to recovery. You made an important point, both in your niece baking a cake, your mom’s recovery and your own recovery. You said that standing back and letting people ‘take ownership’ is important. I really agree with you. It gives you a sense of achievement and makes your body, soul and mind stronger if you feel that you own your condition, and reach challenging goals yourself. Of course we all need family and friends to support us. Mountaineers reach the summit of a mountain themselves, but they can’t do it without a support crew, Sherpa’s and guides. Our conditions, whatever they may be are a part of us. We should acknowledge them, we should own them (although baking a cake isn’t a condition, but certainly a challenge with a 4 year old!). Thank you for another beautiful post. God bless you.

  24. Ahh! Baking memories! I have 9 nieces and nephews, so I understand where you were coming from with letting them be… and the eggshells, AHAHA! But the time spent with them is SOO worth it! These precious moments won’t last long since they grow up SO FAST! 🙁

  25. Excellent analogy Caralyn! I could see the kitchen so vividly, I felt as though I was in the experience as well. You’ve done such an amazing job of owning your recovery and handling all that comes with it. Your insight and communicating the process has been an education. I think of The Law of Process applied here: “Recovery” develops daily not in a day. You’ve come such a long way, and been a help to so many who are still “in the kitchen,” You’re inspiring. Thank you! …I’m glad to hear about your mom. Be Blessed and Be Well my friend.

    • Thanks so much John! Oh good! I’m so glad you were in the kitchen with us! Haha thanks for such kind and encouraging words. You’re right – it develops daily! Hugs and love xox

  26. My dear friend

    Very nice to hear about your nice and how she managed to bake a cake by herself. I think everything what we do ourselves is something special in our life. It gives us courage and power, self-confidence and so it was with you too when you suffered from anorexia and when it took all your strength, even with some setbacks when fighting against it – but in the end you were the winner and you celebrated a victoroy over this disease – and it was also a kind of victory for your nice to prove oneself to be able to do something special – which is really encouraging, a positive way to oneself.

    Thanks for sharing, dear friend 🙂
    Have a good time

  27. Oh yes, baking with kids! But isn’t this just how God made us–to create, play, to make a mess in life? When we step out in faith, in that first step of recovery, in that big move, in that new job…it’s messy and a little “oops” like pieces of eggshells in cake batter.

  28. My women’s group is called the “Beautiful Mess,” which is exactly what we all are. I love the analogy to the cake batter that gets everywhere but somehow a cake is made. Thanks for this post. Would I be allowed to reblog this with your permission?

  29. I’m a nut for metaphor…

    Baking a cake, doing it one’s self, fishing for eggshells, making a mess…as metaphors for growing up and recovery…

    Brilliant and, Caralyn, lovingly and beautifully written.


  30. I love your blog — especially the message that your niece, you, your mother — own their challenges. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn as I support a family member through serious health issues. The Lord is the only one who can help me sort out when to step forward and when to hold back. Thanks for visiting my blog, too!

    • Aw thank you so much!! I’m so glad you enjoyed the piece. you’re so right – the Lord is our help! Keeping you and yours in my prayers 🙂 Hugs and love xox

  31. Beautiful story. I too struggle with being “hands off” and allowing the other person to do what they need to do. This story was just what I needed. Thanks & God bless.

  32. Love Love Love this post – That is what memories are made of – not just for her – but for you! You deserve the best this world has to offer – so own it, live it, love it then leave it all behind for others to cherish!!! Good Job Caralyn!!!!!

  33. 441. I am a little lamb

    1. I am a little lamb – Jesus is my Shepherd;
    I enjoy His affection – And His sublime love;
    I was born in His flock – By divine grace,
    I do not follow the stranger’s voice – But only Paternal.

    2. I am a little lamb – Jesus is my Shepherd,
    I am a happy child – In the arms of the Lord;
    His voice I know – His will also;
    Him I obey – Willfully and with pleasure.

    3. Alone in the desert – I can never walk;
    Jesus is very close – In order to keep me;
    Is Great care – That He has for me,
    My beloved Shepherd – Lead me to the end.

    15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased,
    16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise? Matthew 21.15,16

  34. First of all I can sympathize I have a daughter who wants to “help” and there literally are egg shells – but this line really got me-

    And as much as I want to help, she’s got to be the one to do it.

    Only with my dad. He’s slowly making decisions that are sabotaging himself and he’s dying. If he would listen he could live but the way he is he MIGHT see his birthday in September- he’ll be 58…. if he lives. But I can’t want him to live more than he does.

    • Thanks for sharing this. I’m so sorry to hear about your dad. I will definitely keep him and you and your family in my thoughts and prayers. Hang in there friend. Hugs and love xox

  35. A great post and a great reminder that ministry to others isn’t about “fixing” them – it’s about being with them and loving them as the Lord leads them to healing. Bless you!

  36. You are so beautiful! Thank you for your transparency and consistency! I’m inspired! Recovery is possible. I’m ready to bake a cake!

  37. Inspiring. We certainly learn by doing. Even with all the help in the world, we must step up as soon as possible as the ones in charge of our lives. Often times what is seen as helpful, cripples us. There’s no greater love than to know how far to go and when to stop.

  38. I read this and I chuckle…….as it is the same struggle a lot of parents have with raising their kids. Allowing them to do it, feel it and struggle……..hard but essential for raising imperfect kids in an imperfect world. I heard an analogy just like this too at church recently, about us and God. He can do ALL the work perfectly all by himself, he doesn’t need us but he chose to include us in the cake-baking and boy do we slow him down and make a mess. But at the end of the day, we are the ones who feel the pride, joy and fulfillment………only a loving God and a loving aunt do these things. Thanks for sharing……………..

  39. Girl, I had all the feels and tears reading this post. You hit the nail on the head – “Let her make a mess and pick the eggshells. Because it’s her cake. It’s her recovery.” Thank you for sharing your story and experiences now, and so well. How’s your book going? I can’t wait to read it!

  40. BEAUTIFUL post! And I relate so very much to the struggle of holding back and not just taking over the cake…but it’s so worth it for the little lessons they learn.

  41. Are we not all 4-years olds at learning something in life? Symbolic egg-shells and batter spattered about in our careers, relationships, healthy lifestyles, etc. Life gives us learning experiences regardless of our age(s).

    Look, I got back when you had only one post that I had not read! Well, I may be away for a couple of weeks and falling behind again — 24th anniversary next weekend (sorry, I’m spending it with my wife, not the cyber world), then in-laws visiting, etc. See you in the future.

    • I think you’re right! We’re all in the messy process of learning something at every life stage! Wow /4, that’s awesome! Congratulations! Enjoy the celebration, Oscar!

  42. Hey, it’s a good thing you owned your recovery. Now you are inspiring many. More meaning is found in life when we can draw insights and lessons from our experiences, both past and present. Thanks.

  43. Hello my dear! I love your blog so much I just had to nominate you for an award!
    Also, this post is pretty awesome! Thank’s so much for writing it!
    Xo, Miranda

  44. Thanks. You know that will be a memory both of you will cherish and discuss many times in the future. Like when both are much older. I still talk about the time my cousins birthday cake was a cookie with pine needles in it. As we were camping and could not get a proper cake. She just turned 61. Enjoy those special memories.

  45. its hard working with kids, 4 year olds and teens! My youngest loved the fact that from 14 on, I would let him handle things without me hovering over him. Dr appts. I would wait on the waiting room and let him go back, registering for school I found a bench and told him to find me when he was done.

    This little will ALWAYS remember making HER cake with her favorite aunt!

    and I very proud of you for gritting through this experience, and ALL that you do. You are truly an inspiration lady!

  46. Hi BBB,

    Well said. We learn from our struggles. Welcome to life. Hope the cake was good for a first attempt.


    On Thu, Jul 6, 2017 at 5:02 PM BeautyBeyondBones wrote:

    > beautybeyondbones posted: “Have you ever baked a cake with a toddler? If > you haven’t, well, let’s just say that it’s…an experience. A cute, > photo-op filled, splatter-fest, that, if you’re lucky, results in a cake > that’s barely holding on for dear life. This happened today. ” >

  47. Beautiful post!!! So inspirational! I too have struggled with body dysmorphia it was so unhealthy!! I let others try to tell me what I should look like but I found my strength through Jesus!! So happy to hear your recovery!💕

  48. I like the ending. Not because you say that it didn’t hurt anyone… rather because that people are so careful to weed them out. You can’t make a clean mess of anything. It’ll be a mess in itself to sort out and anyone who thinks the wiser of such a thing is in for sore disappointment.

    Picking the eggshells is part of the mess so just be messy!

    As always, great read! Food can be such a great teaching tool.

  49. I just noticed, “part of making today special for her” – that’s very sweet
    For me, the metaphor of the egg shells had really stood out. In that, it’s best for me not to over-think mistakes: the direction matters 🙂

    And my thoughts on recovery, your final graphic says it well also.
    Grace –

  50. Perfect example of recovery! I have been sober for 26 years (from drugs and alcohol) I am still struggling with weight and eating issues (on and off for years~ no longer bulimic but now I deal with working on my long standing issues with food and my weight) I like to say that I am “recovering” and not “recovered” when I talk about my alcoholism and addiction ~ because each day is a new beginning and I have to resolve to be sober for the day. Right now I am dealing with some major weight gain since I have decided to enter the recovering phase of not doing the binge and purge cycle. I am in the midst of the broken eggshells and flinging of batter. I so enjoy your blog!!

  51. what a wonderful post for those who struggle with ed. I will be sure to forward this to my daughter who has been in the same position and making the same progress. I am sure the cake was beautiful. Your insights are wonderful. Keep posting and enjoy the everyday.

  52. I wish you and your mom the best. Baking a cake with a toddler, that would be an experience. Never did that. I wish you well and keep the faith.

  53. Loved the illustration of your niece. I can remember what a treat it was to help my Mom when she baked a cake at that age and I was over the moon licking out the remaining chocolate in the mixing bowl. lol. Lovely pic of you. Your face shows intelligence and character. That’s a rare commodity in today’s materialistic world.

  54. What a special memory with your niece and it’s inspiring that you held back and let her experience it. Happy Belated Birthday to her. I love your analogy of trials and tribulations to eggshells in the cake batter! Wonderfully done. Blessings to you and your mom as she recovers.💗

  55. We have learn something interesting while residing in KSA, usually parents leave their children unattended in malls.

    So they falls and what not!

    We observe if they fall on the ground, they let it be, let the child stand up by himself.

    We did the same, the child hot more confidence than one can imagine

  56. Yes! Life is messy, recovery is messy, and that’s what makes it absolutely amazing and beautiful.

  57. Watching a toddler busy doing some work is the most beautiful thing one can ever watch. On the other these kids teach us a lot of things which we have forgot in these many years , we start to behave as elders and restrict ourselves mentally but these kids are free and they remind us how we have to be.. you reminded of my niece she is 2 years old but very active and a clever kid .. a very nice and well connected post .

  58. It may be one of the younger memories she keeps when she grows up, and it certainly is a happy one. Your picture choices made me laugh, especially when not trying to do everything for your niece. Haha! I’m proud of you, and thankful God has opened doors for you to share your experience, the highs and lows. Keep on following Him, He’ll continue to guide you. : )

  59. I am also 10 years in to my recovery from codependency and let me tell you it was nowhere near a perfect, smooth transition. I definitely had to pick out a lot of eggshells, but I am a different person today because I did. We have to keep in mind that recovery is a process and to be gentle with ourselves as we journey forward into health and wholeness. Thank you for this inspiring post. And thank you for liking my blog recently. I hope you will continue to read and I will do the same for you! Blessing to you dear friend!

    • thanks so much for sharing that. i’m so glad that you’re living in freedom!! That makes my heart so glad. you’re right – recovery is a process. thanks for stopping by! big hugs x

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