For Fancy, it’s not about the food—it’s about the cooking. And it’s really not about the cooking. It’s about family and sharing love through any channel that will carry it to where it is needed most. This is the story of how a boy named Mason changed Fancy’s life, and how her very own cupcakes changed his.
“Fancy, I am the tree and you are my ladybug in the tree.”
That phrase may not make sense to most people, but to Roxane Daigle, it is four years of endless obstacles and blessings reaching full circle. Looking around Roxane’s kitchen, the large white hutch that stands against her deep-red walls is lined with cake and cupcake holders of all shapes, sizes, designs and colors. Within minutes, a beautiful 4-year-old boy with short, light-brown hair and a shy smile enters the room. Roxane turns her full attention toward her grandson Mason, beaming with adoration. He does as his mother says, and he walks to the living room to turn on the TV to watch his favorite cartoon, just like any normal kid would.
It is hard to believe that same boy was labeled “failure to thrive” by doctors just four years ago. At that time, he was faced with a long, hard battle ahead; but he had a secret weapon—his grandmother, his very own cheerleader, his one and only Fancy.
YOU’VE GOT A FRIEND IN ME
To tell the story of Fancy, one must begin with the story of a mother and daughter. When Roxane’s daughter Jennifer was pregnant, they spent a lot of time together. The two stayed up many late nights talking about life—what was to come, as well as baby preparations. Conversation wasn’t always serious, though; they watched and laughed at countless reruns of Friends. On one particular episode, the character Monica Geller drew a doodle of a ladybug. When asked what it was, Monica replied, “It’s my doodle of a ladybug—with a top hat. She’s fancy!”
“We just thought it was so funny when she said that,” Roxane says. “I came out one day dressed to go with Jennifer to the doctor and she said, ‘Oh, you’re fancy!’ And it became our ongoing joke between us.”
With Jennifer being told that she would not be able to have children, Roxane said Mason was a blessing before he was even born.
With seven weeks to go in her pregnancy, Jennifer checked in at the hospital with high blood pressure. Thinking she would stay just a few days to get better, she and her mother were awaken at 5 a.m. and told that she would be delivering the baby she had just carried for 33 weeks within the hour. As Roxane watched with held breath and silent prayers in the delivery room, she witnessed Mason enter the world.
He was not breathing.
After being resuscitated by the doctor, Mason’s 5-pound, 10-ounce body continued to have difficulty breathing.
“We still felt very blessed, though, because there were 25 babies in the nursery that day,” Roxane says. “Five were premature and six went to Children’s Hospital. Mason was able to stay at our hospital for another day and go home.”
Once home, he did not get better. Mason had difficulty taking his bottle, and his body temperature was too low. Four days later, he returned to the hospital, down to 4 pounds and 6 ounces and failing to retain nourishment.
“Time just seemed to stand still for a while,” Roxane recalls.
On her way back to the hospital one day, it dawned on Roxane that she still had not decided what she wanted her grandchild to call her.
“Once things settled down a little, I left the hospital to get myself together; and when I went back, I entered my daughter’s room and she said, ‘You’re fancy!’ And then she said, ‘That’s it! You are Fancy!’ And the name stuck from there.”
After a long, tiring 11 days in the hospital that came with many ups and downs, Mason finally went home and was back up to his birth weight. Jennifer returned to work and Roxane cared for Mason during the day.
SOMETHING’S NOT RIGHT
Roxane soon realized that Mason still had a long way to go.
“Mason had a lot of choking episodes—would turn blue and everything,” Roxane says. “I had 9-pound healthy babies, so all of this was new to me and hard to grasp.”
At eight months, Mason could not sit up and did not make a lot of sounds. At nine months, he saw a neurosurgeon at Ochsner and was told that he may have dyspraxia, a disorder that affects planning of movements and coordination as a result of brain messages not being accurately transmitted to the body. He also had low muscle tone and texture issues—his senses were very sensitive.
“Therapists were in and out of my house two to three times a week—speech therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists—and there were many doctor appointments in between,” Roxane says. “But I was not giving up on this beautiful child.”
WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S A WAY
Roxane began to do her own research. She taught herself sign language so that she could teach Mason how to communicate when he couldn’t use words.
“I bought as many DVDs on children’s sign language as I could, and we sat, watched and learned together,” she says. “This was how he communicated for a long time. His first word that he signed was more, then milk and juice.”
Even after he started to verbalize, Mason would still use sign language in conjunction with spoken words. But Roxane didn’t stop there. She began to work with him to help improve his texture issues.
“One of his first words he spoke was blah because that is how he felt to a lot of the things he touched,” Roxane says.
Because she loves to work in her yard, Roxane would bring Mason outside and let him touch everything—from the grass to dirt to mulch, even worms.
“I would hang contact paper on the back of a chair outside and had him pick up things in the yard and put on the paper,” she says. “It was everything he could do to run to the chair and get whatever he had in his hand off.”
On rainy days, the learning continued indoors. Resorting to the kitchen, Roxane would hide small toys at the bottom of bowls of rice, as well as beans or Play-Doh, and let Mason dig them out. As someone who always loved to cook, Roxane began letting her grandson touch various ingredients and mixtures—flour, water, dough. It was at that moment that she started baking cupcakes with Mason.
“Together, we would sort, count, say and sign each ingredient,” Roxane says. “We reinforced everything—exaggerated everything. It started just him and I doing it together.”
Roxane would share their creations and progress with her friends on her Facebook page. People were taking notice of their beautiful creations that looked delicious.
Around Easter, Roxane made a batch of cupcakes for her sister to deliver to several doctors’ offices. Her baking was officially in demand—they wanted more and told their friends. Requests started coming in for cupcakes so quickly that it was hard to keep up. Disappointingly, Roxane recently found that the law prohibits residents from getting a license to bake out of their own home. She decided to start a petition for the Louisiana Cottage Food Law, which would permit bakers to work out of their home kitchens.
For now, Roxane channels all of her creativity into baking for fun and helping to motivate others. She shares other companies’ creations on Facebook with her friends, cooks cupcakes for local events, and volunteers at various organizations. When looking for a name to call her baked creations, inspiration was hiding right under her nose … or, rather, right there baking along with her. “Fancy Cakes” became the obvious choice.
BAKED WITH LOVE
Roxane’s love for cooking comes from her father, who loved to try new recipes in the kitchen and bring them to Roxane for her opinion. She quit her job six years ago to care for him when he fell ill with lung cancer. On the day her father passed away, Roxanne was in her own kitchen whipping up his special request.
“He had a craving for baked spaghetti,” she says. “I can’t do anything small—very ‘Jesus with the fish at night’ story. I ended up feeding the whole family that night and had leftovers when I was really just cooking for Dad.”
Even now, Roxane still feels close to him when moving about in the kitchen. She says she knows it was never about the food—it was about the cooking. She believes her cupcakes give her an outlet to express herself and satisfy her own craving for creativity.
“However God wants to use me in this, I am OK with,” she says. “I know my children and Mason are watching me. It’s not what I tell them; it’s what I show them. Eventually, they learn by example.”
NOW LET’S TALK
And they have plenty of examples of selfless giving to learn from. While researching Mason’s condition, Roxane came across a woman who lived in Arizona but was from Houma and had a daughter with communication issues like Mason. She was working with the Different iz Good and Turning Views Foundation to collect donated old cellphones to turn in for money to get iPhones and iPads to kids who need help communicating.
Roxane immediately wanted to help, so she began making fliers and creating drop boxes in hope that Mason could be put on the list and get his own. Almost instantly, someone donated an iPhone. Roxane tried to turn in the donation to the organization, but they told her to keep the device for Mason. Although she could have stopped there, she went on to collect another 300 phones for the organization.
At age 2, Mason used the phone to help communicate his wants and needs. Along with the help of speech therapy, he began to talk.
“It was not full sentences at first, and his articulation was off,” Jennifer says. “He would delete consonants, so he spoke with mostly vowels; but we could understand.”
At just 2 and a half years old, Mason tested at a 5-year-old level, but still had low muscle tone and trouble multitasking.
“When he was concentrating on walking, he wouldn’t speak,” Jennifer says. “When he was concentrating on speaking, he wouldn’t walk.”
But, just like Mason, they didn’t give up. Roxane continued to work with Mason and, in turn, he stood alongside her in the kitchen as she baked. Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes—a Fancy specialty—is his favorite.
Another one of his favorite activities to help his Fancy with—making coffee.
“Mason loves to help make coffee,” Roxane says, chuckling. “He loves to put his hands under the water and count the scoops of coffee grains and cups of water.”
DANCING THROUGH IT
Today, Mason is much like the other kids his own age. A shy but charismatic kid, he is attending preschool for half of each day during the week. It is the first time he is away from either Roxane or Jennifer, who is now attending Nicholls State University to earn her bachelor’s degree.
“With the dynamics of our family, someone has always been with [Mason],” Roxane says. “We are very protective of him. On his first morning of school, he cried. On his second day, he could not get out of the car fast enough to get through the front door of the school.”
Cognitively, nothing is wrong with Mason, Roxane says. He still has a few articulation and motor skills issues, but he is communicating well—no doubt from the many hours his Fancy spent working with him.
“I don’t know what kind of child Mason would be without her, and I don’t want to know,” Jennifer says, her voice breaking as both she and her mother wipe tears from their eyes. “It is absolutely priceless knowing someone else loves your child like you do.”
Mason’s new favorite thing to do is follow his finger along with the words of one of his favorite books—Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, a tale of a relationship between a young boy and a tree. The tree always provides the boy with what he wants out of love without remorse or question.
One can easily draw the correlation between Mason’s favorite book and his Fancy. Her selfless philosophy on life and undivided attention to her bright-eyed, 4-year-old grandson is evident.
“Fancy, I am the tree and you are my ladybug in the tree.”
And to Roxane, that means everything—the happy, healthy boy who calls her Fancy.
“We are all sent trials and obstacles, but a lot of people miss out on the lesson in it,” Roxane says as she sits in her kitchen listening to Mason laugh while he watches cartoons. She blinks away tears. “Everything is for a reason—you dance through it. Someone always has bigger plans for you. Until then, I’ll