Figuring Out This Birthday Thing

Testiclese turned eight last week and my folks flew in for the occasion.

I can’t resist the urge to take this opportunity to post some cute throwback pictures of the old Senator Snorkie.

I’m working on getting the hang of special occasions. I’ve always had a one-size-fits-all model.

  1. Invite everyone
  2. Spend shitloads of money on groceries and cook all day
  3. Clean the house like crazy
  4. Run around like an insane person trying to be the perfect hostess while my kids amuse themselves
  5. Clean the house after everyone leaves
  6. Collapse
  7. Wonder why special occasions aren’t that much fun

I like throwing big, crazy parties with lots of people, but when it comes to my kids I don’t want to be so worn out from the party prep that I can’t be present for them.

The point is being with them on their birthday, not being with everyone else.


After an unbelievably stressful birthday for Scrotus last spring (which I won’t get into but suffice to say that everyone was crying or at least felt like it) I thought long and hard about what I felt was the right kind of birthday for my kids.

I didn’t want to make the mistake I made with Scrotus’s birthday; I decided to keep it simple. I had two objectives 1) make Testiclese feel loved and honored 2) Enjoy having the grandparents around.


Now I don’t believe that on your birthday you get to be king. Yes, it’s your birthday and yes we are celebrating you, but you don’t get to act like a tyrant.


You still have to share, you still have to be kind and polite, you still have to act like a decent human being. And it lasts one day.

Okay, maybe two.

Here’s what you get to do: you get to open presents, choose what we’re having for  dinner and dessert, and pick the DVD we’ll watch together.


Behold, the perfect birthday. In my house.


It’s  our tradition to read the Happy Birthday To You book by Dr. Seuss first thing in the morning. If you don’t already have it in your collection, get it. It’s brilliant.


By Dr. Seuss

This particular copy is meaningful to us because Loony’s deceased younger brother inscribed his name in his childish hand. I never met David but by all accounts he was a kind and generous person.


Reading the book while they eat breakfast of banana smoothies and an egg on toast, complements of our chickens.

Daddy Buzz and Grandma Mac arrived while the boys were in school.


We snuck up on Scrotus on the playground at recess. You should have seen the wide arc he took when approaching his grandma, desperately trying to avoid any hugging and smooching in front of his friends. Silly boy, she would never do that to him.

We joined Testy’s class birthday celebration. It was a short and sweet affair, just 15 minutes with a small snack.

I kept it healthy with fruit skewers, cheese and pretzels. I'm tired of sweets being the only way we know how to celebrate.

I brought fruit, cheese and pretzels. I have deep sympathy for the teachers who have to keep the class focused after they gorge on cupcakes and Capri Suns.

I loved hearing his classmates take turns talking about what they like about him. They talked about what a generous and gentle person he is, what a good friend he is. It made me happy to know that he is seen and appreciated by his peers.


At home we opened presents, nothing too crazy or overboard. He got a wristwatch, clothes, and just what he wanted and had asked for …



Instead of going out (which I now wonder why we ever do, it’s soooo not fun) we had dinner at home, on our newly cleared-off table, of chili, cornbread and cherry pie made from the cherries I put up this summer.


Cherry pie, a family tradition

We sat around the table and talked, told stories from when the boys were little, and truly engaged as a family. Not shouting to be heard at a noisy restaurant. Not diluted by a small crowd. Not rushing a meal with half of us standing up at the kitchen island. Not me so tired that I want to fall over.

It was the best birthday ever.

Of course Testy had a kid party with his friends. I get into these parties, especially when it means that I can team up with Jason to take out as many kids as possible in laser tag.


Loading up on artificial food coloring, ugh.

I made a cake and “decorated” it myself in what looks like menstrual blood …


My best work yet

And I even broke the parental code of honor (according to Pamcakes) by giving out goodie bags.


The diabolical part is that I actually just got rid of shit wonderful gifts I already had lying around. I cut the crap!

Loony bought a box of 20 pencil boxes because we have two kids so why not get 20. Duh.

Shé unearthed them and a whole lotta other crappy carnival toy crap while cleaning out the sunroom.

The boys very proudly purchased a giant box of used pens at a garage sale that had been sitting next to the couch for a month. I loaded the pencil boxes up with pens and carny crap, threw in a pack of Poprocks for good measure and voila! Two birds, one stone.

I feel like I’m starting to get the hang of slowing down long enough to think about what I want.

I want meaningful connections. I want people to be the focus, not the trimmings and window dressing.

One day I’ll have it all figured out.





7 thoughts on “Figuring Out This Birthday Thing

  1. Great blog on birthdays! Much better to read about here than to be there in person? Well…many Happy Returns to the Birthday Boy, he’s getting so big! Know what? You’re up next. Love to all…

  2. I just got off the phone with a friend of mine who is having an October Fest themed birthday tomorrow. I am going to watch all the kids so the other adults can just relax. She reminds me of (the old)you. Driving way to far(60 miles one way) to get special bratwurst and then making all kinds of fancy German dishes. Did I mention she has a 3 and 5yr old that are with her on all of these errands….. I said why don’t you have it be a potluck? She wants it to be just so. Sounds way too stressful to me. 😉

    • All that for a kid party? Talk about wasted effort. I throw birthday parties for kids at a time when I don’t have to feed them. Not because I don’t want to, but because THEY DON’T EAT AT PARTIES, no matter what I make. It’s better to have kids show up properly fed (with whatever gluten and allergy free diet their parents have them on) and then serve a store bought or boxed cake mix cake. It’s not worth the effort and the stress. You are kind to help your friend out.

  3. It is an adult party for her(I think she will be 40ys old)with the children of her friends invited. So I will watch all the kids while the adults eat yummy German food and beer.
    I don’t think it is worth all the effort even for an adult party. I think that the birthday person should sit back and relax while their loved ones spoil them. 🙂
    My sister CJ has it down. Her 4 kids (2 are adults)clean the whole house(6,000sqft) for her and write down their favorite memories and why she is such a great mom.
    Yeah I am not that nice. I am getting paid. hahhh

    • Potlucks are the best. I don’t know if it is really fair to saddle on person with the entire expense and effort. My pottery friends are great because they are all great cooks.

      I’ve had parties where I didn’t make a thing, not even drinks! They brought everything. Sometimes providing the space and occasion should be plenty.

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