Birthday Celebrations

August 28, 2013

olive's birthday cake

Image and text by Gabrielle.

Do you host a birthday-party-with-friends for your children each year? Something fun and maybe themed with invitations, decorations, games, refreshments and a big cake? I love hosting parties like that!

But as our family was growing, I was intimidated by the idea of throwing a big party 6 times each year, once for each of our kids. So fairly early on, we decided we’d do friend parties on some years, and simpler, family parties on others. Originally, we planned to host friend parties at age 1, 3, 5, 8, 12 and 16. But it hasn’t worked out that way!

When our oldest, Ralph, turned 12, we were still quite new to Colorado and he hadn’t had a chance to make many friends yet. So a friend party didn’t make sense. We decided to skip the party and took him on his first trip to San Francisco instead (at the time, I would have never guessed we would end up living in the Bay Area!).

Then, when Maude turned 12, we had just barely moved to France, and again, a friend party didn’t make sense. So using the precedent of Ralph’s trip, we took  Maude to London to see Wicked. (We lived so close! Just a ferry ride away.)

And then we moved here to California, just weeks before Olive’s 12th birthday, and for the third time, a friend party didn’t make sense. Plus, now we had a bit of a tradition happening with a 12th birthday trip. Olive started daydreaming about seeing Wicked in New York (she hasn’t been back to New York since we moved! And she still has a best friend there — who she wanted to invite to the show, of course.) But we needed a more budget-friendly idea.

So, last week, Olive celebrated her 12th birthday with a road trip to Los Angeles to see Taylor Swift in concert!

Ben Blair took her to the concert and Olive had an amazing time. As soon as we bought the tickets, she did a bunch of research on Taylor Swift concerts and ended up making a costume in advance, stockpiling glow stick bracelets, and memorizing every word of every song in the concert play list in anticipation.

Since this plan came together last-minute, we ended up buying the seats on Stubhub, and we weren’t sure what to expect — but they were great! In fact, Taylor’s parents walked by her seat several times and talked with Olive. Taylor’s dad even gave her a handful of guitar picks! Ben and Olive stayed over night in LA, slept in, and drove back the next day. Olive keeps saying it was the best birthday ever!!

Ralph’s 16th birthday was on Monday — which was also the first day of school. All these years I’d imagined hosting the coolest 16th birthday celebration. A surprise party (of course!), with loads of friends, a DJ, an awesome theme — and if we could pull it off — keys to a memorable car waiting in the driveway.

Oh man. We couldn’t have been further from that vision. We just moved here, Ralph doesn’t know a soul yet, we barely started talking about driving lessons (it doesn’t happen till 18 in France, so it wasn’t on the minds of his peers), prepping for school and getting the kids registered has been a crazy amount work, and let’s be honest, I’m not doing well enough mentally to host much of anything at all. So we had to come up with an alternate plan, and happily, Jordan gave us a great idea.

Knowing Ralph has a huge passion for movies, on Friday, she arranged for a tour of George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic — or as we keep calling it, the Star Wars Campus — over lunch. And then that evening, our friends from church arranged a tour of the Pixar Studios! Ralph was so excited he could barely stand it. He loved both tours and can’t wait to find an excuse to go back. I think it also helped him visualize what he might want to do career-wise in film.

On Sunday, we gathered cousins for cake and ice cream to celebrate both Olive and Ralph (their birthdays are just a day apart). And on their actual birthday, as per tradition, each one had breakfast in bed and opened a few small gifts.

Yes, it was far from our original plans for their birthdays, but I think it worked our wonderfully. I think they both felt celebrated and loved.

And now I’m curious: How do you handle birthdays? Do you like throwing a yearly party? Or do you prefer to keep things simple? Have you ever considered a birthday trip to mark a certain age? And are any of you raising introverts who would prefer not to have a party at all?

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Dr. Pepper Birthday Party: The Idea + The Invitations | Blog con Queso
September 23, 2013 at 2:57 pm

{ 72 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alicia W. August 28, 2013 at 11:40 am

What a timely post! We just hosted a huge birthday party for my 7 year old daughter…a beach themed water party in the backyard and 21 kids. Immediately after the party I started trying to convince my older daughter to have a smaller party when her birthday rolls around.

I love the 12th birthday trip idea…that is a tradition we’d like to adopt when the time rolls around if we can. You guys have some of the funnest birthday traditions! We did the balloon surprise with the door for my daughter…she loved it!

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2 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm

21 kids! I’ll bet it was fun — crazy, but fun.

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3 Megan August 28, 2013 at 11:43 am

Introverts! My son turned 13 last Sunday and requested as quiet a day as possible. He couldn’t even come up with anything he wanted or needed. We went out to his favorite spot for dinner and then to a fancy ice cream shop. He loved it! With three introverts ranging from extreme to 50/50, I have found the smaller birthdays (even holidays) are the ones they actually have memories of.

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4 Yvonne August 28, 2013 at 12:22 pm

When our daughter started kindergarten there were 36 kids in her class (yes, 36!) and she wanted to invite ALL of them to her (January, read brrr too cold for the park) party – oy! So we rented an inexpensive carriage house that could hold everyone and hired an artist to do a drawing lesson – it was AWESOME! In first grade we were down to 34 kids, and she wanted to invite ALL of them – so we took advantage of a free day at a local museum and did a treasure hunt through the galleries. Then last year, at 32 kids she still wanted to invite ALL of them – so we found a local wildlife refuge that did a shore walk and art activity with the kids for FREE – I have become the queen of the low cost/huge birthday parties! God help me if she wants to invite everyone this year – I just may be running out of ideas!!

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5 Megan M. August 28, 2013 at 5:36 pm

Wow, I love these ideas! So creative!

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6 Stella August 28, 2013 at 8:02 pm

I think it’s so sweet that your daughter wants to invite all the kids in her class. I hear so many stories these days about kids being mean to each other/bullying, etc. (and have witnessed firsthand how mean even small kids can be!) , so it’s heart warming to see that your daughter wants to include everyone. What a great example to set for her classmates! And big props to you for supporting her big heart. 36 kindergartners at one party?! I bet there’s a special place in heaven for moms who have agreed to that haha

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7 Caitlin August 28, 2013 at 12:24 pm

I love the “secret” birthday too – much like the introverts. I never tell anyone it is my birthday, so I walk around all day feeling like I have a special secret. Of course my family and close friends send a text, card, or email. I have dinner out or in, whatever I want! And definitely dessert.

Also, THANK YOU for mentioning your current mood/mental status. Many of us have those times, and we need to be able to say it out loud. It is so refreshing to read it in context of everyday life and not a stigmatized or hushed way. Love to you and prayers you are able to ride this wave swiftly through!

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8 Pam G August 28, 2013 at 12:27 pm

Olive and Ralph must have both felt so honoured by your plans and gifts. Each birthday celebration seems so tailored specifically towards them. How wonderful! Happy belated birthdays to them!!

As for our celebrations here, our 5 yr old son has Selective Mutism, but he enjoys a party just as much as any other kid his age. We have invited kids to do more outdoor things, so the pressure of having to interact is eased. One year we hosted a party at a farm with plenty of animals and this past birthday was celebrated in a forest where the kids had a scavenger hunt. Although our son didn’t speak to any of the kids during the party, all he talked about at home for months was how great it was that kids came and had fun with him.

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9 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

So wonderful that he talked about it for months afterward!

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10 camilla August 28, 2013 at 12:50 pm

Gabrielle, these kind of posts are my favorite (though I love them all :). I love hearing about how you handle these situations, and how even if things aren’t how you pictured them, they are still amazing and fun and most importantly, they celebrate the birthday child. I get so much inspiration from you!

I’m pretty sure I got the idea from your site years ago, but we do parties on certain years too: 4, 7, 10, 13, and 16. So far it’s been great and something to look forward to, but like you I am not going to worry if one year it just doesn’t make sense. The important part is to make sure the birthday boy/girl knows how glad we are that they were born. :)

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11 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

You’re so sweet to say so, Camilla. I’m glad you liked this post!

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12 Robin August 28, 2013 at 1:01 pm

You guys do birthdays perfectly!

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13 bec August 28, 2013 at 1:03 pm

We do friend birthday parties every other year: 6, 8, 10, 12, and so on. The one thing I didn’t think of, was that my kids are about 2 years apart- so the big birthday parties land on the same year. oops.

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14 Michelle A August 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm

I was about to leave the exact same comment! Friend parties every other year and all my four children are two years apart. I have a year of party-throwing and then a year to recoup.

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15 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:40 pm

We’ve have a related but slightly different problem (I’ve mentioned it before, so sorry for the repeat). Our events seem to come in pairs. Maude and Ben Blair have birthdays a few days apart in March. Betty and June have birthdays a few days apart in May (and Mother’s Day is usually the next day!). My birthday and Father’s day are usually the same week. And Olive and Ralph’s birthdays are a day apart in August.

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16 Anna August 28, 2013 at 1:04 pm

Growing up my family had parties at 5, 10 and 16, and truthfully, I didn’t miss having parties the other years because my parents worked hard to make us feel special in other ways on our birthday. My husband and I met studying abroad and we travel whenever we can, so we’ve tweaked the birthday plan a bit for our family… 5 will still be a big party with friends, 10 will be a family trip in the continental US and 16 will be a family trip anywhere in the world – child’s choice of location for both trips!

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17 Allie August 28, 2013 at 1:06 pm

Growing up, my parents allowed us to have a friend overnight for our birthday and we would have a party with all 4 of my grandparents, my parents and the friend. From the beginning (age 4) I had my best friend spend the night and this year, when I turned 40, she came (all the way across the country) and spent the night again. It was truly wonderful.

We also had one special tradition for our 7th birthday: a trip to New York City for our first Broadway show. I was the 2nd generation to observe this (it began with my uncle, who grew up to be a well-known professional actor!). Last fall I took my son to New York for his seventh birthday! It was fantastic to pass that experience on to him.

Of course when I was a child I always wanted a big party and vowed that I would let my child have one every year, but as a mother I find myself following in my parents footsteps. We do have a big party, but it is mostly the adults who love my son, and he chooses a few (3 max) close friends to have over. It is a lovely, intimate, non-stuff centered way to celebrate our child!

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18 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I love the broadway show tradition! So sweet.

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19 Mary {My Life in Scotland} August 28, 2013 at 1:08 pm

AH! 12th Birthday must be the right age for a trip! My uncle took each of us {5 girls} to Boston when we turned 12!!!

In my family we got friend parties when we turned 8, 16, 18. The rest were always family parties and I loved that. Simple and easy. Loved spending it with my family.

Now that my son is 2 and a half we are still having just family parties. I’m sure we’ll have a friend party when he is 5 yrs old and again when he is 8. Who knows after that! I’ve not thought that far ahead!

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20 michelle August 28, 2013 at 1:28 pm

We seem to have taken a hybrid approach to birthdays – for the first few years we had family and friends all together to celebrate the kiddo’s big day, we had done a bit of moving and it just seemed to make sense to do it that way. But then when he turned six and wanted to go to Disneyland we gave him the choice of a party or the park. He chose the park. At seven, we did a party again. We just celebrated birthday #8 with an scuba diving day at the Monterey Aquarium. Seems like we are getting into a rhythm here. A friend party is great, but it is a lot to manage every year. I like that doing something extra special for the birthday creates some amazing memories! I love the idea of a big trip at twelve… I’ve got four years, better get planning!

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21 Amanda August 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I don’t have kids yet, but as I grew older I remember my birthday being a bit problematic. It’s the last day of April and in high school always fell right before AP exams and in college right before finals. I got into the habit of celebrating a week or two later, usually with a dinner out to a favorite restaurant :) But when I turned 21 my birthday was on the weekend, so my parents came to visit me at school in Seattle and took me up to Butchart Gardens in Victoria, B.C. I’ll always remember that birthday for the spectacular scenery on the ferry ride over and all the tulips and daffodils that were in bloom at the gardens. We ended the day at a favorite little beachfront restaurant on the Olympic Peninsula. It really was special. I think birthday trips make for some of the best birthday celebrations!

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22 Jennifer F. - American Mom in Bordeaux August 28, 2013 at 1:40 pm

We have done friend parties each year…but we limit the number of friends – no more than 10. When my oldest wanted a sleep over – we limited it to 5 special friends…so it was manageable with sleeping bags in the living room. I thought maybe moving to France – we would see less friends parties…but most of the girl’s have friends who have parties each year. Nothing elaborate – mostly at home, and usually like our rules – not too many. They seem to enjoy this…I would love to begin to do friend parties less…My oldest turns 13 this year – so after that year – it seems like a good time to take a break from friend parties…until the sweet 16. …Thanks for all the ideas!

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23 kelleynr August 28, 2013 at 1:47 pm

We don’t throw big parties for our children each year. It is a every other year kind of thing. To be honest, they don’t need the gifts and it is a lot of work and money to throw a big party. One year we do a family dinner and the next they can have a big party, but sometimes they may choose to go do something like Disneyworld.

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24 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:44 pm

I choose Disneyworld!

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25 Barbara August 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm

Our family also moved a few times while the girls were in grade school. As we did not have family close bye I would invite the neighbors, friends, anyone I could think of to come over and be merry for the birthday girl. Worked well until my oldest asked if for her special day I did not invite “strangers” over. It was then I realized we didn’t need a whole bunch of people for the children to be happy. Just ourselves was enough.

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26 Robin August 28, 2013 at 1:52 pm

My kids were born close to big holidays, my son near Thanksgiving, my daughter near Christmas (what was I thinking?!!?), so it was a challenge to get people to bring their kids to birthday parties. Not long after moving to a new house, we had a Halloween party that was pretty epic. We decided to do that every year instead of “friend” parties, then have a small family celebration on the actual date. This went on until busy high school lives took over. We had some amazing times and those parties beget traditions that we still look forward to… bobbing for doughnuts, anyone?

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27 Deborah August 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm

I have actually enjoyed throwing theme parties. (but not commercial, more like a baking pretzels party, a craft party, etc.) Now that my son is turning 11, he doesn’t want to do an involved theme. We’re thinking 4-5 friends over to play with water guns, nerf guns and burgers on the grill. Or a few friends go to the indoor trampoline park for an hour and milkshakes afterwards. (Not the big production of a party at the indoor park..) As a family, the birthday person usually picks a place to go out to eat on their actual birthday, and since there are only 4 of us, this works fine. Now if I could just convince my 8 year old to scale back her invitation list, I would be more calm and relaxed, since their birthdays are back to back.

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28 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:36 pm

I love all those ideas, Deborah!

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29 Valerie August 28, 2013 at 2:04 pm

My husband and I are both introverts and loathe being the center of attention. This year for my husband’s birthday he gets to go to Salt Lake’s first ever Comic Con next week and buy himself something perfectly nerdy. He is so excited. And our little guy turns one! in November so we are definitely planning a big bash for that.

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30 CNM August 28, 2013 at 2:26 pm

My son just turned one and we decided to have a huge party in our backyard. It was mostly for us to see our friends and family as our baby was so young. We hosted 40 people, 15 or so were children around the age of 5. We played a games in the yard and did coloring and it was great fun. I can’t wait to do it again next year!

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31 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

I love one year old parties! I love that they’re really just for the parents (and maybe older siblings). They feel like a celebratory WE DID IT moment for making it through that first year. And the baby is too young to have an opinion so you can decorate any way you like. : )

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32 Jeanette August 28, 2013 at 2:37 pm

Growing up, my mom always made sure birthdays special. I love continuing the traditions of decorating the house and letting the birthday boy/girl choose their favorite meal and cake. Instead of presents, we give experiences. Whether it’s a musical/play, museum, restaurant, or road trip, we try to go somewhere new!

For my sister’s 30th birthday, we toured the Theo Chocolate factory, lunched at Ballard Pizza Co., desserted at Molly Moon’s Ice Cream, and rode on the Seattle Great Wheel.

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33 Sara Mack August 28, 2013 at 3:36 pm

I’ll tell you what my mom always tells me when the grand plans in my head don’t exactly turn out how I envision… She says remember this… your children only know what you do, not what you have pictured in your head. They think anything big or small is amazing and our grand plans may really just be too much. And, like almost always, I have to admit… that she might just be a little bit right:)
So… when I picture something truly huge and amazing and the day just doesn’t match up… my children are usually smiling and happy about the day that is.

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34 Jenny August 28, 2013 at 4:07 pm

I love giving big parties for my kids each year. I only have 2 kids, so it makes it much more feasible for my family. Each party has a theme and I like to take that theme to the max! This year my son turned 6 and we had a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle party with 14 of his friends. I confess, it was a LOT of kids and I’m grateful to the parents/friends that stayed to help. But it was so much fun! We made “mutagen,” had a foam sword fight and ate “pizza” cake. Kids loved it.

For my daughter who just turned 11, we had a sleepover with 5 of her friends. We played games, had water fights outside, painted toenails and, more. She felt so grown up. Last year she got to take a trip to Washington DC with her dad for her birthday as well as have a friend party.

Some of my favorite themed parties include chef, Lego, superhero, tea party, masquerade, mermaid, farm, ballerina and more. Planning the party is even more fun (for me) than the execution.

Thanks for sharing your birthday ideas and fun family traditions!

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35 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:31 pm

I hear you. It’s so fun to have something creative to work on — with a firm deadline, and the relief that comes when it’s done.

I always get a good “party high” after an event is over

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36 julia August 28, 2013 at 4:41 pm

I don’t give a big party each year. We’ve been on a every-other year schedule (their first real birthday parties at year 4). Last year we took our 5 year old to the aquarium and the mall of america amusement park instead of a party. My parents did something similar for us growing up and I think it works! Saves a bit of stress and money too ;) You are doing such a great job Gabrielle! Sounds like fun experiences!

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37 Deborah August 28, 2013 at 5:20 pm

Right now we just do a family thing. Cake, balloons, gifts, grandparents and they get to pick whatever they want for dinner. They have always been over the moon for birthdays and dont feel like they are missing out on anything. Its a special family time that we all love!

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38 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:29 pm

This sounds just right, Deborah. If you love throwing a big party, then great! But it’s certainly not required to make the day special.

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39 Amy August 28, 2013 at 5:31 pm

We have 2 kids, Charles and Emily. Their birthdays are 2 years and 8 days apart. So the same birthday week, roughly! Sometimes we do a family trip. One year we took them to their first Red Sox game. We don’t do a lot of parties and if we do, we keep it simple and in our yard. Our best party was Charles’s 5th birthday. It was drizzling and we gave all the kids a shovel and they dug for worms. They loved it! I love your website and love reading about your family=). Feel better!

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40 Jenny August 28, 2013 at 5:38 pm

I love your new trip at 12 tradition! We have talked about doing that for our kids when they turn 12 and I think it’s a great idea.

I am always trying to bribe my kids with a special activity instead of a friend party, which is so lame of me because I loved them as a kid. For my daughter’s 9th birthday this year she said she didn’t want any presents and she wanted to go stay in a hotel with a pool and bathrobes in a higher than second story floor with no boys or brothers. Not specific at all!! But hey! It was great! Major win for mom that year.

The tradition that never changes is they have balloons and they get to pick their birthday cake and breakfast/dinner menus on their big day. So the kids love pouring over the cake cookbooks looking for the most delicious sounding cake before their birthday.

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41 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Score! I think I’ll suggest the hotel idea to one of my kids for a future birthday. Sounds good to me. : )

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42 Annie August 28, 2013 at 7:19 pm

I got such a smile when I read this post! I come from a family of 6 children and we had very similar traditions. We only got “friend” birthday parties on certain years and on our 12th birthday each of us got to take a special trip with just our parents. It always felt very special and I have great memories of that trip. :)

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43 heidi August 28, 2013 at 7:47 pm

I have 5 kids and have done a friend birthday party and a family birthday party each year for everyone. I’m always exhausted when they are over. I never thought of doing it any other way, but it sounds enticing. Probably too late for us to change now, though.

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44 jessica brown August 28, 2013 at 7:55 pm

I once threw a kid party with 7 friends from school. Never again. Now you can have three friends over for homemade pizza and football with dad in the backyard or lunch and heading up to the pool to play. Simple and still celebrating!

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45 Darci August 28, 2013 at 9:31 pm

I have 2kids with mid dec and early jan bdays. We also live in a teeny nyc apt with no family nearby. I feel sad telling you my kids have never had a bday party. Every year they ask and every year I put it off. I have also been out of the country on a business trip on my older daughters birthday, twice :( Instead of parties, we took family trips to Disneyworld when each girl turned 5.
We are changing schools this year and I really feel I need to do something for their birthdays this year. Something small, easy, and low budget. It’s so easy to drop $1000 on a party in nyc.

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46 Erin August 28, 2013 at 10:41 pm

I only have one baby – a little boy who will turn two on Christmas. I am already struggling with how to make that special for him. People tell me all the time how lousy of a birthday that is (not really my fault – he was 7 weeks early). Although I don’t really love the idea of celebrating on a different day, I think it will end up being necessary.

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47 Sadie R August 29, 2013 at 12:41 am

Our original plan was to have parties 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13, and so on. We’ve pretty much kept to our plan, with exceptions of course. Are you going to do “What to Wear to __ Grade” Posts? I would love it if you did!

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48 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:26 pm

Yes! Thanks for asking. I actually shot Oscar & Betty’s yesterday. As soon as I edit the images, I’ll work them up into a post. Expect them next week.

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49 Sadie R August 30, 2013 at 12:34 am

I can’t wait!

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50 Shosh August 29, 2013 at 2:45 am

We don’t do big parties at all. My five year old (boy) actually told me this morning that he wants to go back to my parents house next year for his birthday (we were there this year, visiting from out of town, when his birthday fell out). I asked him why, and he said because he got to sit in a big chair at the big table, got to play fun games (we played pin the tail on the donkey), and he got to slip a whoopie cushion on the grown-ups’ chairs. That’s all he wants – a whoopie cushion and and big chair : )
I also try to decorate the house with streamers and balloons the night before so that when he wakes up he wakes up to a special house.

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51 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:25 pm

“That’s all he wants – a whoopie cushion and and big chair”

Gosh I love kids.

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52 Sarah August 29, 2013 at 3:53 am

It all seemed lovely! Way to go!
Just a correction about french driving… In France, when you are 16, you can start driving with your family members teaching you. It’s called conduite accompagnée… so when you are 18, you get your definite license easily! You cannot drive by yourself, although in the country side some do, but you can learn…

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53 Janet August 29, 2013 at 6:57 am

Often times our best laid plans, intentions and traditions get pushed aside by the surprises and excitement of life! Hand clap for you and your husband for making family birthday traditions but even more, a pat on the back for keeping open minded and opening up your heart for impromptu possibilities – which traditionally :) often work out even better! We have a large family as well and I often find myself stressed out by my own wishes and expectations for my children’s birthdays when they are pretty much open to anything!!! Just feeling special and loved by those you love is what makes a happy birthday. You’ve definitely covered that.

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54 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:24 pm

So true! At first, Olive was disappointed that NYC wasn’t within reach, but when she realized there were other options, she switched gears immediately and never looked back. She was very open to anything!

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55 Janet August 29, 2013 at 7:10 am

Loved hearing about the birthday celebrations at your house! My daughter has a birthday near Christmas, so we have usually had friend birthday parties earlier in December and then family on her birthday. Last year, on her 11th birthday, she said she just wanted her friends to hang out and jump on trampolines, etc. at a gymnastics studio and no gifts for her — so we asked her friends to bring a Christmas gift for kids less fortunate. One of my favorite celebrations ever!

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56 Em August 29, 2013 at 7:15 am

Oh, isn’t that just life? you probably know better than most that things rarely turn out the way we envision them! But thank goodness that usually, the way things turn out is pretty great, just in another way.

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57 Beth August 29, 2013 at 7:19 am

I like to keep it simple and memorable. When I became a single parent, I imagined it would be quite the ordeal but having said that, it isn’t reason to not make it special especially for my little one. :)

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58 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm

Simple and memorable. Sounds wonderful to me!

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59 Anna August 29, 2013 at 7:26 am

I love that you planned special outings for the kids’ birthdays this year. We’ve done that for our kids, followed by a small family party. They’re young (3 and 4), so the outings haven’t been anything extravagant. A ride in a speed boat when my son turned 3 (we canoe, so this was exotic for him!) and a trip to Chicago and the top of the Sears Tower when he turned 4. When my animal-loving daughter turned 3, we took a trip to a large zoo nearby where she saw an elephant for the first time. I think it’s a nice opportunity to treat them to an experience and make a family memory without the craziness that comes with a big party. I know some people enjoy hosting a crowd, but it makes me feel stressed!

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60 elz August 29, 2013 at 10:32 am

I throw parties. Crazy insane, Pinterest filled parties. I figure my girls are only going to be little (and want parties) for a few years, so I really go all in. I let them give me a theme and then we plan the games, decorations, etc together. While I spend an insane amount of time hand-crafting their parties, I find that I spend a small fraction of what my friends do for those bouncy house/zoo/pool/gym parties their kids have.

This year, due to my work schedule, my soon to be 9 year old is getting a family trip to DC. Her party will be postponed a few weeks, but everyone seemed very happy with the change of plans!

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61 elz August 29, 2013 at 10:34 am

Oh, our parties are limited to the girls’ new age (so, 9 is 9 friends) and one friend for her sister. None of these 30 kid parties for us!

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62 Jen H August 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm

My husbands bday is Sept, I’m due with #4 in Oct, daughter bday in Nov, sons in Dec, and other daughter in Jan, and mine in Feb! So they are all in the Winter and 1 a month! We do bdays with family. I do a special cake or cupcakes and buy cute paper products. Then I send kids (cousins) home with goody bags. Simple yet the kids love their bday parties!

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63 Design Mom August 29, 2013 at 2:21 pm

Five months in a row! Do you breath a big sigh of relief when March rolls around? : )

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64 Jenn Sedor August 29, 2013 at 3:28 pm

Well… my son turned 4 this year. We’ve been in and out and all over the place this summer and I made sure that we were at home to throw him a wonderful party with all his playschool friends. The only catch was that the day was well before his actual birthday… he had a great time and we went on with our lives…..

A few weeks later I realized that me, my husband, grand-parents and all… had completely forgotten his real birthday…. Thank goodness he’s too young to know the difference.

Jenn S.

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65 Nikki August 30, 2013 at 6:03 am

This is so crazy! I was at the Taylor Swift concert too! But there were four I think, so we may not have been there on the same day. Anyways, I love your blog Gabby and the Olive Us videos are my favorite! It’s so amazing how involved your family is in the blogging world! I began reading Say Yes to Hoboken after seeing Liz’s house featured on a blog I read daily, Cup of Joe and my sister reads Oh Happy Day all the time, so then I started too. And then I discovered your blog through both of those! I am so glad I did. You have such a beautiful family and such an amazing blog!

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66 Dee August 30, 2013 at 12:11 pm

I love the ways you’ve celebrated. My daughter turned 11 on Wednesday and one of our traditions is a big meal (immediate family) which the birthday boy or girl chooses. So, we did that and tonight, we are having a small cake and ice cream party with games tonight with family. Sometimes, we have invitations, and decorations. Other times, I just have the kids go ring their friends’ doorbells and gather whoever they can to come over to sing Happy Birthday and eat cake. My favorite way to celebrate though is definitely to travel!

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67 christine / darling studio August 30, 2013 at 1:33 pm

Today, Henry (who turned 4 last week said), “Mama, I wish I could have a birthday every day. Would that be cool?”

Since his and my 2-year-old daughter’s birthdays are only a month apart, we decided to do something like you. A big party on designated years, and family-with-a-friend-or-two celebrations all other years. So far, so good, but I love the ease and flexibility (even if uninentional) you have practiced with your 6(!) kids, and I am sure it will all change as the years go on. But that’s all part of the fun, no?

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68 Tracy August 30, 2013 at 1:34 pm

Wow! Talk about flexibility! It seems that all of your travels have given your kids and you as a family unit the gift of flexibility and finding joy right where you are. So impressive that you were able to give up you long-ago made plans and dreams for plans that were better fitting and probably more welcomed than the imagined ones may have been. I’m a huge planner, and I’ve found that can be a huge blessing, but also a bit of a curse if I let my plans rule instead of flexibility. Bravo you! And happy birthday to your kids.

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69 JC September 2, 2013 at 6:45 am

Your birthday celebrations are very much in line with our own. We shoot for a memorable family experience in lieu of a large friend celebration. We live in the NY Metro area and friend celebrations are all too often tinged with “status issues”. Quite frankly, while I can afford to throw one for my children I’m not interested in setting that tone! So we find family things to do – American Girl for brunch, a Broadway show, an indoor waterpark, something memorable for our entire family followed by cake together and small presents at home. It seems to make them happy and to offset the lack of friend celebrations I always send a special birthday treat into school for everyone to enjoy together.

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70 olivia clark September 2, 2013 at 7:27 pm

all of this is so sweet and so great- but i just can’t get the picture of that huge chocolate cake out of my head! how? what is that ah-mah-zing thing?

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71 mamalang September 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm

We always have at least two “Parties” for each of our three kids until they turn 18. Before that, the family comes over for dinner and cake, and then there is something fun with friends. It’s ranged from skating and bowling and ranch parties to sleepovers with movies in the backyard at home. The sweetest part is that the older kids (14 and up) really don’t need much. Food and a place to hang.
My son’s birthday is just a few days before Christmas, so we have tried a few things for him. We’ve had parties in January, and this last year we had a half birthday in June. Camping in the backyard with a movie, it was a great way to celebrate (and see all his friends before summer vacation.)

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72 Preethi September 18, 2013 at 5:02 pm

My parents immigrated to the US in the early 80′s from India. Once we came here, though, we missed the large network of family and friends we once had. There are three of us and my parents celebrated each of our birthdays with a large party every year. It was a time for our family and friends here to gather and reconnect. I can still smell my mother and grandmother (and sometimes my father) cooking and talking until 1am. Now, with my two girls, we try and do something special with them on their birthday as well as have a party–small or large, we like sharing it. It also helps that their birthdays are a week apart so we have one party with both of their friends. Last year, we were vacationing at the beach and it happened to be my oldest’s 7th birthday. After spending the day on the beach, we celebrated by getting pastries from a little shop on the boardwalk in the evening, went back to an isolated part of the beach after sunset and blew out the candles we had put on the pastries. A week later, we told the hotel restaurant staff about our 5 year old’s birthday and they sang for her at breakfast along with everyone else who was there. Birthdays are magical.

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