Monday, October 24, 2011

more thoughts on celebrating birthdays simply and at home

his crown and birthday ring
We really enjoyed celebrating Rainer's birthday simply this year. I'm not against children's birthday parties at all--I do think the birthday child should be specially celebrated--but I'm not a big fan of the huge parties that seem so common these days. Nor am I a fan of the piles of presents that come with them.

I have done a lot of children's birthday parties in the past (mostly for Faith and Jacob over the years--some really cute ones--and a small party for Dieter last year), but more and more I am warming up to the idea of not having a birthday party for them, other than the family party of course, and then just doing various seasonal family parties throughout the year to foster a sense of community and fun (without all the birthday party stress and expectations). That sounds just about right to me.

turning 5
So we kept things simple this year and it was really great. Breakfast, cookie decorating, a swim, and having the grandparents up for dinner. You should have heard the boys shouting for joy when their Gam and Papa arrived! Such a sweet sound.

birthday table
Thanks so much for all of your sweet birthday wishes for Rainer! In answer to your questions: the morning present he opened was Tegu blocks. They are wooden magnetic blocks. I think magnets are so fun the play with and do you think I could resist magnets encased in beautiful wood? No way. Rainer has been having lots of fun with them so far. They're a success.

Our cookie frosting sets nicely in about an hour and the cookies can be stacked and frozen after that. Best of all, they contain no raw egg, so there are no worries about that. Here's the recipe:

Best Sugar Cookie Icing

1 c. powdered sugar
2 t. milk (I always have to use more than this, maybe like 2 T.)
2 t. light corn syrup
1/4 t. extract (vanilla or almond)
food coloring per your preference

Push the powdered sugar through a sieve to remove lumps. Blend powdered sugar and milk with a whisk, then whisk in corn syrup and extract until smooth and glossy. Divide into ramekins and color as you wish. We apply the colors mostly with a spoon and spread them around with the back of it. Allow cookies to set in a cool place.

birthday joy!
Rainer had hoped and dreamed for the "duel action lightsaber" for months and months and was so excited when he got it. I love keeping the gifts simple. He got the Tegu blocks and the lightsaber, a new blank sketchbook, and my parents got him a board game and some clothes. Truly, a boy does not need more than that.

Brotherly love! (Except when they are fighting over the new lightsaber. Dieter can barely keep his hands off it).

How do you handle birthdays at your house?


Tammie said...

i agree with your thoughts on childrens birthdays. ive been to so many parties that made me very uncomfortable-it just felt like too much. we do a meal of the childs choosing, a cake of course, and one or two special gifts. really, what more is needed? i feel like the day should be more about feeling special and less about getting everything you ever wanted.

The Wool Fairy said...

Oh, I do love your thoughts on child's birthdays! I especially love the idea of seasonal parties, taking the pressure off the birthday child. It can be tricky business and I'm always conscious of not being the party pooper in the house (: When my boys turned 5, I allowed a friend party. The "friend party" is mostly comprised of cousins and then we usually invite a couple of others. I love thinking back to the simple, homemade parties of my childhood and follow my own mother's lead. I actually really enjoy my children's parties. It is a tradition for us to have a treasure hunt and I always make up a fun cake. I try very very hard to limit the traditional "junk" that goes hand in hand with such parties. Striking a balance is the key I suppose.

Sarah said...

My kids have always felt that way and still do as teens. They prefer a family gathering where their peers aren' at them.

Erin said...

I have been contemplating that very thing lately as my older son is about to turn 7 and my younger just tuned five. I have always done parties with friends for them and have usually enjoyed the process. Nothing too over the top - homemade pinata, face painting and a game. Just this year after my younger son's 5th bday I'm beginning to feel burnt out. I suggested to my older son to invite 3 friends over for a special night out roller skating (his choice) and then a sleepover. I feel relieved not to have to throw the party this year. Your idea sounds so lovely and simple. I may just do a family party next year and see how that feels.

The Wool Fairy said...

Me again (: On the topic of celebrations...I'd love to hear your plans/ideas for Halloween too! I was reminded this morning it's just 6 days away (:

Maiz Connolly said...

Our birthday celebrations are usually similar to yours. Cake and family and a couple of carefully chosen presents. I always ask the kids what they want to do for their birthday, and then try to incorporate that into the day. (They usually just say, "CAKE!")

I like to have a tradition of going camping for a summer or fall birthday and skiing or playing in the snow for a winter birthday.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean about birthday parties these days getting out of control. We have a every-other-year party rule in our house and often they don't even want one then. We tend to do a big family outing to celebrate. It is really the only time we go to someplace like Disneyland.

I think I would keep it simpler if I had it to do over again- I think you are on the right track.

It looks like a lovely day.


diwali sms said...

tomorrow will be diwali guys!!!

Gam said...

Just imagine the sweetness of those shouts of joy to OUR ears! It was indeed a wonderful birthday for a very special boy!

Gam said...

Imagine the sweetness of those shouts to OUR ears! It was indeed a wonderful party for a very special boy!

The Pinnt's said...

Thanks so much for the icing recipe! We love doing sugar cookies at christmas but the butter cream my mother in law always makes is too much for the kids. I think these would be fun to do with the kids and then give as gifts, you know? Imperfections welcome :) I am with you on the birthdays. The parties for my kids are getting smaller and smaller. Celebration? YES! Over-indulgence? No.

kristen said...

I loved this post...and a happy birthday to your sweet boy.

Any thoughts on how to back track to make the birthdays more simple? I have 9 and 7 year olds and, unfortunately, they are both used to pretty big shindigs (the 9 yr old especially). I'd like to back off from that a bit - I just think it's too much. I'd love your thoughts on this!

Sarah said...

This is a hard one for me, we seem to have a very competitive family, I am not trying to participate but it has been difficult with cousins the same age. We tend to be the less is more family, sometimes it is so hard to get the kiddos to see that their parties are just fine without all the excess. I will say though that Pump it Up saved us for Ethan's 4th birthday party as Isaac was dx with diabetes just a week before and had been discharged from the hospital that day, so those out of house parties definitely have their place :)
Oh, and those blocks are on my boys wishlist - definitely fun looking for all :)

Valérie (Poetic chronicles) said...

Family, carefully chosen gifts that have a real meaning, time spent joyfully together: I agree with you, that's all one can dream of and ask for! I agree with you too on the sense of family community: the type of celebration you describe makes it stronger!

Mary Beth said...

Kristen--about scaling back: I think it is totally doable, but first I would sit down with my husband and see if he is on the same page too. If so, you can proceed with talking to the children, explain the reasoning for scaling back, and make it super fun by maybe transitioning to a special outing or event with just a few friends? And if it feels right, scaling back from there. You might find that your kids enjoy something a little more focused and intimate. You can still do a larger, family oriented party at another time, just maybe not for a birthday. Of course, it all depends on the family so obviously do what's right for you guys. I'm fortunate in that my husband and I are usually very close in our ideas about these things.

kristen said...

Mary Beth, thank you for taking the time to answer my question. I so appreciate it. I'm excited to work toward this with my children. Thank you for your wise words.

have a great weekend!