For the past few years we have developed some family traditions regarding birthdays in our family. We wanted the kids to have traditions that they would always remember, look forward to, and maybe even continue on when they had their own families.
So here's what we just did for Hot Rod and Lil' Mermaid.
First the birthday celebrants start the day by walking through the "Birthday Curtain" as they magically turn one year older.
(This photo of Hot Rod is actually from last year).
Ross and I usually grab some old wrapping paper and just cut it in strips. Then we tape it to the top of their door frame while they're sleeping. This year Ross got fancy and curled the ends too. Last year was the first year we did this and they made sure to keep asking us if they would get one again. It's such a simple and cheap thing but they love it. They usually stay up for a few days before they get totally thrashed.
We also started this last year to "decorate" the house with stuff that we already had on hand. The night before we draw birthday posters for them - we write their name, draw pictures...write fun stuff... They think it's so cool to see posters around the house, celebrating themselves. This year Peelu wanted to add her artistic talent and all the little bubbly circles on the posters are her very own artwork. And Ross drew the boat and truck on Hot Rod's poster.
These posters usually get tacked up in their rooms for a while too. And they get pointed out to everyone who visits.
These also got instituted and made last year too (with the sewing help of Grandma W). I followed the instructions from Soule Mama in her first book.
They wear them from time to time during the year too. But mostly they make an appearance during the entire birthday celebration. Hot Rod even wore his while walking to school.
Birth Story & Scrapbook:
We usually sit down and cuddle in the morning and tell and re-tell, and re-tell Hot Rod & Lil' Mermaid their birth story. It was rather adventurous, so they enjoy hearing it. We also look over their scrapbooks (which are sadly behind - note to self - get scrapbooking!)
Nothing particularly fancy, but we don't often do a big breakfast so we just try a little harder for a "birthday breakfast"....cinnamon rolls, backyard fresh scrambled eggs, fresh fruit,fruit & yogurt smoothies....The past few years it's just turned out that we had little friends who were walking with us to school on this day and so we asked them to come over a little earlier so they could share birthday breakfast with us. It's such a little thing but the kids really love this - a breakfast "party" before school is pretty unusual!
Again, nothing crazy or overboard but we do try to make it a little different with a treat or two tucked in.
Here the theme for this special lunch was MORE BREAKFAST!! Oranges, dried cranberries, bacon, french toast strips made from their Papa's homemade bread, maple syrup, steamed brocooli. And they also got to bring in mini muffins and juice to their classroom for birthday snack. I am severely bummed that we can no longer make food and bring into the classroom for treats - it all has to be pre-packaged store bought food. Uughhh!
Year in Review Poster
After they get home from school they like to start working on their "Year in Review" posters.
This got started a few years ago when for some reason I had a whole bunch of extra photos of them from the year (I think it was for a never finished year-end scrapbook thingy). Anyway, I think the kids were bugging me and I was trying to get some birthday prep stuff done, so I gave them the photos and a poster board (I always have poster board around the house - don't ask why) and told them to write about their past year. It turned out so much better than I could have hoped for...here's the ones form last year. So what I do ahead of time now is just run through the past year in photos and print out some of the big events. Sometimes they ask me to print out another event that I didn't include, but it was something that they really treasured. They also draw on the poster board and write about some things from the year.
This year I see that Hot Rod wrote some of his highlights down and Lil' Mermaid wrote down what she likes about herself and her life. We also videotape them showing off their poster and talking about their year. And they also drag them out to show them to whomever comes for their birthday dinner. Sigh...this is probably my favorite birthday tradition now.
The funny thing about the posters is that I had tucked away the ones from last year and as soon as they woke and saw their new ones they ran upstairs to dig out the old ones and they tried to tack those up on the wall too. It was fun to see the differences between the two years. (Don't mind our patched wall - it's now re-painted. I promise.)
They get to pick what they want their birthday dinner menu to be. For the last two years it has been pretty much the same - mini food. Mini cheeseburgers (we call them sliders here), mini pigs in a blanket and then their favorite veggies and fruit.
Grandma W's Cakes:
After we open presents and cards we all get to partake in one of Grandma W.'s yummy creations. Grandma W has been known for years and years for her fabulous cake making and decorating skills. So we ALWAYS ask her to make the birthday cakes. And every year she manages to come up with something different.
This year she bought them antique looking Coke glasses and made them vanilla pudding, banana, almond, angel food cake trifles. Oh yeah, with whipped cream and cherries on top. YUM-O!!!
The Family Birthday Extravaganza Event:
We haven't had a big birthday party for the kids since they were 3 years old. We're not against parties by any means, but it's always been hard for us to come off of Christmas and plan another big event. Plus, we are trying to limit the present thing. Again, coming so soon from Christmas we are always worried that they will get too much of the "gimmees". They do get wonderful gifts from their cousins and grandparents and very special cards that they love to read over and over again. But Ross and I generally don't buy them a gift per se. Our family gift is to spend a whole day together as a family doing an activity that they each planned - but the whole family gets to partake in that gift together. Since they were four we've gone bowling, to our local childrens' museum (which sadly closed this past year), and gone to the movie theater. We usually spend all day doing these activities and then we go and eat dinner together at some fun place where they sing Happy Birthday to the kids (usually Red Robin or Applebees). That's their present from us.
This year, Lil' Mermaid chose to go watch the new Disney movie - The Princess and the Frog - which we highly recommend. But our schedule was funky this year because of Ross' work and their basketball games. So we broke it up a bit. Grandma W and I took the kids to see the movie on Friday afternoon. And then after their basketball game on Saturday we took them to lunch at Applebees (the singing and free ice cream sundaes were of course a big hit!) Then Hot Rod's choice for the birthday activity was painting at the local ceramic shop. This was a new activity for them and they both thoroughly enjoyed it.
Hot Rod painted a robot and Lil' Mermaid painted some intricate designs on a hot cocoa mug. We can't wait to pick them up next week to see how they turned out.
Phew! We now have some happy and content seven year olds (and a two year old who can't wait for her birthday) OH yeah, and some exhausted parents. But it was worth it. Birthdays should be special and full of tradition and wonderful memories!
Oh yeah, and goofiness!