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So, if you haven’t noticed it already, here at the Abbey house we make a pretty big deal about birthdays! So much that my husband, Kevin, often comments that he feels sorry for our children’s future spouses because our kids are going to have some high expectations. How did these super fun birthday traditions start? There may be a tradition or two that you want do with your family!
I think it started just like many other things. Like a snowball! It starts out small, with just a tiny piece of snow and grows little by little until you have a giant snowball! For the most part, I have no regrets. I know our kids love their birthdays and I think traditions are the things that make your family YOUR family. Have I occasionally cursed while I’m trying to make scavenger hunt clues the night before a birthday and can’t come up with anything clever? Have I been really tired the night before a birthday and kind of sighed a big old gigantic tired sigh as I started to hang streamers? Absolutely. But, it’s always worth it!
There’s always a theme.
I think this is cool because they have had a hand in choosing their theme beginning at probably age 2. It can be (almost) anything they want. I haven’t had to put the kibosh on any ideas yet, but I hold the ultimate veto just in case. (Their teenage years are coming up. Who knows what they’ll come up with?!)
As a mom, it’s been really interesting to see the different themes and watch the transition from cutesy (Madeline’s first birthday was butterflies). To characters (Maizy loved the movie Chicken Little so that was the theme for her 2nd birthday). To more grown up stuff (Weston has had sports birthdays the past two years. Madeline had a theme of black, white and gold for her 12th birthday. Maizy had a Mardi Gras birthday for her 10th birthday.). It’s visual evidence of not just their increasing age but their developing personalities! I love to hear their cute ideas and reasoning for the themes!
We decorate for our kids the night before their birthday.
This used to be a surprise but when you do it every year of course, it isn’t really surprising anymore. (They are so smart. 🙂 ) But, they still love it! It signals the start of THEIR day! It started with balloons and streamers. Then we started decorating the table with their cake and any cute plates and napkins that fit with their birthday theme. Now there’s what I call a “tablescape.”
The tablescape usually has different things that go with the theme. Starts with a tablecloth. Maybe a picture of them of them when they were little. (To remind them, and myself, how cute they used to be!) A few items bought and usually some from around the house. And, I decorate the chandelier above the table with ribbons, streamers, or a different theme specific item, like the “flying candles” for Maizy’s Harry Potter party last year. Check it out here.
They choose their meals.
This one isn’t the most original. Lots of people go out for dinner, at least. I think for kids with siblings, it is nice to be able to go exactly where they want. Get whatever food they want. And, maybe even have some random strangers sing them happy birthday at the restaurant. Kids seem to love it! One year Weston chose Buffalo Wild Wings for his meal out. He was delighted to have the waiters and waitresses make him stand up in the booth during the song! He was as red as a beet! It. Was. Adorable.
To me the strangers at the restaurant singing a weird rendition of Happy Birthday is my own little version of hell. My husband has been told many times that if he ever tells our waiter that it’s my birthday I’ll rip out his eyeballs and wear them as earrings. Too harsh? Maybe. Has any waiter sung to me since I can remember? Nope.
Sometimes we can’t go out.
Lately, the kids schedules haven’t really allowed us to go out to dinner. With their sports, they don’t generally get home until 830 or 9pm so we’ve adjusted the tradition. Last year, Maizy couldn’t have a sushi dinner for her birthday, so she got to choose her favorite homemade meal for dinner and I brought lunch to school for her and a friend. I’m a decent cook and will try to make almost anything if I can find a recipe. Here’s what she asked for: canned Italian wedding soup and mashed potatoes. UMMMM….excuse me? Say what? So, we had a super gourmet meal of canned soup and mashed potatoes! Happy Birthday!
We let them have a party.
We’ve had Chuck E. Cheese party’s. Sleepover party’s. A once in a lifetime party at Disneyland. (That one was awesome because when we walked out of Goofy’s Kitchen after the party they were doing the fireworks. We told Maizy they were just for her!! Magical!!!) Aaaaand, Weston had a party at a water park. We had a party at a local gym. Madeline had a dog party at the beach. Party’s at home with a bounce house. And, one year we took a few girls for a weekend of camping.
Last year Madeline did a Mad Hatter Party! It was a great party theme for a 13 year old. Check out the cake for the party here. To look at the decorations click here. And, of course, the food, click here. When Laura’s girls turned 16, they did a Mad Hatter party, too! It was geared more toward older teens. Check it out here.
We let them choose and get creative… Within reason. (Within reason is a big and repeating saying in my mom repertoire.) It’s their day! We want it to be fabulous. As long as it’s within reason, we say go for it!
We do a scavenger hunt.
It’s a treasure hunt, if you go by the actual definition. But, we’ve always called it a scavenger hunt and we’re not changing it now. My old friend Marci’s mom used to get their kids the same number of presents as their age. I think she may have given them clues to find the presents… I can’t quite remember. But, for our family the idea blossomed. (Remember the snowball reference?) We get the kids the number of presents for their age… and then they have to find them!!
This sounds expensive, but really isn’t any more than getting them a regular number of gifts. Last year when Madeline got her phone for her birthday all the other 12 gifts were pretty small. Let me tell you, she wouldn’t have cared if she hadn’t gotten any other gifts because she was so happy to get a phone! Sometimes, we get them a Chapstick, candy or even a five dollar bill as one of the smaller gifts. When you get up to age 13 it starts getting a little more challenging to do it on a budget!
Now for the fun part. They don’t just get gifts. They have to search for them! We put a “code key” and a pencil and one clue on the table. When they solve it, it will lead them to the first present and the next clue. We hide the presents inside, outside, in the garage. Pretty much all over the house. It is so fun to watch their little minds work to solve the clues and their satisfaction as they come out and show that they’ve found a present. It kind of prolongs the present opening, too, and that is pretty fun!
These are some of our traditions. What kind of things does your family do? I love to hear about other peoples traditions. Often, I think, “What a cool idea. I’m going to start doing that!” For some of you, these traditions might seem like overkill but that’s what we like to do for our family. It does take a lot of work and planning, but for us, it’s worth it! It’s the best “snowball” ever!