Friday, June 5, 2015

Celebrating with What You Have: An Inexpensive Birthday Experience

My youngest turned 3 last week. How it's possible for a little baby to grow so incredibly fast, I have no idea. She's my last one - my last hurrah - my last chance to get it right (cuz that happens, right?). She, like my oldest, means everything to me.

And I want to celebrate the day of her birth with all the pomp and circumstance befitting such a joyous moment in my heart. I can recall the moment she came into the world with crystal clarity. My heart was so full. It continues to be full...overflowing, even. Sometimes overwhelmingly so.

How do you capture that joy each year? How can you recreate and display your deep, rushing feelings to her and those around her on that one special day, a day designed to celebrate her, celebrate the graciousness of having her in your life for another year, celebrate those who love her too and support her with their time, love, and energy?

Well Pinterest tells me to go all out, of course. Make it pretty. Make it special. Try these tricks and those snacks and that game and this theme. Special invites. Special cake. Special decorations. Because she is special. And those who love her are special. And it's time to show everyone exactly how special they are to you....right?


...what if instead of gorgeous table displays I have broken steps?

...what if instead of a picture-perfect sunset I have a thunderstorm?

...what if I don't have much money to spend?

...what if I'm truly too tired and beat up to hand-make decorations and food and invites and favors...?

What if my vision of "special" can't be realized? How can I recreate my joy without falling victim to the cultural trap I find myself in each and every! Make....make....MAKE! Do it BIGGER! Do it PRETTIER! Look, we found another super-easy way to be super-simple and super-chic and super-relaxed and super-put-together and still host 50 people at your house!

I had to redefine how to express my joy. How to celebrate my child. How to capture happiness. And you know what? It worked.

Now before I reveal what I did, let me explain this is not the first time I've gone cheap and easy with a birthday party. My oldest daughter gets a cheap and easy party each year - and her birthday is in the winter, too! The post I wrote about her Frozen birthday party is my most-read post to date. If you're looking for some easy winter party ideas, check it out.

But my second baby's birthday is in May. Right around Memorial Day weekend. That's outdoor party season. And prime storm time up here in the northern midwest. I like to live on the edge. How did I pull it all off?

I had two beautiful friends co-host with me. One has a son who shares a birthday around the same time, the other is married to a May birthday man. Find someone who has something to celebrate around the same time as your kid and ask if you want to combine parties. It splits responsibilities and makes the entire party much easier to handle.

Host Outside.
This meant no decorations, no intense cleaning inside my house, no space issues or seating arrangements necessary. Our decor included trees and grass and pretty May flowers. Some people like to string lights and hang balloons and all that....but I have chickens. They kinda check all the entertainment boxes.

Make a Backup Plan.
The day of the party it poured and rained and rained and poured. We made good use of my garage. I'd moved all the cars out. And emptied out some of the crap in there. And swept the whole place out. It provided a really nice, dry place for us to put the food and the adults.

Simple Games and Fun.
Do you have any idea just how much kids love to play in the rain? We had a mudpie kitchen along one side of the fence. Bugcatchers. A swing. The chickens. Balls and frisbees and a teeny little slide. A scavenger hunt I printed from Google. I made this truck tent by nailing a tarp to the ledge above my garage door.

As I'm sure you can see, nothing fancy. Just some rain, mud, and plenty of room to run. And boy did the kids run. My kid, the birthday girl, had mud all over her face, hands, and legs throughout the entire party. Kids went barefoot. I found a lone, small sock in my garage the next day. A little kid sock. A little reminder that it doesn't take much to keep people happy...especially miniature people.

Food Instead of Presents.
We had a lot of food. I provided drinks - beer and "moonshine" for the adults, water and apple juice for the kids. We set up a hot dog bar. Another awesome friend of mine brought an ice cream bar. We stuck candles into plastic bowls of ice cream and sang happy birthday.

The party was fun. Kids were wet and dirty and tired. Food and drink were consumed mercilessly. I didn't break the bank. I didn't break myself. It was good.

And on the day of her actual birthday, in the middle of the week, I took her to a local candy store and let her go nuts. It cost me $8.

We followed it up with a long reading session at the library.

I remember sitting with her, looking over her shoulder at the book she picked out, realizing that in just a few years she might not fit on my lap. She might not get the same excitement from dancing in the rain, or picking out her favorite piece of candy from a candy store. But dammit all if I'm not going to try and instill those simple joys into her heart, one birthday at a time.

Anyone have their own birthday party stories to share? What is your favorite tradition? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)



  1. I absolutely love hosting parties--but especially when the party is about kids, I don't really understand the purpose of a perfectly set-up "pinterest" table showcasing a tiny amount of themed food and a bowl of colorful straws. I think that sort of thing has an audience, but might be better suited for a tea party for ladies, or something of that sort. Birthday parties were usually pretty low-key, family-only affairs in my family...very understandable, with 7 kids birthdays per year. :) The special thing about birthdays was always getting a solo outing with Dad--to go bowling or go to a buffet or a baseball game, something like that. One of my younger sisters just turned 16 and I was shocked that she broke tradition and asked if the sisters that still live at home with her could go on her birthday outing--it's because she had her heart set on going to an indoor trampoline park and probably thought that playing on the trampolines with her sisters would be a little more fun that just having Dad there, haha! Funnily enough, an indoor trampoline park outing is exactly what I asked for for my present from Angel last year. :)
    (I think your truck tent looks awesome!)

    1. That sounds like the best tradition ever! You are terribly lucky to have a dad like that. What an incredible guy! Glad he had 7 kids to pass along the awesomeness!! HA! And THANK you! It took me like an hour to get that thing rigged up, truth be told. Mechanics and physics isn't really my thing! HA! Appreciate you stoppin by, Rach :)

  2. Your daughter is absolutely ADORABLE!!! Happy birthday to her :)

  3. This reminds me so much of the time someone asked my nephew what his favorite event of the summer was. After beach outings, vacations, sporting events, pool parties, cookouts etc., the best thing he did all summer was play catch with his Dad in the back yard. Completely changed my sisters view on creating a happy childhood for her kids - spending money isn't necessary.

    1. See? Isn't that awesome? Makes me wish there was some sort of kid documentary that could be handed out to parents at doctor's appointments or something....might actually help us take the pressure off ourselves and see things for what they really are! Thanks for stoppin by, Sav :)

  4. Ha you're not alone! That's my son's birthday right there. He turned 8 last Sunday - omg insert panic attack, no more car seat - I invited a few of his friends over and we went to the pool at our apartment together then took the kids to Chuck E Cheese and split all the costs. I baked the cake myself and had bubble sticks for the kids. My son is very simple and a happy kid never asks for much but since he's the oldest we do spoil him with presents. Particularly the family! I keep it very simple, no need to pinterest that ish because why? Kids don't care if things look pretty they just want to play and have fun and stuff their faces with candy and junk food. So my son got both. Lol. :) How on Earth do you make moonshine? SEND ME SOME!! <3 Jen and a very, very happy adorable birthday to your precious 3-year old girl! -Iva

    1. HA that sounds like an awesome birthday! I am loving these comments on this post - such reassurance and real-life applicability of what I'm frickin sayin here, man! And I feel you with the present spoilage - my kids get spoiled by gma and gpa like nobody's business. They know not to expect that crap from me, tho! Mom the hardass! HAHA

      And the moonshine I make is like a panty dropper, only more of it haha! So lemonade, beer, and vodka all mixed up. YUM.

  5. Great ideas. Sounds like a fun party!

    We never have Pinterest parties either.

    1. Thanks girl :) It was a good time. I'm glad I'm not the only one to skip the perfect parties!