Sunday, March 29, 2015

Birthday Parties: A Call to Stop the Madness

We are in the throes of Birthday Season in our house. In our immediate family, we celebrate 4 birthdays and our wedding anniversary in a 6 week span. Add in extended family and there are 8 birthdays to celebrate. Good grief. It also seems there have been loads of birthdays at the kids' school in March. What the heck holiday is 9 months before March that so many people are, well, you know... July 4th? Juneteenth? What is it? What's everybody celebrating? Moving on. (Sorry, Mom. And Mom-in-Law.)

Early on in our child rearing years, birthday parties simply meant gathering cousins and grandparents, icing a homemade cake, blowing up a few balloons and eating some supper together.

But then the Oldest went to school. And was invited to a party at a popular place for kids' birthdays. And was given a treat bag. And saw the birthday kid sitting on a birthday throne. And being celebrated by a ginormous (sort of scary) person in an animal costume. And being sung to by thirty kids. And got a Treat Bag.

"Can you believe I got a present (she was referring to the Treat Bag that seems to be standard fare) for just going to someone's birthday party? I mean, it's not even my birthday!"

And suddenly, after all this fabulousness, the home birthday parties weren't quite so partyish. 

So many thoughts. I think I'll make a little list. Those seem to be everywhere these days. (27 Ways You are Ruining Your Kids! The Top 5000 Places You Must see Before You Die or You are a Complete Loser! Six Ways to Lose 50 Pounds This Month!)

So here goes...."Problems" and "Martha's Solution" 

Problem: Treat Bags
99% of the time the stuff in there is C-R-A-P and gets lost/broken/thrown away/forgotten about before we pull into the driveway. Plus I consistently whine to my friends about the amount of C-R-A-P we have in our house, and they whine back, so I know we all feel that way. Let's stop perpetuating the C-R-A-P cycle!

Martha's Treat Bag Solution:
What if, when you were making Treat Bags for the party, you let your kid shop for the stuff, which I've learned is half the fun, and then bagged it in Zip-loc bags and saved it for November when Operation Christmas Child rolls around? I guarantee there is a child somewhere in this world who would open that shoe box and think the stuff inside is amazing, take care of it, play with it, and not throw it onto the floor of the van to be stepped on. Plus, then your OCC shopping is done, which means one less thing in the crazy busy holiday season, and it won't affect your Christmas budget. You could even print out a little something telling each party guest what you did. Also, you just paid for thirty kids to have two hours of sugar filled fun, and then you are supposed to send them home with something? Guess what? The party is the treat! Hello!

Problem: Cakes shaped into the Child Herself (or a life sized Batman, Barbie, etc.)
I love a fancy, detailed cake. I really do. Our wedding cake was to die for. It was four layers of beautiful, handcrafted deliciousness. The icing details were exquisite. It was topped with perfect red roses. Art that was edible. But it was for our wedding. Up until that day all the cakes in my life that celebrated me were made by my Grandma. They were not shaped into Rainbow Brite or Holly Hobby or any character from back in my day. That wasn't even a thing. It was just good cake topped with colorful candles, and it made me feel special that she would give her time to make this cake for me. 

Martha's Cake Solution:
Bake the cake with your kid sitting on the counter dipping his dirty fingers into the batter repeatedly spreading germs you refuse to worry about because he will spread them anyways when he blows out the candles. Doesn't have to be scratch. Use a cake mix. Let her lick the beaters. Then do the same with the icing. Smear it on there. Let her make it look like she wants. And let him stick his finger in the side for a swipe of icing when it's all done. 

Problem: Party after Party after Party and Gift after Gift after Gift:
Oh, my word, with three school aged children parties have started to dominate our weekends. We are constantly running them places around our town to shoot each other with lasers, skate, bowl, jump, and build bears. And with most parties we send a gift. Which can get PRICEY, especially considering most of us have family birthdays to celebrate as well. (We have 5 nephews and 2 nieces on top of these three girls who insist on living here, plus siblings, siblings' spouses, and parents.) We all talk about how much crap our kids have and trying to find ways to make them appreciate what they have, understand the blessing of this North American life, be thankful. (remember the complaining my friends and I do from the Treat Bag problem?) 

Martha's Party/Gift Solution:
How about if the party we are throwing is also the gift for the Birthday Kid? And their presents come from their parents, cousins, aunts, uncles and grandparents instead of schoolmates. The party is just a time to be together and eat cake and candy and be crazy. And for the party, you invite the class over and toss them out into the yard with some old yogurt containers, the hose, and plastic spoons and see what happens. And, if you don't have extended family to buy presents, you can take the money you were going to spend to rent out the Party Place and buy your kid's presents. I believe less stuff = more appreciation for the stuff we have.

I will now offer this disclaimer to my entire post:

  • I have decorated cakes like the current character my child adores.
  • I have passed out Treat Bags at my kid's party.
  • Middle Girl, whose birthday is coming soon, has specifically requested store-bought cupcakes. She doesn't care what they look like or what store from which they come, just that they be store bought. Ouch. 
  • We let our girls have a party at Build-A-Bear. Where exactly zero of them actually built a bear.

Obviously not made by a professional.

Build-A-Bear. A mere two weeks ago. 

On my own birthday, no less. The things we do.

This tower is actually cinnamon rolls which this 


all-traditions-child requested.

As always with me I am a total fence rider and were we not in Birthday Season and had I not had it UP TO HERE, this could have been an entirely different post. As always, take it with a grain of salt, no judgment from this seat. Because my hypocrisy shines loudly through these pictures. 

Grace for the million more birthdays before the end of April,



  1. I hear ya. And I only have ONE child, but her birthday comes two weeks after Christmas. Stuff. But here's one more idea: Give "I've got my own ideas about how this should be done" Birthday Girl the frosting/icing herself & let her go to town on her own b'day cake. Be around to help & take pics. So much fun (until something doesn't "work right," but that's another story.)!

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  3. That is a nice post on birthday madness. I agree with you on all these points. You know my kiddos are always very excited for their birthdays so I host memorable family parties for them at outdoor NYC venues but I also donate food to poor people on our special occasions.

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  5. Have a lovely birthday! May you check it out have those in your arms whom you love in your heart!

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