Monday, November 9, 2015

Caleb's Fourth Birthday (and why I didn't throw a birthday party)

Caleb is FOUR!!

God is making a lot of changes in me and one of them is a desire for simplicity in our lives and in our home.   Coupled with some thoughts from a book I'm reading, Tools For Cultivating Your Child's Potential, by Zan Tyler (about making your home a place where your family is united, feels like they are an important part of a team and where they Want to be), I decided to make some big changes and switch up the way we celebrate birthdays.  

Depending on how long you've been reading my blog, you may or may not know that I LOVE it when my kid's birthdays come around.   I have really enjoyed throwing them some fun, themed parties over the last few years.    Here are a few of them:

Kenyan Safari
Pink Snowflake
Strawberry Shortcake
Monster Truck
Winnie the Pooh

Now, compared to what you can find on Pinterest, and what some of my friends have done, these are nothing.   For me, though, they were a blast.    Helping the kids choose a theme, and then taking on the challenge of coordinating decorations, favors, the cake and food to go along with that theme was a Ton of fun...and a lot of work and planning and preparation...and stress.   Yes, I admit it, along with the fun there was stress.

So, is that why I opted out of a party for Caleb?  The stress?  No, not really.   We felt that we were setting our kids up to have selfish, unrealistic expectations each year as they got older, wanting their party to be even better than last year's.   Along with that, having a lot of guests, not being able to spend super quality time with Any of your friends in the madness, and then being showered with gifts (which you don't need, and most of which will be broken, lost or collecting dust by your next birthday), it doesn't create an atmosphere of special, meaningful celebration that births gratefulness for the blessings we have.   This is where the change really came from.    There are plenty of other, less important reasons I was excited about this change (expense, time, stress, food preparation, making the house look perfect, the awkward "who do we invite/not invite?" etc) but these are all just extra perks to not have to worry about, not the heart of the issue.  

*I had also recently seen some pretty sweet birthday posts on a friend's blog (she has six boys and has always done family parties) that showed how much happiness there can be in just celebrating with your family.

When none of the three families we had invited for Caleb's birthday were going to be in town that day, it made the plunge that much easier.    Okay then, we would just have a fun, family celebration all day on Caleb's birthday!    We had so much fun (mostly Keenan, Moriah and I) talking about the upcoming day and how we could make it special for Caleb.    I was Thrilled to not have to have the house immaculate, not have to make food for anyone extra, and to be able to just chill and "be us" and enjoy each other.   Making new birthday traditions is also fun!

The day started with Caleb coming out first (as usual), snuggling with me in the rocking chair, and then climbing into bed to snuggle Daddy while I made breakfast.

(I spent exactly $4 on decorations from Dollar Tree) =)

We started the day with Caleb's birthday breakfast of choice:  Waffles and Ice Cream (with hot chocolate)

Yes, everyone looks really sleepy because this was at 6:15!
(The kids opted to get up early so we could have breakfast as a family before Philip went in to work at 6:30)

Candle and sprinkles on his waffle =)

We did a few small gifts before Philip left (none cost more than $1 each)

I made him his own mug for hot chocolate =)

He loved it!

Moriah bought him some color changing lizards 

Keenan gave him a Mickey Mouse puzzle (both kids used their own money)

We gave him a "school book" and some punching balloons (it's soo easy to make a four year old happy!)

Keenan and Moriah each picked out four special books at the library that they thought Caleb would enjoy and we had a book reading marathon later (while Mommy still lounges in her pajamas!  Woop!)

* While we were reading books, he got a special birthday call from Papa in Kenya! =)

With his lizards...

...and after they started to change color in the freezer!

Late morning, we headed to the zoo!

The birthday boy on the tiger

Keenan brought along a notepad and wrote down "research notes" on a bunch of animals for a fun writing project we're working on =)

A rare sighting of the Red Panda, not sleeping in his burrow!

The kids played on the playground and we had a picnic lunch in the sunshine.

With the proud male lion in the background

He Is quite handsome

Zebra butts!

...and back in the log

All four of us on the way out

Next up, a trip to the Nifty Nut House, where the birthday boy got to choose one type of candy to share:

 He chose gold, orange, blue and white Sixlets

He fell asleep on the way home and took a long birthday nap =)

After he woke up, we took a walk around the pond in our neighborhood...

We took a break so the kids could eat their snack while watching the construction equipment

For his birthday dinner, Caleb chose chili and pigs in a blanket. =)

He did a GREAT job making them himself!

Philip was working on base this weekend, so he couldn't join us for most of the festivities, but he did come home early so we could have dinner and spend the evening together.

After dinner, we all decorated mini train cakes together (this is what Caleb chose when I let him chose his cake)

All done!
(I was super impressed with Philip's skills!)

Now time for the Real candle lighting!

Happy Birthday, Caleb!!!

After dinner, Caleb opened a few more gifts:

We got him this book,which is very similar to a favorite of his, "Where Do Diggers Sleep at Night?"

Opening his gift from Mom and Jeff:

First look

This look says, "Yeah, Keenan, it IS totally awesome, isn't it?" =)

All three kids love this remote control!

This cool crane is from Papa

 It's super cool, with a drill that really works to tighten (and loosen) bolts and nuts!

All put together!

Before he went to bed, we had fun looking back through blog posts from the day he was born and his first few months...

Oh, my heart!

 Meeting their new baby brother (Moriah was still such a baby!)

I seriously can't even handle the sweetness in these two...

 Dr. Caleb

I still LOVE this one Philip took

Caleb Michael, you have brought sooo much joy and laughter into our family!    We love your spunk, your sense of humor, your crazy hair, your love of snuggles and the sweet way you adore your big brother and sister.   We are so thankful that God gave you to us and we pray that you will grow into a man who honors and serves Him with your life.

Well, it was a fabulous day, but unfortunately Caleb hadn't been four for even 24 hours before he started puking in the night!  =0/  He was sick four or five times in the night and several times the next day.  It made for lots of birthday boy snuggles and extra naps on Mommy which was okay with me. =)  He got to extend the birthday fun with a special card and money in the mail from Grandpa and Grandpa Woodford, too =)


Mom W. said...

Good for you!! Simplicity is so good. We used to let the guys invite one Birthday friend over... and then we moved here and that changed... how did that happen?

Happy Birthday Caleb, sorry our gift was just money but maybe you can think of something cool to spend it on or save it for later!!

Shambach's said...

I've been yearning for simplicity in ways like this too... we've done some big birthday parties w/ themes and lots of friends, etc etc, but you're right - it is SUPER stressful. This year due to a number of things all happening at once - we decided to make it simple too. It was so much more relaxing and FUN! :) Sounds like Caleb had a great day - even if it didn't end so well :( Hope he felt better quickly!

denise said...

I understand wanting more simplicity and the stress of doing things at home! We don't always do a big deal, and it's nice! We have done a fun event like sky zone where we invited another close family to come with us. It keeps it small and out of our house. Our boys are super excited that we told them for their double digits birthday turning 10 next year that they can have a big party. We have reserved the indoor pool at Dan's work already and we spotted Dollar Tree "under the sea" themed paper products. They were told they can invite anyone they want this time because the party includes 25 swimmers and we have never let them do that before. Lol!. I'm having to start now so I don't stress out too much about it. Their last bigger birthday party with multiple friends was at our house for their 5th. I think it's helped the kids and their expectations. They can look forward to something big, but have fun at the small events too. This last year we met friends from VA in Gatlinburg and that was excitement enough for their "party"! You're doing a great job no matter if it's a big or small party! Do what works best for your family!

Mom E said...

I loved all the photos - it helps to feel like I was there. :) I cracked up at Moriah's expression in the pic of Caleb getting his first look at the tumbler car. I kinda' thought they'd all enjoy it and so glad we mailed it instead of waiting till you get here next week. Wow! NEXT Week! Can't wait. Sooo excited to see everyone. And oh btw, Caleb looks so 'old' now. lol. Sweet SWEET pics of when he was a baby, especially of Keenan feeding Caleb; and you're right - Moriah was still just a 'baby' herself. And may I say that this birthday celebration seemed absolutely perfect, Joia. And IMHO (in my humble opinion), will have more lasting memories than all the big themed parties of the past. You did a wonderful job making it perfect for your family. Love you!!

Anonymous said...

These are very random thoughts on this post... I don't have the answers, and I like the simplicity you're going for... But here are my two cents worth.

This whole birthday party idea is really interesting. I have definitely seen my share of entitled kids, and more sadly, kids whose parents shower them with gifts to prove to the other parent that they can do more, and to buy the kid's love. So I've heard of and seen some pretty crazy parties.

It's funny because I think a lot of us (or all of us) only judge things from our own experiences. I guess that's all we can do :) We think the way we do things is the RIGHT way. So since I don't have kids, I can only judge from what I remember as a kid. We got a special birthday party every second year. And by special, I mean we had a couple of kids from school, my dad's parents and my Aunt Nancy. I don't think there were any decorations, although maybe once or twice there were streamers and a couple of balloons. There were no treat bags. There weren't many gifts... But we LOVED our parties, and so did our friends. I'm sure the reason was that the adults at our parties were PRESENT for the kids. When we played games, my mom and dad, and even my grandma and grandpa played. I remember my very shy, very reserved grandpa playing charades with us. He took out his teeth and was one of the ugly step sisters :) It's actually one of my favourite memories :) My parents played baseball, or hockey, or skated on the rink with us. They spent time with the kids and with us, and that's what made us feel special :) My friends LOVED spending time with my parents :)

Of course every family is different. Some people are surrounded by extended family members who want to be at every birthday party. Every family is going to have to decide what works for them. For instance, I wish I lived close enough to come to Caleb's birthday party ;)

That being said, we did have a couple of big birthdays. 21 was a really special surprise one for me... Once in a while I think it's okay to feel special, as long as we don't think the world revolves around us...

I'm not sure why I thought about this so much... Just interesting.

Anyway, I love how close you guys are as a family, and how happy Caleb was with the birthday plans :)

Love you all!

Mark and Rebekah said...

Oops, that previous long comment was from me :) Didn't mean to post anonymously!