Simplifying Birthdays Is An Art

My favorite human turned nine this week, and we celebrated by choosing an Among Us theme. I don’t really even understand Among Us except that there’s an Imposter who is out to get everyone. There’s always one in the crowd, isn’t there?

Anyway, I remember his first birthday like it was yesterday. I almost had a nervous breakdown over the entire party thing. I was standing in Party City trying to determine whether I should go with the Elmo or the Toy Story theme. I kept second-guessing myself on the party subject matter. “Then again, we have a lot of stuffed ‘jungle’ animals, so maybe a safari or jungle theme with a lot of monkeys would be better. OH! Wait…he loves shapes and colors. Maybe shapes and colors themed party!”


I almost cried in that store. I was so stressed and upset over having to choose that I left without purchasing anything that day for fear I’d go with the wrong theme and my little guy’s party would suck. Thankfully I was scheduled to have lunch with a friend. She reminded me that one-year-olds still need someone to wipe their butts, and the probability that he’d be scarred for life because his birthday party theme sucked was relatively small.

And she was absolutely right. I realized I was trying to impress the adults at the party with my super-mom skills, and those people don’t need me to impress them. They already know I do my best as his mom. No fancy cake required to prove that. So, as always, I asked myself, “How did I get here? I thrive on simplicity. What happened between my house and Party City that day?”

I’m reminded of these early days because I’m still finding tissue paper and Among Us stickers from the six children who invaded my home last weekend. I’m also thinking that birthdays – like anything else – can be celebrated in a fairly simple manner. In fact, last year, amidst COVID lockdown, we snuck one child in on a Friday and had pizza and cupcakes. Another friend came on Saturday for cheeseburgers and…yup…cupcakes. It was glorious, and they enjoyed themselves.

So – how can we make it simple? Well, grab a drink and settle in. I’m about to tell ya…

1. Stay out of the Party Stores. Seriously, a lot can be accomplished with a few white dishes or even white paper plates. I didn’t buy any decorations this year – at all. This post has some great ways to decorate from recycled (aka: already on hand) things.

2. Keep the cake simple. I suggest picking up a cake from the grocery store bakery or baking some cupcakes at home, but I’m not above dropping some change on a fancy cake. This year the cake and the cookies were the decorations for the entire get-together. I don’t feel bad about supporting an emerging local baker who did a fantastic job. BUT…my point is… I’ve made cakes before. Some were bakery-level awesome, and some were…well…not. Admittedly, at those times, my pal Betty Crocker made it a bit easier. So, case in point: Cake from a box is okay.

3. Only invite people who really matter. My son gets overstimulated when there are too many people in our home. In fact, halfway through his party, I realized he was missing. Sure enough…he was in his room, under the covers. He said, “It’s too peoply out there.” (He comes by this naturally, I can assure you.) The point is that his small group of close-knit friends understand this about him and partied on…without him. 

4. Don’t celebrate with a ‘party’ every year. I’ve made a big deal out of a few birthdays. Don’t even get me started on the massive Minecraft party I planned for his seventh birthday. It was a bit…um…over the top. But for a few years, things were a bit financially lean…and I’ll admit…those were my favorite. This year wasn’t fancy, but I’m thinking of going with even less: Hy-Vee cupcakes, pizza and Phelps Grove Park. End of story.

5. Skip the party favors. Ugh. I hate spending money on silly stuff that people will just throw away. If you must do party favors, follow this rule: If you can’t eat it or wear it, you don’t need it. I’m of the ‘eat it’ mindset, so I sent people home with Among Us cookies. As my friend and former blogger Kelly stated, “Nobody needs a bag full of trinkets and candy sent home with their kid, and you can save yourself a little bit of time, money, and stress. The fun time with friends is rewarding enough.”

As birthdays go…mine, too, was simple. I invited some pals, we had fajitas, and Michael Stanton Armstrong, a local musician, came in for a House Concert. Some of my favorite people were in that room with me that night and I’m still feeling the positive energy of the live music in my home. I always celebrate my birthday with friends, even if they are few, and it is usually pretty low key. I never regret hanging out with the folks I love on my birthday.

Welp. I’ve been digging around for a song to leave you with today and I thought we could start the weekend off with a toe-tapper. I liked it and hope you do, too. Tell me…

What’s your favorite way to celebrate your birthday?