Today we had Mei-mei’s 5th birthday. We had presents before a special breakfast of pancakes. Then downtown for our typical Saturday stroll/shop/lunch. We also picked up fixings for the birthday dinner: miso soup, oshitashi, and several types of sushi. For dessert there was the cake and yellow watermelon. The weather was a bit cooler and cloudier than it has been but it was still nice enough to eat outside. We hung in the yard and played a fun lawn game called Kubb.
Back in Montpelier most of the birthday parties we attend are “no presents parties.” If you want to hold a no presents party you just include “no presents, please” in the invitation. It feels so nice to both attend and hold no presents parties because it allows you to shift your focus. Kids attending no presents parties will quite frequently draw a picture or make a homemade card for the birthday boy or girl. The time that might be spent opening presents is generally replaced by free play and, at our house, some larger craft project (e.g. decorating flip-flops or making magnets or stuffed animals out of scrap materials from the restore). It is so nice to be freed from purchasing gifts that you know are likely to be redundant or forgotten in the mound of presents. It is equally nice to be freed from making room in the house for a stack of redundant and quickly forgotten gifts. It is also wonderful to be part of a community where such behavior is so common that the children don’t even expect presents from their friends.
Although our kids don’t receive loads of parents from friends, we do tend to do birthdays up a fair bit. Last year Mei-mei received a wooden playhouse for the backyard. I enlisted the grandparents to contribute to furnishing the place. Jie-jie received an American girl doll with clothes and other accessories coming from grandparents, aunts and uncles. Birthday mornings in our house have kind of taken the place of Christmas morning. You wake up and there is a pile of presents that you open with the family. Then the playing begins.
On your birthday you may generally choose your preferred dinner and you are asked to specify your cake preferences in advance. I love making birthday cakes for my kids. I don’t do it with any competitive, super-mom inclinations and I am certainly an amateur. I do it because it is fun. Here are a few of the cakes I have enjoyed making for my children’s birthdays: