Cake and Crazy Hats

Cake and crazy hats are essential for the perfect birthday parties when you are raising kids. We had some real fun and crazy ones when the kids were growing up. I remember being exhausted after the birthday parties, but they were important and so it was worth it. Making a big deal BDParty6about birthdays was not only fun, but it gives kids a sense of belonging in the family and lets them know they are important and appreciated. My parents taught me that it is not about any big expensive gifts, and the parents do not have to go broke throwing the party. It is about the love, about showing them that you are glad they are a part of your life and making the kids feel special. Many times when I was growing up we had party hats made out of newspaper. My Mom baked a cake from scratch and our birthdays were special.

IMG_4375I remember making my own kids cakes from scratch when they were really little and we always had the birthday crown that was pulled out for the birthday child. We still have that crown. It looks a little worn, but it represents years of special days from the past now that my kids are all in their twenties. Once the kids were a little older and wanted things like a Ninja Turtle cake, I left the baking and decorating to Target. That took some of the burden off of me. I had to order the cakes ahead, and of course there was the deciding by the birthday child where they would have their party. Sometimes we had them at home and other times we went somewhere else. The ones held elsewhere still took aIMG_4372 lot of planning on our part. We went to the YMCA a number of times and had swimming parties in their water park. Those were nice, because the lifeguards watched the kids and the staff served the cake and we could bring in food. We also had a number of bowling parties and the Circus Pizza birthday parties with the creepy singing animals. I could never figure out why the kids liked those big stuffed mechanical bears and animals playing music. Those animals looked like a nightmare waiting to happen to me but the kids liked them and so we had multiple parties there.

One of my favorite birthday memories was when the purple Dinosaur Barney was popular. Sara really was a fan, so I paid someone to show up and be Barney in the costume. He showed up at the door, in all of his large purple glory and had a special small stuffed replica of himself for the BDParty3birthday girl. My sweet Sara was really young, maybe four or so at the time, so she was quite hesitant, especially when he came in to play games with the party goers. He had them in a circle in no time and was playing ring around the rosy.

I felt so proud to have thought of this and was feeling really great as I looked around the room and the kids all had big smiles on their faces, until I saw Sara. She looked overwhelmed and I could see that she was about to burst into tears. Good old Barney was trying to treat her special because she was the birthday girl and be beside her and hold her Screen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.18.57 PMhand in the circle game. Well I guess it is one thing to watch the big purple dinosaur on TV and another to have him standing beside you trying to hold your hand in the game. Sara was by now not just hesitant, but crying because she had had enough of the dinosaur. I went to her rescue and held her hand and reassured her. She did stop crying and played games, but she did not want to get near BScreen Shot 2015-12-09 at 12.19.09 PMarney. We did get some pictures of her with Barney, but I had to hold her and she would not look at the camera or Barney. The picture is priceless.

It is so funny how we as parents think something will be the perfect thing for our kids and even though we know them well, we get it wrong. Oh well as I say, a lot of parenting is going with the flow. She loved that stuffed Barney and she actually talked about it later, like she really liked having Barney at her party, but you could not tell at the time.

We made a big deal for our own Birthdays as well. Joe would make a big deal about mine and take the kids shopping or they would make things at home and I would do the same for him. We made cake or sometimes picked up a Treatza Pizza from Dairy Queen. We would wear the birthday crown, when we could find it – another problem sometimes in a busy household.

BDParty4We had so many birthday parties over the years, at so many different places, that the memories sometimes all run together now. What I do know is that we worked really hard as parents to make sure that our kids felt their birthday was important. We also worked really hard to make sure they appreciated all the gifts they received and to show gratitude for the good friends and loving family that they had. They were never allowed to be rude or mean to other kids and they were never allowed to not be thankful for whatever gift was given. We tried to make sure that they knew that it was not about the gift, but the thought that counts, as they say.

Now that the kids are older we try to continue to make their birthdays special. If they are going to be home, we go out to dinner at a restaurant of BDParty8their choice, or if not, I try to send them something. When I look back at the birthday party pictures and see their smiling faces, I am so thankful that we took the time, even though everyone was really busy with work and managing
a household full of kids, appointments, grocery shopping, sports and school activities to try our best to make their birthdays special.

Making a big deal about a child’s birthday shows kids how much they are loved and appreciated. It proves to them, through actions, that they are part of a family that loves them and thinks they are important. It teaches them to appreciate friends and family and to appreciate the thoughtfulness of every gift. It teaches them to make other’s birthdays special too, to keep the love flowing to friends and family. Kids need a sense of belonging and need to know that they are important. It is important to make the cake, bring out the crazy hats and make the day special.BDParty7


Capturing Our Life Through Art

Once the weather starts turning cooler in the fall, I have an overwhelming need to dig in closets and drawers and try to start nesting for the winter.  As much as I love summer and the water, and outdoor activities, I enjoy fall for the colors and the crisp cool air and I enjoy the quiet peacefulness and coziness of a weekend in a warm house in the winter.

My need to dig through closets and spend time cleaning house and getting rid of stuff that I do not need probably starts because the hustle and bustle of summer leaves this wake of stuff laying around that we didn’t take the time to put away, rushing from one activity to another before summer passes us by.  We fit a lot into one season.  It is probably good we do not live in California with the fine weather all year round.  We would never have a winter to recover.  Don’t get me wrong, we do plenty in winter, but it is no comparison to the summer and the back-to-back fun-ness in which we engage.  When the weather starts turning, I clean coolers and put3some them away, hang the lifejackets and the bikes, and put away the adventure pants. I dig in my drawers and closets and donate all things taking up space that are no longer used.  The cleaning and organizing process is easier now that we are empty nesters.  It is just less space and people to pick up after.

In cleaning drawers this week I ran across a large box and folder with black and white photos of my family.  When the kids were younger and we lived in the woods of Blaine, we had a really nice 35mm camera. I decide to try black and white photography.  I love the look of old black and white photos and this was before everybody carried a phone with a camera that has black and white Jenny1options.  It does not seem that long ago that I decided to get artsy and try black and white photography, but the pictures are telling of how long ago it was.  My kids are all now in their twenties, so looking at the photos was really fun and brought back a lot of good memories.  My kids were really good sports about it.  I brought out the costume box and they were willing to participate with multiple costume changes and my direction for an attempt to capture different settings and emotions through my new found artsy photography interest.

Our costume box was amazing.  We had every kind of costume you could imagine, from beautiful dresses and dance costumes, to Harry Potter, Ben1goulash masks and pretend bloody hands for zombie costumes and of course the gorilla and banana.  We had boxes of hats and we had wings, and we had props like fake crows and swords and a staff.  Even neighbors borrowed costumes from us when they had an occasion for such things.  I loved our costume box and the kids and their friends had a lot of fun with them, even when it was not Halloween. We were known in the neighborhood for our selection of costumes.  I think part of the fun for the kids with the “photo” sessions was that they did get to pretend and wear a lot of different costumes.  I had to always wait for a sunny day to have the right lighting, but I used our woods as a backdrop and took most photos outside.

SaraJenny2I had a lot of fun doing that with the kids and after a weekend of shooting photos, I would take my film to Wal-Mart, who by the way did a great job developing black and whites and actually used real black and white paper for theJenny3 processing.  I could not wait to get the final product back
and the kids and I had a lot of fun looking through them afterwards. Some seemed great by accident and others were definitely not keepers.  The fun part in looking through them this fall is that I had kept them all, good and bad.  Surprisingly, some of the ones I would not have considered keepers turned out to be some of the best ones with hindsight.
I had a perfect picture of the kids in black and white that I had considered so good that I used it as our Christmas card that year, but the photos leading up to that photo were some of 3some2the best ones that captured their sense of humor and their sheer joy of goofing off together.  I can ask my kids to smile on a picture and they did well, but when I accidentally captured them laughing with each other in between pictures or them trying, unsuccessfully to put on a serious face, for a more dramatic picture, I actually captured them in their most honest and true sense. It is unrehearsed and pure.  I see their personalities when I look back at those pictures and I see a family of kids that will always be friends. I see sheer joy in the momentJoe1 and a camaraderie that they will always share.

As different as they are in many ways, they are close siblings with many fun and loving memories together. My stint of trying my hand at the art of black and white photography actually captured our family in a moment of time when we all lived together and enjoyed every aspect of life, including those slow Sundays in costume together, trying to capture art and emotion, in the
woods of our backyard.  I thought I was being artsy, and by accident I created a box of memories that may have faded with time. I look at the photos and I am there in time enjoying the moment.

3some3Time passes so quickly and even though it seems like yesterday to me, these kids are now gone and forging their lives and making new memories.  We still have a lot of great times together, but they will never again be those giggly, young kids who were willing to go along with Mom’s idea to try something new and play dress up, while she tried to get just the right shot.  I actually entered a couple of the photos into an art contest in Blaine and even though I did not win, they were displayed in the City Hall for a few months.  I felt proud that they had been accepted into the contest and I felt accomplished that I had tried something new and actually enjoyed it more than I thought. SaraJenny1We went as a family to look at all of the art and it was special that they could see themselves in an art display.

I did not know it at the time, but I had actually captured our life through art in a moment of time that we will never have again. Make your memories each day, because in the blink of an eye, today is gone and tomorrow is a memory.  Days turn into weeks and weeks into years.  Don’t let those days fly by without taking time to enjoy each moment and to create beautiful memories for those around you.