A Happier Birthday – Crooked Cake and All!

Some people have accused me of going overboard. As my friend Amy recently remarked, “If the water has mint, lemon, and lime in it, you know you are at Ali’s.”  I just shrug my shoulders and laugh it off…I just can’t stop myself. And, I absolutely do not take full responsibility for this character trait, I wholeheartedly inherited it from my Mom. Back in the good old days when Mom would say she that she was having a few friends coming for dinner, you knew you’d be helping to clean up for no less than 25 by the end of the night. When I was younger I used to fight it, but now deep into my thirties I have finally grown to accept it.

As you can imagine, overdoing it can become a challenge when it comes to planning my kids’ birthday parties. Planning “the most” special day somehow always took over my imagination and my bank account. Until one magical day, the inevitable happened. My daughter was invited to a pool party at a friend’s house. It started with a simple email invite…not the invitation kind but an actual email. When we arrived all the decorations were made by the kids in the family. There were no magical centerpieces. The food was straight from the kitchen, and the cake, gasp, was made by the birthday girl herself. As I sat around the pool watching my kid have the time of her life, a friend looked me in the eye and said, “We are idiots.” No argument here.

If you have been following my blogging misadventures you will know that kid 1 turned seven this week. We had a busy summer, school started and then I realized that I definitely did not have my party prowess thinking cap on, and this birthday was just around the corner. That is when I decided that we were going old school. I told my kid to pick her 10 closest girl friends. As in the past I didn’t remind her of everyone she was leaving out (or had met in the last 7 years), but rather trusted she knew who she wanted to celebrate with. We sent out invitations using Echoage (if you don’t know them already, please visit www.echoage.com), and picked three presents that she really wanted. We went to the craft store together and found some activities. With coupons in hand I scored some major deals on some arts and crafts projects and a couple of at home spa kits. These kid creations doubled as our goody bag. Whatever the guests made at our party was theirs to keep.

We then needed to figure out the food. Contrary to parties in the past, we made everything at home. We spent a long time talking about the menu and most importantly the cake. Little one’s imagination far exceeded any baking capabilities I dreamed of being able to acquire. We finally settled on a six layer round rainbow on the inside cake that was solely decorated by birthday girl. It sounds much more complicated than it was, but definitely added the ‘wow’ factor we were going for.  Although I would be remiss if I didn’t share that I called in my cake-boss friend asking for some last minute support as I found my dessert creation slowly taking on a resemblance to the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

On the day of the party I got the jitters. What if the kids were bored? What if it rains? What if no one shows? What if this party just wasn’t fancy enough for her private school friends? My kid, on the other hand was so excited, she was up at 5:30 am. I learned a valuable lesson I already mostly knew that day: kids just want to be together, and eat a cool cake. This party saved me hundreds of dollars, but gave my kid so much. She HAD her dream party surrounded by kids she really loved and who love her.

So…if you are anything like me, trust me, put away your check book, sit down with your kid, and do it the way your Mom did. You’ll have a birthday experience that you’ll both remember!