Friday, July 9, 2010

Birthdays Matter

Several days ago we had the fun of celebrating our twin boys' 4th birthday.
I've always thought birthdays were a great time to make a big deal about your kid.
Just look at how much they have grown and changed and learned in a year!
I love traditions...I'm sentimental.
And I am a gift giver.  I love shopping for gifts for people.  So, when my boys' birthdays come around, I have fun.  But, I've also found that I don't have the budget I'd like to have when buying gifts.  Who does, right?
So, I've had to learn how to look for bargains and buy gifts ahead of time and use coupons to try to give nice gifts without paying full price.  It's a challenge, but I love a shopping challenge!

We decided this year to get the boys each one big gift, something they would really enjoy....their very first bikes.

Now, if you have shopped for a bike recently, you will know that they are not cheap.  Even these little 12 inch bikes can cost alot.  My goal was to find them each one but stay within my budget.  We made the decision a few months in advance of their birthday to get them bikes.  So, I immediately began noticing sale fliers.  I get ToysRUs sale fliers regularly, and I noticed a couple months ago that they had a sale on bikes...25% off.  On the front of the flier was a $10 coupon.  Between those 2 things, I saved $25.  I got a neat little blue bike and found a cool blue helmet to go with it.  The cashier added on an additional coupon, so I got a great deal!  I tucked them away in my parent's garage until last week.

About a month ago, I saw ToysRUs was doing the same sale again, and again I received a $10 coupon.  Again, saving at least $25, on the little red bike.  They didn't have helmets on sale at the time, but I did find one later at Target that was 20% off.  Not a great deal, but helmets are important.

Best part, I stayed within my budget and the boys loved their bikes.  As soon as this heat wave passes, we can have some fun riding around our neighborhood.

If you have little kids, your home has likely been hit with the Toy Story craze like ours has.  Our boys have been rather obsessed with Toy Story and Buzz Lightyear for the last year.  Now that the new movie and toys are out, they are just loving it.  Of course, Nana hit a home run finding these cute stuffed Buzz and Woody pillows from Avon, which she is a distributor for.  Aren't they cute?  They are big, so they can either be a pillow, or a friend to play with.  Look at those happy smiles.
And Nana and Papa gave them money to go on a train ride (complete with handmade ticket holders and Thomas stickers).  It is something we have been wanting to do with the boys for a while, and plan to do in a few weeks on O-man's birthday.  I know the boys will LOVE the trains!

One thing we have done to make our boys' birthdays matter is to find something special to do on their day.  We haven't been able to take a regular family vacation (except to Grandma's house) since our oldest was a baby, so we let the summer birthdays be an excuse to get daddy out of work for a day and do something fun as a family.  I would suggest to anyone who can do that to do so.  It's a great time, and the kids really feel celebrated.  (Poor Big E, we're still looking for something fun to do on his birthday....winter birthdays are harder.)  My boys look forward to the twins' birthday all year, because they know that we are going to go to Hoffman's Playland (an amusement park just for kids).  We went there for the first time on the twins' first birthday, Big E was 2 at the time, and O-Man was actually only 3 weeks from entering the world.  We were so impressed with the place, and the boys had such a good time, that we decided to make it a tradition, and we've gone there every year since on CarCar & Little D's birthday.  Traditions are good.  They are things kids will remember long after they forget what toys they got for their birthday.  Memories will last, long after the gifts have broken or been outgrown.  I hope these will be moments my boys will always look back on fondly and traditions they will carry on with their children.
Little D and CarCar

I've started 2 other traditions recently.  Last year I started making my own themed birthday cakes.  This year I started making my own birthday banners to go along with the themes.  I saw the idea on another mom's blog, and thought, I could do that, too.  Since we don't have the expense of birthday parties for our boys every year (so far we've just done that on 1st and 5th birthdays), I don't mind spending a little on supplies to make a special personalized birthday banner each year.  The boys picked SpiderMan and Batman for their theme, which was a little tricky for making the banner.  The craft store didn't have any papers to go along with that theme, so I just picked some of the colors from Spiderman and Batman and used cardstock in those colors.  I found some white rope (in honor of Spidey's web) and used that to tie the letter squares together.  It really is easy and doesn't take that much time.  If you like this idea, give it a try, I guarantee your kid will love it!  If you need tips on how to make it, I'll be glad to tell you how I put mine together.  This was the second one I've done.  I did one for Big E for his birthday this past winter and had fun creating that one, too.
This cost me about $15 I think.  Next time it would cost less, because I purchased some supplies that can be re-used.  You couldn't purchase a personalized banner this big for that price!  To get my money's worth out of it, I'm leaving it up for a while for the boys to enjoy more.  :-)  Also, if I want, I can re-use most or parts of it for a future banner, saving more money.

I was a little worried when they said they wanted Spiderman and Batman cakes.  (Yes, I make them separate cakes.  I try to value and encourage their individuality as much as is possible and practical and affordable.  I think the extra time and little bit of expense to give them their own cakes is worth it.  Now if they had asked for the same thing, I would have made them one cake, but as has been the case since they were born, they are 2 very unique individuals.  They do like a lot of the same things, but they do have their own special likes and preferences.  I try to be careful not to lump them together all the time.  It's easier to refer to them as "the twins" on my blog, but in life, we try to generally refer to them by their names, not as a pair.  I often tell people that not only are they fraternal twins, looking much different than each other, but they are in essence just brothers born at the same time.  They are as different from each other as they are from their other brothers, and we have tried from the beginning to remember and consciously acknowledge their individuality.)
Anyhow....I had my work cut out for me because I'm not really up on my superheroes.  :-)  I didn't have a brother, so I wasn't around this kind of stuff growing up.  But in the end I think they turned out ok.  CarCar and Little D loved them, so I was happy.  I am not a professional cake decorator by any means, so my cakes have "character", but that's ok, too.  I have found that it is fun to incorporate a little birthday surprise into the cake decorating.  I find a small toy that goes with the theme the kids pick and decorate the cake around that, actually using the toy on the cake.  Afterwards, I clean it off, and give it to them, and it is part of their birthday gift.  The boys really look forward to seeing what I have gotten to put on top of their cake.  And I know in advance what I'm going to do, so I keep my eyes open for clearance specials, so it doesn't turn into an expensive project.

 I used 2 cake mixes, one strawberry and one chocolate.  I split the batter for each cake mix between the round and square pans.  That gave me a strawberry and a chocolate layer for each of the boys' cakes. 

Carter's was pretty simple. I just frosted the round layers in red frosting (Aldi's had red and blue frosting in inventory because of the 4th of July holiday, so I didn't even have to make frosting and color it this time.  I cheated!).  Then I took white frosting and made lines for a spider web on it.  Spiderman on his ATV topped it off.

Derek's was a little harder.  I used the blue frosting from Aldi's for the square layers.  I couldn't find black decorating frosting at the store, so I purchased an oreo cookie crumb pie crust, and used that for the black part of the bat symbol.  I used yellow frosting to make the oval shape and to fill in the background of the oval to make the bat shape appear from the crumbs.  I have ideas of better ways to do that next time, but hopefully they won't pick Batman again, anyway.  :-)  Batman and his helicopter topped it off.  To tie the two cakes together and include a birthday message, I printed off a banner ("Have a Super 4th Birthday, Carter & Derek!") onto cardstock, punched a hole in each end and used black ribbon to tie an end to Spidey and Batman's vehicles. 

I would suggest this to any mom wanting to add a personal touch to their kids' birthdays.  It is fun for me, and very rewarding.  And I think they love these handmade creations better than the $35-40 perfect looking cakes at the grocery store.  These are one of a kind, unique creations, just like my boys.


CarCar and Little D with their cakes.
The "birthday bug" has bitten Big E, too.  He made his brothers their very own birthday crowns. :-)

What ways do you have of making your kids' birthdays special?  Do you have special traditions, foods, decorations that you incorporate into their day?  What did your Mom do when you were a kid to make you feel honored and celebrated on your birthday?  I'd love to hear!

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know about this blog. I love it! Great job documenting all of these memories. You will be so glad you did :)