Oh Boy am I a grouch tonight. It is almost bedtime but I feel a need to write this down. Warning – this might not be too pretty to read, because I am about to share one of my most dreaded, and sometimes even hated weaknesses.
B I R T H D A Y S ! ! ! ! !
That’s right. And to make things even more difficult, I have 3 children who have birthdays only weeks apart from each other, so this weakness gets to be aggravated and tested for exactly 7 weeks.
Now, I know some of you may be thinking, “What is so bad about helping your child or husband celebrate their birthday?” Well, it has to do with the EXPECTATION of the entire day. It actually all started with my husband. I really had it easy with him because he doesn’t really care for a lot of attention. You would think I would back off and let the guy have the kind of birthday he wanted but NO!!! I had to put up birthday banners across my kitchen windows, proclaiming to the WORLD that it was his birthday.
I had to wake up early and make him his favorite breakfast, pack him his favorite lunch and then have his favorite dinner and dessert ready when he got home. And then there was the gift. . . it had to come from the heart because he ALWAYS got himself his own gift right before his birthday. By the end of the night I was EXHAUSTED, feeling not appreciated enough and in tears. Poor Paul.
But did I stop this insanity. NO! I honestly held onto this insane tradition for MANY years. Only the last couple of years I have had to chill out and not do too much. Okay, well at least I don’t buy him a gift anymore and I let him figure out his own lunch. But I do still make the family’s traditional birthday breakfast crepes with whip cream and berries, as well as making him Grandpa Whitchurch’s Angel Food Cake, along with a dinner he really enjoys. It is STILL exhausting but I don’t feel as guilty for not making more of a big deal about his birthday.
But the kids. Oh. The children. Oh how the pressure is unlike any other. I TRULY did TRY to keep things chill with my kids but because E was the next baby after our daughter passed away, EVERYTHING had to be BIG. And I mean BIG! I wish I could post pictures of the years I threw the MOST AMAZING birthday parties ever, but I was TOO BUSY TO TAKE PICTURES!!! Oh the exhaustion, pressure and intense depression that would ensue after each party. Then I had 2 children, then 3, then 4. Would the insanity every come to an end?
Well, my dearest friend Kori helped me take baby steps to CHILLING OUT about birthdays and today, things are MUCH better, but the anxiety is still there. Thankfully it only happens a day or two before the actual birthday but boy do I panic the night before. You see, we have had to make some MAJOR changes to help Mama Bear not go to the insane asylum. One of the changes was . . . no more “expected” birthday parties. If a child wanted a birthday party, then they got to throw one for themselves.
Yes, this DOES work but the great thing is, after they have done it a few times, they realize that birthday parties are actually a WHOLE LOT OF WORK for very little reward. You see, the second change we made was “The Gift.” Our kids now each get a specific amount of money for their birthday, to do whatever they feel is best for them to do with. They can save it for the far future (E is good at that), save it to spend throughout the year (a little walking around money in the pocket can go a long way), they can buy themselves a really nice gift, they can plan a fun friend date and go do something special (like dinner, movie, fingers painted) or they can throw themselves a birthday party.
You see, the birthday party yields gifts, so if they want gifts, this is the route they take. But they learn quickly that they can’t control what gifts they get and they MUST learn to be grateful for what they get. So they quickly learn life lessons that birthday parties should not be about the gifts but spending time with the people you enjoy in your life. Another life lesson they are learning is that the world does not revolve around them, just because it is their birthday. They still have to go to school, do chores, and help out. It is not a Lazy Day for them to be queen or king of the house.
Now, I did struggle with this idea and I did try out the whole “King and Queen” thing and BOY did it backfire not look so good on my kids. So we put that to an end and instead we are teaching our children to be humble, meek, mild, full of long suffering and grateful. It is SO TOUGH and THAT is why I have anxiety with EACH and EVERY birthday.
Well, tonight is no different because Ginger Snap is turning 13 tomorrow and she is the BIGGEST BIRTHDAY LOVER in our family. Poor kid. I have tried for YEARS to “make her happy” and each year I feel like I failed. I have tried to read her mind but where I serve her in one area, I completely bomb in another area. That was when I finally had to realize that I can’t MAKE someone have a happy birthday. Her happiness on her birthday is her issue and if I do my best to celebrate her day with her, that is all I can and should do. I can’t control the gifts she gets, the amount of people who care, nor the way the food tastes that is made for her. It is ALL up to her.
But even with ALL of this psycho-analyzing I am STILL panicking. I even debated if I should hurry and make her favorite dessert to surprise her in the morning because we have a packed day tomorrow with plans at dinner time – our usual time to eat birthday cake.
Well, it was TOO late to whip it up because it takes 45 minutes to bake and I need to be up by 4:30 am to drive carpool for Seminary. But I still did my best to at least prep for it . . .
Here are the basics of what I need to make this cake up a bit more easily . . . sometime tomorrow. Don’t stress Wendi, as long as you make it, the “when to eat it” will figure itself out.
Here is Grandpa Walter Whitchurch’s AMAZING recipe with tips I received directly from him.
Thankfully Joy Boy and Curly Cook reminded me to decorate for Ginger Snap (another little tradition I have kept but brings me anxiety to do without help). Thankfully I was aided in this endeavor – tender mercies.
I also discovered that our cake flour had gone rancid, so I got to learn how to make my own cake flour. It was actually pretty easy – it is only 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch added to flour to make one cup, then sift several times. I’m interested to see how the cake turns out tomorrow.
But I still don’t feel better. I don’t feel at peace that tomorrow will go well, that she will feel happy. Even after taking her to her favorite “Costa Rican” restaurant, Johnny Rocket’s, for an impromptu lunch today, because we just so happened to need to go downtown to renew our cedula’s (our Costa Rican visas/residency).
I honestly think my anxiety problem is all ME!
I think I worry too much about disappointing people and not making their dreams come true. There’s that controlling word again. I really do hope that I can take a HUGE chill pill tomorrow and just let the day come as it may. We have a big day planned with a combined Young Men/Young Women’s activity of baking/decorating sugar cookies at our house and then delivering them to the widows/less-actives in our ward. We will also need to make some food for the youth to eat, because they are coming at 5:30 until 8:30 and lets be honest, teenagers NEED food. It is just feels like it is going to be a really busy day.
But . . . I need to look at the bright side of things. Ginger Snap was given fresh flowers on Sunday by a sweet woman in our ward, she got to bring an older YW home from church for lunch and make cupcakes that were delivered to some girls inviting them to attend tomorrow’s activity, we had to drive downtown with Dad to renew our Cedula’s – so going out to lunch worked in his/our schedule – which was a wish of her’s. Tomorrow she will have ALL the youth who WANT to come to our house over to make sugar cookies (another favorite treat of hers). She will get money to buy some much needed guitar strings, guitar case and possibly a quill pen with parchment paper. Her younger siblings are planning some fun birthday gifts/surprises for her. And her mother is trying to make her some fun foods to enjoy to make her day taste a bit extra special.
So all in all, I guess things are not as bad as I felt they were.
I really do love her! She is an AMAZING, talented, spunky, honest, hard working, selfless, caring, a mother’s helping, guitar playing/singing, homeschool loving, baking/dinner making, D.I.Y. enjoying, crazy scuba diving with her Dad & big brother, wardrobe altering, inventive fort building, super cool, big sister awesomeness, 13 year old daughter of mine. She is as firecracker red as a red head can be but with the heart of gold like the color of the sun. Her hair is a gift because it symbolizes the life she strives to live – full of passion, fire and light. She is TRULY AMAZING and I am SO GRATEFUL she was chosen to be a part of our family. I know that I am who I am today because of what she has added to my life. Happy Birthday Ginger Snap!
These photos were due to a bad smell in the house and she was doing her best to ignore it. Silly girl!
Big Sister Awesomeness! (Umbrella fort & Mother’s Day breakfast)
Just 2 of the many outfits she has either made from scratch or altered to fit her just right! (The one on the right is my favorite!)
Singing, while playing “What Makes You Beautiful” @ a ward talent night & making her FAVORITE dessert – Grandpa’s Angel Food Cake!
Scuba Diving @ Coco Beach, Guanacaste, Costa Rica with her 2 most favorite men.
Her beautiful hair and Ginger Snap being the adventurous monkey that she is (zip-lining upside down).
Doing what she LOVES the most – taking care of babies.
If you have a minute, send her a quick Happy Birthday, she does appreciate it and she really does deserve it. I may not be able to make ALL her birthday wishes come true, but I can ask for help and I can pray she will be fulfilled tomorrow. I hope that her day goes well.
Thanks for listening!