Elaborate Birthday Parties & the Spending Fast

Good morning! It has been hard to write this week as I have been managing a new business called "Taking Care of my Friends' Kids." Since it is Spring Break, several of the day-care providers in town are closed. One gal is expecting a baby and needed to get her feet professionally rubbed on a daily basis so I took care of her one-year-old. My awesome farm-wife-friend had to load out hogs with her husband (this is a real thing, we're in rural Iowa folks!) They know I stay home and love a little chaos, so most of my waking hours this week I had between 5 and 7 toddlers, ages 3 and under. That took care of my baby fix as well as my "wouldn't it be so fun to have a big family" fix.

We had "circle time" where we read books and sang songs together. This meant Lou held the book and screamed "My book, my caterpillar, Louie no more share!" while all the other children quickly crawled away. Pictures of children are often a farse, nothing is as precious as it seems!

I've had several different thoughts swirling around and wrote one silly long post but decided instead to break each thought into its own post. So, hurray! There will be a post every day through the next week.

It is so funny to me that by not spending any money on myself (it has been 80 days!) I find ways to channel that spending love into other nonsense. It is like the gopher game at the arcade where you smack one down and another pops up. For example, Mack's first birthday is coming up and I have had to  hold myself back in every way possible. At one point, my Amazon shopping cart had over $200 worth of chevron paper products, giant number '1' shaped balloons, crepe paper, cake toppers, cookie cutters, and 15 Bambi golden books as party favors (the intended theme was, "Our little deer is turning one!")

Kids' birthday parties are hard for me. You want your child to feel so loved and adored and special on their birthday. So you think of some ideas that fit with your child's personality, start brainstorming, and then turn to Pinterest to make all your creativity a reality. And before you know it, your little dreams of children running around your balloon filled house eating cupcakes has turned into a made from scratch 8 layer cake and a decorated bathroom to "keep the theme consistent" even though most of your guests are still in diapers. Not that I am speaking from personal experience... So over the past two years, I have found that birthday throwing is not my forte.

The Holy Grail of birthday party throwing, the elusive "Rainbow Cake"

Lou's 1st Birthday, where I cooked 3 entree's, a dozen sides, 4 desserts, and made my husband crazy
I LOVE the thought and heart behind themed birthday parties- but alas, I am an idea person and making these things a reality causes intense stress on my life. The planning stage is incredibly fun, the execution is terrible and I take my whole family down with me. For me, throwing a birthday party (granted, my kids are young, young, young!) becomes more about me impressing others than about me blessing my child with a special day. I am just messed up like that.

So birthday parties are now on my list of things I do not do.

Please people, especially us perfectionist ladies, make yourself a list of things you do not do. I keep mine in my phone, just in case I find myself at Home Depot with a cart full of plants and potting soil and a book called Growing Hydragenas God's Way.

Here is my list: (I've included a few things I do like, for confidence building purposes)

I like to cook.
I do not like to clean.
I do not garden.
I do not host dinner parties.
I start furniture projects and sometimes, I complete them.
I do not throw elaborate, themed birthday parties for my husband or children.
I listen to mix cd's in my car.
I do not train animals.
I do not dress my children in ornate, matching outfits for holidays.
I do not scrapbook nor keep any record of my children's lives other than my memory and what is in my i-phone.

Proof of the list:

This is a work in progress. I am months away from turning thirty and am in a season of learning about who I am and where I am heading in life... after spending three decades knowing NEITHER of these things. I have found that it is very important for me to recognize what I love, what makes me thrive as a person and to learn that, I must also acknowledge what makes me want to curl up into a little ball and hide under a blanket. Having a list is a quick reference when I get carried away and try to be good at everything.

100% this concept comes from the wonderful book Bittersweet by Shauna Niequest. Shauna is a truth teller and a gracious one at that, the greatest combination there ever was. Please read this and feel a little more at rest with who you are... and who you are not.

"It’s brutal, making the list of Things I Don’t Do, especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done. But I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life. There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with. The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being."

Thank you Shauna, and may I add: it is also important when making a list to put a period at the end of each item and give a little head nod when you read it aloud. That makes each thing official and permanent. When I read my list, it makes me relax and sigh and remember, oh yes, I am just Ally and I do not have to do it all.

In learning what I do not do, it is important for me to recognize that I am an extremely excitable person. People get me worked up and talked into just about anything. My husband knows this about me and often takes advantage of it. Like the time he convinced to get a six-week-old coonhound puppy (the kind that 'bay' which is a loud, howling sound. Our neighbor from 5 houses down brought us a bark collar "just in case we needed it").
We hope Gus is doing well since he began his new life on the farm we sent him to
This all was when our daughter was also six-weeks-old... and I DIDN'T EVEN WANT A DOG. I vowed never to be talked into doing things like that again when I was 35 weeks pregnant, carrying a one-year-old on my hip, locked out of my house wearing my bath robe, and chasing that 80 lb "puppy" around our neighborhood, shouting expletives and throwing dog food from my pockets at 7 am. Bless it. It was then that I added "I do not train animals" to my list.

Anyways, it is possible to have a simple, inexpensive birthday party, I've heard, and we will be trying this experiment next weekend. I have not yet given my friends their invitations (also known as a text message with the place and time) so there is a chance no one will even be able to come.

I am not judging people who throw beautiful birthday parties for their children because there are those out there who are gifted in this area, it is on their "can do" list. It's true, I have met them. My friend Abby started planning her son's first birthday party when she was pregnant and had the house decorated for over two weeks before it started. There were water bottles with his name on them, it was amazing. This is one her things, it gives her life, makes her more of who she is. We had such a sweet time celebrating her son turning one. I love and appreciate that about her, and try very hard not to feel bad about myself for being different.

Part of why I wish I loved party-planning is that I want to make the people who come into my home feel loved, but I have yet to do this because usually by the time they arrive I am angry at them being there because I've been fighting with my husband over who has done the most to get the house suitable and the food prepared and suddenly nothing is fun anymore and nobody feels welcome. But I really want to keep trying in this area and hope that one day I can add to my list: "I make people feel welcome in my home" and also the goal of my marriage which is "My husband and I do not fight before company comes."

It is fun to plan parties and distracting from all the boring hum-drum of daily life and is also a reason to vacuum my carpets. But it is not a reason to spend $200 on chevron paper plates.

I adore Mack and want his birthday to be special. He is the best surprise I've ever received. I love a good celebration and what is better than planning a little party for this sweet face?

Katie Evans Photography

I cannot wait to share with you how it turns out.


  1. Lucan turns three this year. I've been tossing around the idea of throwing him a "golden" birthday party because it's his "golden" birthday. But after trolling around on pintrest, I've determined the best people to have a golden birthday party for are 23 year-old females. Not toddler boys. Therefore no golden birthday party. "Problem solved, we solved the problem, the problem is solved." Two point if you can name which PBS kids show I've just quoted :)

    1. Kara, this is surprising because I FOR SURE thought parties would be on your "do" list and that you would be awesome at them. Children change everything! My golden birthday was when I was one (September 1st) and I'm pretty sure my mother had no idea, so let yourself off the hook and know that Lucan won't punish you for not celebrating. Okay and I'm relieved that I don't know what PBS show you're quoting, I'm not in as deep as I thought... but I do know EVERY song from Daniel Tiger which has to be worse then the show you're referencing...

  2. I think our "do" and don't do" lists are similar. Except I have not had the strength of character to move "elaborate birthday parties" to the correct list. So now am wondering if I should just factor marriage counseling into the party budget? Hmmm. As always, your blog has me shouting "yes" at the computer screen and laughing, and then pondering. Wonderful.

    1. Bahaha, yes please put marriage counseling on my separate list which is titled "Things I'm Good at Convincing my Husband to do" which so far has NOTHING on it because the man is immovable. We will need it surely if we ever get another pet... or have another baby... or move again. We are kindred spirits Becky.


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