Tuesday, November 17, 2015

a birthday in the forest



It's funny how time changes us. How the years help us to rearrange our priorities and see cracks in what we once held as truth. Seasons pass, and we experience, and we learn, and hopefully we grow. And sometimes the things we once thought to be law are not the only way any more.

Sometimes it's hard to let go, but often we have no choice.


Three years ago after planning and preparing and throwing 25 birthday parties for my girls, I wrote a blog post stating my 10 ingredients for a top birthday party. Since that post we have celebrated seven more birthdays in much the same way; themes, invitations, crafts, activities, games, food, cake, presents.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are from my own childhood birthday parties and some of my best parenting moments are from parties we've thrown for our girls.


But this year something felt different. Something had changed.

I'm not sure if it was the fact that we had just spent three months away from the farm and were feeling completely overwhelmed with all that we had to do upon our return. If maybe after 32 birthday parties we felt burnt out and in need of a change. If the fact that four of our birthdays fall in a five week period would mean that planning and throwing parties would be all that I would have time for upon our return. If the thought of 10 or 20 kids running wild for three hours with their inevitable sugar highs and lows didn't feel all that appealing. If we needed a break from planning and playing the same old games...I don't know.

But once I had allowed myself to acknowledge the doubt, there was no turning back.

And then a couple of months ago in Greece, after overhearing the intricate and in-depth plans for a Harry Potter themed eighth birthday party, I made my decision for certain. This year would be birthday extravaganza free.

I have to admit there were some tears and a MASSIVE tantrum to begin with. Birthdays and friends and treats and presents have become a package deal.

And there was a huge chunk of guilt on my part too. I knew that our decision was right, but it hurt my heart to deny my loved ones what they so desperately wanted.

But what I wanted and what I looked forward to, was a complete change of plan. I wanted to reinvent our way of celebrating, even if only for this year.

I wanted to really focus on the handmade; for presents, for activities and for snacks. I wanted to keep it as small and as intimate as could be. I wanted to put an emphasis on this beautiful environment that we are lucky enough to call home and gorgeous springtime that makes our special days sunny and bright. And mostly, I wanted to look at the birthday person and plan a celebration that suited them.


On the weekend we celebrated Miss Indi's birthday, with a pancake breakfast, a hand knitted crown (raveled here), a pile of hand made cards, a tiny spoon necklace carved from apple-wood and lots of freshly cut bunches of flowers.


In the afternoon we five and her grandparents took a table into the forest and had a picnic made up of some of her favourite foods. We made gods eye's, we listened to her favourite music (which is also her grandparents' fave music), we started stringing up our forest weaving loom and farmer Bren carved the beginnings of a sycamore spoon.

It really felt like we were all gathered to celebrate our freshly turned 15 year old. It felt like we had time, that we were really ourselves and it made me happy.


And even though I have no idea how we'll celebrate next year, I have loved this year and hope that some of our new found ways of celebrating each other become family traditions. The week's lead up making cards and presents, the bush walk, the chocolate chip cookies, the picnic, the hand knitted crown, the pancakes, the birthday person as DJ, the forest craft.

The simple yet perfect celebration of someone we adore.


  1. Gorgeous post Kate, I love everything about it. What a perfect, peaceful celebration. We have never really been into birthday parties for our children...but we love to celebrate out in our environment with a homemade cake and perhaps a fire. Maybe one year we will succumb to the extravaganza! xx

    1. I love the homemade cake and the fire celebrations the most, they have such honesty and meaning but I think a one off extravaganza at your place could be brilliant too. xx

  2. How perfect Kate. I think you've been amazing to have birthday parties for everyone every year until now. This change in tradition sounds beautiful, a real opportunity to focus on that one special person on their special day x

    1. Thanks Mel, I think I've learnt that the more intimate the celebration the more meaning it has, but having said that a big birthday bash can be loads of fun too. xx

  3. Four birthdays in five weeks - no wonder you went low key this year! This looks like a super special birthday celebration! Love how it's been peared back to what birthday parties are all about - celebrating the birth of a person we love in a way that celebrates them and their uniqueness and specialness. The pics are divine as always.

    1. Thanks Emma. I was thinking about you while I was writing this and I think I'm going to pass the birthday party baton over to you. x

  4. Sounds lovely and stress free! How stressful are parties no matter how simple you try and make it. The birthday is girl is so beautiful! I love how you made the crown more age appropriate with the funky goldish yarn. I have boys and we live in the bush so my biggest just has half a dozen kids over and they run around and I do some egg and spoon races etc. I still lay out a little crafty table too. We started to do every second year for our sanity and this year we just took the kids to the Dinosaur Museum in Canberra. It was awesome!

    1. I love the idea of a party every second year and a fun family activity on the other years. A trip to the dinosaur museum sounds awesome. x

  5. I think it all sounds perfectly lovely! And I think my little two would love a birthday crown. Something for me o think about for next year :) With my big two boys we had parties every second year until they were about 8 or 10 when suddenly they didn't want parties or novelty home-made cakes any more. I felt sad but realised pretty quickly that it's their day & their wishes will be granted. Even if that means a store bought ice cream cake or god forbid NO CAKE at all ( that really hit me hard!)
    With my little two I've decided on no parties at all until they have friends of their own. I have made them cake & we all sing happy birthday & give them a few little presents & they are happy & so am I. It feels good & real & close. Not to mention the fact it is completely stress free.

  6. Oh my gosh, I just read your original 10 bday things post & eeek! Joe is turning 5 in a couple of weeks, so we are planning his birthday party... Instead it's going to be a birthday morning tea & play in the back yard - no themes, no planned games just kids running around being kids. And there will only be 8 kids (including himself & his sister) not masses for me! I like ease, calm, serenity & letting things happen when or if they happen!

  7. It is always so interesting looking at what we get attached to as custom isn't it! When I became a mother I realised that birthdays are a really big deal to me. I was brought up with big parties and lots of people and as an adult, if I don't have lots of people around on my birthday I get sad. I didn't want this to continue for my kids, so we agreed (with them) that we would have an extravaganza (which I get a lot of joy out of organising) every second year. The other years we would have a special experience with one or two special friends. This has worked really well for us and now that the kids are getting older we are talking about changing the ratio and spreading the big parties out a little more. The smaller years are just as special and feel a whole lot more connected to the person. As a consequence I'm happier to have just my family around now also :)

  8. It all sounds perfectly magical. I can imagine the sounds of the girls giggling mixing with the forest sounds. Bliss!

  9. I love this idea, Kate. I declared a "no-party" year but then wavered and now we are gearing up for the third party this year (3 days after Christmas!!!). I've noticed, especially if we have a party on their actual birthday, that I am often to busy and subsequently exhausted to truly celebrate them. Maybe next year is the year... xx

  10. I love Indi's crown so much. I think we have set things up when your birthday is just a really special day. You can have cake for breakfast if you want and as Marlo gets older she wants less friends gathered. she would rather choose one friend and go horseriding or have two friends over for a sleepover. lots of her closest friends don't go to the same school so they don't all know each other and that can be hard to manage. I think your birthday for Indi looks so beautiful, roses in fowlers jars make everything perfect. xxx

  11. gan good job, this article is very interesting to note, cool deh,, of course we have new insights that we get after reading it, thanx yah :-)

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Kate XX

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