Sharing Birthdays at the Office

Birthdays are for celebrating with fun, flair, love and laughter. If I didn’t believe this, I probably wouldn’t have a blog devoted to birthdays.

Happily, I have some examples of people taking advantage of this special day to give their co-workers an extra helping of attention and affection. Loyal readers already know I am a big fan of feting people at work, if the individual decides to ignore my personal rule to not work on your birthday.

Office Birthday Fun

One recent blog post I saw featured a site devoted to discovering “a fresh approach to style through fun ideas for the wardrobe and home,” taking its own advice for an employee birthday.

Under the boasting headline, “We just took office birthdays to a whole new level,” the blogger talked about taking the weekly office meeting out of doors for a picnic at a table with fresh cut flowers and a breakfast taco spread. The coffee choices were also immensely important as the blog clearly has a product placement angle for an espresso machine…Nevertheless, the images are lovely, and the birthday celebrant probably enjoyed being made to feel extra special on her birthday.

office birthdays

Birthday Co-Worker Collusion

Those watching Good Morning Britain recently could actually see Kate Garraway having a good time on her birthday as her coworkers surprised her on the program’s set. The Sun reported her kids and her parents joined the host live on air for her 50th. Her co-workers also treated her to a plate of doughnuts, a present, and a highlight reel of her past career on television. This included some memories even the host groaned and grimaced over!

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Plus they offered the national show’s audience at home a glimpse of Garraway during her school days. This reminded me of the practice in several cultures of shaming the birthday person on their big day.

Related reading:

Employee Birthday Benefits

30 Today? Have a Pepper Person

Brace for a Birthday Flour Storm

Birthday Games Around the World

In my research of birthdays around the world, I was recently reading Barbara Rinkoff’s (1967) book on this topic. Although there is some gender stereotyping in here that makes me cringe — one activity is labeled as being for “boys and tomboys” — I appreciate her thorough overview of how one might celebrate birthdays with a global perspective.

I thought it would be fun to share some of the country-specific games she suggests for kids’ birthday parties. Maybe you can get some ideas from these to entertain young ones on a birthday or any other day.

Birthday games

Photo credit: januartha via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Birthday Games in Brazil

This one from Brazil is one of my favorites from the book: Hit the Penny. Put a coin atop a broomstick or bamboo pole stuck in the ground (or, inside, into a tree stand). Draw a circle about 3 feet in diameter around the pole. Kids then stand 4 to 6 feet from the stick and try to knock the coin from the pole using pennies. Knocking the coin off the pole and outside the circle = one point while inside the circle = no points. Me, I’d tweak that last rule and make inside the circle one point and outside three to make the game more competitive for all.

Another from Brazil, the one for boys and tomboys actually, is Luta de Galo (Chicken Fight). Two players stick a hankie into their waistband or belt and fold their right arms across their chests. They then try to get the opponent’s hankie while hopping on a right foot only and using only the left hand.

Fire and Finding Stuff Games

Bird’s Alive is a unique one from Denmark, where apparently they are more open to children and flames. Children sit in a circle and pass a lighted paper or stick to one another saying “Bird’s Alive” as they do. They may blow on the paper or stick to keep the flame alive but the player who is holding the stick when the flame goes out must pay a forfeit. These typically involve being silly — dancing with a broom, neighing like a horse, or crying like a baby.

The English game Hunt the Thimble is easy to set up and could be challenging. Everyone playing leaves the room while a thimble is hidden. The children are signaled to return. The one who finds the thimble first is the winner.

Games Requiring Concentration

Germany’s Kommando Bimberle has everyone sitting around a table. One child commands “do this with your hands” or “don’t do this with your hands.” If listeners do the wrong thing, they must put something of their on the table. When a previously specified number of things is on the table for one person, they must again pay the forfeit (a la Demark). (Am I the only one who sees this one as training for strip poker?)

An Israeli game of skill involves placing a bottle on the floor. Children take turns kneeling on a chair and, with one hand behind their backs, trying to drop peanuts into the bottle. This game is aptly named Peanuts in the Bottle.

Energetic Birthday Games

Japanese children play Hanakago (The Flower Basket). Each child is given a name of a flower. They must remember this throughout the game as they sit on a chair or pillow in a circle in the room. The child who is IT does not have a chair. IT calls out two flowers and those two children must switch seats quickly while IT tries to claim one of the two available chairs. IT may also call Hanakago which forces all players to find a new seat.

In the Philippines they play Pusa at Aso (Cat and Dog). All the players sit in a circle as cats. One child sits in the middle and is Dog. He or she guards a pile of shoes, sticks or stone standing in for bones. The cats try to sneak one of the dog’s bones from the pile. Dog tries to protect them by tagging cats, but Dog cannot move around the circle and can only use his hands and feet to touch the cats. If a Cat is tagged, that Cat becomes Dog.

Birthday Games

Photo credit: David Maddison via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

South Africans form a wide circle of girls with a circle of boys inside facing out towards their girl partners. An extra boy, IT, is in the center of the circle. He winks at a girl and she tries to get to IT before her partner tags her. If she reaches IT without being tagged by her partner, her partner becomes IT. This Knikkertjie (Winking Game) could easily be played without the gender divisions and just partnered up children.

Ultimately, the lesson learned from this variety of games is that the world is full of creative ideas. And, even more importantly, that we know how to have a good time at birthday parties!

 

 

 

Birthday Cake Ban – Seriously?

Birthday cake debate

Photo credit: mandarinaAsesina via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Another birthday tradition is poised to bite the dust.  In the midst of the current dietary campaign against sugar, birthday cakes are facing ban from the school classroom.

Yes, I’ve written before about school’s banning the practice of sharing birthdays at school due to concerns about time taken from classwork or worries about creating an expectation of providing snacks for the entire class. But today’s blog is inspired by a Daily Mail story about a Mom’s complaint that 85% of the families in her child’s kindergarten class voted against bringing cake to school on the special day.

The mother didn’t want her child having sugar overload either. Yet, doing the math, she noted that with 20 kids in the class it would work out to a cupcake every two weeks — at most.

“Why can’t we just let kids live?” the mother wrote.

Another parent commenting on the post added: “The world has officially gone nuts.”
So long as those nuts aren’t in a cake being handed out to a small child in school!
The kindergarten in question wasn’t going to stop celebrating student birthdays — thank goodness — but planned to do so with sugar-free snacks.
Yes, there are plenty of fun, healthy alternatives to make a child feel special on their big day. I’m not opposed to a school taking a vote and ridding a classroom of sugared sweets, as long as they don’t do away with the celebrating all together.
Yet, the Mom’s words “can’t we just let kids live” resonate with me. Are we parents or police? I worry sometimes that the advice we get about how to insure our kids will be healthy and successful is taking the parenting thing too far. I am trying to go with moderation as my mantra (although anyone who saw me actually slicing my own piece of a birthday cake would be welcome to remind me of those words before I dig in!).

Tips for Handling Tandem Birthdays Tips

Brits Christine and David Lilley, turned 75 in 2016 within three days of one another. To celebrate, they did a tandem jump from an airplane. What an impressive way to shuck off the “getting old” blues!

The news of their brave leap, though, put me in mind of another aspect of planning a special birthday — handling the tandem birthday. Perhaps this is spouse’s having birthdays within days of one another (as with the Lilley’s). Or, the more likely fraught (unless you are the spouse of someone as obsessed with birthdays as me) shared birthday day or week of young siblings.

In my neighborhood there is a family of five with four birthdays all in December. Another neighbor’s two kids are both January born. So, what’s to be done to be sure each birthday gets the ba-ba-boom it deserves?

One Mom’s group considered the question for its community suggested separate parties will help each child feel special. Yet, they did caution that it was a good idea to weigh the financial considerations and gauge the ages of the celebrants in making the choice. Other advice was to ask the children what they want — maybe sharing sounds good to them. But definitely let them each make their own guest list.

 

In a WhatToExpect.com forum on the topic, people suggested that the kids share their birthday parties until they are old enough to complain. Others added that giving each child a separate cake and avoiding joint gifts help. One respondent posted a pic of a 25-year-old and a 1-year-old both getting their own smash cakes!

Another post in a different parenting discussion thread on the issue offered great advice: “Long story short: be open to any/all ideas, including your children’s.”

By the way, while searching the web for shared birthday tidbits, I came across this jaw-dropping world record. According to Guinness, “the only verified example of a family producing five single children with coincident birthdays is that of Catherine (1952), Carol (1953), Charles (1956), Claudia (1961) and Cecilia (1966), born to Carolyn and Ralph Cummins (USA) all on 20 February. The random odds against five single siblings sharing a birthdate are one in 17,797,577,730 – almost 4 times the world’s population.”

Tweet: The random odds
against five single siblings sharing a birthdate are one in
17,797,577,730 – almost 4 times the world’s population.

Birthday Courtesy…heck, any day courtesy.

vintage-poster-invitation.jpg

Sarah Parrott via Foter.com/CC BY-NC-ND

Basic Birthday Courtesy

This is me blogging angry. ANGRY. I just read an article about a 9-year-old who started this year in public school and was excited to celebrate his first birthday party with classmates. After being homeschooled for years, he and his mother planned a Diary of A Wimpy Kid party to enjoy his big day. Invitations were sent. Party favors purchased. Cake bought or made. Games set up. NO ONE CAME.

The child’s Charlie Brown party is sad. What makes me so angry? NO ONE RSVPed. Simply responding to the invitation with a “can’t make it” text or call would have avoided this upset.

In a post related to this birthday disaster, the mother pointed out that although she hadn’t heard from anyone, she assumed some kids would still attend. After all, several of the children that attended her daughter’s birthday hadn’t responded in advance. But this time, not a soul came to the party, and the parents were totally unprepared.

AWFUL. Let’s consider again just how easy it is to send a text. I probably could have sent six in the time it took you to read that last sentence alone.

It’s So Easy to RSVP

Personally, I don’t understand how any parent who has hosted a birthday party can’t respond. You know the cost that goes into hosting a birthday party. You know the child’s emotional investment. You know how much easier it is to plan when you have some idea of numbers of people to expect.

This is about courtesy and a basic level of respect for the people around us who are inviting us to share in an important moment in their lives. Argh. It makes me so angry to think of that poor boy’s disappointment. And how easily it could have been avoided if we weren’t becoming this society of people who are letting basic etiquette slide in favor of swiping to the right and adding a thumbs up or thumbs down to a social post.

RSVP! Whatever the occasion — birthday, wedding, retirement party…even pet playdate! Say yes. Say no. But say something. It’s a small thing you can do to make someone’s big day that much better.

Birthday Baking or “No Bake” Goodness

It’s time for another #yummybday roundup. I know the real reason I have twitter followers is because people want to see the treats I share each day. Fine. Here’s the latest greatest hits for you. It can help you with upcoming birthdays and all those holiday potlucks coming up too. You’re welcome.

For the Chocolate Lover

And because I can’t believe I missed last week’s National Chocolate Day:

These tantalizingly named Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars make the cut with their shortbread, salted caramel sauce, cookie dough and chocolate ganache layers.

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Or a double dose of goodness with @mindoverbatter’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars:

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@BeyondFrosting gives us this No-Bake Snickers Icebox Cake, which I love for the “no bake” part:

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For the gluten-free, some fudgy, gooey brownies from @Texanerin:

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Fruit Lovers Unite!

Combine fruit and funnel cakes with @grandbabycake’s Strawberry Shortcake Funnel Cakes:

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Lindsay of @Life_Love_Sugar provides us this Banana Pudding Ice Cream Cake:

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Lemon’s a fruit too…Thanks @WillCook4Smiles for this Lemon Oreo Cheesecake:

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Hand-held Yumminess

OK, this one tackles two favorites: eating with our hands and S’mores. Check out @shugarysweets’ Ooey Gooey Hand Pies:

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Also with marshmallows…I’m weak in the face of fluffy whiteness. Thanks @spoonforkbacon for these Salted Gingersnap Mallomars:Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 4.11.45 PM.png

Plus one more from @shugarysweets who often makes my #yummybday tweets — Birthday Cake Fudge.

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Finally, another of my favorite ingredients from a familiar fellow blogger @cookierookiebec. How about Loaded Salted Caramel Soft Batch Cookies?

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Can you believe I held off an entire year before sharing all that yumminess in one blog? I need to do this again more often. I also welcome suggestions. Or, if anyone wants me to do some taste testing of sweets recipes, let me know at @BirthdaysBest…I’m willing.

Birthdays are for Sharing, I suppose

 

birthday presents

Photo credit: Melinda Taber via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

The other day at work I had the opportunity to watch this video of Bronx Zoo gorillas enjoying cupcakes. It is not entirely clear whether it was a birthday. What amused me, though, was seeing the gorillas grabbing handfuls of cupcakes and refusing to share.

This got me thinking about sharing and birthdays. I’ve written in the past about how much I think it would suck to share my birthday with another person I loved. Or even liked. I might not like/love them so much after that. This pretty much sums it up (stupid typo aside):

At the same time, I know I’m not the only one who likes to see what celebrity shares my birthday. Somehow, by being born on the same day as Elizabeth Shue I am that much cooler on my birthday.

Yet, another way of looking at birthdays is what they teach people (who are bigger than me) about sharing. Kids, for instance, have to go to stores and find toys to give to someone else. They then have to actually hand said toys over to another child. (Parting is such un-sweet sorrow).

I thought I would share some other ways to teach about sharing, gleaned from Parents and WebMD:

  • Set a time limit on the sharing to make it more manageable (in a birthday context you may hold the balloon for 60 seconds and then your sister gets it).
  • Share with those in need. Have the child collect items from their closet, cupboard, toy bin to donate to charity.
  • Role play. OK, I was a theatre major. I could probably do this one.
  • Acknowledge positive behaviors. When your child does share notice it and commend him or her on a job well done. Too often we point out the negatives and don’t recognize the good the child does.
  • Set expectations in advance so as to prepare the child to share.
  • Lead by example. Parents. Yeah, yeah, like we don’t hear that one all of the time. Harrumph.

Yes, presumably I learned how to share better while writing that list. But let’s just stay away from my birthday date so we don’t have to find out.