Happy (I think) birthday!

By Jeanne Reynolds

I hope I’m not offending anyone here, but what’s up with these super-extravagant birthday parties for children? Even infants and toddlers who don’t know what day it is, much less that it’s their own birthday, are being feted like royalty.

A tattoo bar for a 3-year-old. Vegas-style showgirls at a bar mitzvah. Petting zoos of exotic animals. I’m not making this stuff up, although believe me, I wish I was. And that doesn’t even include the celebrity baby bashes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

birthday-cake

Whatever happened to regular, simple birthday parties for children: half a dozen youngsters, those cone-shaped party hats with the snap-prone elastic, a couple games of pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey and drop-the-clothes-pins-in-the-milk-bottle, some cupcakes and ice cream, and off you go. All done in about an hour, not counting the sugar-fueled hyperactivity and nap-deprived tantrums later in the day.

And please, invite other children — not the entire extended family, neighbors and anyone else who can be guilted into gifting the oblivious youngster. Yes, your offspring is incredibly adorable, but children’s birthday parties are for … well, children. (OK, grandparents get a pass.)

Now adult birthdays are another matter. April is major birthday season in our family, and I say you’re never too old to celebrate being above ground another year. Both my husband I have birthdays this month. However, the celebration usually consists of taking the day off work, a round of golf, dinner out at a nice restaurant and several cards (our cats are big on greeting cards for every occasion). Nary a unicorn in sight. And the only petting zoo will involve the aforementioned felines.

Milestone birthdays get a little extra treatment, especially those sneaking up on three digits. My mother-in-law turns 90 this month and we expect a couple hundred well-wishers at her drop-in (don’t worry, it’s not a surprise party like my father-in-law’s 90th last year). With that kind of crowd, we’re springing for a caterer, but there won’t be any caviar or edible gold whatevers. Unless you count pimento cheese.

Still, I wouldn’t mind if someone brought a unicorn.

Turning 40

By: Chaunte McClure

Milestone birthdays tend to generate excitement among individuals and this one was no different for me. Last year this time I was looking forward to turning the big 4-0 and I was making celebration plans for 2016.

On my to-do list was to take a trip out of the country. After a few months of deciding where to go, my heart was finally set on the Dominican Republic.

In October, we took to the skies for about a four-hour flight to the beautiful Caribbean Island for some time to unwind, celebrate me and learn more about a different culture. Hurricane Matthew had me on edge a bit because I thought he would rip through DR and force us to cancel our trip. Not so! For six days, I got to soak up the sun and make new memories.

Domincan RepublicDomincan RepublicNot all of the Dominican Republic is attractive. Resort life keeps your mind on R&R, blocking the reality of what life is really like on the island. We spent most of one day exploring the countryside, where Dominicans live and work.

Domincan Republic

They work for very little, I might add. According to our tour guide, on average, they make about less than $400 per month. Because of tips, resort employees usually earn a little more annually. Teachers are on the higher end of the scale earning about $900 monthly.

Domincan Republic

One of our tour stops was at a public school tucked down a dirt road where sugar cane grow several feet high in nearby fields.

Domincan Republic

For the first time since I was a child, I got to taste sugar cane. And like this vacation, it was sweet!

I’ll share more later this month.

The Fillers

By: Lara Clark

Wednesday was my birthday. Cue the balloon. It was not a significant age, nor of much significance to report. I mean, all birthdays should really fall on the weekend because hump Growing olderday does not exactly scream par-tay. But with the passing of another 365 days, I did spent the day thinking about what my 29th year held and what my NEW 29th** year would have in store. The truth is, the older I get, the less convinced I am that I am ever going to have it all figured out. I still don’t understand much about insurance premiums, IRA’s (Roth or not), or coupon clipping…those things that I thought grown-ups understood.

With a little age under my belt (and under my eyes) I do understand a little more about unconditional love, heartbreaking loss, pure joy and fleeting time. This birthday, I wondered if maybe those grown-up things are what I should worry about and continue to muddle through the other stuff.

I recently watched the movie Boyhood and – this is not a spoiler, so I will tell you – the mother in the film says something to the effect of, “Life is just a series of milestones.” I don’t know why, but this quote just made me sad. Milestones are really pretty few and far between. I mean, obviously they are important… they are “milestones.” But what about the fillers, the in-between, the birthdays that fall on Wednesdays? I think I might need to hold a little tighter to those. I should free up the space in my mind that currently holds all those insecurities about whether I am where this grown-up should be in life. I am exactly where I need to be today or at least until I learn more and change a little here and there. I am “in between” milestones. Nice texts from my husband or tickle wars with kids on my couch are okay fillers too. Cue the balloons for those.

** I know Chaunte is right and I should tell my age proudly, but for now I will just admit proudly that I am aging.