Psalm 90: 12   Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

We celebrated a birthday this weekend for a special 11 year old.

We don’t know our children’s real birth date. They weren’t left with a note. All their birthdays were guesses according to their appearance when found. We don’t get to pull out photos and scrapbooks full of stories about the day they were born. We can’t tell about their first word, when they rolled over, or when they sat up. We don’t even know what their birth family named them. Their past is a mystery, and it is very important to make the present genuine.

Just another way our children aren’t like most children celebrating birthdays.

So much emotion bubbles up when birthdays roll around. While in China birthdays were never acknowledged unless a child had been chosen and their family made arrangements for a cake to be delivered. We were able to do that for 3 of our children, and we have photos of it. Honestly we did it only for the photos. Our children didn’t need a party. They really didn’t even know what was going on. Still, maybe it gave all the children something fun in the midst of a usually dull daily life.

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Our new 11 year old touched US soil and became a US citizen on her very first birthday. We had people over to celebrate even though we were in the pit of jet lag. We lit a big fancy rotating candle from China that played music singing happy birthday while our precious one slept through the whole thing. Again, it wasn’t about her, it was me wanting photos of a special day in my mind… she didn’t know the difference OR need it. I guess in hindsight I was trying to make up for what was lost.


Through the years we have come to know big parties with lots of extra is just not necessary nor is it something our children want. Many times even with our biological children, birthdays were just over the top.

Here are a few of the ways our family makes birthdays special:

Child Centered:

For weeks our children look forward to their special day. They make birthday post its and place on our calendar or make a chain in anticipation. We ask questions of what they want their day to be like. Because we are home, we can make the day child centered: making meals they choose and going where they want to go. Our family is big enough that we have a traveling birthday party wherever we go. Even on regular days we are sometimes asked if we are celebrating a birthday. 🙂2016-04-07 14.23.49-2

Dropping plans for work and school makes our children feel they are special. Letting them call the shots for their day gives them memories cherished forever. This year it was all about horses. We called around to find Morgan Stables who invited our group for horseback riding. I wish I had a video of when we told them what we were doing. It was exactly what the birthday girl wanted to do, and her sister said, “This is the best day of MY life!”

Family Only:

After that very first party 11 years ago, we made birthdays just for family. The reasoning being family is the most foundational gift we are giving our children. How do they learn family unless we make it the center of their world?

2016-04-09 17.43.01-3On their real birthday it is their choice day: what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. We try to do something special we wouldn’t normally do like the zoo, children’s museum, or like yesterday…. HORSEback riding!

Over the weekend before or after, we celebrate with a cake and extended family. It’s important for our children to know extended family loves them, thinks they are important, and makes time to celebrate with them. This year our birthday girl wanted a horse cake, AND she wanted to make it herself. Okay then! It was one of the sweetest birthdays ever!

Intentional Gifts:

If there is something they are especially interested in, we make their gifts reflect it. Our girl wanted Breyer horses this year and we obliged. What you might find interesting is we gave her younger sibling (whom she shares a room) a horse too. It has been our intention to build deep connections in our children and in giving their closest sibling a small gift like their’s, they immediately have a bond to build on. The birthday child doesn’t fee2016-04-09 18.05.00l it necessary to gather up her gifts and go off to play alone. They both share joy as they plan what they will play TOGETHER.

You may be wondering about the others standing by watching this all unfold. It is a natural thing. They have all witnessed it with their own birthdays. It is just what our family does. Usually they all run to their rooms and get their ‘horse’, and everyone is playing in the sunroom as a big group (building the family foundation I talked about earlier). Birthdays are a big deal, and we make sure each child knows it.


In going with the whole horse theme this year, we have 6 kids now in love with horses all wanting lessons. Wish we could make that a reality, but they all know bringing home CallaAnne is SO much more important. With the number of kids we have, they have decided they will choose horseback riding for their birthdays and gotcha days making it a regular occurrence. 🙂

It is so beautiful to watch all this love unfold in our family. We are more than grateful to their birth families for choosing life and plan to celebrate this gift exactly how our child chooses. It is about them, their family, and gifting them with intentionality.

Maybe you have special ways of celebrating birthdays. Please share.