The week surrounding Labor Day is typically known as Birthday Week at the Hoffstead. We have Max on Aug 31, Jonny Hay on the 4th and me on the 6th. A houseful of Virgos who are really good at lists, keeping each other on task, obsessive about what's coming next and a little tightly wound.
In our other life, we have been celebrating this event for the past seven years with a Labor Day weekend birthday bash. The guest list has grown to over a hundred and fifty (with most of those under 48") and potentially dangerous homemade piñatas and elaborate cakes that challenge the laws of physics (read: are designed and implemented by someone who has never actually passed physics.) This party is preceded by months of theme-scheming by the boys, weeks of anticipation, and days of baking and prep.
I love this party. I love celebrating my birthday under the raucous excess and exuberance of a party for my favorite boys and their rowdy and fun-loving friends, and of course, their parents.
This year, that was one of the first things the boys asked about when we told them about our Utila adventure--would we still have our party? We plied them with a small substitute on a random Friday earlier in the summer, a micro-version that was equal parts going-away-party and in the words of Lewis Carroll, our very merry unbirthday, with a cake in the shape of the island we now call home.
Experiences instead of things
Here we are as the actual birthdays roll through. In our Utila life, we are trying to learn to live with less. We told the boys there would be little in the way of presents--this year we are trying to give experiences. We have promised them trips to go rafting on the mainland and ziplining through the monkey park in Roatan in the coming months.
We are also lucky enough to have marine biologists Brad and Andi Ryon living right next door. Together they run Utila Realty, while also doing SCUBA, underwater photography, yoga, stand up paddling and ocean kayaking. J and Hayden have been getting up early to dive with Brad, follow the life cycle of a reef octopus and for his birthday, Hayden will go on his first night dive in hopes of witnessing the annual coral spawning.
Max will start his underwater training on the first calm day and they have been avidly snorkeling and setting their free diving records daily.
BIRTHDAY PARTY, UTILA STYLE
On August 31, we rode to town by boat at midday, Max perched in his preferred spot on the bow.
While Pip and I went off to a girlie playdate and Hayden to his iguana station internship, Max had a special smoothie date with his daddy in Munchies Iguana Garden. We then met up with our friends for the traditional Friday pizza night at Underwater Vision's beach.
There was swimming and dock jumping from the second-story. (I have been noticing that my boys measure Utila by proximity to places you can leap from high ledges into the water. I am asked regularly if I need to take the boat into Bush's grocery, as this is one of their favorite jumping spots in the bay.)
After throwing themselves off the roof, gorging themselves on pizza and playing ball with Marty, their regular Saturday Animalates instructor who happened to be at the same beach, J and Uncle Nick disappeared to come back with two tubs of ice cream, and a dozen spoons. Instead of a fancy, gluten-free cake, they popped off the lids, and we had an ice cream free-for-all!
WORDS AS GIFTS
In line with our philosophy of living with less, we only had two small, token Lego sets sent down by the boys' awesome Aunt Linden, and a flattish soccer ball I found in the back of a hardware store here.
Instead, I asked each member of the family to write and decorate cards for the birthday boy. I was surprised by how seriously each boy took his card, how earnest the hugs were afterwards. Max wrote thankful replies on paper airplanes and zinged them at us all over the house. We also used our whiteboard to write name poems and decorated it with words and drawings to honor the birthday boy. Now I see the cards tucked carefully in their sleeping lofts.
I can't help but think that in our other life, these words might have gone unnoticed in the mayhem of gift opening. To see kind words and honest sentiment treasured means a lot to this writer mama.
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