birthday traditions start now.

It’s been a big year, and celebrating Stone’s first birthday was a sweet, symbolic cherry on top. I’d say Grant and I aren’t the typical traditional type. We rarely even remember to buy each other cards and gifts on special occasions (but do NOT worry – we NEVER forget about going out to eat for said occasion). I’ve only ever tried one time to throw a party for Grant, while we were dating, and he hit major traffic and didn’t even show up to his own party. He knows better than to try and surprise me — so yeah, we aren’t very traditional in the party category.

It was asked probably back in the summer what our birthday plans were for Stone. We hadn’t talked about plans, but we were suddenly forced to make a decision. Will we par-tay? And it boiled down to the fact that baby parties are more for the adults than for the kiddos, and we have no friends, so that would be a lame party. Haha. But seriously, I’m not a hostess with the mostess; I don’t throw parties, and we just don’t have the budget to invite our group of adults together. So then we had to make the decision and share with the family – there would be no party.

It was freeing, and weird, all in one. The desire to celebrate our sweet boy is there – but simultaneously the desire to not go the traditional party route was there as well.

So what would we do? I had read an idea a while ago about volunteering on your birthday. The idea, now that I’m older, sounded like an amazing alternative. But would a baby be down? And what about when he gets older and has friends? Well, we decided we can cross the bridge every year and see where we land, but for this year, an idea of a tradition was born. We would find a way to volunteer as a family for Stone’s birthday — focusing on celebrating his life, and his heart, by passing it on to other people. His joy is infectious, he has so much to offer already in that arena, and we want to instill in him that there is a world in need beyond our daily rhythm of life. And birthdays are a great way to break out of the routine mold and stretch our hearts to those in need. Obviously this is something we want to do more than once a year, but birthdays are a start.

We live next to a homeless shelter. I found this early on to us moving to the our new place. The men often hang out at an empty parking lot/strip mall during the day. I see them as I walk into our local coffee shop to spend the hour playing in the a/c (now, heat) with the free toys and the talkative moms. It’s a privilege that is not lost on me. I wanted to find out more, which led me to the shelter. They are an amazing pillar in this community; supporting a long, long list of those in need, from families to veterans to the disabled.

We spent the day at shelter, helping to decorate for Christmas. The stockings were hung, the trees were assembled and decorated, pinecones were foraged, a few small conversations with the residents were had. It was a beautiful afternoon – a great place to start. Stone was his usual happy boy self, and put a smile on the faces of a few men that stopped to chat. The smell of delicious food wafted through the halls which coaxed many of the men out of their rooms for lunch. It was a warm, safe place. I was grateful to see it, to experience it, and we look forward to this tradition living on in the Cardwell family. We were also joined by a troop of Girl Scouts who had clearly decorated the shelter for years – they were old pros. Complete side note, but selfishly, volunteering at the shelter was so refreshing! I was clueless where things were and what to do. We had to be guided every step of the way – we weren’t the experts, we weren’t known or popular. We had to extend our hands and introduce ourselves and share our son with others. I haven’t felt out of my comfort zone like this since going to storytime at the library by myself for the first time this summer after we moved. and before that, well, it hadn’t happened in 10 years.

Along with not doing the party scene for Stone was also the absence of many gifts. Well, of course, that excludes the grandparent (and aunt and uncle!) gifts. Stone has 6 grandparents and 5 great-grandparents who love him dearly, in all different ways, and they blessed him. Grant and I focused on snagging the brand new snowsuit off of Facebook Marketplace for his gift from us. It was $15 and so cozy and did I mention brand new?!

The rest of his birthday was low-key and fun. Grant took off work, we had breakfast, read books, went out for pizza, opened his gifts with a surprise guest visit by grandad, had dinner together, facetimed with his Texas grandparents, and had so many special texts, messages, and calls from other friends and family. It was truly so special in every way.

here’s to new traditions and our sweet one year old who makes us better people all around. ❤

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