Happy Birthday, Dear Judah!

Our baby is three.  We can hardly believe it.  He is growing so fast and amazing us every day with how much he’s learning and growing.  And he’s humbling us, too, with how much we don’t know, as we realize how completely dependent upon God we are for this whole parenting thing.

This year Judah had his first birthday party with friends.  We’re not necessarily big birthday party people, but we probably were big birthday party kids, and how Scrooge-like of us would it be to not make a big deal out of birthdays for Judah and Jovelle just because we’re old and grumpy?

And truth be told, we had lots of fun celebrating with Judah and creating some new traditions.  We decided we would do a week of celebrations (It’s only fair, after all, since I tell Chris that my birthday should be celebrated all month long.  😉  ).  We’re still working on some of them (and we expect some will ebb and flow depending on circumstances and ages…..), but ones we like at this point are…

  • Bursting through a door of streamers on the actual day.  Saw this somewhere and wanted to do it but didn’t have streamers.  Oh well, next time.
  • Filling the bed/ room with balloons.  We actually filled our bed with them this year because a certain someone came creeping into our room in the middle of the night, and he LOVED it.  (The balloons, not the creeping in.)  He woke up later than us (Whaaaat?!), and we didn’t even hear him get out of bed and join us in the living room.  Suddenly, though, there’s this smiling little boy clutching a balloon standing in front of us in the living room and exclaiming, “Balloons!”

Birthday (party) morning balloons! (Don't mind the sagging diaper. Details, details.)

  • Handprints on a birthday tablecloth (Can you see that I’m slightly obssessed with handprint crafts?).  My parents’ neighbor in Florida does this, and I love it.  Totally stole the idea from her.
  • “Interview” questions (likes, friends, etc.)
  • Each year we also like to write a letter to Judah on his birthday.  Hmmm.  We should get on that.
  • Look at pictures and tell stories about birthday child and about birth.
  • We always got to pick the birthday meal growing up, too, so we will continue that as well.  We just made a plate that I love and that we’ll use to celebrate the birthday person, and even to celebrate other accomplishments (whether it be Chris doing something at work or one of the kids celebrating something).

Our celebration plate (and another book - hurray for missionary sales! - for Judah. I meant to have people sign his book, but I totally forgot.)

Another thing we did this year and really enjoyed was going shopping for a new book.  (If we’re in the States, we’re thinking this could be a fun chance to do an outing with lunch or something.)  There’s a really cool bookstore near Chris’s office, and we decided to go there for some book-picking-out.  Judah was really excited because he loves reading, but he’s never gotten to pick out a book to keep before.  Definitely want to keep doing this.  We don’t really do many presents, but books we definitely do.  I even made myself get over my hesitation at buying books when there are perfectly good ones at the library.

Carefully perusing his options

Jovelle overseeing the process

The final choices

...And the final choice!

He was so excited to pay for his book and carry it himself. We had so much fun shopping with him, too.

On the day of Judah’s party, we had one present waiting for him at the foot of his bed.

…The rest, though, he had to work for.   I love scavenger hunts, so we hid Judah’s gifts, scavenger hunt style, and he had to find them.

Explaining the concept to Judah

Excited and ready to get started! (And somehow in the 2 minutes between this picture and the previous one, he managed to get fully dressed, complete with the train engineer cap that belonged to Chris as a boy.)

Here’s a look at his clues:

  1. We can’t believe our baby’s three!  The days have gone so quick-i-ly!  You’re growing so fast (and clever, too), so we’ve hidden your gifts just for you.  You’ll have to work for your gifts this year (but not too hard, don’t you fear!).  Clues are hidden all around – solve them all and your gifts are found!  So are you ready to start our game?  Chug to your first clue by your choo choo ____.
  2. Your next clue is hidden in a cardboard roll (Look for it near the toilet bowl).
  3. You set the table with this kitchen gear, and there’s also a clue hidden here.  (kitchen drawer where his plates are)
  4. Green like a frog, they go on your feet – and hide a clue to your birthday treat. (frog boots)
  5. Pushing friends is really not kind – unless it’s on this, where a clue you’ll find…. (swing)
  6. You’ve figured out the clues, you’re almost done – but there’s one more clue before your gifts are won.  You’ll figure it out quickly, we know you will, so here we go with one last drill.  When riding along in the car for trips, you should always buckle up in this…. (car seat)

We needed to help him figure some of them out, but for the most part, we were surprised at how quickly he caught on and was able to figure out the clues.

One of the clues hidden in his favorite shoes (Rain or shine, he wears them EVERYWHERE, and someone always comments on them!)


The funny thing is that our neighbor, a 10 year old boy whom Judah ADORES, had wrapped a gift and placed it in the wagon that we were borrowing for Judah’s birthday party, so when Judah figured out (right away, might I add) that his next clue was by the swing, he ran outside – but got distracted when he saw this gift from his friend, thinking this was what the clues were leading up to.  He then got distracted by a baseball bat and once again had to be reminded of his search.  Oh, well, what’s a minor hiccup or two?

His party was appropriately a train theme.  For the party, Judah painted oatmeal boxes to make them into trains, and I assembled them and lined them up while he was still sleeping.  I looked dubiously at our creation and wondered if they could pass as trains, but – and this is one thing I love about kids – when Judah came out of the room and saw them, he jumped up and down and yelled, “A train!  A train!”  Oh, you amazing child, you!

Once I saw them through Judah’s eyes, I thought our little Nigerian-oatmeal-box trains were quite cool.

The party was really simple – a couple of friends (We were going with the “one friend for each year” thought.), simple food, a train story and playing with Judah’s train set.  Each kid got a little boxed lunch in one of the little trains: a PBJ sandwich cut out like a train, a little snack mix and carrots.   We brought little Thomas the Train fruit snacks (which Chris says are inappropriately named since they’re neither fruit nor snacks) for favors from the States.

We had plans to make trains from cardboard and play Pin the Caboose on the Train after reading a story (circa 1940) about a caboose, but we only made it that far in the Daydream Stage.  No matter, though, because what the kids seemed to enjoy more than anything were the wagon train rides.  The wagon we borrowed magically became a train with nothing more than our imaginations, and the kids loved being pulled around in it.

The cake, though…. well, that’s another matter.  Again, thank goodness for children’s vision!  I was going to just do a plain cake and set up a train and track around it, but my friend had a cake pan that she let me use.  Okay, fine, so it was a bus… or work van…. Well, we’re not sure WHAT it was, but we knew it could be a train with a little work.  I could see it, really I could….

But somehow….

Oh well – Judah knew what it was supposed to be.  I think he knows his mother is an abstract artist.

See? He doesn't care about the shape!

A little smoky when the candles finally got blown out... because, funny story - I accidentally put these trick candles on the cake. On the plus side, all the party guests got a chance to blow out the candles.

After singing the traditional birthday song, we like to sing a song that our friends, the Rivera’s, used to sing at every birthday celebration, too: “Many happy returns on the day of your birth, many reasons for joy to be given.  And may the dear Father prepare you on earth… for that beautiful birthday in heaven!”

We are so grateful for the joy that Judah brings to us.  Our hope and prayer is that he will grow in God’s grace, favor and wisdom as he grows in stature (Luke 2:52).


7 thoughts on “Happy Birthday, Dear Judah!

  1. Love it! I’m totally going to steal some of your ideas. Funny, too–we do the birthday letter thing and we still haven’t written Maisie’s…ahem…a month and a half later?? Better late than never, right?

  2. Happy Birthday Sweet Judah! May Jesus bless you with a day filled with birthday surprises and fun. Wish we could be there to give you lots of hugs and kisses. We love you soooo much!!! We really liked all the pictures of your birthday party with your friends, and we can’t wait to see your new home. Have a fun day sweetie. We think of you and pray for you every day. Love, Grandpa and Grandma “Plane”.

  3. Happy Birthday, Judah!!! For not being Birthday Party people, very well done! What fun ideas, I am going to steal some too ;). We think of you guys often, and are glad to see you are doing well!

  4. Sounds like yall had sooo much fun. I like your week of celebrating, and love your ideas. Christie, your cake looks wonderful, I can so see the train. These are the things he will remember forever.

  5. Oh what fun! We have “The Little Red Caboose” book as well and it is definitely one of Alex’s faves! He even “reads” it to us now which absolutely melts my heart! Alex and Judah would have so much fun together playing with trains!! 🙂

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