We celebrated my son’s birthday last week. I made him a blueberry pie (his request) using some cans of blueberry pie filling a friend picked up when Fresh N Easy closed down near us (She called me to ask if the prices were good prices, and then on her way home she dropped off some of what she got to me!)

His sister decorated the house with purple decorations (purple has been his favorite color after reading about how purple was made from seashells and that it was for royalty in The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: The Middle Ages: From the Fall of Rome to the Rise of the Renaissance. I found the circle idea on Pinterest and my daughter cut out the foil circles and sewed them together on my sewing machine.

I gave him the gifts you see above: a Cub Scout Bear hat, scarf, and slide that a friend sent to me after her boys were done with it, 4 used books that I bought at the library book sale in January for .25 each (he had read 3 of them before and I knew that he liked them), 4 London bookmarks that I made ( a free printable for these will be available soon on my site), a new-looking shirt from a garage sale (.50),

nine chocolate frogs that I made using this frog mold, and chocolate that I bought 19 months ago at Sam’s Club, an MP3 song that I got for free from Amazon with a free mp3 credit, and the gift that you see in the envelope.

The envelope holds the most important gift. I could have given him nothing else, and the gift in the envelope would have been enough.

What children really want is our time. The envelope contained the promise of time with mom:

Four cooking lessons and four dates with mom. My son wants to learn to cook, and he also wants to spend time with me.

Last Christmas I learned an important lesson. The best gift I gave was a subway-art style bookmark that had 10 things I love about each child on it. My 6-year-old could not read it, but he had me read it to him. He cried when I read it. He gave me a big hug. He asked me to reread it to him every day that week.

My husband gave the children 2 coupons, each good for a date with dad. The children have loved these dates with dad.

The dates don’t have to be expensive, and you don’t even have to leave the house.

Some of the things he has done with the children:

Stay up late (after the other children are in bed) and play a game with dad. We have several board games already, so this doesn’t cost anything out of pocket.

Work on a project together.

Go to the library together.

I don’t know what dates my son will pick to do for our dates, but I know that this is what he really wanted.

More than that, it’s what he needs. It’s what they all need.

I’ve made the gift I gave him available as a free printable on the website here, so you can make your own for any upcoming birthdays you have.

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  1. So well said! Thank you!I used to get cake when I had asked for pie or cheesecake. I once said “anything but coconut”–and my mom made a fluffy-looking bunny cake covered in coconut. We don’t have to have a traditional cake. I make sure to find out what kind of dessert the child wants!

  2. May I ask where he is doing his online studies? I have 2 sons in this field, are taking classes at the local college but aren’t learning enough usable skills.

  3. This is how we like to celebrate birthday’s as well. What a beautiful birthday party! The most important thing we truly can give any child is love. It’s so sad to see and hear of adults who had wealth and material items but never love and time from their parents. I’ll be posting many ideas soon of having frugal & fun birthday parties simply. Hope you have a sweet summer day~ Mrs.Clark

  4. That reminds me of what my grandma told me when my first child was born. She told me that it doesn’t take a lot of money or material things to raise a child that really all it takes is your time and love. She is a very wise woman, by the time she was 25 she had gave birth to 8 children. And was very poor but her children (my mother) have told me that they never realized they were poor until they got out of school. To me that is amazing! I think my generation (I am 35) really needs to look at the older generation more. Oh, and we learn another of your children’s name! That actually is a name I had picked out for my son. God Bless and I think more of these type of posts would be great!

  5. I just noticed that the pie says “Happy Birthday” 🙂 We don’t have children yet, but we have already talked about keeping it “simple”. And you’re right, time is what children really want. I wish we could all go back to a more simpler time, so many people are trying to fill their world with stuff instead of memories.

  6. This is such a WONDERFUL post! Birthdays and holidays are such a struggle for me. My parents were raised by people who had lived through the Great Depression at young ages and were scared most of their lives to spend ANY money on anything but the most basic necessities of life. They were just afraid to go hungry or cold or without clothing again. Because of that, my parents tended to spend quite a bit of money on those things that they had not been able to have as children for myself and my sisters. They “over corrected” for the way they had been brought up. When I began having children, I suddenly felt that pull to go overboard on every little thing. Every holiday was celebrated in a huge, commercial, materialistic way. I mean, I spent almost $150 for my first daughter’s birthday almost four years ago. I cringe from the depths of my gut all the way up to my chest just thinking about that. $150 on a birthday? I cry with my face on the living room floor, full of gratitude, when I have that much in a month to buy groceries now!!! I’ve learned a lot since then, thanks to people and sites like yours Brandy. This year we put a $15 limit on birthdays- and that’s for everything. My first daughter’s birthday is coming up in September. She’s already talking to me about wanting a “cake” that looks like the one on your website! (She was distressed a few days ago, asking me, “How are you going to get yellow roses like that for my birthday when you don’t grow roses?” I told her God would provide us with other flowers from what I do grow or from the open field behind our house.) She said, “I’m so glad we’re not getting a cake from the store this year. I’d rather help you make my cake!” I’m definitely printing out the coupons as the largest part of her gift this year! Thank you for such a lovely reminder of what truly is important. -Danielle B

  7. Hello Glenda,I am in Australia so not sure if this is going to help but he is doing his degree (Bachelor of Technology Computer Studies) via the Open Universities of Australia. It’s exactly the same degree that you would undertake if you attended the bricks and mortar university. I’m guessing you are in the States so don’t know if you have anything that is comparable. The flexibility of the Open Uni has been great. If one semester you don’t have time to complete the unit you can take that one off and take as long as you want. He began his degree at 16 and has been able to choose units from different universities which all count towards his degree. He stepped out and started his own web design business a few years ago and has been able to combine work and study thanks to being able to do it all online.

  8. Brandy-Beautiful post! And it is what they need. James Dobson once said; “How do kids spell love? T-I-M-E!”My kids LOVE to talk to me. I’ve been slacking on blogging and FB lately because one of them has needed me very much. Funny thing is- he didn’t KNOW how much he needed me- but he DOES know that he feels better when mom shows she cares for him…through T-I-M-E and allowing him to talk. You’re being very wise to create this while they’re young. They need you MORE on this level when they’re teens… especially when they begin to find out that STUFF doesn’t do for them what little talks with mom can ;-)GREAT POST!

  9. Great birthday for your son! My dh had 3 children when we married and a birthday date with Dad was their birthday present every year. They got to choose what to do.I have a question, Brandy, that has nothing to do with the post. It is about your oil usage. You mention storing a gallon of oil per month. What things do you cook that use large amounts of oil? I could never use that amount of oil unless I was deep frying alot of things. I am curious what you are making.

  10. Do you buy bread or make bread? Most muffin recipes call for oil (about 1/2 cup each batch). My family eats a whole batch for breakfast. Some call for melted butter in the same amount; oil is much cheaper than melted butter, so you can substitute oil. Waffles take a little oil. Stir fry takes 2 tablespoons of oil. Pizza dough takes a little oil (1/4 cup). My husband fried potatoes a lot for breakfast, but he uses a very minimal amount and turns the potatoes (he does not deep fry them). He also reuses the oil (that may sound weird, but when I worked fast food as a teenager, we only added more oil in the fry vat; we NEVER emptied it!) We will use that same oil (again, a minimal amount; you can turn things rather than deep frying to save on oil) to make taco shells. After making taco shells we do toss the oil. I don’t deep fry anything. I wil make fried zucchini, but never deep fried. I use just about 1/4″ of oil in the pan and turn the zucchini. That oil is always tossed afterwards. It is NOT necessary to deep fry them.We make popcorn usually 3-4 times a month; that is 2 tbsp per batch.If you make cake, you will use more oil. Some whole wheat bread recipes call for oil. If you use one of those you are going to need a lot more oil than 1 gallon per month.Once I started living on our food storage, my oil usage went WAY up. I know several other families who have experienced the same thing. Cooking from scratch, and especially any baked goods, uses more oil.

  11. What a wonderful birthdays for him. Our children will remember the time we invested in them more than anything else. No matter how nice a gift they won’t remember those! They will remember how mom loved them and how she wanted to spend time with them. What a blessing your son received for his birthday. Lovely post!Joy

  12. Usually we just have water, but sometimes I will make a juice blend for a party(home-canned peach nectar with water and sometimes another juice), or lemonade with some extra citrus fruits added in. I don’t buy soda for parties. I’d rather have something refreshing.

  13. What a wonderful post. My daughter just turned five. We spent $10 on Hello Kitty lip gloss and mirror for her. Her seven year old sister wrote her a book. It is a story about her being a mermaid. We only invited a few family members and close friends over. I made cupcakes, ice tea, lemonade and bought some ice cream.

  14. Hi!Your birthday party for your son looks great and the party was what he wanted so simple but meaningful to him. My daughter for her birthday wanted a cookie cake and instead of gifts she wanted the money donated to a charity in town.Pat

  15. This is so sweet and such an encouragement as I prepare for my daughters’ upcoming birthdays. I’m all about experience gifts, and I’m so glad for the reminder that my kids will be blessed by them too. Your subway art style bookmark is a great idea as well; I’d love to learn more details about how you made it!

  16. I’ll also curious about those bookmarks. Could you please share more about those? All of my kids are readers & I’d love to give them something like that. What a unique gift for any age!! (Mine are now 28, 26, 21, 16 & 14.)

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