bday featured

Happy Everyone’s Pretend Birthday Party

I started to write this post with a relevant quote from one of my favorite books, Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays, and remembered as I always do when I read that book, about how I discovered it and the little lesson that came with it.

When Bloom came out, I was asked to write an essay for NPR’s All Things Considered. I completely geeked out but quickly reminded myself not to write anything like “geeked out” because this was NPR for Pete’s Sake! I also told myself “don’t be sentimental, don’t be cute, don’t be sweet, don’t be, don’t be, don’t be”…because this was NPR for Pete’s sake! So I wrote an essay and scanned it over once, twice, three times with my “not too sentimental” detector. I checked for solid sentence structure, balanced simple sentences with complex ones and provided good solid information about Down syndrome that sadly drowned out my own voice. “This is very NPR-ish,” I thought. Satisfied with myself, I sent it on to my publicist who forwarded it to the All Things Considered producer. And do you know what she wrote back?

“I don’t want NPR. I want you.”

She called me out. I tried to write something that would fit, something I thought they wanted instead of writing my story, and in doing so lost everything I wanted to say. And I knew it. “Write it again,” she asked. So I did. I wrote from my heart, unplugging the “make it fit” filter, letting every drip of my feelings fall where they may on the screen. I sent it in and walked away from my computer. Later, I found these words from my publicist. “THIS. This is what they want. Your voice. They love it, they’re running it and they want you to record it.”

After it aired (here), the producer and I wrote back and forth for a while, recommending our favorite children’s books. She introduced me to Mrs. Muddle who has since become my spirit animal, and every time I read it, I think about the little story that came with her introduction.

Someday, I’ll hang a cross stitch hoop art on my wall with threads in every color. It will say: “Don’t be NPR. Be you.”


From the afterward of Mrs. Muddle’s Holidays:

There are more holidays on the calendar than any one person could ever observe. But everyone needs something to celebrate and people to celebrate with. Sometimes the most wonderful occasions are the ones people make for themselves–the birthday party, the family trip, or the neighborhood picnic that becomes bigger and better every year until it becomes a tradition. Mrs. Muddle’s holidays are this kind. She is celebrating her favorite things–April showers, the beginning of summer, the first snow. But she is really celebrating friends, community, and love.”
~Laura Nielsen

So Everyone’s Pretend Birthday Party came to be.

Several months ago, at one of our little friend’s birthday celebrations, he said, “I wish it could be everyone’s birthday one day”–on his own birthday, because he has a big tender teddy bear heart and likes to share everything–even birthdays. I pulled out my phone and told him to pick a day–any day. He scrolled through and randomly chose a day in September, a day we all forgot about until last week my phone dinged with a one-week reminder for “Everyone’s Pretend Birthday Party.”

We bought the necessities–hats, balloons and cake–and Lainey decorated signs and hung them around the house. What followed was such a memorable evening of friendship–a birthday for the books.

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I made a big pot of chili for the main dish to keep things easy, but the kids each chose their favorite side dish. The result was a delicious hodgepodge buffet: mac & cheese, pomegranate seeds, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and gravy, and yogurt. Cohesive menu, eh?

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My favorite part? During dinner, we each chose someone at the table to make up a birth story for and told it aloud: “You were 1,000 pounds when you were born. Your mom was an alien, and she wrapped you in a giant blanket. You cried all night but she couldn’t hold you because you were too big. She named you Regina Poopy. You were cute.”

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We decorated birthday head versions of ourselves with balloons, hats, markers, yarn and glue.

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Nella’s KILLS me: third from left. So abstract. So perfect.

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Lainey insisted that the original version of the Happy Birthday song wouldn’t work because it’s intended for one person, so she rewrote a celebrates-all version. Her friend Ryan, the musical genius, picked right up on it and played backup ukulele.

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The kids each brought a dollar store gift because tiny treasures make the world go round.

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And they built giant marshmallow skyscrapers because, coincidentally, September 3rd is also National Skyscraper Day–no joke.

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The evening ended with all the kids huddled on the floor, decorating the World’s Biggest Birthday Card–hand prints, scribbles, art work and sweet messages. When we finally hugged goodbye and kids trudged off to bed with sleepy smiles, I felt all the Mrs. Muddle feels. It may have looked like a birthday with cake crumbs and deserted hats and balloons floating away by the end of the evening.  “But she is really celebrating friends, community, and love.”

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Don’t be Mrs. Muddle though. And don’t be NPR. Be you.

(oh, and pssst…happy belated birthday to all of you! So glad you were born.)


Leave a Comment
  1. amazing. you are one amazing person and this warmed my heart!

  2. I love that your everyone’s pretend birthday party was on Sept 3rd – my actual birthday! 🎈💥🎉🎂

  3. What a beautiful idea! I love that this took place and exists – even though I know an everyone’s birthday party won’t happen here – I can hear the whispers of other celebrations – Now I am off to find this Mrs. Muddle and fall in love!

  4. I had a friend growing up and it was a large famiky of 6 or 7 kids. So the birthday person was inoy allowed to invite ine friend.i was that friend a few times.the best part was everyone got sung to and the candles were relite everytime. So everyone got to blow out candles. I thought it was the best thing ever. Even tough i had a party for me every year and i could invite whoever i wanted. My friends birthday celebragion was by far more fun.

  5. This was *magical.* I wish that I had been there!

  6. Great post once again!! Where did you get that cake candelabra?

  7. Oh this is just GORGEOUS! What a beautiful celebration!

  8. I *absolutely* love this! I’ve been following your blog for ages now, I think I stumbled across it while I was pregnant with my son. I fell even deeper in love with your stories when I read that my son and Dash were born on the exact same day – though, a world apart, we live in New Zealand. Anyhow, almost everyone we know in our community we met through our antenatal classes.

    As a result, all our friends have bubs who have been born in the same 12-week span. We’ve taken to hosting “everyone’s birthday party” for the past two years and are actively planning party #3 for February. It’s been an amazing way to do the kiddos’ parties because we all get to celebrate these lives, together.

    The party is such fun, as everyone plays and reminisces with the other families, and of course it gives us the perfect excuse to get together and simply celebrate – the little ones at the center of the party, new lives beginning (as 2nd babies are now here, for some), the fellowship of a community that has shared so many experiences (pregnancy, birth, growth), and overall – love from and for a group of people that make our lives so much better.

  9. I. LOVE. THIS! When I have a family of my own, I want to do something like this! I love the idea and the message it sends. The pictures are adorable, by the way. And I love that Lainey made up a new birthday song! So many happy feels over here (:

    Thank you!

  10. Anne lightner says:

    seriously? you rock!!! love!

  11. Sounds like such a fun and magical time 😊 and you had it on my birthday 🎂

  12. This happened to fall on the day of my actual birthday – I love the idea of sharing a birthday with everyone!! I will definitely think of this on birthdays to come. This was such a great idea and I can only imagine all the fun you and your guests had – well done!

  13. How sweet. Love the little candelabra on top your cake…. and the cake looks soooo good. :)

  14. We can barely carve out enough time for everyone’s real birthday celebrations, never mind an Everyone’s Pretend Birthday Party. Imagine that!

  15. I don’t think I’ve ever read a post was literally heartwarming as this one! I adore it. So sweet. (And will be sharing with my sister, who is a gigantic fan of the holidays you create yourself!)

  16. this made me feel all warm and happy inside! i am such a lover of ordinary days that i’m not a fan of holidays or birthdays so much. but i am an admirer of how you rock them out!!
    way to go kelle, you specialize in the special!!!

  17. Loved this SO MUCH!

  18. stephanie Wilson says:

    You are a wonderfully creative mama! Love this so much!

  19. You are blessed to have the extra time to make this happen. I consider it accomplishment to make the real birthdays happen in time.

  20. Birthday for All!! The best kind!! Not sure if you are familiar with Sibshops? But one of our favorite themes is…. birthday!!! What a great and wonderful way to celebrate siblings, children, and all the amazing things THEY do all the same day!!!! So fun!!!

  21. So sweet (and what gorgeous pictures!). I remember my parents doing something like this for us when we were kids. It wasn’t an annual thing, but it was still special, and one of my favorite memories.

  22. Amazing. Love this SO, SO MUCH! My kids would go bonkers for this kind of random fun. Any excuse for a party! Totally inspired. By Mrs. Muddle and, as ALWAYS – by you!!
    (PS – I am also a huge NPR nerd.)

  23. Ann Whitbeck says:

    Awesome! Any ideas for making an birthday awesome tradition for a kid born on Christmas Day? Or born on any holiday?

  24. What a fun story! I love the idea of made-up birth stories. I mean, what’s a better story than being a 1000 pound baby birthed by an alien?

  25. This is the cutest thing ever! We do monthly birthday celebrations in our family and it is always more fun to celebrate your birthday right along with someone else.

  26. Fantastic pictures! What do you think about interactive toys? Do you think that plush nanny like iHippo can be a huge success? :)

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