Before I had four children and before we had a birthday roll around what seems like every couple months, I used to plan big, elaborate birthday parties for my kids. But as the years have gone by, and as the children have multiplied and our bank account has not, I've learned to focus on what's really necessary for a "happy birthday".
For us, it boils down to three things: food, family, and a present or two.
So when it came time to plan for Tom's 4th birthday party, that's what we did, plus a few balloons and some party hats. There was no theme or theme related activities. I just put some sidewalk chalk and bubbles and balls and bats out on the porch, and the kids entertained themselves while the grandmas and grandpas and aunts and uncles chewed the fat.
And as for food, there were no cleverly labeled, Pinterest-inspired snacks. Tom requested two things: chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. Another thing I learned several birthdays ago is not to try and make a cake on party day. When I started buying rather than baking birthday cakes, my life improved exponentially. So I ran by the store and grabbed a cake and ice cream, making all of Tom's birthday dreams come true. And let it be said, as far as vanilla ice cream is concerned, we Carpenters are partial to Yarnell's Homemade Vanilla. Yarnell's was created by the Yarnell family in the 1930's right here in our little home town! So I always feel like we're getting to enjoy a piece of our local history when we treat ourselves. Which is probably more often than we should ;)
And then of course the kids did what kids do and got as close as possible to Tom as he opened presents. I still do not understand why they feel they must get soooooo close. But they do. And they did.
And at the end of the evening, Tom was happy and filthy and asking to do it all over again, and I was also happy and didn't feel like crawling in bed and crying from all the stress. I'd call that a birthday party success. Keep it simple, keep your sanity.