blowing out candles on birthday cake

Ms. HalfEmpty blows out the candles on her double-batch carrot cake. Sorry if you’re blinded by all the candles; her age is accelerating rapidly.

September is a busy month of birthdays in my family. I start out the season with my birthday, followed by my older brother’s, and then Mr. HalfFull’s at the end of the month. After that, we have three more fall birthdays. Thus, September starts the season of cake!

Traditionally, my dad is the baker of all birthday cakes. You can choose your cake flavor, but he only makes one size — double batch. According to him, if a single cake is good, a double cake must be even better.

So no matter how many people come over to celebrate a birthday, there is always leftover cake. That would be amazing if we didn’t have a new birthday every week. But everyone gets their own double batch cake. It’s just so much cake!

birthday cake for 8,353rd birthday

Sister-in-law takes in the view of her 8,353rd birthday cake decorated by niece and nephew.

Age is Just a Number, Especially on a Cake

Over the summer, we celebrated my sister-in-law’s birthday. She was in town, so of course my dad made her a double cake. Our niece and nephew were very excited to decorate the cake for their aunt.

Due to their zeal with the candles, the cake ended up marking her 8,353rd birthday! Doesn’t she look great for her age???

Gift Giving

Not only do birthdays involve cake, they also tend to come with gifts. Sometimes presents tell us more about the giver than the recipient.

Mr. HalfFull says that I’m a very thoughtful and almost telepathic gift giver. I listen to what people say throughout the year and write notes when they mention items that could make a good gift. The only problem with this strategy is if they end up buying it for themselves before I do!

birthday gift

My mom forgot the H in birthday. Mom, don’t you know that consonants are free?

The Wish List

In recent years, my mom has been asking me for a list of things I would like for my birthday or Christmas. The first time this happened, I thought she would pick a few items that appealed to her.

But no. She basically treated it as a scavenger hunt; she tried to buy ALL THE THINGS!!!

Plus, she even apologized when she wasn’t able to find a few things on the list. So now when she asks for a list, I make sure to say that they are just suggestions for her to pick something, and under no circumstances should she try to treat it as a grocery list.

birthday card

Ms. HalfEmpty’s yearly birthday card envelope from her parents 2005-2013.

The Reappearing Card

My parents have given me the same birthday card since 2005. Apparently, it’s the perfect card to communicate everything they want to say. One year, my dad actually bought me a new card, but ended up buying the exact same card! So I had two of the perfect card that year.

Since that point, my mom has just decorated the envelope with a new sticker to mark the year and written the year inside the card. This year, she already added a comma after 2013 inside, so I have a feeling she’s planning to give me the same card next year as well. Way to let out the surprise, Mom!

Each year when I open the card, my dad asks me to read it aloud. So this year, I added a few embellishments to make it a little more humorous. After each line that didn’t quite have enough Hallmark sap, my mom would remark that she didn’t think the card actually said that.

At this point, I don’t even take the card home with me. I just put it back in the envelope and return it to my mom in preparation for next year’s grand unveiling.

What to Buy Your Wife

This year, Mr. HalfFull gave me Stridex Acne Pads for my birthday…in a gift bag. So what does that say about him? Perhaps that he wants a wife with clearer skin.

In all fairness, that was just his gag gift. He went grocery shopping early on the morning of my birthday and put all the items I wrote on the grocery list in a gift bag to be funny. His actual gift to me was a spa day, so I’m going to keep him.

Is it for Me or for You?

I’m not sure what I think of lingerie as a present for her. Isn’t that really more of a gift for him?

Mr. HalfFull’s favorite NFL team is the San Diego Chargers, so he has given me Super Chargers undies on multiple occasions. I have no special affinity for the Chargers and a general disdain for football. So I’m not sure that gift really was for me. Sure, I’ll wear them, but they are in the rotation just like any other pair.

Lindy Hop

Ms. HalfEmpty’s Lindy Hop days in college. No, I didn’t go to college before color photography!

On the other end of the spectrum, one of the items on my wish list could be considered a gift for Mr. HalfFull in the same way that lingerie is a gift for her. During high school and college, I was an avid Lindy Hopper. Mr. HalfFull doesn’t have the same dance experience, so one of my wish list items is Lindy Hop lessons for him.

Some wishes are destined to be unfulfilled, and this may be one of them. But at least it’s on my list!

As a child, Mr. HalfFull did not appreciate the proximity of the start of school to his birthday. Every year, his parents would give him the useful, but not very exciting gift of a backpack. Perhaps his parents were just checking an item off their back-to-school list.

The Underlying Gift Message

If everyone gifts you alcohol, does that mean you’re an alcoholic (or edging closer)? Fortunately, I don’t have to worry about this since I only got one gift of alcohol this year. Whew!

What to Do with Terrible Gifts

Sometimes we all receive gifts that we find unappealing. I generally give the item away (or give it back if it’s from my mom because she won’t be offended). But I know people who keep a closet of dud gifts that they feel obligated to pull out and prominently display whenever the giver visits.

More Cake to Come

By the way, I did have more cake over the weekend. I had a slice of my leftover carrot birthday cake on Saturday afternoon (as I’ve done every day since my birthday), a slice of my brother’s chocolate cake at his party that night, and two mini cupcakes on Sunday (there were two flavors, so I had to try both). The season of cake is in full swing!

  • What are your birthday traditions? 
  • What’s your gift buying strategy?
  • Is lingerie a gift for her or him?
  • Do you keep gifts you don’t like?

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she’s trying to see the world half full on, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!