I may be hopelessly sentimental but that's what birthdays are for

Dolly turned ten this past Sunday.

We have called Brienne Dolly since she was a baby. She was our doll, our last baby, and the name stuck. We know a Dolly, she's a sweet woman in her seventies. I wonder if Brienne will stay Dolly as she grows or if that will just be a family pet name like my nickname Tootsie.

My dad, and rarely my mom, are the only people who call me that now and there is something special about having a term of endearment that only your parents use. Like I am still a child. Cared for. Precious.

Dolly's birthday started with breakfast waffles served on the fanciest plate we own. (In truth, her birthday started weeks in advance with crafting, sewing, and sourcing gifts, but that comes later in the post).

There's a story to that plate. I may have shared this story before, but I'll tell it again.

When I was engaged to Damien I had a tea party themed bridal shower with my wedding attendants and all the women in my family, essentially the same people, except for my maid of honor who is still a friend to this day. Not all the women in my family and Damien's of course, or that would be the size of a wedding itself, but the close aunties and cousins that lived locally or within a few hours drive.

In those days I drank tea from tea cups. (Since then I've moved to a mugs and now I have one mug for everything, even wine.) So I asked each woman to bring, as a gift, a tea cup and saucer from her collection or a find from a thrift store.

For over a decade, I toted those tea cups around continental North America as we moved from Alberta to New Jersey and then to Maine. Before we left Maine to return to Canada I let myself depart with the cups I wasn't most attached to. I hope my bridesmaids and aunties can forgive me.

Before downsizing my collection, I let the kids each pick a favorite cup to keep. The antiques, those pieces from my grandmothers and great-grandmother, I also kept.

I am somewhat of a minimalist but I have a sentimental streak and treasures from my grandmothers are precious to me. A few tea cups sit in the cupboard and are brought out for special celebrations (a past birthday of Brienne's). And I have found simple, everyday ways to display and use the most beautiful sets.

At that bridal tea party, so many years ago, my mother-in-law gave me a plate from her wedding set. That plate has become the plate of honor in our home. We use it only for birthdays and sometimes Christmas. Birthday waffles just wouldn't be the same if they weren't served on this plate.

The white tablecloth was a wedding gift from my paternal grandmother. It is the nicest tablecloth I own and because we only use it four or five times a year it remains in excellent condition even after 16 years of marriage. And no, I don't iron it.

The embroidered linen tablecloth from my maternal grandmother, smaller than the large white one, no longer hangs on our wall and so it too adorns our birthday celebrations.

These heirlooms are the backdrop for our special days. The kids are just as intent, if not more so, on keeping these traditions.

I love this part of having older kids. I'm not the only one responsible for memory making. They delight in late night decorating for the birthday sibling and in keeping traditions that make our family birthdays special.

They also delight in making each other toys and gifts. And Dolly's tenth birthday celebration was no different.

Laurent gifted Brienne a farmer's house and daughter (complete with stained apron) for her medieval people collection. Apparently she already has a farmer and I guess he needs a daughter and a dwelling.

A pocket pixie-ish (that pattern has served us well) cat doll was created by Céline, inspired from a fantasy video game Céline likes to read about. The character Lyre from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, if you want to know. That is where my knowledge of the subject ends.

Céline designed both the doll and the accompanying card. Who needs a store with Céline around!

Brienne was also gifted a Nana and Papa-made princess canopy for her bed. The only item on her birthday wish list.

When my mom couldn't find one she decided to make it. My dad, the builder, helped with the construction and "installation" instructions.

After presents there was a Tinkerbell movie, nail painting, snow play, Skype and cake decorating. A family of six, we are getting to know, came for supper - baked potatoes and all the toppings. A lot of kids, a lot of fun.

Birthdays are special. In our home, they're not big kid-party affairs anymore with goodie bags and games. I did those for a few years and I'm happy to be done. But they're just as special, probably more so.

The meaning comes from celebrating each other and speaking love in word and deed over the birthday boy or girl. In staying connected to our past with favorite heirlooms; talking with loved ones, if only on Skype. And of course, in eating lots of special foods.

Renee Tougas participates in affiliate marketing, including the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Whenever you buy something on Amazon from a link you clicked here, I get a (very) small percentage of that sale. See disclosure for further explanation.

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  • Jill Foley

    Jill Foley on Nov. 29, 2012, 2:22 a.m.

    I love how you celebrate birthdays - simple and meaningful! This is what we try to do every year with our girls. I just showed my girls these homemade gifts because my oldest was creating things out of cardboard today for her favorite stuffed animal (and making him a cape out of paper).


  • Lori

    Lori on Nov. 29, 2012, 4:23 a.m.

    I love this peek into your daughter's birthday celebration, especially since my boys are turning 8 tomorrow, and I'm feeling a bit sentimental myself! I just told them the story of what I was doing 8 years ago, while waiting for them to arrive. In our earlier days I created elaborate birthday celebrations that I enjoyed and was proud of. We've simply evolved to something different now, partly because of moving away from all the familiar people and traditions. I do like the quiet celebrations. I love Brienne's canopy. What a special gift.


  • paulafrombelgium

    paulafrombelgium on Nov. 29, 2012, 10:11 a.m.

    Just wonderfull!! The gifts are amazing, and I agree with you; Celine's creations are beautifull, and inspiring me and my 12 year old girl. Congratulations to Brienne!


  • Sarah

    Sarah on Nov. 29, 2012, 10:33 a.m.

    We have a Christmas plate that has only ever been used to hold Santas cookies. Last year I discovered how precious it is to the girls when I overheard them discussing who might inherit it :)

    We have a very special birthday board we use. http://maymomvt.blogspot.com/2009/02/birthday-board.html

    Ps. We liked both Sackville and Wolfville but St. Thomas and Acadia were the two favorite schools. I am hoping she goes to Acadia (and I think she does too).


  • Susan

    Susan on Nov. 29, 2012, 12:27 p.m.

    We too have a special birthday plate. My 11 year old remained me to get it out for his birthday two weeks ago. We had a simple celebration . Dinner at the local burger shop where they list what local farm your food comes from. Then home for cake and candles.


  • Karen

    Karen on Nov. 29, 2012, 1:09 p.m.

    LOVE this post - everything. Your Dad is going to be delighted about his shop drawing being included. He's such a creative guy xoxo It's exciting to see how the collective creative genes/seeds passed on to your family are multiplying into such satisfying and beautiful fruit. Happy birthday wishes Brienne.


  • Leanne

    Leanne on Nov. 29, 2012, 3:34 p.m.

    I LOVE all the homemade gifts...so priceless, and Briennes smile! I also like your idea of the "special plate" for birthdays and such. Truely a great post :)


  • Kristina

    Kristina on Nov. 29, 2012, 3:44 p.m.

    What a delightful, magical birthday for Brienne! I love how your family creates such beautiful gifts for each other....what a lovely way to show their love for each other. Such a wonderful post!


  • amy

    amy on Nov. 30, 2012, 1:29 a.m.

    What a dear, precious post. Thank you for sharing your celebrations with us. Celine's face as she watches her little sister open and see her birthday gift for the first time- something she made and some thing so personal and filled with love- is priceless :)


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