Our twins turn 5 years old today. It feels like a big milestone – one step closer to being full-fledged big kids, yet still with a foot in the little kid world.

I often find myself marveling at their suddenly long legs, new vocabulary and thoughtful commentary on the world around them. It’s bittersweet of course, but mostly it’s a delight to watch them grow more and more into themselves every day. It’s definitely something worth celebrating.

This year our kids were a lot more aware of the whole birthday thing and have been getting excited for their big day. We’ve already been to three whole-class birthday parties this month. Now it’s our turn…

Our last two birthday parties were low-key DIY affairs, held at our house in Dili, East Timor. With no party stores to speak of, I spent weeks sourcing supplies – procuring goody bag contents, decoration-making materials, cake ingredients, and creative birthday presents from every corner of the city.

I became a pro at finding hidden treasures in unexpected (and often dusty) places – from back corner display cases to tin-roofed roadside stalls. I stayed up late with my glue gun and got up early to bake. Armed with a great no-melt frosting recipe (essential in the tropics), I was ready to go.

One year, I was worried about the start of the rainy season and rigged up some tarps to be on the safe side. Just as we started the scavenger hunt, as if on cue, the skies opened up and the rain bucketed down in torrents. Parents took turns pushing the water out of the makeshift roof with a broom as kids biked, danced and laughed in the warm downpour. “This was the best party ever”, said one small friend, as he headed home in his underwear.

In Jakarta, things are very different and party planning is a big deal. Although we’ve been to a number of simple celebrations at home, we’ve also participated in the full-on Jakarta party experience – often involving hired venues and entertainment, incredible food spreads (with adult and children’s buffets) and personalized gifts for every partygoer (lunch boxes, towels, bags, etc.).

Here, the possibilities are endless. Party organizing companies offer magic shows, acrobats, face painting, snow machines, dog shows, professional MCs, sound systems, fancy backdrops, chocolate fountains, challenge courses, mini rides, carnival games, art projects, and much more.

And the cost can be hefty – I came across one deluxe package with a price tag of over $2000!

It’s hard to compete with such a dizzying array of party options, so I prefer to stay true to my homemade sensibilities and do most things myself. Once again I find myself trailing around a new city doing party recon…pricing paper goods, checking out the baking aisles, and printing invitations. But, it came together and I’m genuinely excited to celebrate with new friends and neighbors this weekend.

According to my son, “the best part about our birthday party will be having our friends play at our house.” It’s a good reminder of what’s important.

For their actual birthday, we’re planning a quiet celebration at home after school – a trip to the playground, dinner, cake and presents mailed from around the world. I will take some time to reflect on each of them in writing, something I like to do each year. Beyond that, we haven’t created any special birthday traditions in our family yet, but I would love to introduce something fun, especially since our kids share their big day.

What are typical birthday celebrations like where you live? Do you have any special family traditions?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour in Indonesia. Shaula can also be found on her blog, Notes From a Small World.

Photo credit to Andrew Eick. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Shaula Bellour (Indonesia)

Shaula Bellour grew up in Redmond, Washington. She now lives in Jakarta, Indonesia with her British husband and 9-year old boy/girl twins. She has degrees in International Relations and Gender and Development and works as a consultant for the UN and non-governmental organizations. Shaula has lived and worked in the US, France, England, Kenya, Eritrea, Kosovo, Lebanon and Timor-Leste. She began writing for World Moms Network in 2010. She plans to eventually find her way back to the Pacific Northwest one day, but until then she’s enjoying living in the big wide world with her family.

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