Birthday For a 17-Year-Old Boy

by Katy on May 20, 2015 · 24 comments

Bowling shoes

Yesterday was my younger son’s 17th birthday, and as always we made a rather enormous to-do about it. Which for us means a Birthday Day of Adventures over the weekend, plus a celebration on the actual birthday.

I know it seems like I write about nothing besides birthdays lately, but that’s only because my focus has been entirely consumed by birthdays over the past week as my husband and son’s birthdays are a mere three days apart. I already wrote about what we did for my husband’s 50th birthday. (a Day of Adventures on Tuesday, plus cupcakes and home cooked steaks on his actual birthday.)

On Sunday I planned out a day of fun and frugal Day of Adventures, round two:

  • First we took our sorry selves to a nearby bowling alley for a game. I had printed out four coupons for free bowling by watching this short promotional video, which dropped the price to the cost of the shoe rental. ($16 for the four of us.) Why did I write “sorry selves?” Because not one of us can bowl for sh*t. Seriously, we’re laughably awful! The highest score any of us bowled was a 57! Still though, very fun. (Yes, we asked for bumpers, but were told they were “just for kids.” Says who?!)
  • Our second stop was to grab lunch. My son loves falafel, so I searched through Yelp to find an inexpensive joint. My research totally paid off, as the unassuming Gyro House on 82nd avenue was knock-your-socks-off amazing! We’d hit up a yummy falafel food cart last year, but the somewhat Rockefeller-esque cost was $10 apiece, so the $5 falafel at Gyro House was much more within our Wolk-Stanley-esque budget. My husband and older son ordered gyros, and I chowed down on a salad with lamb. So delicious!
  • Next up was the Asian super store Fubonn, where the kids each picked out a Pocky treat. (They both chose green tea/matcha flavors, although my older son picked the long slender box while the birthday boy grabbed the short squat ones.)
  • We then drove across to town where we sat down for Starbucks drinks. My husband buys their drip coffees while at work, and had earned two free drinks, plus had his free birthday coffee burning a hole in his pocket. The boys both ordered enormous green tea frappuccinos, and my husband indulged in an enormous caramel macchiato. I abstained, as I wasn’t in the mood for an overly sweet treat. (I did have a blog reader come up and introduce herself, which is always fun. Nice to meet you, Rachel!)
  • Our last stop was the historic Mission Theater, where a Sunday evening flick set us back just $4 apiece. We watched the Colin Firth movie The Kingsmen: Secret Service, which we all liked, although it was bizarrely inappropriate for most kids. (I had wondered why it was rated R.)
  • Our plan had been to grab slices at Escape From NY pizza, but we were still all stuffed from our lunches, so by unanimous decision we drove home to recuperate from our adventuresome lifestyle.

The day was a huge success and set us back a mere $64. For an entire long day of food and activities!

My son was completely satisfied with his birthday celebrations, (which included takeout fried chicken with family yesterday) and is set for the countdown until his eighteenth birthday. My husband did buy our son a $50 soccer jersey, but that was it. Teenage boys like to eat and do stuff. They generally don’t want things, which fits perfectly with my simple living proclivities.

I love celebrating my family’s birthdays, but am ready for a rest now. No more family birthdays until October!

What does your family do for birthdays? Please share your traditions in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

ann May 20, 2015 at 10:43 am

Today is OH’s birthday, and unfortunately he’s not well (full of flu), so we didn’t actually go anywhere. I do buy him a couple of practical presents of things that he needs and then a couple of treats such as chocolate/wine, and I cooked us a nice steak with asparagus for supper.


AnnDenee May 21, 2015 at 2:54 am

OH? Other Husband (I’m just not familiar with that particular acronym. 🙂 )


Anne May 21, 2015 at 6:43 am

I was thinking that exact same thing. I couldn’t figure it out. Does she have another one hidden in the attic? 😀


Laura May 21, 2015 at 11:42 am

Other half…


nicoleandmaggie May 20, 2015 at 10:46 am

My two year old cannot wait for her birthday– it’s the next one in the queue. Usually we bake a cake and the inlaws send lots of presents. DC2 is looking forward to cake and blowing out candles and singing and stuff.


Jessica May 20, 2015 at 10:47 am

My bowling alley now has string bumpers, so anyone can use them. If you throw the ball to hard, it knocks them over, and you get a gutter ball anyway. But if it is soft, the string bounces the ball to stay in the lane.

I think that is the reason most alleys only let kids use bumpers- if they are breakable, the force an adult throws the ball can damage them.

As a bad bowler, I appreciate bumpers. Only very rarely is the force of my ball great enough to get past the bumper into the gutter.


Mary C. May 20, 2015 at 12:01 pm

We also enjoyed Kingsmen as a silly, fun, over-the-top spy story — until the last fifteen minutes, where the director suddenly seemed to revert to a 12-year old boy’s sensibility by throwing in a running sex joke that was 1) jarringly out of place; 2) as you say, bizarrely inappropriate in a largely otherwise (older) kid-friendly movie; 3) not funny; 4) incongruent with all previous character development of both parties involved and 5) stupidly, offensively, bafflingly sexist. Ranting aside, your day sounds perfect! Experiences trump things, all day every day!


Katy May 20, 2015 at 2:33 pm

Agreed, that last plot point was offensively bad!


Laura May 21, 2015 at 11:44 am

Could not agree more! That bit was just horrid – what were they thinking?


Marilyn May 20, 2015 at 1:39 pm

It is not only teenage boys who like to eat and do stuff . Sixty-year-old women like me are that way too!


Isabelle May 20, 2015 at 2:44 pm

Sounds like a lot of fun!!


Amanda May 20, 2015 at 3:05 pm

Ours are one and four, so we haven’t really decided on a family tradition. Having a cake and inviting close family over (because they are young enough that the grandparents really want to celebrate them) has turned into me having to cook or buy lunch for ten plus people. A day of adventures sounds like much more fun.


Kim May 20, 2015 at 3:29 pm

We do home-made cake for breakfast on every birthday and dinner of choice on the actual day. We encourage experiences over stuff so the last few years the boys have requested a campout in the backyard with friends. Easy peasy – set up the tent have a few boys over, hotdogs on the grill, popcorn and a movie before bed. I scored free mini flashlights at a hardware store near us so that’s what all the boys got for middle of the night trips in to the bathroom. Otherwise I have completely given up on party favors or goodie bags. It’s usually a bunch of cheap junk that gets tossed right away.


Jeanne May 20, 2015 at 4:11 pm

I saw The Kingsmen. I determined that I was not the target audience. I enjoy a good comic book based movie as much as the next person but not even Colin Firth or Sam L. Jackson could save it for me. Your sons were probably the perfect targetaudience.


Katy May 20, 2015 at 4:52 pm

Yes they were, although my husband and enjoyed the tightly choreographed fight scenes.


K D May 21, 2015 at 5:57 am

My daughter always had a friend party. She almost always wanted them at home. In elementary school the parties always involved a theme: science, detective, Amercian Girl, arts & crafts (including painting a mural), animals (collected donations in lieu of gifts and made things for the animal shelter). In middle school the parties were pizza, movies, etc. with asking for donations to a good cause rather than gifts (local food bank, overseas military, etc.). It was a family affair preparing for and hosting the parties, especially in elementary school.


Maggie May 21, 2015 at 6:11 am

So far we have a really awful track record with birthdays. For the first two years of our marriage, my husband was deployed so we didn’t celebrate at all. The third year was my son’s first birthday, and we had some friends over for dinner. We asked them to bring non-perishable food donations instead of presents. We set up a little kiddie pool and my son ended up upending it all over himself, then crashing through our fence with it all over his head. The fourth year was my son’s second birthday, but our daughter was born the day before it and ended up in the NICU. We had dinner in the hospital cafeteria and the staff scrounged up a candle, which my son blew out, then grabbed… but it was a trick candle (which no one knew), so he got burned. Hopefully this year will be a little less catastrophic.


Linda May 22, 2015 at 6:16 am

This is the stuff of family legends, No child remembers their first and second birthdays but you will have stories to tell for years to come.


Vickie May 21, 2015 at 6:53 am

Happy Birthday to your son, sounds like a lot of fun!!

My 8 yr old granddaughter wanted a Princess Tea Party for her birthday this year, so my daughter and I bought cute teapots, cups and saucers at the Goodwill store and told the girls invited they could dress up however they wanted. Her friend lent her 2 large round tables and they bought everything else needed at the Dollar Tree – balloons & table cloths. I think those were $1 each.
They did two crafts – the stuff from those she got beforehand with Michael’s coupons over a 4 month period. Her friend brought a Wii over and the girls danced. I bought 5 pizzas from Little Ceasars – I think that cost me $30.
They had a blast and it was so much cheaper than having it somewhere else.
I think my daughter is holding on to the dishes & teapots in case the youngest one wants a similar party in the next few years. If not, she’ll just sell them.

For the grown-ups – we generally go out to eat and hubby & I have requested treats or desserts as birthday gifts. We don’t need anymore stuff.
Since my daughter is on a tight budget, we take her out to her favorite Italian restaurant, then she lets us know what she needs most. She’s a single Mom, so having us help with a “need” is much more helpful to her than just some random thing she doesn’t need or want.
For my teenage grandson, we get his favorite food, have cake and then he gets to choose a friend or two to go and play Laser-Tag with. He’s a gamer, so he’s easy to buy for – I take him over to get a used game or two – which is discounted with his GameStop rewards card.

We’ve worked out a good system w/o all the elaborate and expensive parties and everyone seems pretty content with it.


Carla May 21, 2015 at 10:29 am

We love birthdays at ours!

We always celebrate the day of at home, with close family if they’are around, by having a home made dinner of choice by the birthday-er, and I’ve been suprised with their frugal and comfort food choices: this year the 4 yr old chose spaghetti and meatballs and carrot sticks, the 9 yr old chose rice &beans and zucchini and the 7 yr old is yet to come, but I’m guessing it’ll involve corn on the cob. They also get a cake with their choice of flavour and frosting that I make. I’m sneaky though so if they ask for chocolate cake they get it but it’s butternut squash or zucchini chocolate cake which is delicious. 🙂

On the day of (if it’s a school day) or a nearby day, we also bring in cupcakes to share with classmates, which we make at home.

And if they like, we do a party with their friends. In our previous home, they got to invite the same number of friends as they were turning, but where we live now the custom is to invite the whole family and family friends. So, these parties can be bit large, but we go on because it is a social event in a place where there’s not much to do, to keep in touch with friends and it’s how it is. We keep it lower-key by doing it all homemade too, I make the guacamole and tapenade and the cake. We do either simple lootbags with pens and mini-notebooks or for the 4-yr old’s party we had a superhero theme and I sewed capes and masks for each kid and that was the ‘goody bag’. It was a lot of fun! We do pinatas and fill them up with the candy the kids have picked up at other pinatas, so we don’t have to buy extra candy. ha!

Grown-ups also get birthday dinner and cake of choice. For me though my tradition is to go for a walk in the woods, take that over any party! and if it’s a workday I take the day off. It’s my gift to my self (“Self: it’s your birthday, take the day off!”)


Jill May 23, 2015 at 7:40 am

When my kids lived at home they picked a homemade meal and their favorite dessert as did my husband. My sister-in-law and I are a coupla weeks apart – our birthdays usually fall somewhere around Labor Day weekend so they always come to our house for a weekend of laziness and a big adventure to a restaurant we have never been to.
And my daughter is a Pocky girl – she always gets some in her Christmas stocking.


Katy May 24, 2015 at 9:54 am

Pocky is the best! When I went to Japan a few years ago, I bought one of every flavor I could find as a gift for my older son.


Hydra May 25, 2015 at 6:38 pm

Happy birthday to your son. But I really wanted to write to thank you for telling me that there’s a Gyro House on 82nd Ave. Their gyros are the best, and I’ve been driving out to Hillsboro for them. They’re worth the drive, but 82nd is closer!

PS: your yelp link seems to go to the wrong place though (it’s going to a cart downtown).


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