My large family is great, but all those birthdays ...

2013-04-18T00:00:00Z My large family is great, but all those birthdays ...Opinion by Sarah McKeown Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Being part of a large family is reason enough to celebrate - and with up to four birthdays every month to mark, we are quite the party people.

While I consider it a blessing to have such a big family, the more people you involve, the more challenging it is to agree on a common time. With everybody's busy schedules - school, work, play dates and appointments - it sometimes gets tough to find a time when everyone can gather. We do our best, though, and having a close family - both in proximity and in relationship to one another - we embrace each gathering as a time to talk, laugh and play.

Welcome to April, one of three months that hold the record for most birthdays (four) in our family.

The oldest in our clan is my dad, who is an active and healthy 75 years old. The youngest is my son, Zachary, who is almost 17 months old.

With so many family members - I have 24 on my side alone, most of whom live in the Tucson area - it's no surprise that some of us share the same birthdate. Last year, a brother-in-law and I (born on the same day in April) had a dual party, celebrating our 50th and 30th, respectively.

One of my nephews was welcomed into the world the same time in June that a sister had her big day. We woke up the next morning to another nephew blowing out his candles. The following day we all sang "Happy Birthday" to my mom.

Since these special times come around a lot in our family, you'd think we'd have perfected our party-planning skills. While we have had many combined parties, it's the separate get-togethers held at similar times that can be a dilemma. My husband, Shane, and I planned Zachary's first birthday bash far in advance so Shane's parents could make the drive from California to be a part of the festivities. But later, when we made our plans known to my side of the family, we learned one of my sisters was planning her son's party for the same day - in Phoenix. Trying to amend the schedule took a lot of chatting and a bit of anxiety as we both had logical reasons for why our child's event should be on that day. We eventually decided to have our individual parties at our originally scheduled times - on the same day -- and her family would come to Tucson for a special shindig just for her son a few weeks later. Thankfully, it all worked out!

We come together for the big holidays as well. The main meeting place is my parents' house. Presents at Christmas can get pricey, so we've come up with ways to save some money. One popular approach with us, as with many families, is "Secret Santa." This past year, each adult drew out of a hat the names of one adult and one child relative and was responsible for giving gifts only to those two.

Other ways to curb the spending are to set price limits on presents, make favorite edible treats or donate services instead.

From congratulating my parents on their 50th anniversary and eating a replica of their wedding cake to appreciating a custom-made bagpipe cake and watching candles being lighted with a blowtorch, something exciting is always in the works when we come together.

Taking part in dozens - two dozen, to be exact - birthdays each year while also gathering for holidays and sometimes "just because," I can say I am very thankful to be a part of a big, close-knit family.

Email Sarah McKeown at east@azstarnet.com

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