That first year after the kids leave for college is filled with unexpected, poignant, little pangs - then comes that first birthday without you. Now, you may not be there, but that doesn’t mean you can’t send a celebration.
Mascots & Dining Hall Cakes
Some colleges offer special order birthday treats through their dining halls or student life services, so scout out the possibilities when you visit the campus during orientation.
At the University of Delaware, for example, you can send a YoUDee Gram – a 10 to 15 minute visit by the school mascot, a giant blue chicken who arrives at your child’s dorm with balloons, an autographed photo and more than a little comic pizazz. Parents can also call the UD dining hall to order a personalized birthday cake for dorm delivery or pick up. And Stanford's parent association delivers birthday cakes, balloons and flowers, as a fund-raiser for the college endowment fund.
Some college town bakeries deliver on campus, but if you can't find a local patisserie, there are plenty of bakers who ship their wares overnight or via 2-day mail. Just be sure to check with the campus mail room to see if any restrictions apply. Some accept FedEx or UPS overnight, others prefer US postal service deliveries.
Among the possibilities: Arizona’s Fairytale Brownies, for example, mails a birthday box with brownies, a teddy bear, kazoo and a Pin the Tail on the Donkey game for around $50.
Delaware-based SAS Cupcakes ships assorted vanilla, triple chocolate and red velvet cupcakes decorated for birthdays or Greek life events – with little flags with your child’s Greek letters – by the dozen for $45. And Oregon's Harry and David ships baskets of fresh fruit, birthday cookie packages or cheesecakes for $30 and up.
A Homemade Birthday Box
You can also assemble your own birthday-in-a-box, of course. Frosted cakes don't do well in the mail, so bake a cake, the moister the better - pumpkin, carrot or banana cake are perfect – and ship it, well wrapped, with a can of supermarket frosting, a box of candles and a birthday tiara. Or bake up a batch of chocolate cookies, decorated to look like cupcakes and ship them off to your birthday kid.
Gifts, Gifts, Gifts
Of course, you can't forget the gifts. If you're having trouble finding the perfect DVD, "Twilight" trivia game or zombie-centric present, this guide to 89 Great Gifts for Teens & College Kids may help!