Most of us may not even notice the extra day tagged onto the end of this month. People born on Feb. 29, however, have been awaiting its arrival for four years.
That was the last time that "leaplings" (those born on Feb. 29) had a chance to actually celebrate their birthday on the actual date. And now that leap year is here again, some are planning to make the most of it.
Curious about how leaplings deal with the fact that their birthday happens only once every four years, we asked our readers to share their leap year birthday stories with us. Most of those we heard from said they celebrate every year, on either Feb. 28 or March 1, or both. And nearly everyone said they didn't know any other leaplings - which may seem odd, considering that there are more than 4 million people worldwide who were born on Feb. 29.
Those we spoke to ranged in leap year age from one to 15. And a couple have names you might recognize. Here is what they had to say:
One or four?
Izabelle and Madyson Mohs of Caledonia will celebrate their first official birthday this Feb. 29, even though they've been around for four years. The identical twins don't yet realize what it means to be leaplings, but their mother, Amanda, is excited for her first chance to celebrate the twins' real birthday. She plans to take them to one of their favorite places - Monkey Joe's playland - to celebrate. Up until 2012, Izabelle and Madyson have been celebrating their birthdays on whatever weekend day is closest to Feb.29, Mohs said. When they get older, she might do separate celebrations for each of her daughters - one on Feb. 28 and one on March 1. For now, though, they are happy to celebrate together. "It's really hasn't been a big deal," Mohs said. What was kind of a big deal, though, was how the twins became leap year babies. Mohs' due date was actually some time in March. but when she developed preeclampsia (a pregnancy disorder that poses danger to baby and mother), her doctor wanted the twins born as soon as possible. The hospital picked Feb. 29 as the date to induce labor, and when they asked her if she'd rather wait until March 1, her answer was an emphatic "No! I want to do this now." Mohs said she, too, is curious about how other leaplings have handled their birthdays. "I would just like some input on how to prepare my girls for future years, and whether or not it really matters to most people," she said. "We're pretty new at this."
The Honorable Charles H. Constantine, Racine County Circuit Court Judge, is also a leapling. And this isn't the first time Constantine's Feb. 29 birthday has been in the news. A photo of him and his mother, Dorothy, was in The Journal Times the year he was born. And another photo - of him sliding down a bannister wearing saddle shoes - ran in the paper on his "first" birthday in 1956.
Outside of his newspaper notoriety, Constantine said his childhood birthdays were much like those of most kids.
"I always had birthday parties, even when it wasn't a leap year," he said, adding that he was loyal to February, celebrating on the 28th, rather than March 1.
In more recent years, Constantine has cut back his celebrations to throwing a "fairly big party" once every four years. When he turned 40, for instance, he had a "Ten Again" party. And this year, he and his family are planning a celebration that will combine his leap year birthday with the March 3 birthday of his daughter, Emily. There was some speculation before Emily was born that she, too, might be a leap year baby, Constantine said. But Emily had other plans. Being a leapling is a fun thing, Constantine said. It is a bit of a conversation piece, and it makes it easier for your friends to remember your birthday. "An hour difference one way or another and I'd be just like everyone else," he said.
Racine's Postmaster, Ron Farnsworth, was also a leap year baby. Farnsworth, who will turn "12" later this month, comes from a family ripe with February birthdays - his mother was born on
Feb. 28 and his brother on the 22nd. As a kid, Farnsworth would celebrate his birthday on the 28th along with his mom, when there was no 29. Back then, he was not a big fan of being a leapling. "People used to tell me they thought it was cool, but I never really liked it," he said. "It felt like it really wasn't my birthday." To make up for some of those lost birthdays, Farnsworth said he convinced his wife, Shelli, to feel sorry for him, which resulted in her often giving him two parties. "She's really happy when it actually is my birthday, because we only have to do one," he said with a chuckle. While he never knew other leaplings as a kid, Farnsworth said he's come across two others through his job at the post office. "It's a good conversation piece, when it comes up," said the father of three boys. "And my kids get a kick out of the fact that they are now older than me."
It was at the hospital on the day of her birth that Cindy Sklansky found her first fellow leapling. When Sklansky was born on Feb. 29, 1956, her mother met another mother in the labor room, who gave birth to a little boy that same day. "We stayed friends with the family through the years and often had our birthday parties together," said Sklansky, who grew up in Milwaukee and now lives in Racine. One of her most memorable leap year birthdays as an adult was the surprise party that Sklansky's fifth-grade students at St. John Nepomuk School threw their teacher when she turned "12." It was an "Anne of Green Gables" party, designed for a 12-year-old girl, Sklansky said. "It was really nice of them to do that," she said. "It was fun and I was really surprised." A few years ago, Sklansky called into a local radio show which was addressing leap year babies, and that conversation led her to sign up for a free membership in a leap year baby birthday club - The Honor Society of Leap Year Babies. There are no meetings or requirements, but its kind of fun to belong, Sklansky said. Those interested can check it out at www.leapyearday.com.
Growing up as a leap year baby made her feel unique and special, said Heather Harrison-Andersen, who will turn "6" this year. "I always enjoyed it," said the Racine resident who is now a wife and mother, and will soon graduate from the Milwaukee School of Engineering with a nursing degree. Maybe that's because her mother, Cindy Harrison, would throw two birthday parties for Heather - one to celebrate with her friends on Feb. 28, and another with her family on March 1. "She loved having two birthdays," said Harrison. So much so, that Harrison-Andersen still celebrates twice in those years that don't leap. "My husband gets mad at me," she said, laughing. "He says I don't get two, but I say ‘Why not?'"
One of her favorite childhood celebrations was the year her mother took her to Disneyland on Feb. 29. "It was great," she said. She also has fond memories of her sweet 16 party. "Every kid looks forward to turning 16, so it was a doubly good one." Meanwhile, Harrison was also grateful for every birthday her daughter celebrated because Heather had been born prematurely (a little less than 3 pounds), and doctors were concerned for her health and growth. As it turned out, "She's just perfect," said Harrison, who is hoping to throw her daughter a party on Feb. 29 this year.
Leaping to Vegas
Being a leap year baby has been nothing but fun for Allicia Barney, a mother of five who will turn “seven” on Feb. 29. “I didn’t feel cheated,” said Barney, whose family celebrated her birthday each year, usually on the weekend after the actual date. “I liked being different.”
The Racinian has fond memories of those parties, particularly her sweet 16 birthday, for which her parents hired a DJ. And this year, Barney and her parents are going to celebrate her birthday in style in Las Vegas. Hopefully the casinos won’t find out she’s only 7!
Jason Bohn has planned a whirlwind trip, filled with all of his favorite things, in celebration of his “eighth” birthday this year. The West Allis resident, who has family in Racine, is passionate about hockey and wildlife conservation — particularly that of gorillas and orangutans. So, he’ll be spending part of his adventure at Georgia’s Atlanta Fulton County Zoo — where friends have arranged for a behind-the-scenes experience — and part of it watching the L.A. Kings hockey team play the Nashville Predators and the Minnesota Wild, in Nashville and Minneapolis. One of the things that drew Bohn to the L.A. Kings is hockey player Simon Gagne, who happens to be a fellow leapling. A hockey player himself in his younger years, Bohn now works for the Milwaukee Admirals. As a kid growing up in the Wisconsin Dells, he and his family usually celebrated his birthday on March 1, rather than Feb. 28, on non-leap years. “It just wouldn’t feel right on the 28th,” he said.
Celebrating with Martha
When she was little, Sandra Rideout-Hanzak’s parents would assign a day near the end of February, or the beginning of March to be her birthday. “It was great because my birthday was always on a Saturday,” she said.
Now that she’s older, Rideout-Hanzak says she doesn’t make a big deal out of birthdays. But, in 2008, Martha Stewart did a special “Leap Year Show” and Rideout-Hanzak was in the audience. “The whole audience was full of us,” she said. “It was fun to meet so many others.” Originally from Indiana, Rideout-Hanzak lives in Kingsville, Texas, where she works for the Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute at Texas A&M University. She read about The Journal Times search for Leap Year Babies while looking for something else online.