What is it like to have a ‘real’ birthday once every four years?

The Associated Press

On Monday, leaplings get to celebrate their birthday on the actual date they were born. We asked them to share their thoughts on what it’s like having Feb. 29 for a birthday. Note: The ages they’ll turn on leap day 2016 are listed in both regular and leap years.

“Alana’s day”

I have a daughter, Alana, who was born on leap day in 2004. She will be celebrating her third leap birthday as she turns 12. When she was first born, our insurance couldn’t enter her into the system with Feb. 29, so they changed it to Feb. 28, which made any type of pre-verification or pharmacy needs almost impossible.

Birthdays have always been different for Alana, but I always make sure she has her annual T-shirt from the Leap Day Society and I will write a box on the calendar after Feb. 28 and write “Alana’s Day” when there isn’t a leap year.

Both previous leap days did not include her dad, who is in the military, and was stationed elsewhere in 2004 and 2008, but this year he will be home.

This year was the hardest year we have ever had while planning her birthday because it falls on a Monday and many places are not open for kids’ birthday parties on a Monday. After three weeks of calling and being turned away or told I could rent out the entire establishment for a ridiculous amount, the manager at Fun Slides in North Hills realized the day, called the owner and they both agreed to open both locations for any leap day birthdays and the public at normal prices. When he called to tell me the good news, I cried and immediately booked the venue for Feb. 29.

— Barb Liwosz, McCandless

Worthy of press coverage

I was born Feb. 29, 1952, to Read and Elinor June Allen, in South Side Hospital and appeared in the Press with a nurse holding me, to show off the leap year baby. I appeared in the Press again on my “fifth” birthday. This time it was a picture of me holding the clipping of the picture taken of me at birth.

I have always enjoyed telling people when my birthday is. Everyone thinks how neat it would be to have a birthday on this day. My granddaughter really thinks it’s cool. She tells her teachers all the time how “old” her grandma is.

I have called our car insurance company several times to tell them they have my birthday wrong but I always get the same response — that their computer system does not recognize the 29th.

— Shirley Allen Lutz, 64/16, Finleyville

Celebrating twice

I love having this birthday. It makes me unique and gives me a chance to tell a funny story about when I was in college. The year I turned 21 was not a leap year. When I went to one of the local bars in my college community around 9 p.m., the bouncer would NOT let me in until March 1. Looking back on it, of course, going to a bar on Feb. 28 is not acceptable because it is before Feb. 29. At the time though, I didn’t give it much thought because I was excited to have my first drink, and at the time, Feb. 28 fell on a Saturday.

Ever since that experience, on non-leap years, I celebrate my birthday on Feb. 28 AND March 1. Since I only get a real birthday every four years, I think it’s fair that I can celebrate my birthday over two days three out of every four years.

Every non-leap year, a friend of mine posts a leap day countdown on my Facebook page. I reference the countdown from time to time.

— Leanne Trdinich, 32/8, Cranberry

“Surreal” parties

I’ve never had problems acquiring an ID, but I have had to show my driver’s license to people who didn’t believe I was born on leap day.

For a while, the only custom I participated in was through Washington Hospital, the hospital I was born in. They used to arrange a birthday party for all their leap day babies at a local restaurant. And it was a slightly surreal party, because the handful of invitees/participants were either 4, 8, 12, or 16 years old. One mother asked mine if it was a shame that us kids only got to see each other every four years, to which my mother said, “Well, they only share a birth date!”

—Todd Osleger, 32/8, Bethel Park

Calculating your true age

When people find out that you are “leap year” born, the first question they ask is how many birthdays you have had, and then they try to figure out how old you are. It is amazing how poor people’s math abilities are.

The second question they routinely ask is when do I celebrate my birthday, on Feb. 28 or March 1. In non-leap years. I always tell them Feb. 28, because if I waited until March 1, and were to die on Feb. 28, I would miss all of my birthday gifts!

— Tom McElhone, 72/18, Glenshaw

Birthday forgotten in non-leap years

I was born just after midnight in 1976 and my parents said that they didn’t really realize how unique my birthday was until after I was born and people kept talking about it.

When I was really young I hated it because I felt like I didn’t really have a birthday in non-leap years. At my elementary school they announced that day’s birthdays each morning and my birthday was never announced — even in leap years!

In off years my birthday is legally March 1, but I always celebrated with my great-grandmother who was born on Feb. 28…I celebrated with her until she passed away when I was 20.

When I turned “6” we were living in Chicago and my fiancé (now husband) threw a roller-skating party which made the front page of the Chicago Tribune. On my 9th birthday we were living in Austin, Texas and he threw a pottery painting party where we asked everyone to bring gifts for kids 9 and under to be donated to a local shelter for families fleeing abusive situations.

—Heather Sendera, 40/10, Squirrel Hill

Theme parties for my “age”

I am a leap year baby and a “teenager” now. When I was born, my grandmother wanted my mother to tell people that I was born on March 1, not Feb. 29, because she thought it was a terrible day for a little girl to have a birthday since people would say I didn’t have a birthday every year.

My parents always made every birthday a wonderful celebration, leap year or not. People do tend to remember my birthday. One of my grade school classmates calls me every leap year to wish me a happy birthday and a lifelong neighbor sends me a card every four years.

When I do have a leap year birthday, my husband and two sons always plan a theme depending on my “age” that year. Two of my favorite themes were a princess party and a Hannah Montana party. It is fun when a leap year comes along and I am eager to see what theme my family comes up with this year.

— Christina Nolan Lawlor, 56/14, Ross

Lucky to be a leapling

One advantage of being born on Feb. 29 is that most people, even simple acquaintances, seem to remember more easily that it’s my birthday, possibly even better than they remember their close friends’ and family’s birthdays. When I turned 21, I didn’t have a birthday and when I was at the DMV renewing my license that year, a friendly police officer answered the question about when I could legally drink. The answer was March 1, which makes logical sense but also kind of annoyed me based on my above desire to celebrate in February.

When it comes right down to it, however, I feel very lucky to have been born on Feb. 29. There aren’t many people who share my birthday, it makes me memorable, and it’s a great truth when playing that fun “Two Truths and a Lie” party game. Gets me a win every time.

— Sarah Reck, 32/8, Jefferson Hills

Granddaughters “older” than me

When I was 6 (24) guests at my surprise party brought gifts suitable for a 6-year-old. Great fun and my son and daughter loved them.

Also, great fun for granddaughters — they are older than grandma at 28 and 30 years old.

Just think — in four years I can have a drink at my party!

— Suzie Harding, 80/20, Canonsburg

Changing official papers

I have changed my date of birth to Feb. 29 on my birth certificate, driver’s license, etc. but now have to change it with Social Security. I’m wondering if anyone else has had this issue and if it’s going to be a major process or not to get it changed.

—Karen Altman, 60/15, Green Tree

Celebrate at Rivers Casino

I know three people also born on leap year — two of which are in the same year as I am.

My favorite thing to do on my birthday is to go to the Rivers Casino’s Grand View Buffet and have my friends and family join me to eat and celebrate. This year, however, I will celebrate at the Grand View Buffet on Feb. 28 as my husband Scott and I will be going to the Pittsburgh Penguins game on Feb. 29th.

I am amazed at how many people remember me on the 29th with cards and phone calls! It is indeed a special day for me!

—Carol Siska Larkin, 68/17, Franklin Park.

These people weren’t born on leap day, but clearly know how to celebrate it anyway:

Harold Hawk and I got married on Feb. 29, 1980 — not because it was the appropriate day for “taking the leap,” but because it happened to be the day before a planned trip to Florida to visit my parents in their new retirement home. To avoid the inevitable uncomfortable discussion about sleeping arrangements in the two-bedroom house, we got married. I know that doesn’t sound very romantic, but it really was! We made a date with a justice of the peace and a dinner reservation the night before our flight. We invited a couple of people from work (we both worked at Channel 4 at the time) and swore them to secrecy. We invited my sister, my grandmother and my aunt to “dinner” at the restaurant and surprised them with a stop at the J-P’s office on the way. In Florida, when my parents could no longer keep their eyes open and had to confront the subject of “bedtime,” we gleefully presented them with our brand new marriage license. Over the course of two days, each surprise victim gave us another round of excitement and laughs. It was a very good time!

So, when and how do we celebrate our anniversary? No surprise here: In off years, we go out to dinner sometime around the end of February or beginning of March. In leap years — and this will be our ninth — we celebrate on the 29th. That’s all. No big deal — just like our wedding — but still, after 36 years, always a very good time!

— Kerry Kelty, Regent Square

Every four years I fear for LY229 and pray our computers don’t fail us and won’t jump to March 1 instead of Feb. 29. At 12:01 a.m., I breathe a sigh of relief and play leapfrog to celebrate. I then watch the “classic” John Lithgow/Amy Adams film “Leap Year” and binge-watch episodes of Ricky Gervais’ series “Extras.” During daylight hours, I ride Port Authority buses all day to take advantage of my monthly pass extra day instead of getting cheated out of two or three days every February with the usual 28-day “month.”

— Guy Rusiski, North Side

Mike Plaskett and I, hosts of “Rhythm Sweet & Hot” on 90.5 WESA-FM on Saturdays from 6 to 8 p.m., look forward to leap years!

Jimmy Dorsey, a great musician and phenomenally popular orchestra leader, was born on Feb. 29, as was songstress icon Dinah Shore. We feel that these two giants of music were shortchanged on their number of birthday celebrations, so we usually make a point of playing their recordings on the program whenever a Feb. 29 comes up!

It’s also a great excuse to listen to “Lover’s Leap” and “Leap Frog” (both by Les Brown), “Lester Leaps In” (by Count Basie) and “Leave Us Leap” (by Gene Krupa), none of which have anything to do with leap years. We take time to reminisce about those catchy recordings anyway.

— Dale Abraham/Co-host, “Rhythm Sweet & Hot,” airing Saturdays at 6 p.m. on WESA-FM (90.5)