Just a warning: this post is all about me.
We celebrated my 35th birthday over the weekend. In our family, we like to have “Best Day Ever” celebrations every five years for the kids. While the whole family is involved, it’s a day when the birthday kid gets to have all their favorites from sunrise to sundown (and usually a little longer).
Since Martin and I never actually had such a day ourselves, and because I’m the Mom, and because, well, I’m not getting any younger … I told Martin I wanted a whole weekend of my favorite things. And then I took two days off of work so it would be an extended weekend.
I have to give it to him: Martin and the kids absolutely delivered.
I literally had the best weekend ever. It was full of my favorite things, most of which aren’t actually THINGS, of course. All I really wanted was to be with my most favorite people ever, and to have some fun. And we absolutely had fun. I really couldn’t have asked for more.
So, in no particular order, here are 35 of my favorite memories from this weekend …
1. Waking up and being healthy. Seriously. You can’t ever take that for granted, no matter your age.
2. Birthday love letters. In the days leading up to my birthday, and on the actual day itself, I got bombarded with heartfelt, homemade birthday love letters from Jaz and Lola made just for me. These letters arrived in various ways, too. Some were delivered direct to me. Others were posted around the house, and some were hidden for me to find. I loved hearing about each one, and seeing all the thought and effort those kids put into them just to make me smile and feel loved. Priceless.
3. This was my last meal as a 34-year-old, prepared to kick off my birthday weekend. We only make it once a year because it’s so bad for you … but soooo good. Grilled banana, bacon, and Nutella on white bread, crisped to perfection on a pat of butter and drop of bacon grease. Sweet, salty, nutty, chocolatey, crunchy, gooey and delicious.
4. Spa day. On the day of my birthday, Martin booked us an appointment at my favorite spa downtown. (It’s the one I took Miss C to after our cat passed away.) Because it was in the middle of the day in the middle of the week (their least busiest time), the two of us ended up having the entire spa all to ourselves again. For just over an hour, we floated around this beautiful rooftop pool, talking and daydreaming more plans for ourselves and our family. It was quiet and peaceful, and definitely a treat.
5. 90-minute massage. After my swim, I also got a massage. Heavenly.
6. Fist-bumps. My son and I fist-bump all the time as a sign of solidarity and/or encouragement. It’s evolved into a personalized fist-bump with a bit of a flourish at the end. There was definitely an increase in fist-bumps over the weekend as I opened cards, received letters, unwrapped gifts, sliced into birthday cake, or just randomly passed each other throughout the house because, after all, it was my birthday.
7. My son Jaz. He’s grown to become one cool little dude. (Don’t tell him I called him little, though, okay?) In addition to the birthday pictures and fist bumps, he kept me laughing all weekend. His sense of humor and adventure is so entertaining. It’s a joy being his Mom.
8. My balcony. There was some rain over my extended weekend, but for the most part, it was pleasant enough to spend a lot of time out on my balcony. We just recently added furniture and decorations out there, to include a space heater and a giant vase filled with sticks. At the time of purchase, Martin gave me a lot of grief about the vase full of sticks, but you know what? He can’t imagine this space without them. They add to the ambience, and at this ripe ol’ age, I can unabashedly appreciate such a nice space. It’s where we celebrated my birthday with dinner cake and presents.
9. Strawberry Quark Cake. I am not sure why Americans haven’t embraced quark, but it really makes the most delicious cakes. Much fluffier than traditional cheesecake, it’s creamy and delicious, and I got one for my birthday. That crust was buttery perfection, too.
10. Unwrapping presents!
11. Red wine.
12. Being at an age and point in my life where I don’t need to explain myself.
13. My new Kitchen Aid! I’ve wanted one of these for years, but it was always way, way, way out of our budget. Fortunately, Martin discovered that one of the media stores around here (similar to Best Buy over in the United States) was having a really great sale on them, and he was able to snag one — plus some additional items — for a fraction of the cost. And here he thought he wouldn’t ever be able to find great sales in Europe … so early birthday present for him, too? And just imagine all the chocolate chip cookies I can make now! A win for all of us.
14. Martin. He’s a good dude to have around. 😉
15. Stargazing. It was about 2 a.m. the day after my birthday, but I still pulled Martin out of bed to go look at Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter with me. The moon wasn’t up, so all three planets were super bright and clear over our house then, as well as other clusters and constellations. He patiently humored me just long enough to let me point out the things I could identify, marvel at Mars’ orange-red glow and acknowledge the sheer abundance of shiny, bright stars before mentioning it was too damm cold to be outside in pajamas and retreating back to bed. He’s such a good sport.
16. My daughter Lola. When her Dad proved to be a less-than-stellar late-night stargazer, I went and woke up my first-grader. Yes, it was nearly 2:30 a.m. Yes, it was technically a school-night (more on that later), and yes, kids needs their sleep. But the night was so beautiful, Saturn, Jupiter, and Mars were burning bright and bold in the sky, and her constellation – the Scorpius – was clearly visible over our house. For a good 20 minutes, we sat on my balcony under a blanket and gazed at the heavens. She was so excited and engaged, sharing with me the names of stars and planets she could recall on her own. This girl is as smart as a whip, and I’m so glad to be her Mom.
17. Kidnapping my family. The day after my birthday, we all woke up early in the morning and got ready for the day. The kids prepared to catch the bus for school, and I got dressed as if going to work. But then Martin mentioned there was an issue with the school buses (which turned out to be true), and suggested we all drive to school/work together. So, the kids grabbed their backpacks and books, loaded up in the car, and off we went. The kids chatted and laughed until we missed the exit for their schools. And then they fell silent. And then they got confused when Dad refused to turn around and correct his course. It became obvious that they weren’t going to school after all.
18. Super smart, dedicated children. Once Martin and I explained to the kids that we took them out of school to take them to one of the biggest amusement parks in Europe, two of them burst into tears. Lola was upset she was going to miss a spelling test. Jaz figured he, too, was going to miss out on something exciting at school, so he began to cry, too. And while Miss C took the news with a huge smile, she was a little miffed we didn’t give her a heads up so she could better prepare her homework. Who are these kids? I mean, really. WHO ARE THESE KIDS?
19. Europa Park. After assuring the kids we informed their school of their absence, and that their grades and good standing wouldn’t be impacted, they got super excited. We stopped for breakfast along the way, and shared all the information we knew about Europa Park. It’s not owned by Disney, but if you combined the best of Disney World’s Epcot and Magic Kingdom, — and threw in some bigger, faster roller coasters — you have Europa Park. It was definitely a birthday treat to spend the day there with my family.
20. German food. The amusement park is made up of various themed sections for each country on the European continent. Of course, there’s a Germany section which included a beer garden where we enjoyed pretzels, bratwurst, weisswurst (white sausage), chicken, fries, and beer. It doesn’t matter if it’s my birthday or just an ordinary day … these are always some of my favorite things.
21. Sassy talk. This photo captures the moment after my daughter sass’d her Dad in German. I don’t even remember what he said to tease her, but she was having none of it, and shot back a clever response. It was amusing and good-natured, and their banter has increasingly become a source of entertainment these days. I like being old enough to have a kid old enough to engage with us this way.
22. Taking Jaz on his first roller coaster. It was the Pegasus Coastiality at Europa Park. He had no idea what to expect, so he had no fear or hesitation. It was also the first time we all could go on a roller coaster together as a family. Much less terrifying when we’re all in it together.
23. Roller coaster photos. My kids are the reason those things were installed.
24. Lounge chairs at the amusement park. Disney should steal this idea. A fantastic way to recover from roller coasters. There were two people literally napping beside me in other chairs.
25. A beautiful view. This was the view from the lounge chair. It was gorgeous and peaceful, and I really enjoyed it. Being quiet and being still is not something inherently natural to me. I’ve always felt life is too short, and one must cram in as much activity during the waking hours as possible. I’ve relaxed a bit on that since moving to Europe. (See also my #8.) I figure at this age, I can get away with being still, quiet, and reflective more and more. Such a treat to be able to do so in the midst of an amusement park on my birthday.
26. Bumper cars. Anything that allows my kids to collide with each other in a fit of a giggles is a very good thing.
27. My daughter Miss C. She’s such a young lady now. Very nearly as tall as me now. Sassy (as described in #21) and smart. I’m glad I got to spend so much time with her for my birthday weekend, and best of all, it appeared she wanted to be there celebrating with me. Love that girl.
28. My roots. On our way home from Europa Park, we took a detour off the Autobahn and headed directly into the Black Forest. Our destination was a super tiny village called Schuttertal. It’s the village where my ancestor Liberat was born and raised before he decided to try his luck in the United States of America. Before we left for Germany, we visited Liberat’s grave in Northern Kentucky. So it was amazing to go to the place where he was born, and just a day after my own birthday, too. We drove through the village and took some photos of the area, promising to return when we had more time to explore and visit specific locations. The wanderlust must have been strong in him, because I couldn’t imagine wanting to leave such a beautiful, peaceful place on Earth, yet, I’m thankful he did, of course. It won’t be our last visit there, that’s for sure.
29. Breakfast with my tea set. I found it a few weeks ago at a flea market. It’s covered with pink roses. Ever since we brought it home, the kids (who are responsible for setting the table these days) pull it out for our weekend breakfasts. It makes me feel like a grown up, eating off a set like this. I think it makes the kids feel pretty grown up, too. Aren’t we fancy?
30. Gray hair, don’t care. In an unguarded moment over the weekend, I asked my family if I should color my hair and try a new look for my birthday. Their response was swift and clear: absolutely not. My girls, especially, were very vocal about their opinions. It seems they can’t even remember me without gray hair anymore, and for them, they can’t imagine anything else.It’s been about three years since I last colored my hair with a conscious decision to grow out the gray. Depending on the light and style, some people notice my gray hair immediately while some people don’t ever notice it at all. I will never say never to a new color again, but I’m in no rush to hide my silver strands any time soon.
31. Beer fests. Unrelated to my birthday, of course, but perfectly timed, our village celebrated “May Fest” today with a tent full of music, food, neighbors, and beer. It was all pretty fun.
32. Watching my child have an adventure. My favorite moment of the beer fest was when we temporarily lost track of Jaz who was playing in the kids’ area. Just as we started to branch out and search for him, Lola yelled, “THERE HE IS!” and pointed to the village’s vintage fire truck, which was pulling away filled with children, to include Jaz who was sitting in the middle, perched on the lap of a beautiful young lady. He and the young lady made eye contact with us, and waved as they drove away to drive around the neighborhood.
34. Not thinking of my job for four days.
35. Life is fantastic.