Monday, July 28, 2008

40th Birthday Bash

This week I'll hit the big Four-O. Yesterday, my wife put together a birthday celebration for me. I constantly say that we don't need to have get-togethers for my birthday, but my wife's family gets together for every birthday, and to my wife it is very important to have everyone get together for my birthday, as well.

So the first part of the plan was to have her parents come into town on Saturday night to spend the night. They would have some time to play with the kids and visit, then go to church with us the next morning, then we'd have our little birthday get together.

My wife is very big into baking, mostly cakes and cupcakes, but generally anything. So she made this huge three-layer cake. It was unbelievably big and, in fact, a pretty large part of it is still in the freezer. I'll probably be eating cake for weeks.

kolachiesI had to work Saturday morning, but only until about noon. When I came home at noon, my son was all excited about the birthday surprises they had planned for me. At one point he said, "Don't look in the oven," because there was a special surprise hidden there for me. We then went to the play room to set up the air mattress for the in-laws to sleep on. I was getting quite hungry and asked my son to ask his mother to put the pizza in the oven. He said, "You mean order the pizza?" I soon learned I should have taken his advice.

Several minutes later, my wife came running into the room, shouting, "I need you! I turned on the oven to preheat it and the kolachies were still in there and now they're all burning and the plastic plate is melting all over the oven!" I ran down the stairs to the rescue, deep into the terrible stench of melted plastic. I grabbed a pot holder and pulled the entire rack from the oven, with the smoldering kolachies on it, and sat it on the sink. I turned off the oven and stood back in shock.

It took some four hours to allow the oven to cool, chip out the majority of the plastic, then heat it back up and clean out the rest, as well as chip the plastic icicles off the oven rack (never should have let it cool completely). The stench of melted plastic never seemed to go away. My wife was devastated about the destroyed kolachies. She had made them for me before, but never from my grandmother's original recipe. Maybe I should explain kolachies.

As a kid, every year at Christmas my grandmother would make these amazing danish type snacks she called kolachies. She would make them for myself, my father, and my brother. We would each receive our own specially prepared cookie tin filled with kolachies, and we treasured them so much that we wouldn't share them with anyone. In fact, we would always joke about trying to eat each other's kolachies before eating our own. Not possible, as we all guarded our prize closely.

Each year, to make them more special, I imagine, Gram (my grandmother) would tell us that they were so much work, and it got harder and harder for her every year, and that she just hadn't made any that year. Then, eventually, they would come out.

My grandmother passed away a few years back, and the kolachies went with her. Except that my wife took it upon herself this year to get my grandmother's original recipe from my brother's wife. And this year, she made them as a special surprise for me.

So after getting the plastic all cleaned up, my wife said she wanted to make another batch of kolachies for me. She said it was important to her that I have the kolachies. I was concerned that first it would take too much time and be too much work for her, and I wanted her to be able to visit with her parents, and second that they would come out of the oven tasting like plastic. I suggested she bake something else as a test first before going to all the work of making the kolachies.

To make a long story short (if it's not already too late), the biscuits she made as a test product came out fine, and she proceeded to prepare a second batch of kolachies that tasted so incredibly like Gram's that it's almost too good to be true. She got up early the next morning to finish them before church, and also made homemade blueberry muffins for breakfast.

After church, I took the kids out to the backyard to play on their new Slip-n-Slide while my wife prepared the burgers, brats, hot dogs, cheddar dogs, and corn for the grille (some day I'll share the corn recipe, because there is nothing better than real Indiana sweet corn prepared just right on the grille). As the kids splashed and laughed in the backyard, my wife had her second surprise in the works. I turned around as someone came out the patio doors and was shocked to see my brother and sister who had driven in from Cincinnati. Quite an unexpected, pleasant surprise. I hadn't seen my sister since my daughter's birthday party in May, and hadn't seen my brother since just after we bought our house in December.

My wife, never one to settle, wasn't done yet. She found a recipe for Sonic's Cherry Limeade and made a big punch bowl full of it. If you haven't had it, it is an incredible drink.

After grilling and eating, she gathered everyone into one place in the living room for me to open gifts. There were mostly gift cards to various bookstores (including Amazon), which as you probably know is perfect, because I am quite an avid reader.

My in-laws gave me an electronic dart board, which my son and I have played together the past two nights. He's actually doing quite well at throwing the darts and making them stick into the board. Pretty incredible for a four year old. Tonight we had a darts tournament, then went out for "the grand prize," which was a four-flavor Icee at Speedway.

1-800-BE-PETTYMy wife sprung her last big surprise on me after all the other gifts were open. She gave me an envelope that felt a bit thick. I opened the envelope and was shocked to find a reservation for this Sunday for a Richard Petty Ride-Along at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (yes, the Brickyard). This coming Sunday, I'll be racing around one of the most famous race tracks in the world in a stock car, all decked out in racing gear, and probably won't be able to stop talking about it for weeks (unless, of course, the experience kills me).

You know, I'm not normally big on having a celebration for my own birthday. Not that I want to stop the aging process, or anything. I just don't want to see everyone go to such trouble for me. Hey, it's gonna happen every year until the day that I die, so what's the big deal, right?

Well, this year my wife made it a big deal. She made it a very special day for me, and I know she went through a great deal of planning and work to make it all just right. And when the plastic kolachie tragedy struck, she didn't miss a beat.

Pretty awesome day, pretty awesome wife.

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