Wednesday, March 1, 2017

40 Years and Counting

15 years ago, when we were both much younger, I met this strapping, balding man and, though I declined his many many offers pleas for "just one date" for far too long, once I finally gave in and he laid that first kiss on me, I was totally sold.  He was my first TRUE love.  I thought I had been in love before him, but I now know that I was wrong and it became very apparent from very early on that I would do just about anything to make this guy happy.  And after this last few months I have realized that even lying, omitting large quantities of information, snooping through his phone and logging into some of his accounts is not beyond me in order to shock the guy.

This story starts last fall.  J's 40th birthday would be on January 31st of 2017 and I knew I wanted to surprise him, but how?  He is easily the "breadwinner" in our family, since I am a stay at home mom and woefully underpaid (but very appreciated...I know), so I knew that funding a big event would be very difficult without him noticing.  I knew if I asked him what he wanted for his birthday his answer would be, "just some time with you."  I have heard this one many times, so I also knew that I needed to give him time (and selfishly, that totally works to my advantage as well).  My plan was really solidified in October when we took the 3 oldest kids to a K-State football game and talked about how fun it would be to return to our old stomping grounds one day and REALLY spend some time there instead of blowing in for a game and heading right back out. The following weekend my sister and I took off for a weekend trip to Scottsdale, AZ to spend some time with my Mom and Stepdad in their home away from home and I was able to corner them and set a date that would work for them to take the kids for a WHOLE WEEKEND right before his birthday.  The ball was rolling.  

So then I spent the next 3 months booking a place to stay and a place to have a little afternoon surprise party and stuff to do while we were there...all from afar and all behind J's back.  I sent an email out to all of his immediate family and mine to save the date and then I had to figure out how to contact his old friends and coworkers.  I dug through his phone when he would go to take a shower and take pictures of contacts with my phone.  I logged into his LinkedIn account to get in touch with old professors and coworkers.  I texted his boss.  I thought the whole plan had been foiled on numerous occasions when I thought he had seen or overheard something that he shouldn't have and as the weekend got closer my anxiety grew.  Three weeks before our weekend I got a text from J stating that the Boy Scout's Pinewood Derby was going to be moved from the 21st (the date that had been scheduled since September of last year) to the 28th.  Aaaaaaaaghhhh!  I'm not sure I have ever been so irritated.  By that point I had already told him that I had a sitter lined up for Friday night so we could go out and celebrate his birthday and I had to then tell him that he and the boys would not be able to make it to the Derby.  He easily got the hint and asked no questions, but I knew that my surprise was threatened.  Not only did he know that we would be doing something Friday, but he knew that it would be bleeding into Saturday.  I was bummed, but trucked on.  And then the weekend right before my big surprise weekend I got fever, hit by a truck sick.  I was terrified!  I was a nervous wreck!  What if he got sick?  What if one of the kids got so sick that my mom wouldn't take them (that would take a lot, I know, but still)?  What if I couldn't get everything done that week before that I needed to get done. I had to hide my anxiety from him and it was horrible.  He's my guy.  He's the one that all of my venting filters through. He's the one who listens and makes it better.  But I was on my own.  I sucked it up, pulled up my big girl panties and got to work.  By the time I got to Thursday and nobody was sick I was feeling confident.  

J had Friday off and conveniently, a dentist appointment that morning.  While he was gone I grabbed everything he would need for our weekend away and added it to the suitcase that I had already started with all of my things earlier in the week. I loaded the suitcase of clothing for the kids into the van as they were going to Mom and Jim's house for the weekend rather than staying at ours.  I sent a novel of an email to my mom with instructions for everyone and some of the things that I would need her to haul up to Manhattan for the party since I wouldn't be able to have a conversation with her when she arrived.  I wrote in a little card to give to J after we were to hop in the car that afternoon revealing our plan for the weekend.  Once he got home and at some point occupied with something else, I snuck our suitcase into the trunk of the car and placed his card on the dash in front of the passenger seat.  

My mom arrived around 3, we all hung out and chatted and waited for the big kids to get home from school, said our goodbyes and headed out.  It didn't take him long to rip open the card and read about our adventure to be to which he was very surprised.  Because of the mishaps revealing a possible overnight event, he suspected one night of freedom, but was floored that we had a whole weekend and in Manhappiness! I revealed no more to him other than that we had 2 nights in Manhattan, so he settled in for the drive and we chatted excitedly.

We pulled into town just before five and arrived at Anderson Bed and Breakfast ( just after 5.  This is a fantastic place to stay in Manhattan.  We were easy walking distance from both campus and Aggieville, the place was adorable and the hosts were fantastic. We were greeted warmly by one of the owners and shown up to our room.  We decided on a place for dinner and headed out.  Came back afterward to freshen up and then strolled out to Aggieville FAR earlier on a Friday night than we ever would have in college.  We perused up and down the streets to check out what was still the same and what was different (far more different than the same) and then popped into a bar that was an old fave (though the name had changed) for a drink.  Moved onto the next one for another drink and then ended up at Auntie Mae's for some pool and more drinks. The theme of the night was drinks (and really awful pool) and we zig-zagged "home" about the time the real college students were just heading out, giggling the whole way.  I think I succeeded in reminding my main man of his youthful years and then we slept like babies in a fabulous bed without one interruption from a needy child.  We slept in a little more than we do at home, though not nearly as late as we might have in college, got dressed and headed downstairs for a superb breakfast consisting of an omelet, sausage, fruit, asparagus and a celebratory mimosa, though after the previous night it was probably the last thing we needed.

We decided to check out the Flint Hills Discovery Center ( that morning and I had planted the seed that I wanted to explore campus that afternoon knowing that friends and family would be gathering at the Alumni Center on campus for a surprise party.  The Discovery Center was very interesting and well-put together.  The Immersive Experience Theater was especially neat!  After spending an hour or so there we decided to grab lunch.  I was starting to get anxious.  By the time we finished lunch it was about 12:20, so we had about an hour and a half to kill.  I felt like we could definitely fill that time on campus.  We left the car parked in Aggieville and strolled onto campus.  We started at the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art and killed a good 20-30 minutes there.  Then we headed over to the Student Union, stopping for some photo ops on the way.  The Union has been completely transformed from when we were's unrecognizable and has been beautifully redone.  J had already seen the engineering building and the new work that has recently been completed there when he had been there previously for a work trip.  Running out of things to look at, I said I would like to check out my old Biology hall, Ackert, so we headed that direction.  It was a 40ish degree day and though it was supposed to be sunny, the clouds had moved in and wind had really kicked up, so I had started to get cold and J kept suggesting we go back "home"...I'm sure a nap would have been perfect at that point after our wild night before, but I kept tugging him here and there. By the time we were closing in on that magic 2 o'clock hour, I had dragged him through Ackert Hall, over to Waters Hall to see the Entomology wing and then through the library. My stomach was in knots.

The old football stadium is immediately north of the Alumni Center and it was my last chance to stall him.  I was freezing and desperately wanted to speed time up.  I sucked it up and suggested we check out the old stadium, something I had never actually done when I went to school there.  He thought we should try to go into the building as he had held interviews there during last fall's career fair and said it was worth checking out.  Unfortunately the door at the north end of the east side of the stadium was locked.  I was trying to keep him from the south side, since it was just a skip from the entrance to the alumni center that guests would be using and they were probably arriving at that moment. I kept trying to convince him to head to the north side of the stadium where we could follow the fence to a gate along the west side and get onto the field.  He apparently thought that was nonsensical, since we could just follow the path directly to the south side where there was no fence and walk right in, so I reluctantly followed him praying that everyone would be out of sight as we headed into the danger zone.  As soon as we reached the south end and turned west to round onto the field, my arm hooked through his, I spotted two kids on the Wildcat statue between the Alumni Center and the field...I immediately recognized it as X-man and a friend of his.  My heart stopped.  I think I gasped a little and I spun around 180 degrees, tugging J with me.  He looked at me like I was crazy (I was) and asked if I was OK.  I am not even sure what I mumbled, my heart was racing.  I decided to chance it because how else would I have covered?  We turned back around and I willed X-man to stay at a distance where hopefully J wouldn't recognize him.  J even mentioned something about taking a picture on the statue like those kids were doing.  Phew...keep him moving.  I then headed up the steps going up to the top of the stadium, checking the clock on my phone over and over again and trying to fill the time with endless chatter.  He kept asking if I was OK because I was freezing and suggesting we just go home to warm up.  I told him I wanted to get all the way to the top to check out the view.  I kept looking over toward the statue and they were still climbing on it. Eventually, we paused against the railing overlooking the field.  I stood between him and the Alumni Center trying to block his view of the statue.  At that point, X-man jumped off of the statue and started skipping toward the main entrance to the east, his friend following him when J said, "that kid looks JUST like X-man!"  What?  Ummmmm...I was speechless.  I don't think I said anything.  I just stared at X-man and watched him finally disappear to the marveling J beside me talking of doppelg√§ngers.  I furiously texted the aunt who was in charge of texting me when it was a go for us to head in and told her to keep X-man under tabs as he had been spotted.  Moments later she texted that they were ready for us and I told her we would be there in a minute.  J was talking on and on about some giant screen television that he had heard was in the Alumni Center, so I suggested we pop in to the building to look for it and warm up before we headed back home. Thankfully he easily agreed and I led him into the building and around the corner where I knew the surprise was awaiting.

SURPRISE!  A large swarm of people all huddled against a far wall came to life and since I was walking in front of J, I totally missed his reaction and don't even have a very good picture of it, but he perked up, took a bow and said, "that WAS X-man!"  I think it was safe to say that he was definitely surprised.  We spent the next couple of hours visiting with friends and family, eating cake and recounting everything leading up to the big surprise.  And I was SO relieved to have it behind me.  Keeping a secret from my confidant was hard and I was so very thankful to be able to spill the beans.

There are a couple of poor quality videos that were texted to me after the event (the first to the right here) that I will replace with better quality when I can get my hands on them.  By popular demand, I am also including a copy of the poem that I read to him below.  I love you, J-Joe!  Hope this was the best birthday yet!

Forty years...that’s quite a lot.

Like the rest of us you started as a little tot. 

Eyes full of wonder of what would come, 

Unaware of the blunders that would be done.

A childhood scarred by pants of plaid, 
Brotherly quarrels and a broken hand. 
Circling a table where his family did sit 
Vomit behind finger-pinched lips.
A family “game” of Duck Duck Goose? 
Every lap a threat to let loose.

Hunkering down during a thundering storm, 

“Remembering” hard-fought battles in ‘Nam. 

He wore his coke-bottle glasses with pride 
And his baby hair, his mother would describe 
As spun golden silk, so soft,

Would take to the wind leaving a noggin glossed.

But not all events would prove to be fails.
The kid proved to be a smart one as he followed life’s trails.

He rose to the top in scouting lore

And became an Eagle Scout that did soar
Far from his home to where Engineers are born
Just for a bit, because the expense he abhorred.
Back to Texas he flew and continued his quest
For career stability and a life most blessed.
It was after a time from the north there was a tug,
So he followed his heart to the flatlands of luck.
A Wildcat he indifferently became
And he trudged through work and class, mostly never losing aim. 
Distractions arose...Mario Kart and the Price is Right,
But none so disruptive as his future bride.
Despite the obstacles his diploma he achieved
And quickly his first real job he received!

It took some years for he and that girl to get on the same page,
It was something about reservations and probably needing to age, 
But after 5 long years and buying her the same ring twice
She decided it was time to give in and play nice.
He began his 4th decade as a newlywed
And their lives were so simple, so quiet, so zen!
They knew just how to mess that up!
Ten years, four homes, five kids...full is their cup.

He’s old, he’s creaky, he often stinks (but he’s still pretty cute)
and now he’s the old guy who shows up in the crazy Christmas suit. 
Now what? What’s next? Honey, you’re over that hill!
Sit down and’re FORTY and fabulous...still! 

Right after his entrance

The Cake Table and display

I found THE best picture for his cake!!!

Some of J's family

Some of my family (special thanks goes to Judy and Kim for helping set
everything up and storing all of my party supplies in their home until the big day.
And a shout out to Papa in the back for taking on my crazy kids for the whole

Me reading my "little" poem and some video below of part of it...

My Dad (Grandpa Moose)

Blowing out his candles!  40 YEARS OLD!!!

Nana and Liz, J's sis...big thank you's for these two as well.  Nana helped
wrangle our kiddos all weekend and Liz was the cake delivery lady and
also helped to set up.

One of J's buddies and his Dad chatting

J's Momma...without this lady and that guy in the pic above, there would
be no J!  How boring my life would be...

My beautiful Momma and Jilly Bean. Thank you for jumping in always to
help with the kids, Mom.  You are the best I could ever have asked for!

The only babysitter they really needed...just give 'em a screen.

The boys posing with the infamous statue that X-man was originally spotted at.

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