Jared turned 40 on New Year's Eve.
I wanted to make his birthday really special and thought through lots of different scenarios - A surprise party with lots of dear friends gathered from near and far including all his favorite games and treats? A lovely dinner party with just close friends? A get-away for just the two of us?
But New Year's Eve didn't turn out to be a good time for a party. Pretty much everyone I contacted already had New Year's plans and it would have been pretty darn difficult to get someone to watch the kids overnight if we were to try to do a get-away.
And in thinking about what Jared really loves, I realized he might really enjoy a special day with mostly just our family given that we've been with so much extended family and that Jared is away so many evenings with Bishop stuff.
So the kids and I planned out a fun day (at least for the parts of the day when he didn't have to work).
We made him a special breakfast (eggs benedict), gave him a few little gifts, and took him to lunch:
Then we gave him our big gift - a certificate for a new(er) car (just a homemade certificate with a pile of printed-out descriptions of possible cars from this used car place where we got our van - it has really good deals on low-mileage 2-3 year-old cars in great condition.
He's nursed along his 1997 Mountaineer (basically a Ford Explorer) for long enough. For about five years now, he's always been fixing something on that thing - or just living with the things that proved too hard or expensive to fix (the heat and A/C only came out of the defrost, making for some freezing toes in the winter and only slightly air conditioned heat in the summer, the driver's seat had mostly detatched itself from the floor and had something sticking up out of it that had ripped holes in most of Jared's pants, the back doors could only be opened from the outside since something went weird with the child locks, the radiator leaked, the engine made dubious noises...plus it's a gas guzzler). And he has a 45 minute commute each way for work every day. So having a comfortable, fuel-efficent car just makes sense.
He's talked about different car options for a long time now (every time something new would go wrong with the Mountaineer) but he kept saying he could fix it and it would still serve him just fine. I couldn't tell whether he was emotionally attached (I think that's part of it even though he won't admit it) or whether he was just being his regular very unselfish self and sacrificing his driving comfort so we'd have money for other things (this was probably the main reason). But I figured that this big 4-0 birthday would be the perfect time to take action.
We planned to go do some test driving in the next couple days (we'd hoped to do it right on his birthday but the weather and timing didn't work out - we found too late that they were closing early for New Year's Eve and it was just above 0 degrees - not great weather for fun family car shopping). So we went car shopping a couple days later. As always, everything was more complicated than hoped, but he ended up with a much more comfortable, fuel-efficient car that he loves.
Ashton made him a great video full of fun old photos - I'll post it here when I get a chance.
The kids and I also gave him a fun table-top ping pong set that was an immediate hit.
I told him he'd need to take a little break from ping pong so that I could take him out to dinner and he was very pleasantly surprised to find some of our best friends there at the restaurant (they live in CA so he wasn't expecting that at all!). Plus they brought him his favorite dessert ever - pecan pie from Maddox (I'd tried in vain to get it myself, happy to drive the 30 mintues there to get it - but they said I hadn't ordered far enough in advance and were out of pies for that day - I was trying to pick it up the day before - and on the actual birthday, I thought we'd be car shopping in SLC so I wouldn't be able to drive up there and pick it up - but our friends were staying with relatives near Maddox so they were able to pick it up for us - perfect!). We had such a fun dinner and then headed home for pie and ice cream and games with our friends for a while then just with the kids when they had to head out to be with their own kids.
We played game after game until it was quite suddenly almost time to watch the ball drop. Then we brought in the new year with sparkling cidar and toasts and kisses.
I think Jared had a good day. He sure deserves it. And we were able to do a follow-up birthday celebration with one of his best friends from MIT and his family a couple weeks later - a whole day of hanging out and catching up with a great family we haven't seen in WAY too long.
Anyway, here's my birthday list of favorite things about this wonderful husband of mine - I was going to do a top 10 list but I just sort of kept going and before long, I had 40 - one for each year of this wonderful man's life.
1. He can build just about anything - and has a great time involving the kids and helping them learn and have fun with building projects. He's built a new back fence, a super-cool hill and tunnel and whole backyard, a pergola, our falling-apart front porch, shelves in many areas our our house, lots of furniture that came un-assembled, tons of Pinewood Derby cars, and so much more.
2. He can fix just about anything - he's fixed that Mountaineer countless times, the dishwasher, the furnace, the garbage disposal (lots of times), the stopped-up toilets (he's awfully good with a plunger). He's installed new outlets and lightswitches. He's stopped up the drafty gaps all over this old drafty house. And he's constantly fixing things on the Power of Moms website and helping me with all my computer and phone difficulties. Whenever there's something to be fixed, he's the man for the job.
3. He's the most selflessly helpful person I've ever met. He's always willing to help move someone's furniture or talk through a hard issue someone is going through or give a blessing even when he's got 100 things on his own plate and is super tired. And he does it in a way that makes people feel like he really enjoys helping them - because he does.
4. He is a great listener. He's always willing to listen to my problems and ideas and those of others.
5. He's got the best eyes. Hazel/brown with flecks of gold. I love seeing them full of concern as we talk about someone in the ward and seeing them well up with tears on rare occasions (that have become just a bit less rare over the years) when the kids do something really great or when there's a beautiful spiritual moment.
6. He is a great leader. I've loved seeing him lead our congregation at church with so much love and care this past year. I love how he gives people the information they need, sets them apart, then really trusts them to do a great job and come to him when they need help. He never micro-manages. He
7. He's so great with little kids, always making them feel special. I love seeing how he looks right at little kids and pays attention to them. They can feel his goodness and that he likes them. A couple tiny little kids at church want to sit with him more than their parents and it's pretty cute - especially when they go up on the stand where he's sitting as Bishop to sit on his lap.
8. He is probably the most un-moody person imaginable - but still accepts and weathers my emotional storms without judging me.
9. He's always up for adventure - and helping make adventures work.
10. He sees things in a beautifully simple and straight-forward way and doesn't waste time over-analyzing things.
11. He so good at helping the kids with their math homework - explains things so patiently.
12. He has a great laugh - almost a giggle sometimes - the kids love tickling him until he's laughing like a little girl.
13. He's a great teacher - he's taught the kids about so many things - from rock climbing to skiing to fixing things around the house to shoveling walks to being king and helpful to others. He's great at helping with homework and teaching the kids computer programming.
14. He's amazingly strong - he can lift an amazing amount of weight and can push himself well beyond what seems reasonable when it comes to running or biking.
15. He rolls with whatever comes without letting himself be stressed out at all.
16. He's got a strong stong body. He can lift just about anything. He can make himself run a marathon with very little training. He can mountain bike up and down crazy hard stuff.
17. He's got a strong mind. He can will himself to do things that others would shrink at. He gets himself right up in the morning (something I seriously need to work on). He can force himself to keep going and do what needs to be done when he's tired or sick. He doesn't shy away from challenges or hard things - he hits them head on with amazing stamina and fortitude.
18. He's got a strong spirit. He knows what he believes and has a firm and unshakeable testimony.
19. He's terribly handsome.
20. He's always willing to listen to me.
21.He's always totally respected anything that is important to me.
22. He's really good at Reverse Charades - he can act out anything with the best facial expressions and his team always wins. Plus he gets everyone laughing to tears.
23. He uses his hands a lot when he talks - very animated and sort of Italian-like. I love that.
24. He loves sports and shows full of action - but he also really involves "artsy" films and is happy to watch Downton Abbey with me as well as all the other British costume drama movies I tend to favor.
25. He appreciates art and classical music and ballet - he's always happy to go to cultural events and really enjoys them.
26. He's taught me to let out kids take reasonable physical risks - so they're some of the most kinesthetically aware and physically confident kids ever.
27. He is so patient and kind to everyone - even people who are being pretty crazy and rude and demanding and unappreciative when it comes to his office as a Bishop.
28. He's always able to fix all my technological difficuluties with my phone and computer and other things. Sometimes he'll just sit down to look at a problem I'm having on my computer and it'll magically stop doing whatever weird thing it was doing. It's like the computer respects him and is a little scared of him.
29. He makes great breakfasts - great homemade waffles and pancakes, amazing eggs with sauteed onions and tomatoes and cheese.
30. He really appreciates everything I cook and is always complimentary. He's not picky at all and is always complimentary of my cooking.
31. He never complains about anything - seriously. It's amazing.
32. He is such a helpful, loyal and kind son. He's always happy to help his mom with anything and plans to do some fixing and helping around her house whenever we visit her.
33. He's such a great brother. He'll do anything for any of his siblings - or mine - and just loves being with them.
34. He sets high standards for the kids and they know he means business. But they also know he loves them dearly and would do anything for them.
35. He is so great about reading scriptures with the kids before breakfast every day. I love listening to him explain things as I make breakfast and pipe up with my own comment once in a while. I love that they have that special time with their dad every day.
36. He drives Ashton to early morning seminary every day. Oh, how grateful I am that I don't have to do that!
37. He's thoroughly supported and helped with everything I do with Power of Moms. He built the website for us, watched the kids so I could go do Retreats, fixed everything that goes wrong with the website and helped us figure out what we can do to constantly improve our website's functionality.
38. He doesn't speak ill of others.
39. He has a remarkable ability to be both compassionate and tough at the same time. He totally listens with love as people tell him about their financial woes in his role as Bishop - but shows them that they can help themselves rather than just handing them things. He acknowledges the hardness of things that I'm going through or that the kids are dealing with - but helps us see that we can do what needs to be done rather than fixing everything for us.
40. He's so many things I'm not and I love how he completes me so wonderfully well. He's everything I never knew I needed - and I'm eternally grateful for this wonderful man of mine.