The gifts and the food:
- Breakfast: Katie and the boys woke me up with a "happy birthday" serenade, capped off with a homemade version of my favorite breakfast - a Burger King style crossainwich with round tater tots. I dig it when I wake up with the King... and the family He's blessed me with.
- Big card: I like homemade stuff that involves extra care. My family spent some time to make a specialized, oversized homemade card with the boys' handprints all over it. A huge "HAPPY BIRTHDAY DADDY" was at the center, with expressions of love all throughout. *Gersh.*
- Wrestling ring: Well... this is an interesting story to explain. I'll get into the details some other time, but let's just say it's an inside joke. The intent was for the boys and I to have something to play with together, but the problem was that it didn't come with wrestlers. So we ended up returning it and getting...
- A Toy Story set: Sure, it was more for the boys than for me, but the joy on their faces was worth it. We've been looking for "Stinky Pete" for a long time and finally found a cheap way to get him (eBay shipping always didn't make it worth bidding on him). I think, though, that this purchase makes 703 "Buzz Lightyear" figures we now own.
- Chinese Buffet: We had lunch at one of the biggest and well cared for Chinese buffets in town. (Which, as a side note, have you noticed how most Chinese food is found in the form of buffets these days? Did the staff get tired of hearing us try to pronounce the name of the food over the phone or was the thought that if we could see it we would probably eat it? Anyway... I don't mind the concept, but I definitely miss trying to say "Moo Goo Gai Pan" with a straight face). They played the "Happy Birthday" song in English and Chinese, then came over with a plate of fruit circled around a mini lemon pie (like an inch in circumference) with a candle in it. Next to it was some fruit I never had before, but I ate it anyway. Not bad.
- Gift card: One of my best friends dropped by with a gift card for a local Christian bookstore. I knew what I wanted to get right away - the new David Crowder CD. Track 18 rocks... very cool (we actually cranked it up loud today and danced around as a family). The CD has some intentional silences... this weirded me out at first, but then I began to appreciate them.
- Pietro's: Pietro's has quite possibly my favorite Italian food, especially the Fettuccine Alfredo. Since it was my birthday, my entree was free. We added a salad to it for $1.99, which Katie ate with a bowl of soup. I think our tab was like $5 or something. Savory, free grub.
- Princess Bride Movie: Again, an inside story here since I already own The Princess Bride on VHS. But since the conspiracy of DVD's came out (honestly, do I need 20 extra hours of "Dude, Where's My Car?") video tapes have become the new 8-Track in society. But we've become converts and so I now own the DVD with all the added extras. This is perhaps my favorite movie of all time, and Katie and I have some fond memories of watching it together during our "courtin' days." (For some fun, take the personality quiz.)
- Princess Bride Picture: A couple of days ago I mentioned to Katie how I saw this cool picture in this month's Discipleship Journal. John Ortberg wrote a cool story about the Princess Bride called "As You Wish" and so the magazine commissioned someone to come up with an artistic version of a scene from the live movie. Katie paid attention and bought the magazine, then framed the picture. This will go on my office desk... that is, when/if I get an office again.
- Ice cream cake: I don't like cake. That is, regular cake. But ice cream cake? Oh, man... step aside, please. I'd like four servings. Dairy Queen makes the best... just the right mix of ice cream and cookie crumbs. Dang... just for describing this I now have to go eat another piece.
- Movie: Katie and I saw Flightplan... not bad, not bad at all. And I got a coupon via email that gave us a large popcorn and large drink (you know, the size that comes with its own lifeguard?). Since we went to the Thursday night late show (Katie's parents watched the kids while they slept - one benefit to living with the in-laws), we were the only ones in the whole theater. Kind of cool... but when we left the whole place was empty. We didn't see one movie theater employee, which made us wonder if we had been forgotten about. Although we could have walked off with heaps of badly buttered popcorn and overpriced candy, we opted to just quietly slip out.
- My wife: I know many guys dream of the perfect woman to marry, but unfortunately for them it just won't happen. I know this because she's off the market... I married her. When I say perfect, I don't mean that she's flawless. I mean that all of her flaws (if I could even call them that) are perfect in just the right places. And the upside? She actually loves me... everyday she proves it. Even on a shoestring budget she gave me a bang up birthday. I know my God is good... and I learn more about Him everyday through the tenderness and endurance of my bride. Loving her has helped me glimpse how Christ loves the Church.
- My oldest boy: A highlight of my day was seeing my oldest son's face during the singing of "Happy Birthday." He's four and a half now, and this was the first birthday he got to be in on the secrets. Often he'd say, "Daddy... um, there's something that you're going to like! Something special!" And he'd almost spill it, but then he'd catch himself and go whisper over to my wife. Very cool.
- My youngest boy: This little guy soaked in the day. I can tell he's processing things more, being almost two years old. He really enjoyed the cake... which we unfortunately fed him before bed. The little guy was bouncing around quite a bit, but he eventually nodded off to sleep.
- I don't mind being older. Some of my friends freaked when they turned 30, and I didn't mind it. As a few years have gone by, I still haven't minded. Now that I'm 34, I'm still loving my Jesus, my wife, my kids, and the Church.
- Last year when I turned 33, I told my friend Rob, "Dude... I'm Jesus' age when He died. I wonder if this will be my 'crucifixion' year." A few days later some things changed in my job, and the fatigue of following Jesus since then has often made me wonder about that statement. I wonder... might this year be my "resurrection" year?
- "Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint." (Isaiah 40:30-31)