Friday, November 03, 2006

I Turn 40 And It Is Good

It's been a week and I've only just touched down from Planet Birthday. I am a big believer in extending the day for as long as possible, but may I say that if my '40s are anything like my birthday has been, then bring 'em on!

First, let's give credit where credit is due. I don't know what I did to deserve such a husband, but whatever it was, someone should give me a medal. Not only did David go beyond what was listed in the "Make Birthdays Special" column of the marriage contract (what, you didn't have that column?) but I was genuinely surprised more than once.

The day began after a refreshing repose wherein Jarrah snoozed until nearly 8:00. Thanks, baby! When I finally got up and ambled sleepily towards the computer, David asked if I was ready for my first birthday surprise. Readers, I was. He told me to log on to "" and up popped a blog he'd created for friends from afar to offer birthday wishes and memories. Within seconds, I was totally bawling. Dear ones, I am going to thank you all personally as soon as I can, but may I say that your beautiful words and often hilarious photographs meant so much to me that the whole birthday could have wrapped up right there and I still would have been the luckiest girl in the world.

But, soft! There was more. David brought out some non-virtual gifts. There was a touching and hilarious trio of flipbooks, those old-fashioned collections of photos that appear to be moving when the pages are flipped from front to back. David had sent in a snippet of video from which the company used the still frames to re-create the piece of video as a flipbook. Does that make sense? My favorite is called "Snacks," featuring Jarrah just days after we met her, two-fisting it with a couple of rolls bigger than her head (also see "Elegant Ladies" and "Seasoned Traveler"). The second gift was a little more "ma'am-like" in the best way: a gorgeous necklace with three Tanzanite blue stones as the pendant. Then, when I walked in the kitchen, I saw a gift I've been coveting for some time: a video frame, which shows a photo for a few seconds and then slides to another, with room for thousands, so you never get bored of looking at the same picture.

Wow! Already my birthday cup runneth over. But now we were off to a new pancake restaurant downtown called Richard Walkers, where we had the best apple souffle pancake of all time and a glorious sunny-crisp fall morning on the side. Though the excursion ended with an extremely smelly diaper in our midst, that was only a reminder of how lucky we were to be eating pancakes--finally--as a family.

The morning continued with a stop at DSW shoe warehouse, where birthday karma struck me hard and I discovered a single pair of size 8 Kenneth Coles with a wedge heel and the comfort quotient of slippers on the clearance rack. The clearance rack, Readers. Do you see that teeny, tiny tear on my cheek?

A brief stop home for a grilled cheese cooked by my darling husband (Vegemite for him, plain for Jarrah and me) and I was off again to a spa "mini-day," including a mini-facial, a mini-massage, and a maxi-blowout to de-frizz my 40-year-old hair with the new blonde highlights. They even let me apply my party face at a makeup station with perfect lighting, so I headed back to my car with lipstick and a sassy bubble flip, needing only to slip into my dress and slide into my new shoes before the festivities continued.

Everyone at the salon kept asking what I was doing that night, and I answered truthfully that I didn't know, but there would be people involved and that I had to look smashing. When I got home, my sister Lindsey was there with her boyfriend and her dog to greet me, and between fielding birthday calls and opening parcels I was quite busy until Nicole the Wonder Babysitter arrived (with a card for me, the angel!) quickly followed by Mary and Paul to pick us up in their spanking new car!

I wasn't that surprised when we pulled up at Baja Betty's (after all, I'd said to David months earlier "One place that might be good for my birthday is Baja Betty's") but you could have knocked me over with a tortilla chip when we walked into the bar and I spotted Lindsey talking to a gal who looked uncannily like my friend Liz, who lives in Switzerland. Hold the phone--it WAS Liz! She and David had plotted to surprise me, and not only was she here for the party, but the next morning we were off to The Oaks at Ojai for a glorious spa trip. I was jumping up and down and screaming, and had to sedate myself with a tall, frosty margarita. There were lots of local friends at the bash, too, and Mary had prepared a Leaning Tower of Cupcakes that was pretty bitchin', not to mention perfectly yum. I was smiling so hard all night that my face hurt. Things got a bit fuzzy after a couple margaritas but I'm afraid I was not hallucinating the man in the assless chaps, who was only one in a slew of scantily clad revelers. Like every year, I got confused: "Why does everyone dress up in costume for my birthday?" Then someone explains that it's also Halloween, and I'm sorted out for another year.

David had arranged an opportunity for me to belt out some show tunes in honor of the occasion (he knows me so well) but since most of us have babies and others of us were jet-lagged, we skipped the karaoke bar and packed it in on the early side. I didn't have any let-down, though, since I knew the next day would bring another adventure, and three of our guests were staying at our house.

The next day there was a grand group for bagels at our place, and some feverish packing for a noon train. The only bleak part of the whole weekend occurred on that train, since it was almost as crowded as one I'd taken years earlier in Europe, where I had to sleep curled around an 80-year-old nun in a sort of cargo hold. We had seats (riding backwards on the non-ocean side), but many others didn't, and the whole train was fetid and stinky you couldn't get into the cafe car. It was also delayed, and by the time we got to Ventura, it was dark and we were starving. I tried calling the only local cab company, but they were dismissive and we ended up standing on the platform in the dark with a homeless guy yelling "Nice butt," wondering if we'd ever see our spa dinner. When the cab finally came, a little old lady we'd befriended was going to be left alone, so we insisted that she come in our cab and we took a 20-minute detour to her house. Shortly after that, our driver, who was built like a bodyguard, announced he was stopping for gas, pulled into a little station, and vanished. Completely. "I think he wants to make us into a stew," Liz whispered, and I wish she hadn't because then I was convinced that my payback for a great birthday was going to be visiting a wood chipper instead of the spa. Much later, he emerged, and we saw him go shopping at the convenience store. After what seemed like hours, he returned, and I clenched my teeth as we wended up a one-lane highway through the dark woods, only relaxing when the lights of Ojai finally appeared.

Luckily, the Oaks is the friendliest place on earth, and when they saw our travel-worn state, they welcomed us right into dinner without having to check in first. Soon after, I found myself lying in the dark for a "bedtime yoga" class. And so began a blissful couple of days characterized by fabulous fruits and veggies that I didn't have to cut up myself, tribal dance, losing my bathing suit bottoms during aqua aerobics, sunrise walks through the foliage and foothills, lots of yoga, and a hot rock massage. There may have been a "spa girls on the lam" night on the town involving ice cream, but what happens in Ojai, stays in Ojai. There were also lots and lots of dishy chatfests between two friends of 13 years, but, again, see above. ;)

David had arranged our return trip to enable our first annual trick-or-treating with Jarrah, and an hour after arriving home we were off to Synthia and Scot's for pizza and x-treme fun for Jarrah, who got to boss around three-year-old Hannah and four-year-old Leigh, both of whom had the charm and good manners to accommodate her. Jarrah loved walking from house to house, but only because she was excited by the decorations and the opportunity to shove her way into other people's homes. She had never seen candy before (I know what you're thinking, and I'm not an idiot: I figure I've got six months, maybe a year, before the jig is up) and wasn't sure why she was being required to carry stuff, but she found the general glee contagious and only occasionally overwhelming.

And even then the birthday celebration was not over, because I had Liz to myself for another whole day. On Wednesday she got to experience the mayhem of Border's Babies, and we both got a lot of shopping done. We also watched Jarrah wrestling with three children whom she literally stumbled upon at the park, and who were more than game to let her hug them to the ground. To salute our American heritage on Liz's last night away from Swiss-German food, we went to Outback Steakhouse (yes, yes, I see the irony, but trust me; I'm married to an Australian, and their food bears no relation.)

Thursday was a bit cold and sad, with Liz departing at the crack of dawn and back to business as usual with Jarrah at My Gym. Still, even though I was worn out from celebrating, I retained a rosy glow from the festivities, and just enough energy to bake my dear husband an apple pie for his pains. No doubt the delights of the past week have me looking younger already.


Alleen said...

Holy Cow!! What a fabulous round of festivities!!!!! You must have felt like a rock star!

Jenn said...

FANTASTIC! I can only hope that my 40th is 1/2 of your superb, x-treme week and I'll be one happy camper.

BIG hugs fellow scorpio.


Anonymous said...

Wow! You do birthdays right! :)
Better keep that great hubby! What a terrific series of events he planned!
Love the blonde highlights & new hair style.

And Jarrah keeps getting cuter - how is that possible??

Best, Gail

Kim said...

You look absolutely stunning at 40! Looks like this might be your best year yet!

I am so happy that you had an extended celebration befitting a queen--you deserve every second of it!

And where did you get that husband? Is there some place where I could place an order for one of my own???

Anonymous said...

Wow. I need a nap after reading your entry, Sam.

So glad your induction to 40 was fabulocity. You earned it, dearest.

Welcome to The Club.

Type (little) a aka Michele said...

YOWZA! You look great!! And when, exactly did Jarrah turn into a little girl?? She is sooooo adorable, it hurts.

My daughter and I loved the videos. I shot a video of her reaction to "snacks" and "ladies". If you email me at, i'll send you the link.

Cheri @ Blog This Mom!® said...

Darlin' Sam:
Thanks for the kind words about my hairstyling abilities (limited to that one Halloween hairdo, really), but you, you, you have Babe-a-licious hair! Yummy hair. Yummy blog. Happy, happy birthday, again, dear, dear Sam!

Anonymous said...

We had the best time ever!

We were so happy to celebrate with you!

Welcome to the Club 4-0!