What Have You Learned?

If yesterday was any indication of how this coming year is going to go, I have a feeling there are interesting times ahead.

My morning started with a coffee date with Sydney at her favorite local coffee bar, the Spotted Cow. She’s there so often, walking in with her is like walking into “Cheers” with Norm. We sat down at a table, and I must admit I was a bit nervous. Sydney likes to ask probing, introspective questions. “So,” She says. “What have you learned since your last birthday?”

It’s not an easy question to answer. After a moment I said, ” I guess the best part of being over 40 is that your fears become less, and risk isn’t quite so scary.” It’s true. I’ve found myself more and more asking, “why not?” I’ve wanted to try new things, new foods and I started looking at all of the things I’ve told myself I can’t do in a new light- as possibilities.

After coffee we picked up sandwiches and brought them home for birthday phase 2- family games. (Or as my husband said, “we’re gonna play ‘pin the blame on the child.'”) Although there was at least one time out ( who could blame Parker for getting a little upset when he caused the Jenga tower to fall and Zoe jumped up on the kitchen table in a taunting victory dance?), there were many more moments of laughter. Playing Apples to Apples with a kid who is an early reader is an amusing experience. Besides the fact that he giggled and said, “that’s mine!” whenever his card was read, and often didn’t understand the categories, he actually had some surprising success, in spite of himself. When Zoe announced the category was ‘cosmic’, Parker confidently slammed his card on the table. It was “Captain Kirk.” Sydney said, “Do you even know who that is?” He said, “Of course I do! He’s Superman!”

Game time was followed by dinner at the Melting Pot. For those who don’t know, the Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant. Or, as Nathan put it- “They charge us all this money to cook our own food?!”

The restaurant was my choice, I’d been lobbying to take the kids there for a year. However, I didn’t want to come out and demand it, so I dropped the hint to Sydney, who passed it along to her father.  His response was that he’d rather die than take Parker to anything that passes for a nice restaurant and promptly made reservations for the loudest restaurant he could find- Buca Di Beppo. He did call the Melting Pot and explained his concerns, so they booked us into a private dining room with a door that closed in the back of the restaurant. He decided he could live with that, even though he was still convinced someone was getting scalded before the night was through.

After we were seated, our drink orders taken and our waiter had left, Sydney said, “Apparently you have to be very attractive to work here.” Zoe (who had already whispered to me, “Our waiter is very attractive”) quickly agreed, “THAT’S what I’M sayin’!”

The first course of four is the cheese course, followed by the salad course. It was at this point that Nathan, a self-professed cheese and salad hater, realized he had just entered his own personal nightmare. Nathan thinks he hates cheese. I say “thinks” because in spite of what he says, he likes pizza, mac n cheese, enchiladas, casseroles, and nachos. The idea, however, of dipping vegetables in melted cheese was enough for him to declare that he was going to starve because they had nothing he was willing to eat. Eventually he relented and dipped some chips in the cheddar, which he decided he liked. That is, until my father asked what the waiter had poured into the cheddar and I responded, “beer.” Nathan’s head whipped around faster than “the Exorcist,” he stared at me accusingly and said, “You’re letting Parker eat a bunch of BEER?!” sigh. Did I mention Nathan’s fierce protective instincts towards his younger siblings?

As the salad course I arrived, I began opening my birthday cards. The first card, from my husband, said:   photo

I read it out loud and Jeff replied, “Well, 41 is almost 50. Just 9 more years!”

I heard the cute waiter guffaw behind me.

The main course arrived, and it soon became clear that we were inept at fondue. 9 people, 18 skewers, all jockeying for position around 3 small pots. Small children using sharp objects to spear raw meat and then plunge it into boiling oil; I started realizing my husband may have been right.

The final course was the chocolate. I read off the choices and Zoe became very upset when I mentioned “turtle chocolate.” She believed that meant we would be eating turtle, her favorite animal. My father enjoyed stoking that fire a bit, but before her hysteria reached epic proportions I managed to convince her no turtles had been harmed in the making of our dessert.

Three hours after we entered the Melting Pot, we all waddled out drizzled in chocolate, bellies heavy with cheese,  and smelling like we’d been working the fryer of a fast food restaurant all day. I’d say that is the sign of a successful dining experience, wouldn’t you?

But the fun didn’t stop there. I had been invited out for Karaoke with my friends Zac and Heather. My husband smiled gratefully as I left  and said, “Thank you for not making me go with you.”

Zac is a karaoke pro, and Heather is his wife/biggest fan. I have yet to find the amount of liquid motivation that will get Heather up to sing, so I stand in for her on the duets with Zac. I never imagined I would play Lita Ford to someone else’s Ozzy Osborne, but it’s the unpredictability of life that makes it fun, right?

The karaoke bar that we go to used to be a British tea room . The day Princess Di died, my mother and I went and had tea there as a sign of solidarity in mourning. Where the bar is now, there used to be a market filled with biscuits, canned bread, Devonshire cream and currant jellies. In the back of the store was the tea room, with a fresco ceiling covered in blue sky and wispy clouds, lace tablecloths and fine china. While the painted ceiling remains, the delicate formal setting has been replaced with two large pool tables. Unfortunately, the restrooms are in the very back, which means getting there is like running a gauntlet of inebriated men with pool cues.

One of these men, about 55 years old and about 55 inches tall, made quite an impression last night. As he was beginning his performance of Garth Brooks’ “The River,” he pulled the mic cord to our table, as if checking how far it would stretch. I had my back to the karaoke area and was facing Zac and Heather when her eyes suddenly got very wide and she said, “Here he comes!” I turned my head  and suddenly found my personal space heavily invaded, as he was singing right into my face. I leaned away and he moved towards me. I leaned back further and he lurched even more. By the time he tried to touch my face, I had almost fallen backwards off my chair trying to get away from him. Thankfully he finally took the hint and backed off. As she finished recording this encounter on her phone, Heather said, “Looks like somebody is looking for their future ex-wife!”

I will admit, I’ve always wanted to be serenaded, but that was not quite what I had imagined.

As one of the regulars, Hawaiian Joe, began his second Bob Marley song of the night, it seemed like a good time to call it done. After all, it was after midnight and no longer my birthday, and the bar was starting to turn into a pumpkin.

As I drove home I thought about Sydney’s question. “What have you learned?” What I learned yesterday was that too much cheese isn’t a good thing. I learned playing board games with my kids and husband is more entertaining than any comedy Hollywood could contrive. I learned that posting your very first blog on your birthday is the best way to go because everyone has to be nice to you on your birthday. I learned it takes 2 mandarin cosmos to get me to sing Aretha Franklin in front of a crowd of strangers and two good friends. Mostly, I re-learned how truly blessed I am to have the love and support of my family and friends. That’s a lesson I never get tired of learning.






2 thoughts on “What Have You Learned?”

  1. Hi pretty girl!

    Wow! First upon reading your post I was horrified to have missed your birthday! Happy Birthday! I loved reading your blogs, Facebook posts and feel so blessed to have you in my life! I’ll be turning the big 40 next year and I honestly am excited to be in my second phase of life. Thanks for sharing your beautiful family with all of us, it’s so much fun to read about all of the trials and tribulations of the Jackson family! Lets go celebrate again this week!! Love you sweets!!

    1. It’s ok! I knew you were out camping! We are gone this week but I would live to get together next week after I get back. Love you!

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