34 Part 3.

Last year Matt happened to be in the States on my actual birthday so Jessica worked out a girls’ night dinner at Vapiano, followed by a fun get-together at my house afterwards.

Sometime before Matt left on his trip he began planning a surprise party for me, complete with a beautiful pink cake with flowers.  My only request for my birthday last year was a girly cake.  He went above and beyond by surprising me with a party to go along with the beautiful cake!  To keep me in the dark he told me the guys were going out and that I was to meet the girls at the bowling alley for dinner and to let the kids play. When I got there a bazillion people were there!  I was completely surprised!!

Last year's birthday cake! So pretty!

This year I was told early on not to plan anything for my birthday weekend.  I LOVE surprises so I didn’t poke around or try to snoop.  In fact, when my birthday rolled around, I was totally clueless.  My hints were to be ‘decent’ by 10:00 on the day of my birthday, ready to leave an hour or so later.  For the day after, be ready to leave by 9:00. Good enough for me!

On Saturday morning I was ready to go by 9:00 a.m. and had some spending money set aside.  (Another hint.)  At this time I was wondering if we were going to go to downtown Wiesbaden to shop, a place I love.  So far Wiesbaden’s downtown is one of my favorite shopping areas.  It’s so cute!

After we had been driving for fifteen minutes or so I realized we were not heading in the direction of downtown at all.  When I eventually glanced at the GPS it revealed we were about an hour away from our destination, so I assumed we were heading to Ramstein.

“Little America,” as Ramstein is affectionately know to those living in Europe, would have been a great place to go as it has a LOT more shopping opportunities than our own PX!

When we were about 10 minutes from Ramstein Jessica turned off the GPS.  I assumed she just knew the way from there on but then she took a different exit and I started to realize the Ramstein PX was not our destination.  We took a quick tour of the Opel car dealership parking lot before pulling onto a base I’d never been to before.  I saw signs for “Event” and still had no clue what we were doing. When we pulled into the parking lot they assumed I had figured it out, but I was totally lost.  One of them gave me the hint to think about what was on my fridge… I could not remember what was on my fridge that may be a hint to what we were doing there!  Jessica and Aimee looked at each other as if to say, “OH NO!  What if she didn’t want to come here at all!?!”

They finally told me that we were at the “Holiday Bazaar” and within seconds I remembered that a month or so ago I had seen the ad for the Bazaar in the Army Newspaper.  I had clipped the ad and put it on the fridge in hopes that I would be able to go.  Shortly after that Matt had told me not to plan anything for my birthday weekend so I dismissed the Bazaar idea altogether!  Turns out he had seen the ad on the fridge and gotten Jessica and Aimee in on the surprise to TAKE ME TO IT!  How adorable!?!?  (I have to think that he is pretty smart… he got the good end of the deal in this because he didn’t have to take me himself!!  I believe we both had a better time this way!)

I’m not much of a doo-dad person and don’t really like to shop all that much, but Bazaars are fun!  Some of the things I saw completely threw me for a loop.  Like a Polish Pottery dog bowl.  45 Euros.  Seriously?  Some of the paintings were creepy, though unintentionally.  While we were walking around I remembered something specific I had been wanting for several years that is supposedly sold at these Bazaars.  I really don’t know what the name of it is but it’s a plaque with the family name on it and little tags hang from it displaying the locations the family has been stationed.

I first saw one in Columbia, SC.  At the time I thought it would be extremely neat to have one but at that point it would have only had one tag; it would have looked a little silly.

I’ve seen several of these signs in friends’ homes since then, but have yet to find a vendor selling them. So, I was on the look-out.  I shared with Aimee and Jessica that I would like one that was not Americana in style, but one that said something like “Home is where the Army sends us.”  I couldn’t describe exactly what I was looking for but knew I’d know it when I saw it.  While there we ran into another group of our friends!  Small world!

We had explored 3 of the 4 corners of the Bazaar and were walking toward the last corner when I had another one of those, Christmas Vacation “lights-from-above-shining-on-the-tree” moments.  I walked over to the vendor and, had I been in a place where negotiating was an option, I would have lost all my negotiating power.  The lady behind the counter could see the hearts in my eyes and it was over.  She was probably wishing she had doubled the prices just before I had gotten there.  I was sold!

I looked at all the houses and different plaques displayed around the stand settling on the first one I saw.  You know… the one the lights from above had shown on.

While filling out the paperwork she asked if I wanted the first block to say, “Home is where the Army sends us” but since we had the bigs before the Army, and I really wanted them represented, I asked if it could say “Lord” instead of “Army.”  That was not a problem and so we went from Ferry Road to Weisbaden, Germany.

Aimee, Jessica, and I left that post and went to Ramstein for lunch while they worked on my sign and we enjoyed Chili’s.  A taste of home.  No counting WW points on your birthday (weekend) right?!?

I look back on the day and I have so many memories and yet no pictures.  I didn’t take a single picture the entire day out.  I’m disappointed, but at the same time, when you spend 7 hours talking, cameras are not necessary! We had a great time and I have to admit, it was bittersweet knowing that in just a couple of months 1/3 of this close group will be living in another country.

We headed back to pick up the sign and it was perfect!  I loved it!  I decided to keep it a secret from Matt until I got home and could show it to him.  I did text him around 3 and told him this:  “Looooooooooving my day!!  Thank you!!  Love you very much!”

The post-it note gives an idea of the size of the sign.

And then we were off on our return trip home.  I knew there was something else going on, especially as we were told to stop and pick up vanilla ice cream!  When we walked into the house, I saw that Matt had been busy grilling hamburgers and hotdogs and all the husbands and kids had joined him.  He had also invited another friend and her family. Meet Christy:  She is a relatively new friend of mine and we communicated via email before she even arrived in Germany.  She homeschools her kids and we both have a love of cake.  The main difference between us in that regard is that she can MAKE cakes… I can only EAT them.  We had a great time visiting for a few hours, letting the kids play together.  We had so much fun watching the babies interact, as there were 4 of them!  I actually got a picture of ALL FOUR at the same time!  Turned out great!

There was a lot of laughter, a lot of noise, and there was cake!

I know you already saw this picture in "34 Part 2" but it was pretty enough to include again.

When everyone left for the evening and we were winding down, the only word to describe this birthday weekend was, “perfect.”  Matt did a great job orchestrating the entire thing and my friends were so kind to watch the kids, take me places, and make a cake!

Yes, I wore a sleeveless shirt all day. It was that warm!

About Jennifer

"Yes, they're all mine." The answer to the question I hear most often.
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