Happy birthday to me

How did I get so lucky?

Kates, the girls and I took off from The Farm yesterday morning and headed an hour down I-90/94 to my parents place to spend the day with them and celebrate my birthday. ... Kates also got me a colorful birthday hat that Faye wore much better than I.

Mom had a plate of sliced meat and cheese ready for us so we could make sandwiches for lunch, and Dad served me up an honorary Pepsi. The girls ate parts of their lunches but had more fun running back and forth through the living room and seeing who could beat the other in a race to hug me first.

For the afternoon, we headed to the city park. The girls immediately took to the swings and monkey bars, and Phoebe made a new friend, Emma, another girl about her age who was at the park with her family. In between playing at the park, we enjoyed relaxing and talking under a shade tree and later a good game of wiffle ball with Phoebe knocking the ball all over the field. Man, I wish she would let me sign her up for Little League …

Before leaving, Dad and I played a game of catch with the baseball. It was our second in as many months, and it was bliss.

Shortly after 3, we left the park so Kates and I could check into our hotel accommodations for the night with the girls. The hope for them was to rest and maybe nap for the hour or so before we were due to meet my parents for dinner. Instead they jumped on the beds and watched Disney Channel.

For dinner, our instructions were to meet my parents outside their neighborhood at 4:30 and follow them in our car to our final destination. They refused to tell us where we were heading and cruised down the suburban Madison roads into Sun Prairie, eventually reaching a refurbished brick building with a sign that read “Nitty Gritty. Burgers, birthdays and beers.” I laughed out loud and had a feeling I was in for a fun time.

The place had the environment of a sports bar and grill with large television screens at every angle. After confirming our reservation, I was invited to pick a balloon and directed to the bar to get my complimentary birthday drink. There, a barmaid took my balloon and tied it to a complimentary beer mug, gave me a card good for one free sundae a month for a year and signed me up for a drawing for a $50 gift card. My name also was added to a board behind the bar that projected all of the day’s birthday visitors. Beer in hand, I headed back down the stairs to rejoin the family and be escorted to our table in the main dining room.

Burgers are the specialty, of course, and I chose the Gritty Burger – an award-winning 6-ounce ground chuck burger with secret “gritty” sauce, served on a honey wheat sesame seed bun. … Then, for the grand finale, I was served a vanilla cake topped with a single candle that shot sparks higher than my head, while the entire wait staff sang “Happy Birthday” to me. Classic.

For the nightcap, we headed to the hotel. The girls and I wasted no time getting into our swimsuits and jumping into the pool while Kates and my parents pulled up some chairs to watch from the deck. For Faye’s first time in a big pool, she did well, giggling as I carried her through the deeper end of the pool. By the end of our pool time, she was bold enough to let me hold her in the water on her back and gliding sideways. I also gave a whole lot of piggy back rides to both girls. It was a lot of fun, and a worthy workout.

By 9:30, I was tucked into the bed next to Phoebe. And I was out.

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