First on the birthday schedule was early-bird garage sales. This wasn't our usual leisurely waking, cup of coffee, read the paper, bully the girls into clothing pace, but instead consists of one parent (me) waking up sneakily early, and sneakily getting dressed and sneaking out the door. I found Syd playing quietly in the living room of the otherwise sleeping house as I went for my shoes, and so I invited her along, but the sleepers stayed sleeping and the little girl and I hit the sales as soon as they opened.
The best part of hitting the garage sales early is the excellent selection--if you're in the market for anything that might be at all popular, like tools, nice wooden toys, or any kind of professional-level supplies, early is the way to go. The downside is that you can't haggle nearly as well at 8 am as you can at 1 pm, say. So if I see something that I really like early on, but it's way overpriced, I actually might swing by the sale again later that day to see if it's still there and ready to be haggled over.
Syd and I were only out for an hour, but we bought several fat quarters at 25 cents each, a wooden ballot box that used to be in an Ellettsville Kentucky Fried Chicken owned by the guy running the sale for 30 years, now to be the all-new Pretend Mailbox (the cardboard version that the girls worked on for weeks is already trashed--Pretend Mailboxes get a lot of wear and tear), yet another map of the United States puzzle, and a still-packaged calendar math kit (I bet homeschoolers, especially, LOVE garage sales). I passed on a really nice mat-cutting kit because it was 20 bucks, and some boxes of Fiesta Ware because they were 40 bucks each.
The map of the United States puzzle, oddly, didn't have the pieces actually in the shape of the states, it turned out, but was still, apparently, quite a bit of fun: Matt and Willow were awake when Syd and I got home, and coffee and newspaper and breakfast commenced. Then Matt left me home alone to do some sewing while he took the girls out to get my cookie cake (everyone gets the cake of their choice on their birthday, and the main pleasure of my cake is that I don't have to bake it). Matt actually found the garage sale that had the Fiesta Ware--I'd admitted that 40 for a box of it really wasn't unreasonable, especially since I could sell the pieces I didn't want on ebay, and so he was going to surprise me with it. When he got there, though, and asked about it, guy running the sale was all, "No way, buddy. It's not 40 bucks for a box. It's 40 bucks for a five-piece set." Um, five pieces? For forty dollars? At a garage sale, to boot? What kind of fantasy world do they live in? This little old lady who was shopping at the sale even snuck up to Matt a minute later, thinking he was a guy, you know, and therefore probably a garage sale rube, and said, "Do NOT buy that Fiesta Ware at that price." Matt's, all, "Don't worry, lady. I fully understand the problems with that scenario."
Perhaps searching for the mat cutter, or perhaps just enjoying themselves, Matt and the girls hit enough other garage sales to provide him with some Xbox games and them with stuffed unicorns, and then they drove home just long enough to pick me up, and we went to a matinee of Ponyo. It was an awesome movie, fully in the vein of Spirited Away and My Neighbor Totoro, and, just for my birthday, perhaps, it included a shout-out to breastfeeding. Not to spoil the movie or anything, but at one point Ponyo tries to give a baby a sandwich, and its mother says something like, "The baby drinks milk from me, but I can eat the sandwich to help make milk for him," and Ponyo looks confused (she's a fish-girl, remember), and her friend says, "Yeah, my mom made milk for me, too, when I was a baby." Hells, yeah!
After the matinee was the cookie caking:Every year Matt takes it as his personal challenge to trick the bakers into putting as much icing as possible on my cookie cake. Last year, he did pretty well with "Happy 32nd Birthday Julie" and a couple of flowers. I think he topped himself this year, however--"Happy Birthday Congratulations Julie." Nice, huh? Matt even tried for "Happy Birthday AND Congratulations Julie", but the baker insisted that the "and" just wouldn't fit. So maybe next year, the same wording and a flower or two, and Matt might have reached the absolute limit of possibility.
Now, one of the most crucial parts of the birthday--I wanted to finish The Watchmen comic so that Matt and I could watch the movie that night. Therefore, for the next two hours, while the girls played, I hung out and read, munching on the odd piece of cookie cake, and Matt cleaned the house. For two hours. And I had a good vantage point for observation from my place on the couch, as well, so insert happy sigh.
Matt fed the girls a quick dinner, then we went to:
Matt fed the girls a quick dinner, then we went to:
The Roller Derby! It was Bleeding Heartland home team versus home team, the Slaughter Scouts versus the Farm Fatales, and it was crazy-close, with the Slaughter Scouts coming from behind to win by several points, ALL IN THE FINAL JAM!!!
I watched the roller derby on TV as a child, so it was quite nice to be sitting there knowing what was going on, and have Matt sitting next to me all confused for a change, and I got to whisper the rules to him and explain the action. Very simply, you have two teams racing around an elliptical track, with one point scorer for each team--she's the Jammer, and she'll have a star on her helmet. The rest of the team is the pack, with a pivot person for each team to set the pace of the pack. The pack skates together, and they serve as helpers for their own Jammer, and blockers for the other team's Jammer. A race is a Jam, and it lasts for two minutes, tops, although the Lead Jammer, the one who breaks out from the pack and races ahead first, can end the Jam anytime for strategical purposes. The race starts with the Jammers a little behind the pack, and they have to race through the pack, break ahead of them, and circle around the track to lap them. Every person on the opposite team that the Jammer laps scores her team a point. There are a few other rules and some penalties and a penalty box and stuff, but that's basically it, and it's very awesome and exciting. Oh, and there are costumes, which is almost the best part, and stage names, and at the end of half-time there's a raffle for some sock monkeys made by Hell-No Kitty, and if I had won that raffle, I can't even tell you what the world would have become after that, because all of my lifetime goals would have been achieved.
The roller derby ends kind of late, and the girls always end up all roller derby riled, if you can imagine, so it was crazy getting them to sleep, involving a little screaming and more than one episode of MythBusters, but eventually Matt and I were left alone with our birthday feast of Pizza Express, cookie cake, and The Watchmen movie.
I dare you to have a better birthday than that.