So yes, maybe I have been working on this post for the past 12 months. But I really just couldn't handle how special my 30th was. So get ready for a LONG post with LOTS of pictures, which were taken exactly one year ago.
Last year, leading up to my 30th birthday, I painted my nails dark red and realized that my hands now look like my mom's. Not as much as my sister's do, but that's because she got Mom's craftsman skills and uses them every day. I had gotten my hair cut short again while I was visiting Justin in AZ for his/Todd's birthdays at the beginning of October, and his stylist told me my grey hair was "perfect." It's not so bad being 30, I thought.
I was feeling good about my birthday weekend - but also apprehensive. Like, excited nervousness. You see, many years ago I showed Todd a cake and said, "Todd, this is the cake I want you to buy for my surprise 30th birthday party." And that was sort of the end of it. We joked about it a couple times in the following years (i.e. I dropped not-so-subtle hints about my "surprise" 30th birthday), but I gave him no direction whatsoever. Just a cake. Earlier in the year, I knew he was starting to plan something because I straight up asked him, "Are we going to Disney World for my birthday? I just have to know so I don't make a disappointed face, even if I'm not actually disappointed with what we are doing." He said no. So I made the disappointed face. But he said it was because he wanted more of my friends to be able to come. I was sad we would not be celebrating at The Happiest Place on Earth, but I was also really excited to know that he was actually thinking about it and trying to make plans.
And then I started to psych myself out. I always pictured seeing my best friends' faces and laughing and drinking and smiling all night. But all my friends had just come to Chicago in May (you know, for our wedding), and I would not, could not, be mad at them for missing a birthday party after just traveling to be a part of another super special celebration. So I was mentally preparing myself for something smaller than I had originally pictured, and was practicing my "happy-face". I knew Todd was working so hard to plan something special, and whatever it was going to be would be just right. When it came time to pack, he said, "Pack for Wisconsin." I said, "Wisconsin? Like inside, or outside?" And he said, "Yes." Cool. Thanks for the help.
On the eve of my birthday, we left work and drove to his parents house. I had been texting with Justin all afternoon about how Todd was taking me to the woods for ritual sacrifice on my 30th birthday. Todd was stressed out because there was traffic and "we had dinner reservations." I really knew something was up when we pulled in his parents' driveway and the kitchen window shade was closed. (It's never closed. Something was happening inside there!) We walked in the front door, and his parents were sitting in the living room, very suspiciously nonchalant. I gave them hugs and kisses, and then as I walked past the kitchen, I hear "SURPRISE!!!" in two of my favorite lady-voices! I turn around just in time to be jumped on by Shay and A, who flew from NYC and DC. Oddly enough, the first face I actually saw was Matt - Shay's new bf, who I had not yet met - and I remember thinking... "Oh hey, Matt is here waitaminuteWHAT??" and then I was tackled.
My mother in law had prepared quite a spread - as usual - so we sat down to eat and give my heart a rest, and Todd went out to the car to get our bags. When he came back in, I turned around and following him through the door was Justin. That jerk had been texting me all day in airports. I covered my face with my hands and he teased me with some profanity not fit for in-laws. When I looked up again, there were Brandon (brother) and Shane (bf) right behind him. They all flew in from Phoenix just for me.
After things settled down, I asked if this was it. Like, this is plenty. So many people I love - (and I knew Dom and Kristen were joining the next day from Chicago) - just hanging out all weekend in Milwaukee. I'm good. This is so good. But no. One more surprise tomorrow, and no one would tell me where we were going. So the next morning, we packed up again and hit the road. It was a beautifully sunny day to turn 30. We drove west from Milwaukee into the depths of Wisconsin for about 45 minutes and got off the highway in the middle of nowhere. We went down country roads, and I was pretty sure the ritual sacrifice was becoming a real possibility. We turned down a residential road and I saw a lake and thought "Aww, lake house! Yay!" When we got to the end of the road there was a very cute old sign for "Wandawega Lake Resort" and I said "Todd, look at that cute sign! Did you see it?" And then we turned into a gravel drive. I saw an open field with archery... and a tire swing - omg... and a TREEHOUSE... and then I screamed at him, "WE'RE AT CAAAAAAAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMPPPPP!!!!!" I was grinning from ear to ear, jumped out of the car and ran to the tire swing shouting "Somebody push me!" Yep. That's how I turned 30 years old. On a tire swing.
In the last year, Camp Wandawega has blown up in the media. They have been all over the blogs, in the news, on an episode of Tree House Masters. It's incredible. But at that point, I feel like it was still relatively under the radar - except I had seen it before. I had pinned this image of my dream grown-up treehouse. And there it was. Right before my very eyes. And that evening, after Kristen and Dom and Leah and Dianna had all arrived to join us for archery, tire swinging, treehouse mimosas and dinner at a "Friday Night Fish Fry" (which is apparently a thing in Wisconsin), we sat at that very table under those very lights in that very treehouse and Todd brought out my birthday cake. Not only did I open my eyes and shout "MY SPRINKLE CAAAAAAKE!!!" but when we cut into it, the cake was a Golden Delight. Just like the ones at every single graduation party from high school. You know the ones: light angel-food style cake with whipped cream style frosting layers that have sliced strawberries laid in them... My mouth is watering. It was a deliciously happy-accident on his part. (See what I did there?) My mother-in-law was in charge of the cake, and I believe his main instructions were just "Covered in sprinkles. Like, no icing should be visible." They nailed it.
The rest of the weekend included bunking in the old "hotel" building (aka "house of ill-repute") with incredible lake views, hot whiskey-ciders made on the vintage stove, hikes (yes, a couple friends got briefly lost), one exhausting canoe/row-boat outing, hanging out in tee-pees, bonfires, dirty-catch-phrase, and spending 4-5 straight hours taking turns on the rope-swing over the lake set to the weekend anthem: "Wrecking Ball" by Miley Cyrus. It really is the perfect rope swinging song.
I want to go on and on. But this post is already approaching 1,500 words. That's probably longer than any college paper I ever wrote. (I didn't take very many hard classes, obviously.) I honestly could never say enough about my 30th birthday weekend. Todd pulled off the most unexpected surprise, and the most incredible weekend I could have ever imagined. If I hadn't just married him a few months prior, he would have been a shoe-in at that point for sure. I rode the wave of that joy for 12 solid months. To be honest, I still am. I can't wait to celebrate 31 with some of my Wandawega campers this weekend. I just feel so blessed. (Not like, #blessed. Like, actually blessed.)
Long live Wandawega. xoxo