The big 40

Just a day after returning from our winter escape and less than a week after celebrating someone’s 5th birthday (yes, another blog update on all that will follow), John embraced a new milestone – the big 40!

We returned late Sunday afternoon, tired from an overnight flight and in climate shock (going from +30C to -25C takes a little adjustment) and before we knew it, it was time for the old grind of early wake-ups, work and school, and someone’s big 40. Nevertheless we paused – as one should – for cake and pastries.


John is not one to hog the spotlight and a decade ago when we lived in NYC and he turned 30, the only way I could get him to “agree” to a party was when his best friend’s then girlfriend (now wife) and I planned a secret surprise party for both of them (it helps that their birthdays are a few weeks apart) at a favourite bar in the Lower East Side.

Back then we lived in a tiny apartment in Brooklyn with no balcony or outdoor space, and we quietly longed for a backyard or any outside green space. We thought surely by the time we reached the next decade, we would be living in a bigger place that would allow us to have a backyard BBQ for birthdays or other fun gatherings.

Fast forward to today – in Mongolia – where we certainly have a bigger house and a huge shared backyard, but it’s also January in Mongolia (where last night the temperatures dropped to -40C which is – I know you’re curious – the point where both Celsius and Fahrenheit scales converge)  so the backyard BBQ idea had to be quickly rethought.

It took a bit of convincing to get John to agree to having a big party (and let’s be honest, even if he had said no, I would have thrown the party anywhere because -hey, it’s 40!). We invited everyone we knew in UB and were so thrilled that so many came out to brave the outdoor temperatures of -30C to ice skate in our backyard (if we can’t BBQ, we’ll just have to ice skate) before we warmed up in our community center with delicious treats and much needed mulled wine.

Keeping up with family tradition, we played “Schokoladenessen,” the childhood game that involves eating as much chocolate as you can while wearing a silly hat and scarf (adults also wear big gloves and can only use knife and fork to open the package and feed themselves). As expected (since it’s the case every single time we play this game despite LOTS of prepping ahead of time that all children will receive adequate amounts of chocolate AND candy after the game), Luca ended up in tears not even halfway through the game but quickly recomposed himself so that he could literally eat half of the enormous chocolate bar when he finally rolled that “6” that allowed him to put on hat and scarf and dive in.

It was a super fun afternoon/evening – everyone had such a fun time and it must have been the first time at any party where I did not get a chance to take a single picture. Thanks to everyone who braved the cold and helped us celebrate! John – here’s to the next 40! (Let’s see if we’ll still be ice skating when we’re 80!).


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