My, how time flies. He was 22 when we met. He was 25 when we married. Today? Today, he is 40.
This is cause to celebrate. So with that, 40 things I love about him.
1. This is guaranteed to embarrass him. But he'll also kind of like it. He's complex that way.
2. His favorite foods are chocolate and steak. He is not complex in that way.
3. He has some gray hair. I really like it.
4. On that note, I think he's even more handsome than the day we met.
5. We met in college. He asked me to help him do calf watch. I will not ever forget coming down the stairs at 4-H House when he stopped to pick me up that night. He stood at the bottom of the stairs and he wore Wranglers, a Carhartt and a ball cap. It was an actual worked-in Carhartt, not like the too-clean ones the college boys wore to be trendy. He looked every inch the real Illinois farm boy he was. I liked it. A lot.
6. He drove a diesel three-quarter ton pickup back then. He recently went back to a diesel. Everything seems right in my world again.
7. He has fathered three hilariously quirky kids who say things like, "You can give these flowers to someone who's Spanish to you!" And by Spanish, they mean special.
8. He is outdoorsy in that he deals with the wildlife that stray too close to the farmstead. This leads our oldest hilariously quirky child to say things like, "We're not really hunters. We're more trappers." She's referring to catching 487 raccoons in the live trap last spring, but I like the way she says it. It makes us sound like Grizzly Adams and that we'll be trading pelts at the outpost soon.
9. He loves to hang out with our kidlets. Especially one-on-one, when they're not able to do things that drive each other crazy. Not like that ever happens.
10. He reads everything I've ever written and tells me, straight up, if it sounds stupid. As it turns out, that's invaluable.
11. He is a man of convictions. When we met some 18 years ago, we realized I grew up with Allis Chalmers, Shorthorns and Chevys. He grew up on John Deere, Angus and Fords. He said to me – and this is a direct quote: "I may someday raise Shorthorns and I may even drive a Chevy but I will never, ever farm with anything but John Deere." Today: maybe 5% of the herd is Shorthorn, I drive a GMC, and every tractor on the place is green. See? Convictions.
12. Along with convictions, he is decisive. I am not. Sometimes. Except for when I can't make up my mind. Once, we may have even taken so long to decide on wallpaper that the original choice was discontinued. Twice. And by we, I mean me. We remodeled this house three years ago only by the grace of God and John's decisiveness.
13. His two girls are Daddy's girls. This is important. More important than most dads realize. But John gets it.
14. He dropped everything one 105-degree afternoon and evening of the county fair this summer to help our seven-year-old practice and race his four-wheeler in the motorcross race. Nathan brought home a trophy as tall as he is. And the glory. He recently referred to it as the most happiest moment in all of his seven years.
15. He can look at me, know the joke and neither of us have to say anything. But we're laughing out loud. That right there is wedded bliss.
16. He is good to his mother. Side note to young women everywhere: that line about watching how your boyfriend treats his mother because it's how he will treat you? It's totally true. Pay attention.
17. He is a rabid Illini fan. We're trying not to talk about football.
18. He is not afraid to work. Or to work with me. The day I introduced him to my parents, my Dad told me, "You need to be able to work together." I thought that was a completely odd thing to say – this is all about love, Dad! Turns out, Dad knew what he was talking about.
19. He's good in a crisis. Even a slow-percolating crisis.
20. He pays great attention to keeping automotive interiors clean.
21. He tolerates my automotive interior.
22. He notices and appreciates a clean house. I'm certain he notices when it's not clean, and I appreciate that he doesn't mention it.
23. He loves the Lord and has a heart to serve. You'll never hear him complain about fixing a light at church, helping with the sound system or any random thing that needs done.
24. He is musical. I will not ever forget one evening when he picked me up at 4-H House. I'd been playing the piano in the living room. As we walked the short cut between 4-H House and Nabor House, he said to me, "So, you play the piano?" Turns out, he sings. And plays guitar.
25. Speaking of music, he leads worship at our church and I play piano with him. This is nice. Our kiddos fall asleep some nights to the sound of their dad's voice and their mom's piano, practicing in the living room. I really hope they remember this.
26. He loves a good redneck show and aside from turning 40, Duck Dynasty's premier on Wednesday may have been the highlight of his week. I think it's the working-with-family thing that gets him. And the quirky one-liners.
27. He knows how to get what he wants, in the very best way. Like, say, when his young wife gave her first try at pie baking. He offered up lots of praise. I kept baking pies. He kept praising. I kept baking. Score.
28. He's never met a snow sled/four-wheeler combination he didn't like. I have nothing more to say about that.
29. He likes things to look nice. Every farm has a junk pile, somewhere. He makes sure ours is contained and the rest of the place is neat as a pin.
30. On that note, he appreciates it when I mow the yard.
31. On that note again, he fixes the mower when I break it. Not that I ever break it. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. Unless the kids rat me out.
32. He is not a sappy romantic. Neither am I. That works out well.
33. He has a goatee.
34. He relieves my sink drain of massive amounts of clogged hair, and doesn't mention it when I don't notice. (Embarrassment.)
35. He has good friends and he enjoys them. I can almost figure out exactly who he's talking to on the phone, just by how hard he's laughing. Joe, Jason or Troy. Or Ted or Allyn.
36. He is morally opposed to ketchup on steak. Also, to overcooking meat of any kind.
37. Additionally, he likes to grill. And smoke stuff. And it's good.
38. He loves a good running joke. And a good gag. I expect various forms of retaliation upon him today and will not be surprised if a pony turns up in our yard. More on that later.
39. He is an animal person. Like, almost an animal whisperer. There's hardly a picture of him from his youth that doesn't include barn cats, puppies, calves, rabbits or the random pony. He nearly talked me into goats a couple years ago, and then we both snapped ourselves out of it.
40. He makes me so, so happy. Really. Shmily, baby.