Wednesday, June 26, 2013

birthday surprises

Even though my husband isn't keen on surprise parties, I still like planning surprises.  I mean, I doubt anyone likes being caught off-guard (myself included), but when it's by friends and family who want to express love in that way, there is grace (right?).

Last December, my family threw my mom a surprise party for her 60th birthday.  Due to a broken home situation, I'm not sure how many birthday parties my mom had growing up, if any.  She tends to downplay her birthdays, not wanting to "trouble" anyone.  She loves Asian food, so we often spend her birthdays eating out.  Not that anyone complains, we all like Asian food.

But this time around, we wanted to go big.  My mom is one of the kindest and most generous people you will ever meet.  She has spent most of her life blessing others, some times at her own expense.  She is loved and adored by everyone, and it seemed the perfect way to give those blessings back to her.  My dad, sister, and I did some serious plotting and sneaking around for the two months prior.  We sent out handmade invitations like secret codes (we called our mission "Operation Gum Drop"), and talked behind her back. Thankfully, mom is partially deaf, so we didn't have to whisper.

The theme was "Cheryll: The Sweetest Thing."  Everyone was asked to bring something "sweet" that reminded them of the birthday girl.  And everyone did!  Each of us kids prepared something, as did each of the guests.  We decorated in pastels (mom's favorite colors), flowers and balloon bouquets.  We displayed her senior photo (bouffant hair present and accounted for) in a large oak frame, hired two family friends (who have an in-home tea party business) to make a lavish table of desserts, and we set up a coffee stand offering espresso beverages to our guests, including mom's signature drink (we called it "The Cheryll": breve white chocolate mint mocha with whip).

Chris and I started the event by singing mom's favorite hymn, "Surely the Presence of the Lord," followed by our version of the Herman's Hermits song called "I'm Into Something Good."  We changed it to "Something Tells Me 60 is Looking Good."  Mom loved the band as a teenager, so we thought the song would be fitting, in addition to two tickets for their concert at a local casino the following February.  My sister crafted a gorgeous memory book and photo slide presentation, my older brother emceed the event and had a throw blanket made for mom with the faces of all of her grandchildren.  My dad read a beautiful piece he wrote for her, and my younger brother ended the event with his own comedic prose.

Halfway through the night (the homemade goodies
did not last long).

My dad loves his bride well (he's always writing poems for her).

Barb was one of the many family friends who presented mom
with sweet things.

Mom's "bald buddies."

Me & my bestie with the birthday girl.

Family photo.

Mom walked away with armloads of treats and a heart full of gratitude.  She told me later that night that she had always wondered if she made a difference in peoples' lives, and now she was sure of it. I can't think of a greater gift to give someone.  And seeing the way my mom received that love (beaming the entire time) was a gift to me.  I can still see her in my mind throwing her head back in laughter and giving one short-armed hug after another.

On Saturday, I got to surprise our friend, Anna, with a birthday brunch for her 21st birthday.  She also downplays her birthdays, and is used to sharing the day with other things and people (due to growing up in a family with eight kids).  This year I wanted her to have her own moment of recognition, just for being Anna.  

Our friend, Summer, and I planned a morning of girlfriends, brunch food, and mimosas.  Anna is newly pregnant, so she wasn't able to drink on her birthday, but we wanted the option available as a nod to her 21st.  There were plenty of non-boozy drinks, too, which were all served in wine glasses.

Summer ("Sunny D") & the birthday girl.

Darling Anna with her "A Team."
(we're both named Amy - and we're awesome!)

Blue ombre mermaid cake.

Anna arrived in a seafoam green dress, but had to change in to one of Summer's dresses (the salmony red colored one) due to a cute toddler's ill-fitted diaper. 

I was in charge of getting Anna to Summer's house for the surprise. I'm a terrible liar, but somehow I pulled it off.  

Anna was surprised (and slightly confused) by the entrance, but soon realized the moment was for her and went about radiating joy. Delicious brunch food, a mermaid themed cake, large color pics of Anna displayed around the kitchen, birthday presents, and a group photo on a camera timer (you know, chaos and hilarity before the shutter click?) all made for special memories. 

"There is only one happiness in this life, to love and be loved." - George Sand


  1. You are an excellent writer! You have the ability to add humor just when I'm about ready to grab a Kleenex =) We make a great team. We rallied as a family and it felt good. I will remember Mom's party forever...

    1. Thanks so much, sis! Definitely a lasting memory! So fun making that happen with you. xoxo