Monday, July 14, 2008


a couple of months ago, during a midnight-feeding with gracie, adam and i were up in the middle of the night and trying to stay awake by talking with each other. we were imagining the things we wanted to do when we got home to colorado this summer, and during this conversation we realized that bob and rae were going to be celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary just a few weeks before we came home.

and, knowing bob and rae, they were likely not going to do a damn thing to celebrate. just probably go out to eat at macaroni grill and go to bed early.


so, adam and i, in our sleep-deprived states, devise a plan to change all that: let's surprise them with a party! (we knew we would need to surprise them, because if we didn't, they'd be all, "oh you kids don't have to do anything for us! we're just happy to have you home for the summer! that's exciting enough!" and that just won't cut it for a 40th anniversary! we need to have a party!!!)

at first, we were thinking about doing something like renting a dining room at the broadmoor and having an open bar for the guests. but then we realized that something like that would cost thousands of dollars. so that's out. then we thought about maybe doing it at a restaurant, but we didn't like the idea of having everyone pay for their own lunch (cuz there's no way we could afford to buy for everyone!), and if we were at a restaurant then you could only talk to the people sitting next to you and couldn't mingle with all the other guests there. but THEN we thought about having an old-fashioned, down-home, casual barbecue at the house! perfect! if we could just get them out of the house for a few hours before the party, then we really could surprise them with this!

for a guest list, we decided it would be fun to invite all the family that we had, and to track down all those old hockey families from "back in the day." you know, the woodfords, the coutts family, the cases and perlets and mcconnells... the whole gang! but how in the world could we possibly find everyone, since they all scattered before the invention of the internet and email and facebook?

fortunately, rae's best friend, helen, came to the rescue. i don't know how she did it, but she did it! she tracked down EVERYONE that we put on that guest list! she mailed them all a letter that adam wrote up, telling them about the upcoming party and requesting that people email us so that we can send them an electronic invitation. nearly everyone she contacted with that letter got ahold of us!

meanwhile, i was busy tracking down email addresses for all the briggles i could think of, even the cousins that adam hasn't seen since he was just a kid.

well, a few weeks before the party, we hear that aunt judy and uncle pete are going to fly out from illinois, and arrive a few days before the gathering. now, adam and i both know that it's for the party, but we all say that the reason they are coming out is to meet mary grace, and won't that be fun for us all to get together... and then a few days after that, we hear that uncle ed and aunt kim are flying from texas, and oh my goodness, it just so happens to be the exact same days that pete and jude are going to be here -- say, what are the odds of that? how amazing! i guess they all just want to see gracie!

wink, wink.

meanwhile, adam and i are "arranging a playdate" with another little boy, to take place the same afternoon of the surprise party. this is our decoy. we invite this little boy and his family over to the house for that saturday afternoon, and then we tell bob and rae that they really should get out of the house for a few hours while the babies are getting acquainted with each other. then they can come home later and we can grill out with the boy's family and hang out together for a while. but really, this is just our excuse to get them out of the house so we can set up!

as the days are approaching, we are busy buying burgers and hotdogs, and i'm making salads, and we're picking up beer and soda and chips and pickles (which we forgot to set out), and ordering a cake, and digging up bob and rae's wedding album, and just getting everything ready. thank goodness we've got another refrigerator downstairs in the basement so that we can store all the food and supplies down there without them finding it all!

on the day of the party, bob's brother and sister, and their spouses, who were all in town already for this surprise party (but under the guise of "we just wanted to meet the baby"), all go out to lunch somewhere. they were planning on doing some sightseeing that day, to keep them busy and out of the house for a few hours. and about an hour before the guests arrive, the little baby boy and his family (who we were using as decoys) show up to help us set up for the party. (so see? we weren't really lying about the playdate! it did happen, but only for a few minutes before we all started setting out napkins, chairs, and sodas!)

at about 3:00, nearly all the guests are here, and the party has started! it was so much fun to see all these old familiar faces from the past -- especially so for adam and his brother, who grew up playing hockey with all of these families! i really enjoyed seeing the meyers from nebraska (rae's cousin and her family), and even the mcdavids from winter park drove down the mountain to see us -- and great-aunt alice who is 94 years old came with! how special! it was a veritable family reunion!

eventually bob and rae pull up, and get out of the car with their lunch dates. aunt kim, ever the sly one, says, "gee, rae, look at all these cars on your street! is someone having a party?"

"yeah, it must be the neighbors! i don't know this many people!"

eventually they come in the door, expecting to see the little boy and his family having a playdate with gracie, but instead there are about 40 people there who shout "surprise!" and then start singing "happy anniversary to you" to the tune of "happy birthday." (cuz otherwise they really would have NO IDEA what was going on -- their actual anniversary was about 3 weeks prior to this event.)

we got 'em GOOD!

we started grilling burgers and hot dogs, and sliced up the cake that we got for them. (it was a dinosaur cake that the boys picked out. i wanted to do something classy like a miniature wedding cake, or at least a cake with a wedding photo on it, but they went with the dinosaurs instead. and really, it was WAY more appropriate for the folks!) we had WAY TOO MUCH food, and we're still eating the leftover burgers in the freezer downstairs. (knowing what it's like when my ginormous family gets together, there's never enough food! so i said we should get two burgers and one hot dog for everyone, and like 4 cases of beer, and champagne, and wine, and lots of soda, and a big cake, and ice cream -- which we also forgot to set out -- and and and... but hardly anyone ate anything! so we were left with tons of leftovers! at least we didn't have to cook for a while after that!)

adam made a lovely toast to his parents, and we had bob and rae play a game similar to "the newlywed game." we had them write down on a piece of paper answers to questions like "where was your first kiss" and "do you have a song as a couple?" things like that. it was funny how different their answers were, even after 40 years of marriage! ha!

the party wrapped up in the evening, with friends leaving first and then family staying until later and taking off after gracie went to bed. it was a huge success, a ton of fun, and an afternoon to remember!

happy anniversary, bob and rae!


heidianne said...

Way to go with the surprise party! It is a true gift to bring such joy into people's lives :)

teresa said...

Bob & Rae are one of my favorite couples in the world. Love and blessings to you!

Kathleen said...

Hi A-team! What a fun summer - Greece to Colorado - and oh so cute Mary Grace (wanna pinch those cheeks!). Thanks for keeping us up to date with your babygirl. Congrats on a successful surprise party : )

Indeed - where did the summer go? Thom was Dr. NAFTA for the summer -traveling to Mex and Canada. But we look forward to enjoying the Outer Banks in August with my parents. Much love to you from the McElroy's of Kennesaw

Jennifer said...

we just did a surprise party for john's mom's b-day with some similar results - total surprise, too much food, tons of fun, and forgot to take out the ice cream - it was so much fun. glad you enjoyed your own surprise party fun.