Monday, August 5, 2013


I've thrown three surprise parties for Jen in the time we've been together.

The first was when I was working in a bakery. Maybe 1997? I remember the cake. It was a picture of a Dragon Whelp, which Jen always thought looked really cute. The bakery had a projector so the cake person could blow up an image to trace on the cake. It was pretty nifty.

I suggested we take a walk in a nearby park, where the revelers had already gathered. Everything was going swimmingly until, as we were walking to the pavilion, a late arrival pulled up and said "Hey, where's Jen's party at?" and I was like "You mean her surprise party?"

She got an industrial size can of pudding at the party. We're still working through it today.

The next one was up in New Hampshire in about 2000. This one came off pretty well. We were living in an apartment that had converted from an old motel. A couple friends drove up from Jersey and PA and parked behind the building and all jumped out as you do in this kind of thing. It was fun.

This time around, Lily was my partner. She loves being on on something. She's already astoundingly good at coming up with plausible cover stories and is really good at keeping secrets, and I was forced to reflect that I was teaching her how to do this better.

She decided we needed a code for it, so we referred to it as MSP (Mommy's Surprise Party) or Emma's Pee, if we were feeling silly.

I mostly invited folks through Facebook. Here's the message I sent.

Hi everyone.

I'd like to throw Jen a surprise party on Saturday, August 3rd, and
I'd like you all to attend. I'd like to do it as a pot luck, with
everyone bringing one small dish. That way I don't have to explain to
Jen why I bought 50 bags of chips.

I'm going to get Jen out of the house by telling her that Lily wants
to throw her a surprise party. That gives us an excuse to get Jen out
of the house without making her suspicious.

The plan, in theory, is that Jen will return and enter through the
back door and then Lily and I will yell surprise, and Jen will be all
like "Oh, how cute," and then, as she goes further into the house,
everybody else yells surprise.

Also, something that I'd like to ask everybody to bring is a list of
the ten things you like most about Jen. A small present is fine too,
but no need to go crazy, since I'm thinking potluck. So, a card, a
covered dish and a list of stuff you like about Jen would make a great

We do have a pretty narrow window. I'm going to ask Jen to be out of
the house between two and three. I'll indicate here when it's safe to
arrive. If anyone is arriving from out of town, it might be prudent to
try to get in the area early, and meet with someone local, rather than
just lurking in the area.

If you can't make it, I'd like it if you could still come up with that
list of things you like most about Jen.

I do have a good idea once in awhile and the ten things was pretty inspired. Also, the decoy surprise party was pretty good, because Lily did slip up once and mentioned "That thing we're having on Saturday" in front of Jen, but she thought that Lily was just talking about the decoy party.

I kicked Jen out of the house and she had a little difficulty finding something to do, seeing as that all of her friends were already at our place. She eventually wound up at her dad's house, where she complained about me and my dumb plan getting her out of the house. I hope these complaints were retracted, in light of later events.

We had about 15 people, all told. Our house isn't that big, and we were close to capacity when everyone was hiding waiting for Jen to show up. Considering how many kids were involved and how many moving parts this plan had, it was a minor miracle that everything came together as well as it did.

I made my crock pot buffalo chicken, which has about a million calories  per spoonful, but is super delicious.

Here's the recipe, if you want to make it at home:

2 cups (about 4 nice breasts)chicken boiled, then food processed fine.
16 oz (whole bottle) of buffalo sauce.
1 cup shredded cheddar,
2 8oz cream cheese.
1/2 cup blue cheese dressing.

You can put all in crock pot or mix all together and place in oven 350 degrees for 30 minutes.

Everyone brought something good. Giraffe Karen was there, and she brought the best guacamole I've ever tasted! She called it her giraffe guacamole, because she's as fond of alliteration as she is of giraffes, and she even sculpted it to look like a giraffe.

It was really pretty cool. Our neighbors brought an absolutely gorgeous cheese platter.

We hung the top ten lists around the house. They were all unsigned, and it was kind of fun figuring out who had written what.

This was my list:

  1. You're my best friend.
  2. You're kind. Someone else said that if he heard that someone didn't like you, he'd want to know why.
  3. You not only have the talent to make your eggs, but you have the guts to put them out there for sale.
  4. You have eyes like the edges of old mirrors.
  5. I love the way you smile when you get enthusiastic about something.
  6. You're as great as I think you are. You're kind and smart and a good and loyal friend and a great mommy.
  7. "You make me want to be a better man."
  8. Lily might play with me more sometimes, but when she wakes up in the middle of the night with a bad dream it's her mommy she calls for.
  9. While we're on the subject of Lily, I give her the things she wants, but you give her the things she needs and I hope someday she'll understand that.
  10. I remember a letter I sent you in college. I said that you should never change, but evolve and become more of what you are. In the almost 20 years we've been together, you've grown and matured, but you've never lost that essential Jen-ness, and I'm glad I could be along for the journey.

It was an extremely nice party. It came together better than I had any reason to expect it too and I want to thank everyone who attended.

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