Monday, February 1, 2010

The Mother of All Birthday Celebrations

This is my mother. Saturday was her 60th birthday and her eight children wanted to surprise her. It's not an easy thing to do, surprising the person who usually plans the surprises. Also not easy when so much hangs on trusting this man not to spill any beans:
Six months ago we decided to do a concert for Mom since it's been her life's work teaching all of her children to play the piano and to love music. Anyone who has children in music lessons (or worse, is teaching their kids to play the piano or any other instrument) knows that it's a miracle that she didn't kill any of us in the process. It's all well and good to want to put on a concert, but we live in five different states and one of us is out of the country at the moment. We also wanted to somehow include the grandkids... All 20 of them. Planning this surprise birthday celebration was a monumental task, but everyone did their part and it turned out to be The Best Day Ever.

Jen and her family put together video clips of the grandchildren answering questions about Grandma Peggy. She could have just stopped there, but add music from Napolean Dynamite and throw in Noah shouting "cow!" in random places and you've got yourself a show. Jen also had to travel with The Chicken Hawk, Henry, all the way from Vermont. Her number for the concert was singing "I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No" (my Mom's theme song... for many reasons including the reason you think) while accompanying herself on the piano. Jen acted as though her performance would be very low-key and not that special. It was neither of those things. Everyone was amazed.

My part was kind of keeping all the balls in the air, providing lodging for four of my sisters (and two babies), and bringing food for the brunch my parents (and grandparents and Aunt Beverly) would be eating during the show. As a favor to everyone, I also worried myself sick for six months. You're welcome. I accompanied my Dad singing "If Ever I Would Leave You" from Camelot (his was the first performance), then I played Chopin's Nocturne in E Flat Minor. It was surprisingly very difficult to perform in front of my Mom. As an added tribute, I squeezed into the skirt she made me for my "going away" outfit after my wedding. (One of Allyn's ideas.) That's me (at left) with Makenzie's delicious baby, Claire, at breakfast yesterday. Plenty of bad pictures of me were added to the universe over the last weekend, so I thought I'd add the one I liked to my own blog. My husband, Brian, was the go to guy for the video starts and stops and controlling the slide show, thus keeping everyone else who had come a secret.

Katy was our program director. She kept track of what everyone was doing for their performance and she arranged the order we went in. Every few weeks for the last six months, Katy would email all of us to make sure we were working on our numbers. During the show she led everyone to the stage when it was their turn. Each time one of us entered the stage, we'd hand Mom a cupcake with a lit birthday candle (poor Dad's heart at the sight of a fire hazard in the building!) and wish her a happy birthday before we performed. As Melissa said, we were really trying to make Mom cry and boy did our plan work. Katy left five kids at home, had her flight from Raleigh canceled, and spent most of the day Friday at the JFK airport - yet the photo at right is how she looked most of the weekend. Big smile, great hair, and accessorized. She performed (help me here - I'll edit it later!) "Oquirrh Mountain Something" on the piano. It was beautiful.

Allyn also left five children and she has the added bonus of having her husband on a Navy ship somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. She and Katy took the same flight, so they at least got to enjoy each others company during all the craziness. Allyn planned the stage arrangement, including the table setting for Mom and Dad. (She had Dad bring wedding china from their home without Mom finding out.) Allyn wore a prom dress from high school that Mom had made for her and she played "Slaughter on 12th Avenue" - a piece my Mom used to play all the time. Jen and I called it "The Charlie Brown Song" and we would dance and dance until the slow parts, then we'd stand still and wait for it to "get good again." Ha! That piece is a BEAR - really hard. And Allyn had most of it memorized and sounding awesome. She stayed at my house until early this morning, so I got her to do this to Bridget's hair:
Next is Melissa. She flew in from Missouri (on a plane, not a broomstick - ahahahahaha!) with a sick Baby Miles and had to deal with delayed flights. Melissa's job was to "direct" the video of the grandchildren. She came up with the questions they had to answer and made sure everyone had the same directions and turned everything in to Jen in time for Jen to do something with it. Melissa sang "Children Will Listen," Barbra Streisand style (with recorded accompaniment). Since her's was the last performance, I actually got to see most of it and it was really touching. Her voice is so light and beautiful and that song has all kinds of meaning now that I'm a parent. Poor Miles should have been so miserable with the running nose and the coughing, but he can't help himself - he has to be happy. The photo is Melissa standing around waiting for her turn while Jen and Henry eye the cute yellow cupcake she's holding. Here's Miles at Grandma's house after the show (that's Henry behind him - he just stole Miles' toy):
Makenzie was the cruise director - she kept track of when everyone was flying in and where they were staying. She also accompanied Rob for his song. Makenzie had two little ones with her, a challenge in any situation, but she did it wearing a 13 year old dress Mom made her and a smile. David was there to reroute Gabriel, carry Claire, and clap for the performances he got to see. Makenzie played "Blue Tango" on the piano. I didn't get to hear one note of her performance, but Brian assures me it was great. Here are David and Makenzie after hosting a Sunday morning breakfast at their home:
My brother Rob can sing. He's quite good and he needs to do it more often. He was over the clean up committee - if I had known what a huge mess we'd be making, I would have put more people on it. Rob sang "The Impossible Dream" with Makenzie playing his accompaniment on the piano. His lovely wife Claire held babies, set tables, put candles in cupcakes, cleaned up. As always, the MVP. Here we are toasting Mom and Dad after the show:
Last, we have Aaron. Since he's serving a mission right now, I recorded his performance back in early November 2009. I sat on top of my piano video taping him while he played the theme song to the TV show, The Gilmore Girls (Mom's favorite). He only played it when Mom was in the shower or not home, so she didn't know he was learning it. Sly devil.
After the program we visited, cried, recounted our adventures, hugged, went back to Mom and Dad's to eat for real and rest. Then we got in several cars and went to Maddox for dinner. I still can't believe it worked - we did it! We surprised Mom and it was a good surprise that she has deserved for at least the last 38 years. You should all be so lucky as me. :)
This next bit is only for true fans and for my 2010 blog yearbook.

Cupcakes from Dippidee, btw.

At Makenzie & David's house on Sunday, January 31st.



Allyn braiding Bridget's hair. Bridget will endure anything for beauty.

21 comments:

Chloe said...

Bridget's hair looks pretty.

melissa said...

Great job, team! It still makes me happy when I think about how we pulled it off. Thanks for your masterminding and hospitality. Cheers to the busdriver!

Allison and Noah Riley said...

What a fun weekend, and wonderful tribute to your wonderful mom.

Mom said...

Great! Now I'm crying again and I have students in a minute! I just keep remembering and enjoying this wonderful weekend. You are all amazing!

K.Q. said...

That is so cool! Happy Birthday Sister Lee!! Your kids are amazing (like you don't already know)!

kenzie said...

The weekend was too short. Back to real life. Thanks for doing so much to make it happen, Nicole.

Jess said...

That is the most touching thing! I hope my kids are half as considerate as you guys. And talented.

Ashley said...

I'm so happy I'm related to all those people. Were there 60 cupcakes? I tried to count...

bobincary said...

In a life filled with very sweet days, this was the sweetest of them all. I love my bride and to see her this happy was beyond any joy I can imagine. Thanks to the spouses to participated and who kept things going at home while the moms were away. We will relive this every day when we're old and Nicole is passing us food under the door in her basement.

RCH said...

Awwwww!

amylouwho said...

I'm crying too! This is so awesome! And what a great tribute to an amazing woman. Happy Birthday!

So glad you were all able to be together. Goodness knows how hard that is to do for any occasion!

Aron at sea said...

Everyone looks great. Thanks, Nicole, for putting up the pictures so quickly and helping me feel close to all of you.

Mr and Mrs C said...

Wow! That is so cool...how wonderful that you all were able to share in such a memorable event. Cheers to your Mom!!

Anonymous said...

Loved the blog and seeing everyone, what a wonderful family! What a special surprise for you Peggy and happy belated birthday.
Love, Denise K.

Katy said...

Amazing! What a great weekend. Wish it could have been longer. cupcakes and babies are indeed delicious!

Jill said...

Okay, this is one the coolest things I have ever seen. My mom is turning 60 this year and we have to do something special, but we do not have the talent in our family to pull off something this great. I might steal some of the ideas though, like that beautiful cupcake display. Amazing!

You know what I think is amazing? That you can all fit into the dresses your mom made you decades ago. That's really something!

Nice tribute. Your mom sounds amazing.

allyn said...

what am i suppose to blog about now? like i was actually going to get a blog post done. haha. this was such a sweet weekend. how wonderful to be with everyone and to make mom so happy (and dad, by default).
bridget was such a beautiful, silent princess that day. does she still have a braid crown, three days later?

allyn said...

i forgot to show my appreciation to you for omitting that hideous picture of me that you got sunday morning. merciful, indeed. please don't send it to my husband.

Kristi said...

What an amazing and talented family you have. Kudos to your mom for making you all so wonderful! Great job to the kids for pulling this all off.

I'm so thrilled I got to meet and greet your sisters, too.

Bridget's hair is amazing! You took notes, right?

Bump and Erin said...

What an awesome thing to do for your mom! Sounds like a really great time!

koryn said...

I have always loved your family but this just bumped it up to adoration! I, with Aunt Peggy, cried while reading about all that you did to make your Mom feel as amazing as we all know she is. Thank you for sharing it with all of us (yes, I am devoted, I looked at each picture!)