Leisel and I knew that we would be leaving on a trip with our Grandparents on the official day of Charae's birthday. As some of us were driving home from church one Sunday, we decided that we needed to hold an early birthday celebration for Charae, and we needed to make it a big one. With ten people planning it, the details came together quickly. A notebook was taken out and filled with a guest list, menu items, and decoration ideas.
We only had two weeks to put everything together, so we jumped right away into making phone calls and writing grocery lists. Mom and I sneaked away on several occasions to the grocery store and party city. When asked why we had been gone so long, we came up with all sorts of convincing excuses. Trying to hide things when you all live together and to keep 10 people from letting the cat out of the bag is quite difficult.
The fridge became a hiding place for bratwurst sausages, salads and condiments.
We had only to hope that Charae would have no need to venture out to the fridge till after her birthday.
The night before, there was still a list of last minute tasks to finish and they would not be easy to do while Charae was around. A few minutes before we were supposed to leave for prayer meeting, Mom, Kayleen and I backed out of going to stay home and finish the tasks. We couldn't think of any reasonable excuse to give Charae for why we weren't going to church.
We got a text from Leisel when the family was on their way home saying they would be there in five minutes. The kitchen was still in a state of catastrophe from dinner and the party preparation, and we knew Charae would be wondering what in the world we had been doing the whole time if the dishes were not finished. When she came in, the kitchen was clean, and we were calmly occupying ourselves with normal activities trying not to look as frazzled as we felt :) We waited till Charae was in bed, and then took out the mixing bowls, cut out more banners, and loaded up the car with all of the party decor, trying to tiptoe around the home the entire time. It was one in the morning when we finally decided to quit :)
We were pretty sure that the girl whom we can never slip anything by was now well aware of the fact that we were planning a surprise birthday party for her. Resigned to that fact, we consoled ourselves that she wouldn't know all of the details and who would be there that night.
Our story had been that Chris was inviting our family over for "a meal before Jonathon left for Malaysia and a simple celebration of Charae's birthday". And that is exactly what Charae was expecting when she walked in Chris and Melinda's door. She hadn't noticed the line up of cars outside parked by the barn. She didn't see the balloons attached to the chairs, nor had she noticed the crowd of people tucked away in the kitchen ready to yell "Happy Birthday".