I promised to blog about Jim's 30th birthday, so (2 months and 1 day after) here goes......
I wanted to do something memorable for my husband's big 3-0 so when my sister-in-law mentioned the idea of a Casino Night surprise party I was completely sold. We (referring to myself and Susan, my trusty party everything side kick) immediately began contacting rental companies and making lists of people, food, whatever. Susan designed an awesome invitation that was emailed out to all our invited guests and I booked the rental company, so we were on our way to throwing the best party ever.
We decided to have the party at a little vacated office space we affectionately refer to as "The Old Firestore". It hasn't been used in around 3 years so we knew it would need a little sprucing up before the big night. The party was planned for Jim's actual birthday which was on a Friday, so we met at the building the Monday of the party week and quickly discovered we had way underestimated the dirtiness. We rolled up our sleeves and began cleaning up the 3 years of film on the windows, cobwebs, dead bugs, and mold. It took 2 days of cleaning due to our lack of appropriate supplies for our first attempt, but we kept it fun with Kyra running around the wide open space and having a pizza picnic on the cold tile floor.
Once the cleaning was behind us we began transforming the vast empty space into an intimate casino. Knowing that decorating was going to probably take a long time, I made up a story about having a "girls night out" on Thursday night. Jim graciously took care of the girls under the pretense that I was at Cosi eating luxurious desserts and catching up on my girl talk. In reality, I did have a girls night out since several girlfriends, including my mom-in-law and sisters-in-law, met me at the party site to help lighten the load. We hung curtains, wall murals, Christmas lights, giant playing cards, sparkling streamers, and even an awesome lit sign Susan made that read "Jim's Casino". We covered tables and made fake dice. Fishing line and paperclips were used in ways they were never intended, but they held all our decor in place perfectly.
And before I knew it, it was Friday. I raced out of the house only moments after Jim left for work. I dropped Kyra off at a friend's house (they were SO nice to watch her, even despite the fact she had been sick with bronchitis) and met up with Susan to go on our Sam's Club raid. Afterwards we went back to The Old Firestore and finished up as much as we could. Then came one of the most difficult parts for me.... I had to leave it all and go home to get ready for the actual party. Yes, I cringed at the fact that from that point on I had no control over the finishing touches. I wouldn't be there to meet the rental company. I wouldn't be able to give my opinion on what should go where. I had to let someone else design the fruit and cheese display and pick up the food from Chick-fil-a.
But I breathed easy as I drove home knowing I had the most reliable team in the world to pull everything else off. Afterall, already I had been able to rely on the kindness of friends and family to drop off toys and a pack-n-play for Kylie at a moment's notice, take Kyra to the doctor after she suddenly fell ill, babysit my sick little Kyra, pick up the cake, pick up some of the beverages, and decorate their butts off. I knew the party was in good hands.
In the days leading up to the party I knew Jim was suspect that I was surprising him with a limo ride to Philadelphia for dinner out with his family. So I played into this faulty suspicion and it proved to be extremely effective. We have done the limo ride thing a couple of times and each time everyone meets the limo at The Old Firestore for the drive to Philly. So having the actual party at the same locale proved to further fuel Jim's theory. As we pulled in the parking lot he sarcastically commented "Oh, so we're hanging out at the old building". And then upon seeing his mom in the doorway added, "Oh so we're taking a limo" with a tone that resonated "this couldn't have been more predictable". But this statement was immediately cut off as Jim set foot in the door and was greeted by a resounding "SURPRISE!" from many friends and family.
As Jim tried to process everything, I too took it all in. I looked around and realized that everything was perfect. Not only perfect, but even better than I had imagined in my mind. From seeing all our friends dressed to the nines right down to the way Katie had arranged the fruit and cheese display. The dealers were all in place and before Jim and I could even make it halfway across the room, the "funny money" began getting cashed in for piles of chips that would be won and lost for the next 4 hours.
We had a craps table, roulette, blackjack, and a couple of slot machines. Jim started off at the blackjack table with several guys and I immediately took to learning craps along with a bunch of our friends. Craps is a little more complicated when you're first learning, so we basically started with just doing anything the dealers told us to do. After losing a couple hundred in chips at the craps table, I moved on to join Jim at the roulette wheel. Jim has played roulette a few times both in Vegas and Atlantic City, so it was fun to play with him and have him teach me the rules. It was way too easy and so much fun to place bets in roulette. Brightly colored chips were all over the green and there was always someone winning big (actually it alternated between three someones: Steve, Stef, and Brandi).
After a couple of hours of fun, we paused and gathered around to serenade Jim and cut into his amazing birthday cake. Our friend Clint's family's bakery made the cake to look like a King of Hearts playing card and it was so incredibly detailed that in pictures you almost can't tell it's a cake. Once we had the cake we were all recharged and ready for round two at the tables. I joined the "boys club" at blackjack and Jim took to learning craps. I had never played blackjack (other than with my sister and her husband at our cabin in Branson) but I've watched enough on TV to know exactly what I was doing. It was very fun, but equally frustrating when I would make all the right plays and still lose. I think every time I split I hit 20 or 21, but the dealer countered my good hands with blackjack each time.
Before I knew it, the dealers were calling a 5 minute warning to end the night. I could've sworn only 20 minutes had passed since we arrived, but alas, it had been almost 4 hours. We must have been having loads and loads of fun because time really flew by. Jim and I finished out the night placing it all on the craps table and losing. But we didn't care. It wasn't real money so they were just going to take it all back anyway. We awarded awesome themed gift baskets (put together by Susan) to the top chip winners and began saying farewell to our guests. After most everyone was gone, we lingered a little longer as the rental company dismantled their tables. Jim's family sat around with us, munching on gourmet popcorn and reminiscing about the details of the evening. It was one heck of a great party. Which is a good thing because I'm not doing it up that big again for another 10 years.
Okay, so this party seriously would not have happened without all the gracious help from such great family and friends:
Abby, you were such a lifesaver to drop off the pack-n-play and toys at a moments notice when I realized I needed someplace to put Kylie. Not to mention taking care of a sick little Kyra and picking up the Chick-fil-a the day of the party. Oh and I'll never forget you fighting with that streamer to cut through the metal ring when we decorated. I think you really might be SuperMom.
Ang, You helped me check the drinks and cake off my list with the greatest of ease. Speaking of the cake..... W.O.W. And your beautiful tall body made getting decorations up on the ceiling a cinch.
Katie, I know you helped with a huge part of the decorating, both putting it up AND taking it down. I'm not sure which was worse. Oh wait, loading the bar tables and those FREAKING HEAVY CHAIRS in the cars definitely wins. And I think you need to add fruit and cheese to your list of artistic mediums because you rocked it out.
Mom Witmer, I'm sure once Stephen turned 18 you thought you were done taking kids to the doctor, but thanks for stepping in and getting Kyra on the road to wellness. And the next time I need styrofoam wrapped in white paper, I totally know who to call.
Lyryn, You were like a little elf coming in to decorate with Kate and Sue when I wasn't there so that when I got back I was in total shock. And having you take all the pictures was pure magic. Every single one came out absolutely amazing. When I look at them I can feel the emotion of the night. Truly beautiful.
Sue, Oh girl.... I don't think the internet has enough space to hold all the things you did to make this possible: the sign (and I know you had to put some work into that thing), the gift baskets, the cleaning, the pizza, pretzel, and soda fetching, the invites, the decorating, and the shopping (oh the shopping!). You were my right hand, my left hand, my feet, and my brain. Most importantly, you were my sanity and my confidence that this was actually going to happen.
TO ALL OF YOU, A MILLION TIMES THANK YOU! I LOVE YOU!
For a full slideshow of pictures from the evening, click here.