Small Talk

Mom's surprise birthday party

July 24th, 2009

I threw my mom a surprise dinner party for her 80th birthday. It was small and intimate, just under two dozen relatives and friends.

Popo and her favorite person ever

Popo and her favorite person ever

It was really nice. We had it at On On at McCully Chinese Restaurant because all she ever wants to eat is Chinese food, and after Yong Sing closed down, our whole tribe had to find a new favorite restaurant.


7 yummy courses!

7 yummy courses!

I planned this for two months, making kiln-fused glass plates as party favors, and driving around to as many relatives' homes as I could on my free time to video tape birthday messages, which I then compiled into a ten minute video. Because so many of her peers have health issues like diabetes, I ordered a sugar-free cake.



There were, of course, half a dozen near-slip ups along the way. Here's one that is a classic, small-town Hawaii tale. I went by my Auntie Bobbie's house to shoot the video, and she said, "Your mom asked me to save the Midweek for her, but I don't want to give it to you or else she'll wonder why you came to see me today."


Despite all that careful planning, when I got home, Mom asked, "I heard you were at Aunty Bobbie's today. Why?" Thankfully, a career in live television has taught me to think on my feet, so I tried not to act too busted while I stalled for a lie, and replied, "How do you know?"

"Oh, when I was getting my mail this morning my neighbor Les said he was on the phone with (Bobbie's husband) Uncle Warren, who mentioned you were going there. For what?"

Gosh, I could never have seen that coming. Foiled by Les? Of all the ways to get busted, this was so random. "Auntie Bobbie asked me to pick up your Midweek."

"Great. Where is it?"

"Um. When I got there, she forgot where she put it. She told me to come back."

"Sounds like her."

And then I kind of laugh-cringed because I felt bad for painting Auntie Bobbie as a space case, and worse, having it apparently be credible! Sorry, Auntie!

Sheila, Lydia

Sheila, Lydia

Bobbie, Mom, Alvin

Bobbie, Mom, Alvin

Anyhow, we covered our tracks well enough, because my mom was totally surprised. I hadn't even told my dad - he get big mouth - so the both of them were surprised and happy to see everyone. You know, we are all so busy, we've been seeing each other mostly at weddings and funerals lately.



Back to those party favors. I wanted to do something special and different, and my best girlfriend owns a glass studio. I thought I'd fire up some glass plates. Art glass, you know? Sophisticated. Beauty in both form and function.

6" squares

6" squares

I spent a weekend doing this, with her help. It took me a lot of time, and way more money than cookies in cute boxes. Or how's this one: the super teensy tea cups with two candies inside, wrapped in mesh and tied with a ribbon at the top. Preferably using the color red, or better yet, red and gold. That's a local Chinese table favor if I ever saw one. I bet at least some of you are nodding and laughing right now.


I'm handing out the six inch square plates, and several of my Chinese uncles are like, "Wot dis? One ash tray?" "What I do with dis?" "Eh, too bad I stop smoking."

Two wives were not present, and the third wife was talking across the room, so these three old guys were mulling over what to do with this piece of fu-fu colored glass. I can practically read their thought bubbles: Where the hell are my tea cup chocolates?



I can hear this but I'm still handing out favors. Oh no, they did not just call my fancy-ass art glass an ashtray. I finally walked back over there. "It's a plate," I smiled through a correction.

"It is?" they collectively respond. "It's so small."

One auntie joins in. "Put candy in it."

"Candy?" they ask. "It's not deep enough."

"You could eat off it. Or let your wife put jewelry in it," I suggest.

After a lot of looking at it, they finally decide they will use it as their special ice cream dishes. I'm glad. But I kind of wonder if I should have just gone with the chocolates.

9 Responses to “Mom's surprise birthday party”

  1. pink lady:

    wow, i would love to receive a favor like that at a party. i think they're beautiful!

  2. LifeIsGreat:

    LMAO...too funny! I think it's awesome that you're able to make time to do such special things for your mom - all while raising your little one and everything else in life.
    I just want to say that I love your blogs and read them every chance I get! Although I look forward to the tips and tricks that would help in raising my 10 month old daughter, I must say that I'm glad you're able to expand from just talking about kid stuff.

  3. Island Crafters:

    What a wonderful job you did! They (the uncles) should have shown you the proper appreciation for the beautiful plates that you made 🙂 ...time is a very precious commodity, and the fact that you were able to take the time to put the party together, make the video AND make the party favors is a wonderful gift for your mom. You get a gold star from me for your 80th birthday present to mom! I would love to have gone with you to take pics for my blog!

  4. Ocean Lover:

    Kudos to you for sharing that and for all the work that you put into making your mom's birthday special!

    You may be a "celebrity" but it shows that you're still "normal"...and THAT is a compliment.


  5. Scott:

    What a nice post. Great blog. It is so soothing. Mahalo.

  6. Diane Ako:

    Thanks, everyone 🙂 I"m touched by your nice comments.

  7. Kyle Watanabe:

    Nice story....your mom looks great, as does the whole family. I enjoy the blog. Glad to know everyone is doing okay!

  8. Diane Ako:

    OMG, you! Did Claus tell you I was trying to reach you? I hope you are great, too. Miss you.

  9. David In Oregon:

    Diane, don't feel bad that they initially thought it was an ashtray. They eventually found out what it was, and now have a use for it, ice cream dishes.

    If it were me, it wouldn't matter what it was, ashtray, plate, place to put spare change and wristwatch, as I simply wouldn't use it. I'd be too afraid to. I'd just imagine trying to use it then getting yelled out by one of the older folks, "NO!! DON'T USE THAT!!! SHE MADE THAT!! HERE, USE THIS INSTEAD!!!"

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