Sunday, September 29, 2013

Spy Birthday Party

Today we had a little birthday party for Olivia.  I learned from my mistakes last year and only invited 3 of her friends plus a friend for Alex.  We had a "spy" theme and it was a lot of fun.

The first thing we did when the kids arrived was make up secret identities.  I'd asked for photos of the kids ahead of time and printed some ID's for them, then we wrote a few last minute details on them and laminated them while the kids had treats.

Since the party was from 3:30-5, I decided we'd better have refreshments first so we wouldn't ruin any dinner appetites.  I had a package of cookie dough in the fridge, so I baked those and served a warm cookie and scoop of ice cream.  We didn't have cake because it seems kids just have a few bites of frosting and waste the rest.  The cookies were just right.

After treats it was time for Spy Training!  I showed everyone a little treasure chest with treats and said we would get them when we passed our spy training.  The first activity was probably everyone's favorite part of the whole party - Laser Beams!  I put red streamers in the hallway and placed a wagon full of "jewels" (my sparkliest jewelry) at the other end.  Then told the kids bad guys had stolen the crown jewels and it was our mission to recover them.  Everyone wanted to take multiple turns, and then they wanted to do it some more after the party.  The hardest part was that it blocked off our main hallway for a couple of hours, even though it was the last thing we put up and the first thing we put away.

The second part of spy training turned out to be the most dangerous.  The idea was to have them hop from paper plate to paper plate, avoiding the booby-trapped ones.  In retrospect, I shouldn't have set them up on our tile kitchen floor - too slippery!  I ended up holding a few hands to make sure everyone could get across safely.

Part three was balancing on a 2x4 "balance beam" and pretending we were crossing from one rooftop to another.

Then finally, we had target practice with nerf guns and a target drawn on a white board.  This was a big hit too, and while they were shooting I went inside to prep the next part of the activities.  I hid the treasure chest in a pre-designated location and kicked off a treasure hunt.

When the kids came in to get their treasure and spy ID's, they found a room full of black balloons and a note that said they had to disarm the bombs to find the first clue that would lead them to our treasure.  There were also various code-cracking tools available.

The first clue was a punch code.  The clue was hidden in a balloon and they had to use the punch card laid over the clue to reveal the location of the next clue.  Making the punch card was the hardest part of the whole party because we don't have a box cutter or straight edge razor.

The second clue was out under the windshield of the car, and the clue was printed in a very tiny, size 2 font.  They had to use a magnifying glass to read it.

The next clue was hidden in Liv's dollhouse and used a mason cipher.  I had prepped Liv on solving it ahead of time because I didn't think they'd be able to get it on their own.  The key was with the other code-cracking tools.

That clue led to a reverse handwriting clue which they brought back to decode at a mirror.

The last clue was the hardest.  It was written on a long thin strip of paper that I'd encoded by wrapping around a stick and then writing on.  They didn't figure out how to use the stick, and then Olivia was able to unscramble the letters in her head to figure it out without the stick, so that was it for that clue.

After they found the treasure I divvy'd up the treats into their goodie bags, and then had the kids do an art project.  I found a template online for spy disguises, and gave them paper plates to turn into masks.  I also had glue, scissors, markers and googly eyes for them to use.  While they worked on their projects, Olivia opened her presents, and then they went to do the laser course for the last couple of minutes before parents came for pick up.  The timing worked out just right.  It was the perfect amount of time for the size of the group and the number of activities.

Since we didn't have very many guests I was able to have a little extra fun with the goodie bags.  The kids got flashlights, glasses/moustaches, mini magnifying glasses, spy notebooks and pencils, their spy ID cards and some treats, including pop rocks.  As a kid I would have loved that goodie bag!

The whole thing took me about 8 hours of prep, 2 hours of shopping, 2 hours of party-time.... and I don't know how much for clean-up, since I was too tired to do that yet.  ;)  The goodie bags were under $30, and the only other expenses were some black balloons, red streamers and a thing of ice cream.  I'm sure the whole party came to less than $50.

Almost none of the ideas for this party were my own.  Thanks to all the great people on Pinterest for sharing so many fun spy party ideas and resources.  Here are links to the ones I used:

Original spy party ideas on Chicken Babies
Template for spy ID cards on Chicken Babies
Majority of the code ideas for the treasure hunt on Stitch/craft
The whole training course and a few code ideas at Lisa Brown
Loved these decorations at What are we doing today, Mom? (even though I didn't decorate)
Here's where I downloaded a free printable for the invitation and some labels. Mediafire - May have pop-ups.
Free download for disguise printable

Tuesday, August 06, 2013


I spent tonight looking over my old posts here, when the kids were so little and I was so worried about not missing out on their childhoods.  I wish I could go back and comfort New Mom Me and assure myself that it's going to be okay.  There would be sad things, lost jobs and unfulfilled dreams of more kids.  But so many great things were in store for us.

The kids are 9 and 5 now, and I haven't ruined them yet.  In fact, this season of our lives is golden and bright.  DD is such a joy.  No longer the self-absorbed tantrum expert, she's turning into a lovely young lady that I love to be around.  And DS is still sweet - a budding reader and busy thinker.

I finally have my dream of staying home with them and homeschooling.  I don't know how long it will last, but I am trying to make the most of it.  Six months ago I was overwhelmed by such a big change, and truth be told, I still am a little bit.  We're going to be okay though, and I'm thinking about dusting off my little corner of the interwebs to chronicle our failures and successes.  That way in 5 years when I wonder what life was like before teenagers, I can come back here and reminisce about our golden days.

Here's a new Mosaic of photos I like (interesting, I didn't realize I was drawn so much to the ones with water), and a link to my old one with instructions for making your own:

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

More Christmas Elf

I know the holidays are long past, but if I don't post these now I may never do it. Here are some more photos of the shenanigans Roger the Elf was involved in...

Roger's birthday (12/12)  I found the idea for the cake on the same site as the tiny donuts:

Roger teaching the toys about Christmas

Even elves must heed the call of nature.  (This didn't work as well as I wanted.  The green was gone by morning.)

This was fun - Roger brought the whole family tickets to a hockey game.  He is wearing one of Ken's shirts, along with a hockey pin.

Feeling a little homesick, Roger spent the night in the freezer.  His scarf is just a piece of napkin with stripes drawn on with a marker.

Feeling a little under the weather.

Roger got to play in real snow at Grandma's house.  See his footprints and snow angel?  It was below freezing that night, brrr!

There were quite a few times towards the end of December that the kids woke up to treats or little toys, especially once we went to Grandma's and there were a bunch of cousins to join the fun.

Roger got in a toy sled on Christmas Eve and caught a ride back to the North Pole with Santa.  Just this morning though, Alex said, "Mom, what did you do with Roger?"  I said he went to the North Pole and Alex said, "But Mom, he's not real!  Where is he really?"  :)

Click HERE to see pictures of Roger's first couple of weeks at our house.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Roger the Elf

Roger is a Christmas elf that lives at our house and watches the kids during the day, then gets into mischief while everyone is asleep. He also reports back to Santa and makes naughty/nice recommendations to the big man.

I picked up a little DIY foam elf kit and the kids helped me put it together. We've been having fun with Roger the Elf ever since. Here are some of his adventures:

Made lunches for the kids of ridiculous foods

Played a board game with Barbie and Superman
Fell in love

Went on a few dates and left photos for the kids to find

Sprinkled flour around his house (it's a Santa's Workshop box of Kleenix) and made snow angels
Toilet papered the kids' rooms

Decorated our Christmas town with their underwear

Invited the kids to a tea party

The donut tea party is my favorite so far, those donuts were so tiny and cute!  I made them out of Fruity Cheerios dipped in chocolate syrup/sprinkles, powdered sugar and cinnamon.  Idea here: Emma's Tiny Treats.

Most of these ideas only took me a minute, and when I'm really feeling lazy I just leave 2 Hershey kisses at Roger's feet.  They like those mornings as much as they like his escapades. 

Click HERE for my second post on Roger's adventures.

Vegetarian Turkey

Made this to take to someone's house for Thanksgiving appetizers.  It was easy and turned out so cute!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Be Super!

Tomorrow Olivia starts second grade and Alex starts preschool, so it's a big day for both of them.  I know they're a little apprehensive and I wanted to do something fun and memorable to help them get ready.

A blogger I've long admired writes every year about her family's back-to-school traditions.  I followed her example and planned a family dinner with fun decorations, home-made crowns, fresh flowers, and a family motto for 2011.
Coming up with a motto was easier than I thought it would be:  Alex loves superheroes and makes us all "play Batman" with him, and Mike and I work at a game company that makes a superhero game.  I knew I wanted to encourage the kids to do their best, and eventually ended up with our family motto for this school year:  Be Super!

Dinner was simple, just pesto over tortellini (it's their favorite), and we talked about ways they can, "Be Super," this year at school.

The sides of the crowns didn't stay glued down, but the kids were both thrilled to get to wear a crown during dinner, and I wouldn't be surprised if Alex wants to wear his to school.

Tomorrow when the kids walk out the door they'll see this little reminder on the wall:

And when they get to school they'll find this caped crusader in their lunch:

Monday, August 01, 2011

4th of July - 2011

I just wanted to post a couple of pics from our trip to Idaho for the 4th of July:

 We spent the day with my Grandpa Rudd at his house on the lake.  It was a beautiful day and we got there in time for lunch and then sent most of the kids and the dads out on a boat ride around the lake.
 The weather changed so fast though, and it started to rain... then Hail!  It was a scary few moments for the moms back at the house as we saw the huge hail coming down all around and worried about our kids and husbands out on the boat.
 Everyone got back safely though, they said it didn't even hail where they were.  The weather was nice for the rest of the evening.
 Looking at bugs on this tree trunk.
 Alex and Mike exploring the lake.
 Here are my brothers and sister-in-law enjoying a fire (we roasted hot dogs and marshmallows) while we waited for it to get dark enough for fireworks.  Grandpa's house is one of my favorite places to be.  I have so many happy memories there.

There was a beautiful sunset that night. Of course my brother took this. He's so much better with my camera than I am!
We stayed the night and went home the next day, back to the house in Shelley where I grew up. We had more fireworks - Alex loved them.

I wanted to show the kids the (semi) wild places where I used to play as a little girl and tell them stories about the canal where we weren't allowed to play (but we did anyway!), and about the time I hid in the fields to avoid a doctor visit.

Even though I love where we live in California, it's all very developed where we are and it's just not the same. 

I'm so glad when we can escape for a while.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Two Poems

by Olivia

ho Skrap
I love you!
Your tikle wiskrs
Your vary fun
You look so cute!

ho Brokle
I hate you!
You tast so gros
I have to eat
you or I can not
have dezrt!