Saturday, October 13, 2012

Birthday Treasure Hunts

“You haven’t organised anything yet?!”

A look of wide-eyed horror flashes over our friend’s face. It’s the afternoon before Youngest’s birthday, I’ve picked the girls up from their school and am waiting at the stables for our son to arrive with our lift-share. The party is still unplanned apart from the four friends invited after school the next day. I’m slightly tense but by no means as panic stricken as the situation might warrant. I always do the skin of my teeth method of birthday party planning these days.

Perhaps I was more organised way back at the beginning of our kids’ party career. That first treasure hunt for our son’s fourth birthday, when the treasure was buried in a tin, in the heap of building sand awaiting the foundations of our house... had I worked that out in advance? I’m sure I would have shopped for the treasure further ahead than the actual birthday morning itself, which is what happened yesterday. With only 35 minutes before picking up girls and guests from school, to do the week’s food shop plus find treasure, it was more a case of grabbing mini bars of Lindt chocolate and hurried phone calls exchanged with my sister-in-law who was out and about in a more frivolous shopping area. But at least I had spent the morning thinking out the story, working out and encrypting clues and they were all in place; not like one party, when the guests had arrived and I was still running around writing and hiding clues around the farm.

For some reason inspiration only seems to come to me at the very last minute... perhaps the angels take pity on me, racking my brains to come up with a new story and new angle after 10 x 3 birthday treasure hunts.

The first years were easy – buried pirate treasure, flower fairies, angels, unicorns and a very simple trail of clues geared for five-year olds to work out. Now we’re on about the third year of pony themes for both girls. Clues have to be more complex and preferably there is some de-coding work involved.

A rather rumpled map of our nature conservation area!

This time the six girls got a map of the farm, with ten trees that had to locate – the back story was that they were trail riding in our beautiful nature conservancy and the map took them to all the beauty spots. They were please to ride only on the trails to keep their ponies safe from snakes and avoid disturbing the wildlife (our grass is long at the moment and the start of warmer weather is bringing  snakes out of hibernation). Each tree would yield a coded clue that would show them the way to a secret part of the conservancy.

So they set off armed with the map and a Schleich pony and rider each (these six girls all have their own collections and play elaborate games together every time they meet). Amazingly they found all the trees from the map, only defeated by one rather too well hidden clue in a poplar tree. They then had ten slips of paper with  a jumble of unintelligible words on.

The code was a simple letter shift A=C  and they all set to de-coding and then fitting the pieces of paper together in the right order. The de-coded message sent them to the sand-pit where our festivals take place, where a jam jar of more slips of paper was buried in the sand.

These sent them back to the herb garden where a Five Roses tea box was hidden in a different herb bush for each girl. The treasure ended up being the chocolate bar, a felt strawberry made by Middle Daughter and some body stickers, fun erasers and a notebook contributed by my sister-in-law. Phew all accomplished and then it was time for tea.

Youngest had ended up making the cakes (one for school and one for home) mostly by herself, with just a bit of my help, while I made bread and got supper the night before. My SIL helped making sandwiches when we all piled out of the car after the school run and there were strawberries that the girls had picked the day before to wash. Lays ready salted crisps, carrot sticks and some mini biscuits were all else required (the traditional cheese biscuits never made it to the top of the to do list this time). Then they all played horses again while I made pizza for supper -gone are the days when guests were packed off home at 6 o'clock... now they sleep over or at least stay until the end of the evening, after supper and a pony movie!

So one more birthday has been ticked off the list and our Youngest is officially 10. I wonder for how many more years the treasure hunts will be required? Our son dispensed with them when he turned 13. Middle Daughter thoroughly enjoyed her 12 year old one, which involved the Code of Claw from the Underland Chronicles and had them all clustered around iPods de-coding from the digital copies of the book that they had all been reading. So maybe I won’t be putting away the treasure hunt hat just yet. My husband is hinting that we should start a tradition of grown-up treasure hunts at Christmas for the whole family.... not sure whether my last-minute creativity will be able to cope with that as well as all the rest of Christmas, but we’ll see! Maybe I could set the rest of the family to devising clues for me to follow to an extra large stash of dark chocolate... now that would be a treasure hunt!

Two more treasure hunt posts: the detective treasure hunt for our son's 10th and the night time treasure hunt by torch light for his 11th.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Blog Envy

Reading other people’s blogs is something I love, strolling through snapshots of other lives, finding new friends, enjoying a clever phrase here, admiring ideas and envying tastes of other countries. It’s a distraction from my own life, expanding horizons, filling gaps.

There are times though, when I’m in a grumpy slump that I find myself gritting my teeth, envying in a resentful way rather than a gleeful one, feeling that I fall short because I haven’t achieved those things that I would normally be admiring: that larder stuffed full of home-canned organic produce, that beautifully made art work, that perfectly styled and thoughtfully devised new recipe.

That’s when I have to kick myself sharply, remind myself that my blog only shows the highlights, the public smiling face. While I’m busy going green over some other seemingly more perfect life than mine, there may be readers of my blog who sometimes have to grit their teeth in envy of our seemingly idyllic life.

Because it can be idyllic, but it is also life with all the gritty bits. Some blogs manage to pour out woes as well as triumphs and still be absorbingly readable, but it needs a perceptive honesty and a wry sense of humour to air the downsides of your life as well as the ups. Something I’ve not even attempted here. Not that there are any huge tragedies, but who wants to read about the small wearing  difficulties of life, the price of petrol that makes living on a farm out of town ever more expensive, making you think twice about scheduling any extra activities, the rutted dirt road that shakes all our cars to pieces... I’m not sure that I even want to write about them and give them space, rather keeping my rose-tinted spectacles firmly wedged on my nose, putting my fingers in my ears and going lalalalala....

So instead of berating myself for not having accomplished all the best bits of everyone else’s achievements, I need to accept that we’re all different and get on with my own, even if they seem less interesting and more mundane to me. Writing, posting, social media stuff, interspersed with feeding ducklings, hanging out laundry, picking up kids from school, planning tomorrow’s birthday treasure hunt, a bit more writing, ticking off the list of articles and pushing aside the accounts again until they reach crisis point... again. Seems I’m human, not perfect after all, hard for a Virgo to admit!

So do you suffer from blog envy too? Is it OK to grumble out loud on your blog, or do you also feel the need to put on a smiling face for your readers?