If you haven’t yet met Sue, the over-enthusiastic surprise party planner, you need to check out the SNL clip. She is a riot, and I ashamedly admit that I closely identify with her. I don’t gnash my teeth or rub my hands raw in anticipation, but I absolutely love planning surprises. There is something about orchestrating a situation where you know that the end result is going to be joy-filled or happy, and watching it unfold for the unsuspecting recipient, makes me giddy.
As luck would have it, I have had two opportunities, in the last month, to surprise our kids with unexpected visitors. Both my brother and my sister have had to come to Minnesota for work, and for each visit, I wanted to do something special.
One activity that we often do with our kids is a clue hunt. We have played this game to celebrate holidays, to liven up birthday parties, and sometimes just for fun. The kids love this game. I give them a clue that leads them to a specific room in the house, and then they have to hunt for the clue that will take them to the next room. It truly does not take long to get it set up, and when the kids were home full time, we would often play the game over and over, simply moving where the clues were hidden. We started out by drawing pictures of the rooms, to writing the names of the rooms, and now we are at the stage where I give them hints, but they have to figure out the clue. At the end of the hunt there is always something fun, or sweet-tasting, and I love watching the kids run from room to room.
We set up the clue hunt game when my brother came, and we hid him in the master closet as the final surprise. Our littlest sprout was home when my brother got to the house from the airport, so we were only able to put the clue hunt together for the older two, but little sprout was “Sue-like” in her excitement about setting up the surprise. It was cute!
For the uncle surprise, there were six clues and the fifth one led the kids to the laundry room. My husband, little sprout, and I followed the kids into the room, and right on cue, my brother dropped the last clue down the laundry chute. I so wish I had been filming this clue hunt because the perplexed and anxious looks of our kids was absolutely priceless. They knew that everyone in our family was standing in the laundry room, and to watch the light come on that there was someone else in the house, was really fun. The clue that came down the chute was: “Come and get me!”
The kids still didn’t know who was housed upstairs in mom and dad’s closet, and middle sprout was visibly nervous about the unknown. (totally in line with her personality…she is a kid who thrives on predictable) Oldest sprout sprinted up the stairs, and after cautiously opening the door, he leaped at my brother and knocked him down in his excitement. The other two quickly followed, and the dog-pile in the closet was totally worth the planning.
Now, with the additional visit of my sister, I couldn’t just let it happen without some sort of surprise, but because we had already used the clue hunt, we had to be a bit more creative. She was expected to arrive at our house at 6:30 pm. Middle sprout had a hockey practice that ended about that time, and I used the practice as an excuse to get everyone out of the house. We dropped off dad and middle sprout, and then I took the other two to get haircuts. Right before we left the house I set up three bowls in the kitchen, three chairs in the playroom, and I unmade all three beds upstairs.
My sister and I texted the final arrangements. She let herself into the house, dished up two bowls of ice cream and made it look like she had eaten a third. Then she hid herself in big sprou’ts bed right when we got home.
“Okay guys,” I said, just as we were pulling into the garage. “I want to play a little game. I am going to go in for a second, and then when you come in I will have your assignments. It is an impromptu skit, and I want to film the story.”
My kids love being filmed, and conveniently we have been filming random things the last few days, so it was not a huge give-away. My sister had dished the ice cream, and I stood at the breakfast counter as the kids came in. I put them each in the right chair, and then I handed them a small piece of paper that had their “lines” on them.
Littlest sprout (with some reading help from dad) said, “Someone has been eating my ice cream.”
Middle Sprout said, “Someone has been eating my ice cream.”
And big Sprout finished, “And someone has been eating my ice cream, and it’s all gone!”
I moved them to the playroom and put them in the right chairs.
“Someone has been sitting in my chair,” Littlest Sprout said. She had just read the story at school that day, and she was grinning with anticipation (of the story).
“Someone has been sitting in my chair,” Middle Sprout added, comfortable in the “performance”.
“Someone has been sitting in my chair, and now it’s broken,” Big Sprout dramatized, pointing out the broken arm of the chair.
As we ran upstairs to the beds, Big Sprout said, “I bet there is someone still in my bed!”
Middle Sprout said, “What?!” now nervous about the unpredictable part of this “pretend” story.
Littlest Sprout was still clueless, but excited about her next line as she jumped in her bed.
“Someone has been sitting in my bed,” she said.
“Someone has been sleeping in my bed too,” Middle Sprout anxiously chimed.
And Big Sprout fell on the floor crawling toward my snoring sister forgetting his lines, but once again dog-piling on the surprise.
They each recounted when they figured out that there was someone here to surprise them, and I couldn’t contain my Sue-like excitement. It is a great way to interject something fun into lives that often get to be entirely too routine.