A busy, busy day for Heather's birthday. School for the girls, of course. And work for me. Last year Heather had been a little disappointed at my treasure hunt. It was all very mental and she prefers to have some physical tasks as well. So this year was a mix of physical and mental challenges.
Once I was home from work (meaning I wrapped up my last meeting and could leave my closet) we let the games begin. Her presents had been locked up by some mischievous minion and only by completing her challenges and assembling clues could she possibly discover the code to unlock the box.
She started with the Strings of Despair! 7 strings criss-crossed the front yard connecting the numbers 1-7 to letters on the other side. Some went through the leaf pile that Corinne made last weekend.
With the mapping of numbers to letters in hand, she next had to cross the Chasm of Chaos! She must cross the bottomless pit via the rickety ladder, while collecting clues along the way. The rung wrapped in blue has broken off and fallen into the abyss and she must cross without it.
Aside: We got some great color on our tree this fall. Just look at it in the background there!
The clues from the Chasm of Chaos connected colors to numbers. Next she needed to use her assembled information to determine how to safely cross the Mines of Mystery!
Using the letter/number pairs from the Strings of Despair she was able to determine the safe path through the minefield and collect the color of the dud mines along the way. Next she needed to decode the colors of the mines into numbers using the information from the Chasm of Chaos. The decoded colors revealed the combination to the lock.
After presents it was time to go to gymnastics. After gymnastics we were going to pick up dinner from First Street Ale House to eat before cake. But Heather came stumbling back into the house in tears less than halfway through class. She had apparently injured her neck while doing a somersault and was in considerable pain. So we postponed our birthday dinner plans until the next night and grabbed McDonald's. After some ibuprofen, food, and rest she was up for cake.
Per Heather's request, Jess made a vanilla cake with chocolate-cream filling, chocolate frosting, and some crumbled Andes mints on top.
Oddly, Heather's and Corinne's classrooms are next to each other. Which turns out to be pretty convenient because parents aren't allowed inside the fence right now as a Covid precaution, so Heather can drop Corinne off on her way to class.
They eat lunch outside at picnic tables under the solar panels. Which seems like a super California thing to do.
They both survived the day. That, uh, has a much grimmer tone to it than I meant considering the number of kids around the country catching Covid in their schools right now :-/.
Heather started playing with the PBS Kids Scratch Jr. app in July. It's a visual programming tool which lets you do things with characters from PBS shows or create all your own stuff.
You might think this was something I proposed or encouraged, but I haven't had any involvement with it. She figured it out all by herself and wrote, produced, and voiced these videos (and several others). She's since gone on to creating (really simple) games--jump over the spikes; swipe the monsters with your sword, etc. It's pretty impressive.
These three videos are inspired by the TV show "Peg + Cat".
This first one, "The Dinosaur Problem" has no audio. But I think she really captures the styles of Peg and Cat. Download here: The-Dinosaur-Problem
And, the family favorite, "The Campfire Story." We regularly say to each other "I wonder what it's about" and "nom nom yummy." You'll understand once you've watched it. Download here: The-Campfire-Story
With Heather's birthday we've now celebrated the entire family's birthdays for 2020 in quarantine.
Her birthday was a work & school day. Much of the day was spent trying to get Heather to complete her school work so we could move on to fun activities. We eventually got on with things and the requisite treasure hunt was a big hit. This year's hunt involved playing a custom-coded guessing game on the computer, decoding a message encrypted using a substitution cipher, some math word problems, and completing some electronic circuitry.
Birthday dinner was McDonald's cheeseburgers (because what could be better than that?). Then she opened presents before having cake. Corinne thought up and picked out a Toothless stuffed animal (the dragon from "How to Train your Dragon") to give her and Heather is enamored of it. She puts one of her old nightgowns on it at night to keep it warm and it travels with her throughout the house during the day.
This year's cake was a white cake with vanilla-cream filling, chocolate frosting, and decorated with Andes mints. Unfortunately, like last year, she wasn't particularly thrilled with it. So she'll have to pick another new cake next year.
While we were eating cake she seemed a bit down. After some probing she admitted to having been a bit let down by her gifts. She liked them all, but was hoping for some Je-ne-sais-quoi delight that didn't materialize. And I know the feeling. I've had that experience too. It's not that there's some particular thing that you're hoping for (otherwise you could say so and increase your chances). You're just hoping for some unexpected surprise and it doesn't always happen (nor is it always specifically hoped for either). Some language probably has a word for it.
We'll see if we can land a hit at Christmas. I spent some time looking for ideas and think I found something that will fit the bill.
At Halloween Grandma sent Heather and Corinne each a $1.10 to buy something from the dollar store. Back in November we went over to the "99¢ Only Store" which is really the "99¢ and up store", but still has lots of 99¢ stuff. Heather and Corinne perused the aisles and then got to line up for their first store purchase.
Their understanding of how cash works is pretty weak since they never see it used. But with some prompting they each got through their transaction and are now the proud owners of these balls.