2013 Countdown to Christmas - Days 16-17!

So much for my promise to keep up with the clues daily, huh?

Hunting clues with teenagers during Final Exams is certainly tricky, but one good thing about doing two days at once is that I could combine the dollars from both days into one glorious origami wreath!


I had them start with Clue #16:

2013_16_clue 2013_16_read


EMMA: Wow! Look at this fancy paper, Karl. It's so shiny!

After reading the clue:

KARL: I think it must be referring to wrapping Christmas presents.

EMMA: Why do you say that?

KARL: Because that's when you call for a finger, you know, to help you tie the bow.

EMMA: But what does that have to do with singing?

KARL: (reads the clue again) I think she's probably just saying that you'll want to sing. Like Christmas Spirit or whatever.

Yeah, or whatever.

EMMA: (doubtful) I guess. Let's check the wrapping paper in Mom & Dad's room.



Emma spied the clue taped to the top of one of the paper rolls.

EMMA: Karl, it's another clue.

KARL: (looking at both clues) Yeah, see, she did December 16th and then this is December 17th.

EMMA: We missed a day?

KARL: Yeah.

Observant, my children.



KARL: "Access is needed for various 'business', Especially soon after dining, A drill and a saw plus some screws and Voila! No more scratching and whining." It's the dog door. Come on.

EMMA: (impressed) Wow! How did you get that so fast?

KARL: Because I helped them. Plus, they had all those tools out - the drill and the saw and stuff.

Technically he is correct. He helped us hang the door at the end. We were probably up to the task without him, but I mentioned to John that a benefit to feeding half a ton of food to a teenage boy every day was that he was strapping enough to help us lift heavy stuff. You know, fringe benefits!

Karl was momentarily puzzled when he didn't see the cash. He even reached through the door to feel around between the flaps even though they are transparent and it was clear that the money was not in there.


KARL: Huh. I don't see it. Check the part that slides in to lock it.

They checked that piece and didn't find it. Finally he thought to open the door and check the other side, where I had taped the wreath.


EMMA: (examining the wreath) Check that out! What fancy folding.

KARL: (unimpressed) Well she's pretty much a professional by now.

Yes, son, all it takes is 17 days of folding dollars and you become a professional origamist. Don't tell Japan. Heh.




By the way, it was Ugly Sweater day at school, so Emma wore the one from our 2011 Christmas card. Karl tried his sweater on but it was wool and he had no interest in scratching all day, so he abstained.

As for the dog door, since installing it on Sunday both dogs have figured it out. We had one in our house in Colorado for Lucy and she must have remembered the concept. She had no trouble from the get-go. Katie, however, took a little coaxing to get through the door. Luckily Katie is extremely food-motivated. Yesterday morning she came through the door on Lucy's back because she couldn't wait her turn. Not when breakfast was on the other side!



A week until Christmas! Lots left to do! Fa-la-la-la-later!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Days 10-15!

It's 10 days until Christmas. 


Last week was just crazy. The kids had activities and homework and appointments and sleepovers. The dogs had a vet appointment. I had a class to prepare (my final class for Sizzix) and a preview video to shoot for some of the new dies for Elizabeth Craft Designs (sneak peeks coming soon) and photo cards to send (no letters or personal notes, sorry guys) and baking for two school holiday parties. 

Whew! It was a brutal week. The two things that did not happen were daily clues and housework.

Today was the day to get caught up. Well, caught up on clues anyway. The housework . . . still too busy!

ME: Hey kids, let's get caught up on the clues. Oh, you're still in your PJs? Showers first then. I picked out some clothes for you that will look nice in the photos. The outfits are on your beds.

EMMA: (rolling eyes) We don't need you to pick out our clothes!

ME: I know, but humor me, it's for the blog.

It wasn't for the blog. 

More on that later.

Once they came down, wet hair and all, it was time to start the hunt. Clue #10 was hidden five days ago, I might add.

ME: Start with Clue #10. Hey - neither of you accidentally found the money, right? It's been hidden for five days.


Of course they didn't. Don't even know why I asked that.



EMMA: Do you think it could be a laundry basket?

KARL: But they don't have lids.

EMMA: The one in our bathroom does! Come on!

They took off toward the stairs.

KARL: But what about the "gravity" part?

EMMA: Because we drop our clothes on the floor instead of putting them in the hamper!

ME: Well aren't you smart, Sherlock!

EMMA: I'm not a psychopath. I'm a high functioning sociopath. Do your research.

ME: Huh?

EMMA: It's a quote from Sherlock.

By then they had made it to their bathroom, where they trampled across the carpeting of dirty clothes on the floor and over to the hamper, where the dollars had been sitting right on top and undetected for five days.



ME: Step out here and close the door. That's a decent backdrop. It's going to be challenging to take photos today with the house being messy like it is.

KARL: That's what Photoshop is for.

ME: Yeah, but I don't think I can Photoshop a mound of laundry!

KARL: (superiorly) It's called the Clone tool.

ME: Yes, yes, you're very smart. Smile!


Looks like the hearts held up pretty well for being in that hamper almost a week!


We headed downstairs for the next clue. I was looking at the photo on my camera. Emma has always been my challenging kid for photos. She has a hard time smiling naturally on cue.

ME: Looks like Emma is actually smiling!

KARL: If you want to make her smile for photos there's a device you can get that's an electro shock for facial muscles. It'll make you smile for 5 minutes straight!

EMMA: Rude.

Karl took Clue #11 out of the box.

EMMA: Karl, give it to me - it's my turn to read it.

I knew they loved these clues!



KARL: What's a looking glass?

EMMA: It's a mirror. It says it has space behind it.

KARL: Do you think she means literal space or outer space?

EMMA: Probably literal space.

KARL: OK, let's be systematic and check every mirror in the house. (opens the door to our room) Mom has a mirror in her closet but she wouldn't want to take a photo in there.

ME: (running to close the door) Gasp! Never! It's not there!!!!

Remember the episode of Friends where Monica has a closet that's untidy? One word . . . amateur!

They tried a couple of other mirrors and then went into the powder room.


KARL: Emma, it's not the money - it's another clue!

EMMA: What does it say?


KARL: "I'm big and loud and purple, You'll find me with any luck, Although I am not broken, People say I suck." It's the vacuum cleaner.

We have two vacuum cleaners - one for the downstairs and one for the upstairs. I had actually put the clue on the upstairs one, but they spotted the downstairs vacuum where I had left it out in the foyer (did I mention the deplorable condition of my house?) Even worse, the other day I was wearing my ugly pink bathrobe because I was cold, and I had taken it off and draped it over the vacuum in the foyer! 

KARL: (pulling bathrobe off the vacuum) Oh THAT'S why this robe was there, to hide the money!

No, Son. The bathrobe was there because the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.


They were examining the wrong vacuum cleaner, and my Photoshop skills were not up to the challenge of erasing the damage the dogs did to the front door when they scratch at it barking at dogs walking by outside. And I also couldn't Photoshop in the door to my office being closed, so there's a little dose of reality, those of you who watch my videos! Heh heh heh.

I reminded them of the second vacuum and they went upstairs to the guest room closet and found Clue #13.


ME: Wait! Read it here in the guest room - I can take a photo in here!


EMMA: Well if it's a shelf used only by Mom it's got to be in her office.

KARL: I think she has a Brother printer.

Oh wow! I DO have a Brother printer. That kid is smart! And observant about technology. (But only about technology)

He also happened to be wrong about the hiding place.


They stood staring at the wall of shelves for a while and then finally spotted it.



EMMA: "We pick it out, we write the year, With a Sharpie (this can be tricky) This year we ended up with two, One's an owl and one's named Mickey." Karl, it's the ornaments.

She was right. We get one family ornament a year that documents something we did that year. Emma and I picked out the Mickey ornament at Disneyworld when we were there for her band trip at Spring Break. But then John pointed out that he and Karl didn't go on the trip so we should get a second ornament. We picked out an owl when we were shopping as a family on Small Business Saturday a few weeks ago.


They found the final clue behind the Mickey ornament and turned to read it.



KARL: "Searching high and searching low, It's fun . . . you shouldn't knock it. But if you want to find the cash, Reach deep into your pockets!" 

He just stood there puzzled.

EMMA: What pockets? Of the jeans we have on?! How-

KARL: (sudden realization) Emma, she picked out our outfits!

Emma started checking her pockets.


 EMMA: NO WAY! Karl, check your tiny little pocket.

Karl dove into his pocket and pulled out the money.


EMMA: (looking at the origami bills) What are they?

ME: They started as houses, but I had to fold them extra to make them fit in the pockets.



KARL: (unfolding them all) Oh I see - they're fives because it was multiple clues.



As they went to put their money in the envelopes I asked Emma if she was impressed.

ME: That was pretty funny, huh? You guys were going all over the house looking for the money and it was in your pockets the whole time!

EMMA: (grinning) Good job, Mom. (she clapped)

ME: Hey, that looked like sarcastic clapping!

EMMA: No, THIS is sarcastic clapping. 

She demonstrated a much slower clap.

ME: Ah. 

Well in any case, I was super impressed with myself for pulling that off. When Emma came down after her shower her hands were in her pockets! Good thing I chose to use those tiny little jeans pockets that nobody uses unless they need to hide some money.

I will try to stay on track next week with daily clues. 

See you tomorrow for Clue #16!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 9!


Not wanting a repeat of the day before's grump-fest, I felt that I should casually drop some hints on our way to school.

ME: Dad ordered some special harnesses for the dogs and the tracking number says they were delivered yesterday, but they weren't. Poor guy. He hasn't had the best of luck with ordering online recently. Remember the rice cooker?

EMMA: Yeah, what happened with that?

ME: UPS was supposed to deliver it, but they gave it over to USPS instead and then when he tracked it it showed delivered but it wasn't. Finally it showed up in the mailbox, but not before Dad texted me while I was in North Carolina, all concerned that it was showing delivered when it wasn't.

KARL: I've heard that sometimes the employees will scan a barcode on a package but not hit the "next" button before scanning again. It will end up with 150 tracking numbers being associated with one package and the other 149 having no data. I don't think they pay those workers very much. They don't seem well-trained if they can make errors like that. This one time-

Sorry kid, but the ride wasn't that long!

ME: Right. So anyway, good thing that rice cooker showed up, huh? I mean, it really does cook good rice. Have a great day. Karl, I'll pick you up by the bench for your appointent. Don't forget.

KARL: I'll probably forget.

ME: Exactly. Which is why I am telling you, right now, to commit that bench to memory - look at it. Feel it. BE the bench!

He just grinned and got out of the van.

OK the clue seed had been planted. I figured by the time school was over they would have forgotten our little conversation, but maybe it would subconsciously steer them in the right direction.

(With apologies for the lousy photos - wrong camera settings)



KARL: We used to use the microwave, but it was inconsistent, "There's got to be a better way!" said Dad. (he was insistent).

EMMA: It's the rice cooker, definitely. But do you think it's the new one or the old one?

They headed toward the kitchen, where Emma suggested that Karl check the new rice cooker while she checked the microwave rice cooker.



KARL: Found them! (hands two origami dollars to Emma)

EMMA: What are they?

KARL: I have no idea. (he was holding them like boats)

ME: They're cardinals.

EMMA: Cardinals? Like the Catholic official?

ME: No. Cardinals like the bird.



EMMA: (doubtful) If you say so.

Everyone's an origami critic!



Karl appointment (he remembered to wait at the bench!) was for the orthodontist. They get reward points for various things, one of which is wearing their "got braces?" tee shirt to the appointments. Emma is wearing a shirt from her favorite show, Supernatural. 

She was actually repeating her outfit from Sunday afternoon, when we had our photo shoot for the Christmas card. The Burnistons love TV!



Clue #10 will be posted tonight.

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 8!


We had spent some time yesterday putting up the Christmas decorations and trimming the tree:


As we were decorating I mentioned to Emma that she should be committing the ornaments to memory, since I sometimes wrote clues around them. (Hint #1)

Now I've been a crafter since my first popsicle stick napkin holder, and through the years I've gone through different phases, including a brief love affair with plastic canvas:


When I saw this ornament in the box I knew it would be a perfect clue. I got both kids' attention.

ME: Hey, check this out, Karl and Emma. I made this years ago from plastic canvas and yarn. The flag goes up and down and the door opens!

KARL: (politely) Oh . . . uh . . . cool.

This was Hint #2.

This morning I had to figure out some origami that would fold small enough to fit in the mailbox. I ended up making these tiny canoes:


Now when I pick hiding spots and write clues I usually envision how they might solve it. In my head, this clue's hunt would go something like this:

EMMA: Would you like to read it, dear brother?

KARL: After you, sweet sister!

EMMA: "Gloom of night won't stay the courier"? Hmmm, what a curious phrase. Let's see what Google says.

After discovering that these words were from the US Postal Creed, and then with the additional hints about the little green flag and red/white color scheme, they would immediately recall my heartwarming story about crafting a plastic canvas mailbox ornament.

Next, they would join hands, skip to the tree, and find the money.

KARL: What are these exquisite origami figurines? Why, they are miniature canoes! How charming!

EMMA: You have outdone yourself, mother dearest.

And then we would all spontaneously burst into song. Hark the herald angels sing . . . 

Oh yes, this was going to be fabulous!

Here's what really happened:


EMMA: Karl, eww. Your breath smells like Cheerios!

KARL: (snatching clue) Let me see that. "I have a flag, it's small and green, Red and white are also seen, Worry not if you're a worrier, Gloom of night won't stay the courier" 

EMMA: Well I have no idea.

KARL: "Gloom of night won't stay the courier" - that means it's something that's visible during the day.

EMMA: Everything is visible during the day.

Karl glared at her.

JOHN: Emma, that's not very helpful.

Emma grunted.

Uh oh. This was not going well. 

I suggested that they use Google or their dad for research.

KARL: (crossly) Dad won't know it.

JOHN: (with dignity) I might.


They decided to look up "small green flag" and "red and white". 

Huh. Didn't see that coming.

JOHN: Let's see - a courier is someone who delivers things. What would they deliver it to.

EMMA: A mailbox?

KARL: Are we supposed to walk down to the mailbox? I'm in my pajamas.

ME: No, I don't want to chase you down there with a camera.

I was floored that they did not remember a conversation from 12 hours prior. They actually wandered around the house looking for mailboxes.

For reals!

JOHN: You know, Mom gave you a hint during our family activity yesterday.

EMMA: What family activity? Oh, decorating the tree?

They walked toward the tree.

KARL: (frustrated) There are a lot of ornaments on the tree and most of them are red and white.

JOHN: But they don't all have a small green flag on them.

FINALLY they figured it out. Karl opened the mailbox ornament and started pulling out the canoes.


EMMA: What's in there, Karl?

KARL: Something that's been folded a lot. 

EMMA: What are they?

ME: They're canoes.

KARL: (crossly) They look more like kayaks.

ME: Man! You are a grump! Can you just pose for a nice photo and we'll call it a day?



Needless to say, there was no spontaneous caroling.

See you tomorrow for Clue #9.

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 6 and 7!

For Day #6 I wanted to write a clue that Emma would get before Karl. He's been solving most of them, so I decided to stack the deck in her favor.

First things first, I needed some origami dollars. Behold, one disheveled anteater:


These little buggers (pun intended) were DIFFICULT! My folding was pretty inconsistent - a couple looked like anteaters (if you squinted) but the others just looked like aardvarks. Heh.

I was more than happy to attach them unceremoniously to an empty soda bottle using a rubber band:


Emma brought the bottle home from school this week and excitedly told me that this is the soda they drink in a web comic she likes but it's only sold up north and one of her friends had gifted her this bottle. (Sans soda, but still a nice gesture!

She set it right here on the bar next to these candles. As though it were decor. But then, she also knows her father, so the next day, in a panic, she said:

EMMA: Wait, where's my Faygo bottle?

ME: Right where you left it.

EMMA: Whew! Don't let Dad recycle it.

ME: Maybe you should move it for safe keeping.

It's still on the bar.

But when I spied it there Thursday night I knew I could write a clue for it, and that would give Emma an edge. I didn't know anything about this soda but my good friend G. Oogle sent me right to the Faygo website for research.


Emma texted me toward the end of school to see if she could go straight to Erin's house. It was a Friday and a really cold one, so it seemed unreasonable to ask her to walk home first just to solve the clue. My plan instead was to have them solve two clues on Saturday.

I woke Karl up this morning to get him to his 4-hour Saturday detention on time. It started as a simple 1 hour detention for missing a class. He does not pick up on social cues, including, in this case, an entire cafeteria of kids filing out to their next class. The janitor found him listening to music, alone, in the cafeteria and asked if he was supposed to be in class.

Yep, that happened.

His case worker later told me it was just a series of unfortunate miscommunications because they were in meetings and the teacher had no idea he was at school that day, so nobody knew to look for him. He missed an entire period and was disciplined with a one hour after-school detention.

Nobody told me.

When he failed to report to the one hour detention (because Mom did not text him to remind him, because Mom did not know anything about it) he was slapped with a two hour after-school detention.

Nobody told me.

When he failed to report to the two hour detention he was slapped with a three hour after-school detention.

Nobody told me.

You're getting the picture, right? Finally I got a voicemail from the Assistant Principal telling me that he would have to serve a 4-hour Saturday detention for failure to appear to any of the three previous detentions.

I called his case worker first, asking why she hadn't told me about the earlier detentions. She was as surprised as I was, because nobody had told her, either.

Then I called the Assistant Principal back.

ME: I will have Karl there for his Saturday detention, but why wasn't I told of the earlier detentions?

AP: We don't normally inform the parents unless they ask us to. We send a slip home with the child.

ME: It is well documented in Karl's IEP that he cannot be the only source of communication between the school and the parents. We must have back-up notification. His case worker wasn't informed either.

AP: (puzzled) Well I asked Karl to show you the papers. 

ME: I'm sure you did.

Really? I mean really? I have to tell her to let his case worker know about disciplinary stuff? This is news to her? Really? *sigh*

At least this gave me time to get the dollars folded and the Saturday clue written, since he wouldn't be home until noon.



The George Washington face shirts were really easy to fold. The ones with the ties were harder.

It was about 11:30 when Emma came to find me.

EMMA: Uh, Mom? I accidentally found the money today.

ME: You did? 

EMMA: Yeah, I'm making pizza rolls for lunch.

ME: OK, well I guess you can just sit out today's clue and let Karl solve it on his own.

EMMA: He'll solve it.

ME: You don't even know what it says!

EMMA: Yeah, but he's really good at solving them.

Aw. Poor girl. I was happier than ever that the first clue was something only she would know.

ME: What did you think of the origami today?

EMMA: What are they? Shirts?

ME: (offended) Yes! Of course they're shirts. Two of them even have ties!

EMMA: (shrugs) I like the animals better.

I take back the "poor girl" stuff. Sheesh!


KARL: Hmmm. 50 flavors. It could be ice cream, but this doesn't seem like a real flavor.

EMMA: I'm sure it probably is a real flavor, but I've never heard of it.

They checked the freezer.

Next they went to the breakfast room table, where Emma had her laptop.


EMMA: OK, how do you spell the name, Karl?

KARL: (looking at clue) F-E-I-G (looks up) No, it's E-N, not O-N, then S-O-N.

EMMA: Hey! I have no internet. Karl, are you sucking all the bandwidth?

KARL: (getting up) I'll go check my settings.

EMMA: (puzzled) But while you were gone we turned off your computer.

ME: Yeah, we had to. Whatever you were doing was causing none of us to have internet.

KARL: I turned the computer back on when I got home, and I have it set to always give me the bandwidth before Emma.

EMMA: Rude.

KARL: I usually have a restricter on at 75% though. (heads upstairs)

Emma and I just looked at each other and shook our heads. Karl is frighteningly good at computer stuff. 

Karl returned and sat back down.

KARL: Try it now. I had it set to 100%.

EMMA: So you were taking ALL the bandwidth?

KARL: All of it.

EMMA: Rude.

Emma peformed her search and then jumped up.

EMMA: Karl, it's Faygo! I have a Faygo bottle!

KARL: Wha...?

But she was already to the bottle.


KARL: What is that?

EMMA: It's the soda they drink in Homestuck.

ME: What is it? Home Suck?


ME: Got it.

I told them to grab their anteaters and pose for a victory shot.

ME: OK, ready? Smile and look right here at the camera. It's the big black thing in front of my face. Just look right here. Right at me. Ready?



Karl was up next for Clue #7. 


KARL: "A sleuthing tip from me to you, Solve each part of every clue! Today the first is black and chrome, Inside it gets quite hot, The second's used in baseball games, So line drives can be caught." Hmm. Black and chrome . . .

He walked to the kitchen and examined the oven, then looked at the clue again.

KARL: "line drives" - I don't know what those are. Hey Emma, I need you to Google something for me.

EMMA: Already on it. (reads from the screenIn baseball, a line drive is a type of batted ball, sharply hit, and on (or slightly above) a level trajectory.

KARL: (wanders back toward the oven while talking) OK, so this allows a line drive to be caught, so it must be some sort of baseball glove. I'm guessing she's referring to an oven mitt.




 Smart kid!

KARL: (on his way to the envelopes) Do I get to keep all four dollars or do I have to split them with Emma?

ME: You have to split them.

KARL: Aww.

Tune in tomorrow for Clue #8. We're putting up Christmas decorations today, so that will make for some new festive hiding spots!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 5!

Well Karl was right. Apparently I will look for any excuse to fold stuff, because this morning, while getting out the dollars for today's clue, they just looked so blah without being folded into something, so I went with Cranes.

2013_5_Crane_and_seal Gretchen and I hit Hobby Lobby yesterday before her birthday lunch so I could pick up some fresh wax for the seals. I'd been using leftover nubs from years past up until now and the seals were pretty sloppy. Day 2's clue was momentarily on fire, so it was definitely time to get new wax. 


I was looking forward to the kids getting home from school because I really like this clue. I figured they would solve it, but I wasn't sure how long it would take. 

I put my iPad on the table behind the couch, propped up open on the stand, and tucked all four origami cranes into the case.

Karl got home from school first.

ME: Karl! It's really cold - I thought you were going to call for a ride!

KARL: Nah. It was a nice walk. The cold actually puts me in the mood for winter and Christmas.

Oooh! That's what I like to hear!

Emma had stayed after for psychology tutorials, so I went back to work while Karl went to make a snack.

It didn't take 15 minutes in my office to realize my mistake. I jumped up and ran out into the living room to make sure Karl didn't grab my iPad.

The iPad was no longer on the table!

But the four origami cranes were!


He had his headphones on, sitting at the table, laughing at a YouTube video on my iPad and polishing off a bag of chips I just bought yesterday. (Boys!) I quickly scooped up the cranes while he wasn't looking, hoping that somehow he had grabbed the iPad and not noticed the dollars falling out of it.

If you have ever met Karl you will know that this was not an unheard-of possibility.

ME: Uh, you need to ask to use my iPad.

KARL: Oh. Sorry, I forgot. 

Hmmm. He didn't smile, or look guilty, or volunteer anything . . . maybe he really didn't see the dollars!

ME: (casually) Where did you find my iPad?

KARL: (pointing) On that table over there.

Oh! This is awesome! He didn't notice the dol-

KARL: (matter-of-factly) It had these little origami things in it. I left them on the table.

My heart sank. But wait! He said "things" - maybe he didn't realize they were the dollars!

ME: Little origami things?

KARL: (not even looking up) You know - the dollars for the clue.

AURGH! So he DID know. And yet, he wasn't acting like he'd spoiled anything. Perhaps there was still a chance . . . 

ME: Oh, I hoped you hadn't seen those. 

KARL: You mean you hadn't hid them yet?

ME: No, but now you know the shape of the dollars. Don't tell Emma.

KARL: (puzzled) Why would I?

I had to decide if I should just exclude him from the day's Clue or risk that he wouldn't make the immediate connection based on what he saw.

I decided to gamble!


EMMA: Wow! Nice seal today, Mom!

She noticed!

They read the clue together, and there was no reason to chase them around the house because they just stood there pondering.


KARL: "Next time won't you sing with me" - Emma, it's the alphabet. Those numbers are letters of the alphabet!

EMMA: (impressed) Wow!

KARL: (keeping track with his fingers) A-B-C-D-E-F-G-H-I the first letter is I. (repeats the process) Next is P. (looks at the clue) #1 would be A and then #4, which is D. It's I-P-A-D. It's an iPad!

Right then I saw the realization flit across his face. He grinned.

EMMA: Well which one? (looking around)

KARL: Dad has his at work. It must be Mom's.

He took off to the dining room where I had moved the iPad for safe keeping. 


KARL: (handing over two dollars to Emma) See? Here they are.

EMMA: Cool! What are these? Cranes?

ME: Yep.

I guess a new tradition has been started! Origami dollars each day! Whoot!


I also wanted to share another conversation with Karl when he got home from school today:

ME: Hey, Boo! How was your Spanish test?

I actually don't remember what made us start calling Karl "Boo" or "Boo-Boo". It was when he was a baby, so a long time ago. So far he still doesn't mind, although I try not to call him "Boo" in public. (But I sometimes forget. It's a habit!)

KARL: OK, I guess. I think I knew most of them. I actually did the right thing and gave back the first test she handed out because it had all the answers on it.

ME: You did?! Karl, I'm so proud of you! What did the teacher say?

KARL: She just gasped (here he demonstrated a loud dramatic gasp with a chest clutch) and grabbed it and said "I told the last class not to write on the actual test!!!!"

ME: Did she praise you for giving it back?

KARL: No. She just snatched it and gave me a blank one.

ME: Well sometimes you have to do the right thing just to do the right thing, you know? Whether anyone notices or not.

KARL: Yeah.

That's a lesson that I, too, have been tested on this year. It's hard to do the right thing sometimes, especially when it is not acknowledged. Sometimes you just have to let those actions be their own reward, although it can be very, very hard to do. I'm so glad that Karl was able to make a great choice today.

See you tomorrow for Clue #6.

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 4!


Let me just give everyone a moment to properly respect the skill it took to rhyme the word "eucalpytus". 

Thank you, thank you. No, no, enough applause. Thank you.

For this clue I wanted to test whether the kids had ever noticed the wreath hanging on the wall directly opposite the toilet in the downstairs powder room. I had a suspicion that they would be clueless. (pun intended)


The money, as you see, is in plain sight. So much so that when Emma came home from school and headed toward the powder room I stopped her and sent her upstairs on an errand. 

EMMA: Let me just go to the bathroom first.

ME: You have a bathroom upstairs.

Yes, I did that. But the magic must be maintained!

It wouldn't have mattered, as it turns out, but I'm getting ahead of myself.


I almost didn't include the photo of them reading the clue. Do I really need 25 similar photos of them reading clues? But as I looked at it, I could see the thickness of Karl's glasses, and the sparkly saxophone necklace I gave Emma last week "just because". In the future we might marvel at when glasses had to be that thick for nearly-blind nearsighted kids like Karl, and Emma might remember that necklace fondly. I decided to include the photo.

After Karl read the clue out loud Emma looked up toward the landing.

EMMA: I bet it's that fake plant upstairs!

Up the stairs they went. They did not find it there, nor in the fake plant in the guest room.


They wandered around the house a little, looking for plants. I had expected them to Google an image of  eucalyptus but I guess they were content to just check every plant in the house.

At least they knew that eucalyptus was a plant.

Karl checked the laundry room, which made Emma laugh because she knew there weren't any plants in there. I reminded them of the clue's mentioning seeing it every day, so perhaps they should concentrate on areas of the house that they were in every day.

They looped through the dining room and were heading back toward the kitchen when Karl paused at the powder room. I sprang into action to get over there with my camera, but they turned out the light and started leaving.

EMMA: Wait! Mom rushed over here with her camera, Karl. It's got to be in here!


The powder room is tiny, as you can tell. They examined everything except the wall behind Emma, where the wreath is hung.

They switched places (did I mention the room is tiny?) so Karl could examine the same three walls as Emma.

They started to leave the room.

ME: Oh come ON!

That's when they finally thought to close the door and look at the wall behind it.



EMMA: Wow! Did you fold these dollars into little elephants?

ME: I did.

EMMA: Awesome!

Uh oh! I better not have started a new tradition. If they expect origami dollars every day I'll never get anything else done!



I learned how to fold the elephants here: Origami Elephant




I mentioned to Karl that I wasn't going to be able to fold the dollars into origami animals every day and he said "I guess you like folding stuff because you're a paper crafter, huh? We'll probably have some family night of napkin folding or something. Any excuse to fold stuff."


And YES!

I'll leave you with a conversation from this morning.

KARL: I had the strangest dream last night. Emma had an iPad but it got crushed by an anvil. We had to call in some repairmen, who looked like Russian Mafia. So they kidnapped me and took the iPad!

ME: Well . . . the iPad was crushed by an anvil, so it was useless.

KARL: (dismissively) Yeah. Anyway, I had to have an elaborate escape plan with a chase scene and I was driving underage and the steering wheel was on the U.K. side!

JOHN: Ah, the classic "iPad crushed by anvil/chased by Russian Mafia" dream - very common.

Here's a somewhat crummy photo of Emma from last night's Holiday Concert. I was too far away.



Tune in tomorrow for Clue #5!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 3!

Emma suggested making the Clues an after-school activity rather than a morning activity so things wouldn't be rushed. We all agreed. Here is today's clue:





Now I knew that they would not be at all stumped by this clue. They know where the dog brushes are kept - in the junk drawer in the kitchen.

And sure enough, to the kitchen they went.



Karl seemed shocked that when he opened the drawer, the money wasn't just sitting on top like an Easter egg. (Please! They're FIFTEEN!)

KARL: It's not here. I guess we have to dig for it.

He spotted the baggie of Box Tops with some money inside.

KARL: Here it is. Oh wait - it's only one dollar!



EMMA: Oh! We need to look at the clue again. It says a brush for dogs . . . (grabs dog brush), a brush for lint . . .(grabs lint brush)

KARL: Wait - isn't one "a deck of cards"?

He opened the cards and found the second dollar. 




Please note that in the photo above, Emma is actually holding the spool of thread in her hand, rewinding the thread and paying no attention to the tightly rolled dollar that is sticking out the end.

EMMA: We need to look for random tools.

ME: What's in your hand?

EMMA: A spool of thread, but there's no dollar.

KARL:(glancing over) It's right here! (pulls dollar from the end of the spool)

EMMA: (sheepishly) Oh.



They started taking everything out of the drawer looking for the final dollar. Karl started opening something excitedly.

EMMA: Karl, that's not in the clue. It's gum.

KARL: I know! There's one piece left!

EMMA: Aww. Split it with m-

Karl shoved the whole piece in his mouth. (Spirit! So much Christmas spirit!)



Notice the kitchen island filling up with items from the junk drawer. They found an old iPod and some other treasures and finally, at the bottom of the drawer, a binder clip with the final dollar.

Now here's where the Christmas miracle happened.

Brace yourselves.

EMMA: OK, Karl, let's clean this up. Put the big items back first.



I just stood there in shock!

Now granted, it wasn't the most orderly put-back. Emma took on more of a management role while Karl was the labor. He got everything in and then realized he hadn't added the screwdriver or candle lighter. He shoved them on top and forced the drawer closed.

And then, as you might guess, the screwdriver blocked the drawer from opening.

ME: Hey! This drawer opened before you got here.

KARL: Uh oh.

ME: (pressing fingers into the drawer to lower the screwdriver) I got it! (surveying the drawer) Have some pride, man. You put the biggest items on the bottom and then pile the other junk on top! (demonstrating)

KARL: Well it's not all junk. We use some of that stuff regularly. You should move those items to the "Somewhat Important Stuff Drawer."

EMMA: Karl, we don't have a Somewhat Important Stuff Drawer. 

long pause

EMMA: Do we?

KARL: No, we don't.

It was a fun clue! I forgot to take a victory shot, though.

In other news, Emma's Band Holiday Concert and Dinner is tonight. Emma plays the Sax during marching season, but she's actually an Oboe player. This will be her first performance with the oboe this year and the first one since the loss of Mrs. Lawrence. Emma has taken private lessons from Mrs. Lawrence since we moved to Texas. Sue was a lovely lady, quite talented (we always bought her handmade reeds) and the only local oboe tutor. Most oboists in the area took private lessons from her and many of her students played at her memorial service in November. She will be greatly missed.

Tune in tomorrow for a photo of Emma's concert and the hunt for Clue #4!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 2!


 Google is an acceptable reference material during December and Emma's iPhone is surgically attached to her (or at least it seems to be) so I figured this clue would be a good one for them. They would have no idea who Blondie was and would have to do some online research.

To make sure the clue was accurate, I actually looked up the schedule for Galveston.


EMMA: "Blondie sang that this was high, but she was holding on. At precisely 5:10 pm tonight it will be high in Galvestun, Galvest-on" . . . not sure how to say that so it actually rhymes.

Sheesh! Tough crowd! 

Now would be the fun part, where the phone would come out so they could figure out the cl-

KARL: It's either the sun or the tide.

Oh! The kid is smart!

EMMA: OK . . . it might be the tide . . .

KARL: But that makes no sense - are we supposed to get to Galveston by 5:10 pm?

EMMA: I know! This makes absolutely no sense!

KARL: Wait a minute! It's Tide. You know . . . laundry detergent.

They rushed to the laundry room.

EMMA: Whoa. Dude. That's impressive - I would have NEVER figured that out!

ME: Can you find the money again? I wasn't ready with the camera.

KARL: Sure, let me look "natural".


 Oh yes, that was really "natural". He's a funny kid.



On their way to put the money in the envelopes -

EMMA: You know this money is for charity, right Karl?

KARL: Wait - ALL of it? I thought I only had to donate half!

Ah, the Christmas spirit!

2013 Countdown to Christmas - Day 1!

It's here! December has arrived and the kids are perfectly healthy, a year older and wiser, and ready to tackle this year's clues.

The clues are a Christmas tradition I started when the kids were old enough to read and decipher my rhymes. I *think* we're in the 7th year, if memory serves correctly. You can read last year's dismal hunt (we fought a lot of sickness last year and never finished the hunt. Karl got the full blown flu - emergency room etc.) here: Countdown to Christmas 2012. The previous year I didn't think to add "Countdown" as a category on my blog, and I'm frankly too lazy (at least right now) to go back through all 25 posts to add the tags, so if you want to read that hunt, you'll just have to start at Day #1 and scroll through: Countdown to Christmas 2011 Day 1.


How does the Countdown work?

Each day I put a small envelope, sealed with a wax seal, into the little Countdown house. The kids work as a team to solve the clue and find the money, which is $2 a day, per kid. They must donate at least half their Countdown money to charity and I will match that amount on Christmas Day, so they have the potential to earn as much as $100 for their charity if they donate it all. Emma has donated all of her money to charity the last two years and Karl has donated slightly more than half. We'll see how the spirit strikes him this year!

Today's clue:


Karl read the clue out load and Emma immediately sprung into action. 

EMMA: Karl, it has something to do with coffee.

Off to the kitchen they went. 


 KARL: They always "holler" when they're out of sugar. Let's look in the sugar bowl.

It wasn't there. They also checked throughout the coffeemaker. Karl was basically dismantling it.

EMMA: She wouldn't put it IN the coffeemaker, Karl!

JOHN & KARL: Yeah, she probably would!

(They know me well!)

Karl also checked the fridge.

KARL: A ha! The milk is gone!

JOHN (mid pour): Oh, sorry - I was making myself a bowl of cereal.

Finally they decided to properly read the clue.

KARL: What's another word for "dollars"?

EMMA: "Bucks", "Bills", "Ones", "Money"?

ME: And what "twinkles"?

EMMA: Sugar.

JOHN: Actually . . .

KARL: Don't help us, Dad!

For some reason Emma persisted a while in thinking that sugar twinkles. You know, like the song . . . Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Sugar!

Finally Karl figured out that the first two lines referred to Starbucks and they spent a couple of seconds being impressed. Not sure if they were more impressed with me for the clue or with themselves for solving it.

They decided to check all the pods in the carousel. Karl was putting them on the counter and Emma was shaking them.

KARL: No, Emma, put them face down - she probably taped the money underneath.

EMMA: Hey - this one has a hole in it.

KARL: Let me see that!



They figured out that one of the pods had been used, washed out and stuffed with money. (Can you tell which one in the picture below?)



The "Starbucks" was meant to bring them to the carousel, but the actual stuffed pod was one of John's Half-Caf's. There is a healthy competition for this variety at our local Kroger. They are often out of stock and whenever we see them in stock we buy up four or five boxes. 



All in all a great start to the clues. Tune in tomorrow for Clue #2!

Happy December!