Super Secret Agent Party

Let me just start off by saying it’s hard to be a Pinterest mom.  Really hard.  I am not the creative type, but I can look up ideas and put them into action.  But it is SO. MUCH. WORK.

I know it’s been ages since my last blog post.  I actually kind of gave up on it.  Life gets busy, you know?  But, this party was so much fun and there was so much that went into it, I just couldn’t let it go without documenting it all.

So, here goes…

Cooper, my baby, is turning 8 this month.  EIGHT!  I know, right?  Where does the time go?  Anyway, we were talking months ago about what to do for his party.  We wanted to do something different, not the same old places everybody goes to all of the time.  And, in my mind, I was hoping to be able to save a few bucks by having a party at home.  So, we came up with the idea of a spy party.  It sounded fun.  And boy, was it!  After hours and hours (and more hours) of researching ideas on Pinterest, I came up with a plan.  We were going to have a Secret Agent Training session at our local chapter of the National Spy Academy.

First, we (and by we, I mean I) made up invitations.  I found a great template on another blog and just changed the details to fit our party.  It even came with a DIY mini envelope to look like a mini manila envelope that fits the invitation.  Here’s a picture:

Top Secret Invitation

Then, because we couldn’t hand out invitations at school, we had to get them to the kids’ houses.  For those kids closest to us, we hand-delivered them.  Cooper had a blast with that!

Fast forward a few weeks, and many hours of party planning, and we were ready to train some spies.

We started out with a check-in station on our front porch where the kids had a few things to do before they were allowed to enter the training facility:

  1. Fingerprint scan – we found a fingerprint app that scans your fingerprint to confirm authorized entry for each agent.
    FIngerprint scan at check-in
  2. Once their fingerprint was approved, they were told that every secret agent must have a code name.  This is part of not sharing their true identity.  In order to come up with their code names, they drew a word from each of two bowls.  We combined the words and came up with their code names.  Some that I remember included Angry Pirate and Brave Monkey.
  3. Once the code name was determined, it was printed onto their ID badge, and then they were given their badges to wear.  Each badge had a different profile image, their name, code name & title (kids were “Secret Agent in Training”), the NSA logo , and their clearance level.  – Top Secret Clearance, of course!  —  Here’s what the badges looked like.  We put them on a lanyard and everyone wore them around their neck.

Secret Agent ID Badges

At this point, the new agents were allowed entry into the training facility.  The first thing they had to do was pick out their disguise.  Again, this was to hide their true identities.  We had hats, sunglasses & goofy glasses (with the nose), and of course, mustaches.  Here are some of them showing off their disguises:

Once they were in disguise, they just hung out until everyone had arrived.  That’s when the training began.

Finally, everyone was here and we got to get started!  First, we welcomed them and explained that to become true secret agents, we had to make sure to test their skills and handle some missions.  We handed out spy kits containing  some crucial tools they’d need during their training: a magnifying glass, Top Secret notepad, pencil, explosives (Pop Rocks), and Smarties (because they’re smart!), and their weapon (a Nerf-style dart-gun).

Spy Kit

Before we moved on, we also talked about our villain, Dr. Python.  They’d been warned not to be followed to the party, but we weren’t sure how secretive they’d been in getting here.  You see, Dr. Python makes it his mission in life to ruin birthday parties.  He does whatever he can to make sure kids have a terrible time at parties.  We did NOT want him to find out and ruin our party!

Now, getting onto the fun stuff.  We started off a bit slow with some skills training:

Our first skills training was Memory.  In order to test their memory, we brought out a tray with about 10 items on it, let them look for a minute, then took it away.  Then, as a group they had to name everything that was on the tray.  They did a good job, and struggled with the last two items, but finally got them.  (It was really cute how they raised their hands to get called on, like they were in school.)

Raising hands for the Memory Skills Test

Second skills training was testing their senses.  We split the kids into three groups to work together at each of three different sensory stations.  The first was taste.  There were three bowls with mystery items (sugar, graham crackers & pop rocks) for them to taste, guess what they were, and write into their notebooks.

Sensory Taste Testing

The second station was sight.  By looking only, they had to guess and write down what was in the mystery bowls.  Here, it was smashed goldfish crackers, applesauce, and smashed candy canes.

The third station was touch.  They had to reach into a hole in a box and determine only by touching what was inside.  This one had one Hot Wheel, a slinky, a pencil, and a yo-yo.

After we confirmed that everyone had mastered their senses, we went on to some real missions.

First up, the agents had to crawl through the laser maze to retrieve the ammo for their dart-guns.  Everyone had fun with this and probably wishes we had more time to do it again.  Some of the kids wanted to be timed to see how fast they went.  It was a lot of fun!


Once everyone had their ammo, we moved on to the next mission. obstacle course & target practice!  We had areas in the house set up with targets for the kids to army crawl & shoot, shoot around a corner, and shoot while diving (on an air mattress).  There is no doubt that this is when things really started to get crazy!  


Once the kids were just running around like maniacs, we decided to move on.  Our next mission was Bomb Squad.  In this mission, the agents were assigned with deactivating all of the bombs that came their way.  We had black balloons being dropped from the balcony upstairs and they to pop them all.  It was fun to watch them figure out how to pop all of these balloons as many of them weren’t giving up easily!  (Side note – at this point, Jeff had left to pick up the pizzas for dinner.  When he got back, I’m pretty sure he thought a real bomb had gone off!  Look at the mess!)


One of the balloons had a hidden message inside about their next mission, so they had to make sure to look for it.  It was a scrap of paper rolled up very small, so it was hard to find.  Here we are trying to open it up and read it.  The message read:


And with that, we moved on to our next mission – the BeanBoozled bravery test!  For anybody who doesn’t know what BeanBoozled is, Jelly Belly came up with a mystery pack of jelly beans where you have to taste to figure out if you got the good or gross flavor.  For example, a white jelly bean could be coconut flavored, or it could be spoiled milk.  Would YOU dare to try it???

Before we got started, I did tell all the kids that nobody was going to be forced to try it.  But surprisingly, they all were on board, even my own skeptical kids.  Some of them went through the line over and over and over.  And many of them, when they got the “gross” flavor, said “Well, it’s the bad one, but it tastes kind of good.”  LOL.  How do you like that?


This ends our missions.  At this point, I had prepared some graduation certificates for the kids that said they’d successfully completed their Secret Agent Training, but we were so busy that I totally forgot.  I don’t think they missed out on much.

We moved on to dinner, which was pizza, veggies & fruit.  At some point, Jeff offered up red pepper flakes, and some of the boys wanted it.  Some of them had to convince me that they like spicy, but we let them have it.  I even asked at the table who had tried red pepper on their pizza that night for the first time ever and had 4 hands go up.  Nobody died (or puked), so I guess that’s good, right?

After pizza we moved on to presents.  Cooper scored quite a bit of loot from his friends.  (Thanks, everybody!)


However, the final “gift” in the pile wasn’t exactly a gift.  There was an envelope with a weird snake logo that was addressed to Agent Cooper.  He opened it up and quickly realized we had a problem.  Dr. Python had somehow found our party and was on a mission to destroy it.  He said that even though we’d completed our Special Agent training, our party would be ruined without a cake!

At Cooper’s request, I read the letter out loud to the group of Secret Agents.  Here’s a copy:

Letter from Dr. Python

When it was finished, everyone ran to the kitchen to find our cake.  It was gone!  But, there was a clue left for Cooper in the envelope with the letter…

Turns out, Dr. Python wanted us to go on a little scavenger hunt to find our missing cake.  And if we couldn’t find it in time, he was going to blow it up!  OMG!  These kids were on a mission!  It was so much fun to watch them solving their mysteries.

Dr. Python left one clue for each agent, typed in a 3pt font, so they had to use their magnifying glasses to read them.  They’d find the next clue, give it to the agent written on the envelope, read it, figure out where to go, then run across the house to find the next clue.  This was by far the BEST part of the party!  I loved hearing some of the kids get so worked up.  “Who is this Dr. Python?  When I find him, I’m going to beat him up!”   And at one point later, some of the boys said to Jeff, “There’s something fishy about you… And who is this Natalie, anyway?”  (about Cooper’s big sister).  So cute & so funny!

For anybody wondering, here’s a list of the clues (and answers):

1.      You might be in luck if you can find the big yellow duck.  --  Kid bathroom rug
2.      Haha, that was just a trick!  Now, go check the garbage can.  Quick!  --  Kitchen garbage
3.      I don’t mean to spoil it, but have you checked the toilet? -- Downstairs bathroom
4.      Are you starting to pout?  Maybe you should go work out!  -  Bonus room
5.      You won’t find it that easy!  Give up now and go watch tv.  -- Downstairs tv
6.      Give up yet?  Your next clue is nothing but net.  --  Cooper’s room, basketball hoop
7.      There must be something wrong with your head.  Try to get some work done instead.  --  Office
8.      Don’t think I’m so bad?  The next clue was planted on Agent Cooper’s DAD!  -  Jeff’s pocket  (This was a fun one!)  
9.      Oh, how much fun this is!  Could you cake be with the dirty dishes?  --  Dishwasher
10.  Keep it moving, peeps.  Your cake could be where Bennett sleeps!  --  Bennett’s bed
11.  I like to break the rules.  Maybe I’ve stolen Agent Natalie’s jewels.  --  Natalie’s room 
12.  You made it this far, now where you should you look?  Maybe a place somebody should cook!  --        Oven
13.  If you solve this final clue, you’ll know what to do.  I hope your cake tastes like Cooper’s stinky shoes!  --  Cooper’s closet! 

We did get a video of Cooper reading the final clue.  You can watch it by clicking HERE.  He read it out loud, then ran to his shoes in the kitchen.  Then when he figured out it was his closet, he started running that way.  All the kids joined, but you can see a big part of the group ran towards their own shoes by the front door.  Cooper was the first one to get up the stairs to his room.  When he got in there, he found the cake in his closet.  It had been partially destroyed by a bomb!!!  A huge chunk of the cake was missing, and it had 6 mini bombs on it.  Looks like we found it just in time!  —  There was a note with the cake as well.  It read, “I must give you all some credit, you are smarter than you look!  Have your stinky cake and eat it too!  But this isn’t the end of me.  I’ll be back for you, just wait and see!”  

Well, we managed to save the cake before it completely exploded.  We took it down to the kitchen, lit the bomb candles, and sang happy birthday to Cooper.  He had to blow out the candles quickly though, because they started to spark and we were worried it might explode!


We all enjoyed our delicious dessert (thanks to my Aunt Karen!) and were ready to settle down.  We moved on to the final part of the night – watching Spy Kids.  Honestly, this is now 2.5 hours into the party.  The kids were sugared up, and just pumped on each other’s energy.  So, when they all sat down and quietly watched the movie, it was a small miracle.

Silence as the movie started

However, the quiet only lasted about 10 minutes before they started to get crazy again.

And, wrestling crazies when sitting got too boring

After a while, they were begging for popcorn, so we convinced them they had to sit & watch the movie in order to get popcorn.  That gave us maybe another 10 minutes of peace…

By the time the movie ended, the boys were in an all-out Nerf war.  They’d made teams and were working their hardest to burn off that sugar we’d given them.

We did manage to get a couple group pictures of the kids before they all left. I think it’s pretty clear they were having a good time.

This party was so much fun.  I will admit though, I totally underestimated the volume and energy levels of ten second grade boys and one little brother.

After the final boys had gone home, Jeff and I high-fived each other, glad we survived.  🙂 




Elfcapades 2014: The final days

Day 25 (Tuesday), we went downstairs to find a helpful reminder from Elfis that we needed to bake cookies for Santa.  He had everything ready for us – a bowl, cookie mix (pre-made, the easy kind, just how we like it!), sprinkles and colored frosting.

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Luckily for us, Elfis moved out of the bowl during the day, and we were able to dig right in when the boys came home from school.  We had a lot of fun making those cookies.  And even more fun tasting them!

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Day 26 (Wednesday), was Christmas Eve.  Elfis was a tricky one to find on that last morning.  Cooper finally tracked him down and found him in Cooper’s stocking.  With a note!

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Cooper quickly snatched up the note and asked me to read it.  Here’s what it said:

Today is Christmas Eve!  I had a lot of fun here at your house, but now it’s time fo rme to go back to the North Pole and help Santa deliver the presents.
Do not worry.  Santa knows you have been good mostly.
Guess what?  Santa has lifted my magic for today only.  I would really like a hug and kiss goodbye before I leave.  I will miss you!
Love, Elfis


Of course, Cooper was thrilled!  He asked me three times how Santa could lift his magic, and was it really ok to touch Elfis.  I told him yes, but we had to be very gentle and that we just got to say good bye, not play with him all day.  So, the boys took turns saying their goodbyes.  They both hugged and kissed their little elf buddy, and reluctantly let me put him back in the stocking where we found him.  We had planned to hug & kiss him one more time that night before bed, but we got home too late and forgot all about it.  So, that was the final goodbye.

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Christmas morning we slept in until 7am when Bennett woke us up.  I couldn’t believe we were so lucky to get so much sleep!  But, again, we were up very late Christmas Eve, so these normal bright-eyed little boys were quite a bit sleepy Christmas morning.  I went in to wake up Cooper and it took three minutes of me sprawled on top of him, chanting “Merry Christmas!” over and over before he finally woke up!

We headed downstairs to see if Santa came, and we were not disappointed!

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Bennett found Elfis’ signature goodbye note – a portrait of himself, saying he’ll see us next year.  Then we dug in.  First, we tore through our stockings, then went to the tree and ripped open everything we had out there as well.  The kids, as usual, were eager to open, open, open.  Cooper is able to read his name, and quickly grabbed up as many presents as he could.  We had to slow him down a bit.  Everybody was pretty happy with their loot, it seems.

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Merry Christmas from us to you!


Elfcapades 2014: Days 20-24

Every day is a new adventure with Elfis.

Day 20 (Thursday), we found Elfis still by the tree, but this time he was having a dart gun fight with Buzz Lightyear.  Elfis was hanging upside down from the Christmas tree and it looked like he got Buzz pretty good with a few of his darts.

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Day 21 (Friday), we didn’t find Elfis right away, but just before heading out the door, we noticed a trail of toilet paper coming out of the downstairs bathroom door.  The boys went to check it out and they found that Elfis had been up to no good.  And he tried to blame it all on poor little Jack & Colby.  We did find Jack in there at first, up on the counter, but we knew he couldn’t make that mess.  Only Elfis could have done that.  Cooper later had a talk with Elfis about how lying is bad.

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Day 22 (Saturday), Cooper found Elfis right away when we first came downstairs.  He was on our counter making a “snow” angel.  Cooper thought it was pretty silly, but had some questions: “Mom, how did he get that snow?”  I told him it wasn’t snow.  Then he asked, “Well, how did he do that with ice?”  He couldn’t believe it!  But, I told him that it wasn’t ice either, that it was sugar.  I pointed out the almost empty bag of sugar turned on its side on the counter.  He quickly picked up the bag of sugar so it wouldn’t spill any more, then proceeded to taste-test the sugar.  🙂   Bennett woke up about an hour later and was pretty impressed with the snow angel.  (He wasn’t nearly as concerned about the snow/ice/sugar though.)

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Later that same day, a USPS driver delivered a package to our door.  It was addressed to Elfis (uh oh, not again!) but this time came from the North Pole!  What?!?!?  We had no idea what this was.  Inside, there was a note from Santa that read:

I asked you to deliver these to the Martinson children last week!  I’m glad they are better behaved than you!
Ho ho ho,
Santa Claus

What?!?!  Santa sent us an early Christmas present?  AND, Elfis didn’t bring it to us when he was supposed to???  Oh my goodness.  Well, we opened up the box and found four Christmas movies inside.  What an exciting surprise!

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Day 23 (Sunday), Elfis must have felt bad about forgetting to bring us the movies because the next morning he brought us at least a dozen new figures to play the Xbox Infinity game.  He was sitting on a Mega Blok chair surrounded by probably 30 characters for the game.  The kids were thrilled to add Spiderman, Iron Man, and Hiro (from Big Hero 6) among many others to their collection, and spent the entire first half of the day playing video games.

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Day 24 (Monday), Elfis was caught having fun again.  This time, he’d set up a race track on our dining room floor and was racing Cooper’s new Ninja Turtle RC car.  Batman was behind him in Bennett’s car.  Bennett thought it was pretty cool and went to find the remote to race his car, but Cooper knew he couldn’t turn his on without touching Elfis.  And there is no way he would touch Elfis; he does not want him to lose his magic!

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Well, here we are.  Christmas is less than three days away.  Only two more days with our little elf friend and then he will go home with Santa.  I think we’ve all been pretty good and the odds are in our favor for Santa to make a stop at our house!

Elfcapades 2014: Days 17-19

Our elf seems to be getting a little more mischievous as we get closer to Christmas…

Day 17 (Monday), the kids woke up to find ALL of their underwear thrown around the house.  It was in their bedrooms, in the hall, down the stairs…  There was underwear everywhere!

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They decided to follow the mess to see where it led them; in fact, they went on an elf hunt.  There was a very clear path from each of their rooms, down the stairs, then it split in two: left to the Christmas tree and right towards the kitchen.  At the tree, they found Elfis had hung 5 or 6 pairs of underwear on the tree.  They couldn’t believe he did that!  (It seems Cooper forgot that Elfis has done this before.)  When they followed the trail back towards the kitchen, they saw it ended right in front of the freezer.  In fact, there was a pair of underwear in the water/ice compartment!  When they opened up the freezer, they found… guess who???  Yep, you got it.  Elfis was in the freezer, cozied up inside our portable freezer bag, wrapped in a nice, cuddly pair of Cooper’s underwear.  He is quite the silly little elf!

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Day 18 (Tuesday), we woke up to find that Elfis had helped himself to the bag of gingerbread men & sugar cookie snowmen!  —  He was so BUSTED!!! —
The boys thought it was funny, but were very concerned that the cookies would be all gone and they wouldn’t get any more.


Day 19 (Wednesday), the boys discovered a bunch of wrapped presents under the tree.  They were excited and yelled to me, “Santa came and brought us presents!!!”  Boy, were they excited.  But then I had to be the downer and remind them that Santa isn’t coming until Christmas and that those presents were from us, that I’d just finally started wrapping them the night before.  Well, they weren’t too disappointed because they found Elfis right then and there.  He had gotten himself caught up (stuck?) peeking inside one of Natalie’s presents.  That sneaky elf!

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Elfcapades 2014: Days 15 & 16 (Weekend fun!)

The weekend was here (hooray!).  Saturday morning (Day 15) the kids and I headed downstairs to look for Elfis.  We couldn’t find him in the tree or the kitchen, but Bennett quickly found something on the kitchen table.  There was a note and three water bottles filled with… something…?  Chocolate kisses!??!  YUM!


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The note read:

With little elf eyes watching you, there’s not a lot that Santa misses.  So, to help you be good today, here’s a bunch of sweet elf kisses.
Drink the kisses up then enjoy your new cup!  It’s gonna be a fun day, now let’s go and play!
Remember not to hurt, yell, or fight, and surprises could happen; they just might!  In fact, there is one now I bet.  Have you found your theater yet?

What?  What theater?  What’s he talking about?  And where’s Elfis?

Well, after eating one elf kiss each, they got down to see what was going on.  Again, Bennett was the first to see something.  We heard him say, “What… heck?”  (So cute, his way of trying to say What the heck? with the perfect pause in the middle while missing the the.  …  Right in the hallway to the garage, we found a little puppet theater set up.  There was a curtain stage and a bag full of animals and a princess puppet.  What fun!  We also found Elfis close by on the wall in the hallway, hanging on one of the sconces, in a perfect position to watch the puppet show.  (We had so much fun playing with his surprises, it seems we forgot to take his picture this time!)

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Sunday morning (Day 16), Cooper woke up first.  He came into my room and told me that Elfis tried to tape a trap for him to stay in his room!  … So much for our nice elf!  I asked him what he meant and how he got out, he told me that he just crawled under!  Well, one point for Cooper and none for Elfis – this kid can’t be tripped up!  He didn’t walk into it, and he didn’t get frustrated.  He thought it was pretty clever.  (The kittens were pretty impressed with it too – they kept trying to play with it.)

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Bennett was a sleepy head this morning and we had to wake him up.  Rather than break down his trap to go in and get him, we knocked on his door and told him to come see what Elfis did.  He opened up the door (still half asleep) and was so confused.  He stuttered, “He – He – He  – He trapped me in here???”  Once he woke up a little bit though, he also thought it was funny.  Here he is showing us how he could get out of his trap.  Then, later on in the day (no pictures, sorry), he took his swords and ripped it all down.

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It seems Natalie couldn’t be fooled either.  She also crawled right under hers to get out.  Cooper found Elfis wrapped up in a bunch of tape outside Natalie’s door.  We’re not sure what he was planning to do, but figured he didn’t get to it since he trapped himself by mistake!  Silly elf!

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And, just for good measure –
We have only 11 days left until Christmas!!!


Elfcapades 2014: Days 10-14

So far, our little elf hadn’t gotten himself into too much trouble yet.  Or so we thought.  Sunday evening on our way home from the mountain, I received an email from my Aunt Karen.  It read:

Elfis is in Trouble!
Santa told us that your Elfis got online and hacked our account!  What a troublemaker!  We’re changing our passwords so he won’t try it again.  I’m sure your kids are much better behaved than your elf!
Merry Christmas!
Love, Karen & Jim

Well, what the heck was that about, we wondered?!!?!  So, when we got home, we were only partially surprised when we found a package waiting at our house, from, addressed to Elfis.  What?!?!  We opened it up and here’s what we found:

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It was an elf-sized bomber jacket and pilot’s goggles with a note that read “Thanks for letting me use the computer and do a little shopping.  This will make my flights home to Santa more comfortable.  I’m so happy to be your elf on a shelf… even if I don’t always stay on a shelf.  From, Elfis.” 

Well, there you go.  Our elf is now a thief.  Karen & Jim, we will find a way to make him pay you back!  ;-}

So… The next morning (Monday, Day 10) – We found Elfis had returned back from his visit to the North Pole and was still wearing his new outfit while riding on Cooper’s green wooden airplane.  He’d landed up on top of the bookshelf in our bedroom.  The boys sure thought that was pretty funny.

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Tuesday morning (Day 11), the boys found Elfis reading about the Grinch with some friends.


Wednesday (Day 12), Elfis was discovered as he was taking a shoulder ride on our tree angel.  We don’t know what that was about…

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It seemed he was staying pretty tame (besides that whole shopping spree), and was staying out of trouble for the most part.  But, on Thursday (Day 13), it seemed he felt he needed to keep a closer eye on Cooper.  Cooper found Elfis hiding inside the lamp in his room!  While he wasn’t doing anything crazy in there, I figured it made sense since Cooper threw one heck of a tantrum the night before when going to bed.  (So unlike him!)  Elfis must have though Cooper needed an even closer eye on him..

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And then Friday (Day 14), it only makes sense that Elfis felt the need to watch over Bennett.  Bennett discovered him hanging on the string for his blinds looking over his whole room.  He was pretty happy about it.  Elfis surely made an impression when Bennett went to bed that same night.  His usual attempts at getting out of bed a dozen or so times to go potty (or whatever), were non-existent.  He must have been worried about Elfis seeing him not going to bed like a good little boy.

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It seems our elf is staying pretty well-behaved this year.  Maybe he’s matured since last year?  …  We’ll see.  There’s still 13 more days until Christmas!

Riding the Santa Express & Playing at Paradise (Oh, and Elfcapades days 8 & 9)

On Friday, we told the kids we were going to head to the mountain to play in some snow.  So, Saturday morning, we packed up and headed out for our long drive.  As we were getting settled into the truck, Cooper discovered that we had company:



Elfis must have decided that either he wanted to go to the mountain and play in the snow, or he thought he definitely needed to keep an eye on these kids, or maybe both…?

After we got over the excitement of Elfis coming with us, we then announced to the boys that before we got to go play in the snow, we were going to go ride a train.  With Santa on it.  Cooper asked if Santa was going to drive the train.  We told him no, but that we’d get to visit with him while the train was driving.  They were pretty excited.  The Santa train was a new adventure for all of us.  We sat in our seats, got to eat cookies and drink hot cocoa, and even visit with Santa (and the kids got presents, too!).

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The train stopped at the Mt. Rainier Railroad museum and we wandered around and checked out some of the outbuildings there.  We discovered a giant log that was being pulled by a tractor.  The boys thought that was very cool.

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Back at the house we rented, we got settled into our rooms (the boys shared a room and were super excited to try out their beds!), then watched a little bit of a movie before calling it a night.

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Sunday morning we woke up, ate breakfast, then packed up to drive up into the snow.  When we got in the truck, we found Elfis was there still (or again?) but in a different spot.  This time he was hanging from the sunroof!

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We headed up into Paradise Park where there was plenty of snow for us to have a good time.

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