Originally the message-puzzle was going to lead the kids to a hidden stash of pumpkin hand-pies I made for them. And while I did in fact make them a bunch of those things (which they are all absolutely mad for), I had the better idea of having them search for the presents that were originally going to go in their easter baskets. (Because scheduling, and food freshness, and the VERY HARD TASK of sneaking around three children to hide things. You think linear algebra or organic chemistry is hard? It's piffle next to hiding presents from children.)
The special presents that were originally going to go in said easter baskets weren't super expensive things, just thoughtful ones. Each had meaning to each kid because of inside jokes, games we play together as a family, or special interests they have.
We also looked for a super fun thing to do. We ended up going to this escape room thing about an hour north of where we live. It was hilariously awesome. There was a fair amount of family-wrangling involved in our trying to get there for Friday, and we sort of blew it, because of holiday traffic. But we made it work for us. We wandered around the touristy town we were going to go to in the first place, having a great meal out, and just sort of wandering.
The next day, Alissa and the kids and I went back there, while Missy went to a confirmation rehearsal. We got there totally early which was awesome. All of the kids (and both grownups) were totally excited to get to do this thing. Things have a way of working out. Not only did we solve all the puzzles and escape the room, we did it with eight whole minutes to spare.
That's because we're a smart family.
That whole we-can-solve-puzzles-thing totally came back as an awesome "this is who we are" moment on Sunday morning, when the kids woke up, came downstairs, found their baskets and then the first sparkly egg. S., the youngest cracked open the egg, saw a coded message and said, "Oh this is just like the escape room. We can totally do this."
Then all four grownups watched, delighted as the three kids tore through that egg hunt in short order. L. the oldest, was sharp-eyed, and saw each egg before either of his sisters, and gently, lovingly, and bluntly-not-obviously gave them verbal clues to help them find them, like "I'm so on the fence about where the next one might be."
He's a great kid. I love him so much.
Soon they had them all assembled, and put their heads together, and worked out the whole thing in minutes. It was honestly, utterly and totally badass impressive.