Monday, June 7, 2010

Operation Seven Candles

We had Kiddo's birthday party here at the house on Saturday.  Kiddo is a *huge* fan of Kim Possible (she's done all the Kim Possible missions at Epcot, which are a highlight for her of every trip we take to Walt Disney World), and after checking the pricing at just about every venue in the area from renting a lodge at a nearby park (as we did for the past two years) to doing the party someplace like Chuck E. Cheese or the zoo, we decided we'd host a Secret Agent themed party here at our house.  This would not only save serious money (we couldn't justify spending upwards of $300 or even more on a child's birthday party lasting less than 2 hours in duration), but would enable Kiddo to invite as many friends as she wanted.  She wanted to invite her entire class, plus her Daisy troop, plus a couple other friends who are neither classmates nor fellow Daisies.

The invitation looked like this:

(the code key was on the back of the sheet, so you're looking at the front and back of the invite side-by-side above) and they were delivered in plain, manila envelopes.  31 children were invited, 27 RSVPed that they'd be accepting the mission and 25 actually attended (had some last minute cancellations due to illness, as is par for the course when one is talking about an invite list full of germmongers kids...).

Kiddo was collected bright and early Saturday morning by her grandparents, who kept her occupied and away from the setting-up process so as not to spoil any of the activities.  They delivered her home just in time to wash up and start greeting her guests.  We totally lucked out with the weather, as the entire weekend's weather basically ranged from "steady downpour" to "torrential thunderstorm" with the exception of one, 10 hour window, that being, thankfully, Saturday from midmorning through evening, thereby giving us glorious sun and warm temperatures for the Operation.

The itinerary went as follows:

- Registration at Mission HQ: Give decoded password, sign Secret Agent photo ID card which I made ahead of time, using the Secret Agent Code Name the kids gave when RSVPing:

Kiddo and the girls all pretty much chose flower or animal names for their Code Names - Sunflower, Lilac, Pony, Sassy Cat.  The boys went for comic book character or more scary type names - Spiderman, Hammerhead, Fear Ripper, Ghost.  After checking in (and obtaining a phone number for each Agent's grown-up, just in case), the kids headed to the back yard, where Hubby had a CD of Secret Agent theme music playing on the lanai.  (He'd made the CD using various songs - Mission Impossible theme, Kim Possible theme, James Bond theme, Dragnet theme, Hawaii 5-0 theme, Scooby Doo theme, etc....)  Once all the Secret Agents had arrived, we split them up randomly into three teams.

- Secret Agent Training: Egg on spoon relay race, limbo pole. We were going to do a ring toss as well but scratched that at the last minute due to time constraints and lack of anything handy with which to pound in the ring toss stakes.

- Mission: Master of Disguise:  A costume relay race.  Each team had a disguise comprised of 4 elements: shirt (one of Hubby's old button-down, long sleeved shirts), pants (old gym shorts/pajama bottom shorts of Hubby's and mine), a lei (from Kiddo's rather extensive lei collection) and eyewear (sunglasses, pirate's eyepatch, novelty glasses).  We would've done hats or other headwear, but there were issues with children catching/spreading head lice at birthday parties last fall that involved dressing up, so we opted to not take the risk of being the first head lice party of 2010 (I mean, we don't think any of the kids had lice; we were just erring on the side of caution).  The first Secret Agent on each team had to put on the disguise, run down to the other end of the yard and back, then take off the disguise, which the next Secret Agent then had to put on, etc.  This game was particularly hilarious to watch for us adults and the kids were all cracking up as well.

- Mission: Mystery Sounds: Hubby made a CD of mystery sounds (coins dropping, horse hooves galloping, siren wailing, paper being crumpled up, etc) and each Secret Agent was given a sheet to write down their answers as he played the sounds one by one.  This was a good way to settle down a bit after all the running around and activity.  We also went through the better part of a case of water and a case of Capri Sun juice pouches by this point, given the sun and heat.  This led to a rather lengthy line for the bathroom, too...

 - Mission: 7 Candles: The birthday cake.  Given Kiddo's food intolerances and the food allergies of some of her friends, we've always baked her cake at home ourselves.  Kiddo requested half chocolate, half vanilla for her cake, so Hubby baked one 9x13" chocolate cake and one 9x13" white cake, set them out side by side (trimmed to match in height) and frosted them together with white frosting.  We ordered a cake topper from the same online company we've ordered her cake toppers from for the past 3 years, this year starring Kiddo's favorite, Kim Possible -

I wound up organizing a quick game of "Telephone" to keep the kids seated and quiet while Hubby was getting the cake set in the kitchen.  It takes a surprisingly long time for 25 Secret Agents to pass along the message "the cake is chocolate and vanilla" which was helpful since they were all very, very excited about the upcoming sugar rush.  (Yes, I know this was "Operation 7 Candles" but the cake had eight - one for good luck/to grow on, of course!)  We used "trick sparkler" candles, which did relight twice but weren't very sparkler-y.  It turned out to be okay that they only relit twice, because otherwise there might have been a riot.  Cake was enthusiastically consumed and then we moved on to

- Mission: Prize Hunt:  For goody bags/favors for the party, we found these spy kits online.  We made three clues, the first printed backwards so it would need to be read in a mirror, the second in invisible ink, the third written in the same code used for the secret password on the invitation.  Hubby, being the genius that he is, thought of hiding the clues in balloons (which he'd been blowing up at the time) so we did that, and I labeled them CLUE 1, 2 and 3 respectively.  We explained to the Secret Agents that they'd need to hunt to find their favors, and handed each team one balloon.  Once they'd all solved their clues, they put them together and learned that the favors were hidden down low, outside in the back yard.  Out they went.  It took them a surprisingly long time to find the large box containing the spy kits, given that it was hidden in mostly plain sight in the patio stairwell.  We didn't actually distribute the spy kits right when they found them, though, because we had one more mission for the kids -

- Mission: Target Practice: The three teams lined up on the front lawn and were each given water balloons to try to toss into chalk circle targets drawn in the driveway.  Amazingly enough, no children took the opportunity to hurl water balloons at each other, so the only person who got at all wet in this mission was me, by dint of standing on the other side of the driveway to take pictures and thereby having water balloons bursting about my ankles from time to time.  (I was wearing my fantabulous, new Lands' End flip flops, so no harm, no foul.)

By this point in the party, the parents had begun arriving to collect their Secret Agents, so we then moved on to

- Awarding of Secret Agent Stars which were those star stickers your teacher had back in elementary school, affixed to their ID badge and handed to them along with their spy kit favors.

I'd love to share pictures of all the fun, but I haven't permission from any of the 25 Secret Agents' parents to do so online, so unless you're one of my Facebook friends (I've got an album up over there), I'm afraid you're out of luck at this point.  I can and will, however, share with you a few shots of Kiddo and myself decked out in some of the mustaches from her spy kit:

We tried taking a family portrait using the timer on the camera as well, but it didn't come out that great as it turns out we were too far away from the camera -

So, there you have it.  Operation Seven Candles - a smashing, Secret Agenty success!  (Even if my plan didn't win the birthday party contest thrown by a group of organic food companies - yes, I'm still a tiny bit bitter since they included my idea as #3 on their list.)  Now all that's left is for Kiddo to write eleventy million thank you notes.....  I also owe a heartfelt THANK YOU to my friends Andy (aka The Creative Junkie - if you aren't a loyal reader of her blog already, you should be, she's fantabulous) and Freyda.  Andy lent us four tables so that we didn't have to rent any, and Frey stayed for the duration of the party and helped out with containing the chaos managing the missions.  Your assistance was most appreciated, ladies!


Givinya De Elba said...

Good heavens what a totally awesome party! That looked amazing! Please tell Secret Agent Computer Wizard there that the moustache suits him and he should go with the mo for real.

I tried spelling moustache without the 'u' and felt like a traitor, so I put it back in.

tulpen said...

Wow. My kids birthdays are in Feb. and March. I suck at throwing parties.

You're hired. Ok?

Creative Junkie said...


If I crouch down and bind my chest and come bearing a Zhu Zhu pet, can I come to your next party?

Lylah M. Alphonse said...

I *love* this!!! Hope you don't mind, but I posted about it over at

Ash said...

Oh my word, Heather!! This is incredible, really. What did the #1 and #2 parties offer - a car in their goodie bag?

And from one mom of a food allergy sufferer, you rock for going above and beyond on the cake. Seriously.

So what are you planning for next year?

dancing_lemur said...

Wow, what a fun party!! I bet all the kids had ball!

Super Single Mom and her Side Kids.. said...

Sooo clever! I just love it! This year "somehow" I have to come up with a "Beatles/Hanna Montana" birthday party for both my son and daughter (their birthdays are just days apart so we have a big big big family party in the yard every year for the both of them).
Crystal Lynn

Anonymous said...

My four year old is very impressed ;) and laughed himself silly at the moustache photos. Thank you for making our day :)


Joanna Jenkins said...

WOW!!! You could be in the party planning business. What a fantastic birthday-- So fun and soooo creative. Thanks for sharing the details, I'm passing this onto my sister!


Nanny Goats In Panties said...

Wow! You are a party rock star! It almost makes me wish I had kids so I could do something fun like that.
I said ALMOST!!!