Birthday Treasure Hunt

Yesterday was Alden’s 5th Birthday. We wanted to do something special that wasn’t just a big gift. And so we told Alden to look under her pillow for a surprise when she woke up on her birthday. She found this:

Birthday envelope

A red envelope saying “Happy Birthday Alden, 5”. She wasted no time opening it.

opening envelope 1

And discovered a treasure map inside.

treasure map

This is a standard treasure map. I drew a map of our living room, and keep the file on my computer and print out a copy whenever we feel like having a treasure hunt. Usually we just mark it up with “X”s, but on this treasure map another red envelope was drawn.

treasure map with envelope

Kato was on hand to assist.

Kato assisting

He rightly noted that the envelope was drawn next to the “pretzel pot”. Alden ran over to the “pretzel pot” to have a look.

Pretzel pot

The pretzel pot is one of mom’s containers – its proper name is a “double ring.” This particular set of double rings was a gift I brought Matthew on our very first quasi-official date.

Alden looked carefully, and at first was distracted by a random white envelope that was placed nearby.

white envelope

But then she saw the red one.

red envelope #2

The excitement was mounting. She gasped in delight when she discovered the contents of the second red envelope.

opening second envelope

It was a note of some sort! A note that she couldn’t read! She enlisted Matthew for help.

Matthew helps read

The note read:

2nd note
Look in the coldest place in the house and take out what doesn’t belong there. Brrrr!!!

This was a no-brainer. The freezer, of course!


Alden opened the freezer and had a look inside.

inside freezer

Well, it wasn’t too hard to figure out what didn’t belong.

football and envelope

(Though, we have to confess that the first time she opened the door, she didn’t even see the football, and just grabbed the envelope out. We had to tell her to look again and see if there was anything else that didn’t belong.) She handed off the football to her trusty assistant, who was collecting all the old clues and envelopes.

handing football to Kato

And opened the third envelope.

third envelope

Inside was another message.

Another message she couldn’t read. And so she asked Matthew for help again.

Matthew helps again

The assistant got tired of all the dilly-dallying and helped himself to a banana while he waited.

Kato eating banana

The new message read:

second message

Use this football to score a point in the game that Baba and Papa watch on TV. Go Duke!

Alden was slightly confused. Was she supposed to toss the football to one of us? Kato stepped in and loudly suggested that GO DUKE was basketball. Alden immediately knew what to do. She lined up at the free throw line:

Alden at basket

tossed the football:

tossing football

And missed. But on her second shot (one usually shoots twice at the line, no?):

second shot

She totally nailed it!

making the basket

The football knocked another red envelope out of the basket:

Envelope drops out of hoop

(we had to use a football because the only basketball we had was so light it wouldn’t knock the envelope out). The next message sounds pretty confusing:

third message

“Look under the “M” near the cow in the bottle. Mmmoooo!”

Alden knew right away where the cow in the bottle was. It sits up on our bookshelf, mainly because Alden and Kato are both fascinated by it, and if it sat anywhere else, they would have broken it a long time ago, either by accident or in an attempt to free the cow.

cow in bottle

The “M” near it was actually below it on a little side table/cabinet we call “Little Red” – it’s a piece of play fencing that we stood up to make look like an “M.”

"M" fence on table

Alden fetched the fifth red envelope from below the “M”.

5th envelope

After some more help reading from Matthew, the note was deciphered.

Find 7 black tubes
“Find seven black tubes and look in the shortest one.”

We actually thought this was going to be an easy clue. There is a container of mom’s right next to Little Red that is made up of (you guessed it) seven tubes of differing heights. It’s quite large and sits on the floor, and is therefore easily accessible to small people, who apparently love to drop all sorts of small toys and papers and credit cards and balls and chopsticks and dog food and you name it down into them. Every month or so we dump it out and discover that whatever wasn’t, indeed, lost, but rather deposited in the tube bank.

She asked what a tube was, and we said it was a sort of a long hole, shaped like the inside of a roll of toilet paper.

That, apparently, was all the help she needed, and rushed off so quickly she left Kato behind.

Alden running

She pointed to some holes in the floor over in the living room area.

Two holes in floor

Because our part of the barn used to be a hayloft, we sort of take things like big holes drilled in the floor for granted. Lately, August has been taking all the pencils and crayons he finds on the floor, under the couch, in the toy bin, etc. and dropping them into those holes. One is full but the other still seems to have room for more.

Kato pointed out to Alden that there were only two holes in the floor, and they were supposed to be looking for seven.

Alden, still not quite willing to trust her caddy, gave us a questioning look.

Alden wondering

We affirmed Kato’s assessment. Alden was puzzled. We went through the explanation I just went through with you, the one about small people dropping all kinds of crap in the tubes and having to empty them every now and then.

Alden was immediately back on track.

Alden with tubes

She reached into the shortest tube:

Reaching in

And came up with a final clue:

Final clue

With a newfound faith in her caddy, she decided she could rely on him for help.

Kato helps read

Her faith was short lived, as it turned out Kato also couldn’t read the note, which said, “Dig in Iggy’s breakfast to find the treasure!!!” (Matthew helped with this part).

Alden looked at Iggy’s bowl, and in a moment of panic worried that Iggy had eaten the treasure with her breakfast.

Clean bowl

Kato saw a crisis brewing, and immediately stepped in, pointing out that he could see something inside of Iggy’s food bin.

Kato points at food bin

Alden took a closer look and reported that she, too, could see something inside of Iggy’s food bin. She decided she might need a shovel/trowel to do the excavating, and rushed off to get something that would work.

Alden holding a spatula

Remind me not to let this girl near an archaeological sites.

After a [very short] bit of digging in the food, Alden saw the outlines of a present begin to make themselves evident.

present in dog bin

The present was largish, but light.

Alden holds up present

Iggy heard the rumblings in her food bin and came to investigate.

Iggy coming over

She pretty much knocked everyone else out of the way and started plowing her way through the spillage. Alden and Kato had to retreat to the couch to open the treasure.

opening present

And, oh what a treasure it was!


A horrific little tiara and jewelry set that Matthew had bought her at the drugstore in a fit of weakness almost a year ago, saying he would give it to her for her birthday. She has reminded us of it every time we pass the drugstore, which happens quite a bit, so we couldn’t forget it, even though we really wanted to.

putting on earrings

For a good chunk of the day, Alden celebrated in style, wearing gaudy fake jewelry to eat breakfast, do some coloring, visit with neighbors and even prepare strawberries for topping her cake.

Wearing tiara to bake

It was a pretty good treasure hunt. Special thanks goes to Dad, who helped with all of the tricky clues (in particular, the envelope falling out of the basketball hoop and the “M”). Alden happily reported that looking for the treasure was as fun as the treasure itself, and Kato requested we run through all the steps again so that he could find the treasure. We promised that for his birthday next year, he would also have a treasure hunt. He suggested that the tiara wasn’t really his style, though I beg to differ.

Kato wearing tiara

Happy Birthday, Alden!

Alden with cake

Here’s hoping your fifth year is full of treasures!


  1. You have treasure worth more than gold. God bless you all this Easter and always.
    You put a ray of sunshine in my day 🙂 thank you

  2. Happy Birthday from India… Happy Easter and alovely day for your lil girl!


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