This Sunday is Easter, and I observe the usual traditions from my childhood, plus things that other moms were doing that sounded like they were better moms than me. That’s how the Easter Scavenger Hunt got started.

I’ll tell you about that in a second, but first the paddleball competition. I like putting toys in the Easter baskets to disguise the reduced amount of candy in there. One year I found those paddles with a little red ball attached to them with a stretchy string. The kids tried hitting the balls but couldn’t do more than two or three hits in a row. It’s really hard to do – my record is nine. Turns out my brother is a champion paddle-baller, and when he and his family came over for Easter dinner, he stood up and started counting how many times he could hit the ball before missing. He’d start out with maybe eight times, then increase it a little. My kids, not wanting to be outdone by their uncle, kept trying to get more hits. The adults sat around and counted for them. They competed against each other, and over the years they’ve gotten pretty good, but they still try to beat each other, as the video below shows. They’re so competitive! Even though both are grown, I still give them Easter baskets with paddleballs.

The scavenger hunt is a tradition I’ve reluctantly been doing for years, ever since my friend’s kids bragged that their mom hides clues all over the house to lead them to their Easter baskets. Not to be out-mommed, and it did sound like fun, I started the tradition when my kids were pretty small. What a lot of work! I’d have to wait until they were asleep to assemble the baskets (I couldn’t do it earlier because they could sniff out candy like pigs digging for truffles). I’d write the clues, making them difficult enough to provide a challenge but not impossible, then tape the clues behind lamps, under tables, in the back of books, etc.

The scavenger hunt delighted and tormented my children every Easter morning. They’d wake up at an atrocious hour yearning for candy, and find the first clue on the floor outside their rooms. It had the number 1, then “Happy Easter, Little Children!” Then they’d read the clue, something like: “Look in a place where Little Girl likes to sleep.” Little Girl is one of the ninety nicknames we have for our seven-pound dog, a black, long-haired Yorkie Poo, Shelley. Others were Baby Girl, That Thing, Poochie Hound, Little Baker, Poochums Hound – all the silly names we call her. She actually has ninety nicknames – we counted them one time on a road trip.

My kids ran side by side like a yoked team of oxen to all the different places the dog likes to sleep, pulling up rugs to look underneath, tossing sofa throws in the air. Eventually they’d discover Clue #2: “Find the place where Dad likes to read.” Their dad reads all over the house, even in the bathtub, so they’d first run to the bed and thrown back the sheets and blankets, then scurry to the sofa and toss all the cushions and pillows on the floor, next they’d dash to the bathroom and scatter magazines everywhere until finally they’d find the clue taped under the faucet of the bathtub. The house looked like thieves had ransacked it by the time they were through. The clues were designed to take them from one end of the house to the other, back and forth, to burn off some of the energy they’d get from eating all that Easter candy. It was one of the very few times that they quit fighting and worked together. My grown daughter still likes to do the hunt if she’s home, so I have to go through the process, dutiful mother that I am.

Another tradition we have is hunting for Easter eggs. I knew from my childhood that hiding real hard-boiled eggs can get pretty disgusting, especially the ones we never found until much later in the year – stuck in the end of the clothesline pole or in a tuft of flowers – found when a the football hit it. Messy business, those rotten eggs. So my friend and I decided we’d hide plastic eggs. She wanted to fill each one with candy or prizes, but with the extra kids we usually had, that seemed was way too labor intensive. I came up with an easy alternative – have each kid trade the eggs they found for candy or dollar store prizes, for instance, for two eggs you got a peanut butter cup, etc. That worked pretty well, except the small kids couldn’t find many eggs, and if we put the eggs in obvious places, the big kids ran out and snatched them up, us parents screaming, “Hey guys, leave those for the little kids,” and them pretending not to hear us. It became a huge accounting feat to try and devise a way to dole out the prizes fairly when eight kids are snatching and clawing for candy and whoopee cushions.

Now that the kids are grown, our Easters are a little quieter. My daughter comes at Christmas but doesn’t fly home for Easter, preferring to wait until midsummer when we either vacation together or she comes home to hang out and reconnect with her friends. We still have a big dinner with family at our house, and my brother usually beats everyone at paddle-ball. Sometimes my mother-in-law shows us Yo-Yo tricks. She’s the best! I can’t say I miss the scavenger hunts, but they were pretty fun, especially when the kids couldn’t get the obscure clue. That was my little revenge for having to stay up late and forced awake early.

And my favorite part of the day? Staying up until 12:01 a.m. Easter morning and eating all the chocolate I want since I usually give up candy for Lent and I lust for chocolate like a bunny yearns for carrots. I can’t wait!

Happy Easter, everyone!