Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The 6-Year-Old

 With what we've dubbed her "Harry Potter scar", and the only smattering of snow we've had this winter, I think Ginger's 6th birthday has been pretty memorable.

We started the day with a blueberry pancake breakfast.

 And some cards and presents - a new outfit, including sneakers (see first picture, above.)

 In the afternoon I took treats in to her class - pumpkin chocolate chip muffins with the initial of each child in cream cheese frosting, and a sweetheart candy.  We did something similar last year in preschool, and Ginger wanted to do it again - it's becoming her signature. 

 I also read the class a book of Ginger's choosing from home - Betty Bunny Loves Chocolate Cake.  Not my favorite book on our shelves, but it's pretty cute, and the kindergarten crowd laughed like crazy at the part where Betty says she wants to marry chocolate cake.
 That night my parents came over for more presents, singing, and dessert - Ginger requested "mint pudding" instead of cake, so I put together some mint chocolate pudding parfaits - watch the VGP for recipe coming soon.

 For much of the past year, the girls have been earning money for American Girl Dolls.  Ginger, who loves things Chinese, has had her doll picked out from the start - Ivy, Julie's 70's-era Chinese-American best friend.  Ginger has been so diligent and persistent in earning money for her doll, that we decided to take what she's earned so far (about $35), and get her Ivy for a big birthday surprise.  We sent her on a treasure hunt all over the house, and the look of shock on her face, when she opened the gift, was priceless.
 Ginger is our most responsible daughter - when we need something done that requires attention to detail, she's our girl.  She likes pizza, cheese crackers with peanut butter, black bean soup, bread with jelly, and popsicles, and although she's not a picky eater, she's a light one, often leaving food on her plate because she feels full.  Ginger does not have one best friend, but is friends with most everyone in her classes at school and church, though she says sometimes she becomes bored with a friend when that person still likes her, and she is exploring this new social experience.  She likes some physical play, but is more inhibited than her sisters, often leaving their rough house play to sit and watch, or play with the dollhouse.  Ginger LOVES babies, always rushing to their sides when we are near them, talking quietly, holding their hands, and hoping to hold them.  She is similarly a good mother's helper or babysitter with Poppy and other small children, and has an instinctive understanding of how to interact with younger children of different ages. 
 Here's her 6-year-old interview I took in the hospital while we were waiting for her stitches:

What's your favorite book?  Strega Nona
Who are your friends?  Can I change my favorite book?
Junie B.
Junie B. Jones?
And Franny K.
Franny K. Stein?  OK  Who are your friends?  Nawal, Sarah P., Nicole, and Diana
Who's coming to your birthday party?  Jack W, Jack M, Lizzie, Charlotte, Eva, and Jayda.  But I did invite Sid but he couldn't come.
What's your favorite color?  Purple
What do you like to eat?  Noodles, pizza, and cucumbers
What are some of your favorite activities?  Building forts, playing family like with my dolls and ponies and dollhouse
What do you like about school?  Math time
What do you not like about school?  Spanish
What do you like about church?  Primary and my friends
What do you not like about church?  That it's so long and you have to wait through all of it
What is the difference between boys and girls?  Boys are boys and girls are girls
What's the difference?  Well a girl usually has longer hair, except me, I have kind of short hair, and they got potty in like a toilet, and boys usually have short hair, and they have two different toilets they can do it in.  One for standing at, one for sitting at.  The girls just do sitting.
Do you have a favorite game?  Like on the iPad, or in the closet?
Any of them.  Both Toca Boca's and Sorry
What do you like to do with Dad?  Play baseball or basketball outside
What do you like to do with Mom?  Help her cook or snuggle with her
What do you like to do with Poppy?  Help her, play with her, snuggle with her
What do you like to do with Hazel?  Playing, being near her, having fun
What was the best thing about being five?  That I knew I was going to be six soon, that I was growing
What do you think will be the best thing about being six?  I'm gonna know I was littler and I'm gonna know I'll be seven soon
What is one of the most important things you've learned in life so far?  About Jesus
What about him?  Um we once lived up with him in the sky, and some people were on Satan's side, and some people were on Jesus' side, and I chose to be on Jesus' side.  And all our cousins and Grandma and Grandpa and all our ancestors and my family.  Everyone on the earth did it.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?  China
Why?  Because it's pretty and I like noodles and I could try eating them with chopsticks
Is there anything else you'd like to say for your 6-year-old interview?  Some
What?  That I liked being five and I think I'm gonna have a fun time being six, and that I love my family
We love you, too!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Strega Nona Party

For almost a year, since her Chuck E. Cheese's party, Ginger has been saying she wanted a Strega Nona party.  A book-based party is right up my alley; I'm already in that mode from PeeWees.  Plus, a food-based book?  The party practically throws itself.

Kind of.

SYNOPSIS: Strega Nona is a good witch with a magic pasta pot who is getting older.  She hires the town fool, Big Anthony, to help out around the place.  One day he spies her using her magic pasta pot to make pasta, but he misses the key thing she does to make it stop.  When Strega Nona goes out of town, he uses the pot, against her express orders, to make pasta for the whole town, and be everyone's hero.  When he can't make it stop, pasta pours out of the house and starts to take over the whole village.  Strega Nona comes back just in time to stop the pasta.  The villagers want to string Big Anthony up, but Strega Nona says the punishment should fit the crime, and she hands Big Anthony a fork - he has to eat ALL the pasta!  The last page shows a miserable-looking Big Anthony with a huge stomach slumped against Strega Nona's house.

DECORATIONS:  Not much.  Balloons, streamers, Happy Birthday banner.  The usual.

ARRIVAL/CRAFT: As everyone arrived, during a nice little snowfall, we peeled off coats and shoes, and went straight to our craft (in the hopes the glue might dry by the end of the party.)  We used the colored pasta the girls and I made last week to decorate wooden picture frames from Michael's.  The girls had heart frames, the boys had ovals.  Later in the party I took a picture of Ginger with each guest; we will mail those with her thank-you cards, and they have the option of putting that picture in their frames at home.

DINNER ORDERS:  While everyone was working on their frames, Ed was cooking in the kitchen and Hazel was taking dinner orders.  She sat down with one guest at a time, and showed them the menu we'd made.  I also made some order forms for Hazel to fill out.  The menu had pages with photographs to show choices for drinks (water or root beer), pasta (hearts, bow-tie, or spaghetti), sauces (pesto, alfredo, or marinara), and fruit (grapes or strawberries.)  Garlic bread was served in baskets at the table. 

BOOK:  We couldn't really have a Strega Nona party without reading the book, so while Ed and Hazel executed the dinner orders, I read the kids the book, complete with my exaggerated Italian accent for Strega Nona, which both amused and embarrassed Ginger - she kept looking around at everyone when I did it.  But all these kids know me pretty well, and I don't think it fazed anyone I looked sounded like an idiot.

DINNER:  It was a hungry crew we fed, many asking for second, and third, helpings.  Heart-shaped pasta with marinara sauce, strawberries, and root beer, was the overwhelming majority of orders, but we had some outliers, and everyone clearly liked their dinner, from the empty plates and messy faces we had at the end.

We served the drinks in these cute cups I found at Target - I think they are for Valentine's Day, but I thought the straw looked like a spaghetti noodle going around the outside.  At the end of the party, we rinsed them out and included them in their goody bags.

GAME:  Us Hickmans try not to think too hard.  Pin-the-something games are always easy, and go with ANY theme.  Here, we took some of the cooked spaghetti noodles, and played Stick-the-Pasta-in-Big-Anthony's-Mouth.

 I know, my art work is astounding.  It was cool, though, that the spaghetti was naturally sticky.

DESSERT:  This was probably my favorite part of the party, because it was so theme-y but really so easy.  Spaghetti-and-Meatball Cupcakes!

 (It's just cream cheese frosting piped out like spaghetti, and a Ferrero Rocher chocolate on top, which looks remarkably like a meatball.  I've also seen this with strawberry sauce spooned on top, like marinara, but I liked them plain like this, and it was less messy for the kids to eat the chocolate.)

THE REST:  The rest of the party, we had only loosely mapped out.  We weren't sure how much time would be left a this point; there were about 20 minutes.  Ginger opened presents - being a 6-year-old girl is so fun!  Hair things, books, crafty kits!  So much to keep her (and her sisters) busy for many Saturdays to come!  (Even as I type, Hazel and Ginger are working on things from a Decorate-Your-Own Princess Craft Set.)  

I could tell the kids were wiggly and bursting with sugared hyperactivity, so I had Ed take over to play "Dad games" for the last few minutes.  Red Light, Green Light...

 ...and Musical Chairs.
The only rule was, no one was allowed to get upset if they got out.  Of course my kids were the only ones to break the rule.  Then parents started to show up.

FAVOR BAGS:  I didn't take pictures, but you can see them in the background here:
Last week Ginger spent her whole Sunday morning making and decorating the name tags for the bags.  Each bag contained their swirly-straw cup from dinner, a bag of "Sour S'getti", and a copy of another Strega Nona book, Strega Nona's Magic Lessons.  They also took their not-quite-dry pasta picture frames home.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

How to Dye Pasta for Kids Crafts

Last week we dyed a bunch of pasta for a project for Ginger's birthday party, so thought I'd post the how-to while I'm thinking of it.

I'd seen colored pasta before, but didn't know if you buy it somewhere or if it's easy to do at home.  A couple pokes around the blogosphere assured me it's easy peasy.
One thing that's obvious, but I didn't necessarily consider until mid-dye, is that you're not starting with a white product; the pasta is yellow.  So attempts at red will be orange, blue will be green, purple will be brown.  To make true red, add more red dye than the proscribed 10 drops.  For purple, I made one with more red than blue (turned out a pretty rose color - second from top, above), and one with more blue than red (a deep purple some kids called black - bottom, below.)  For blue, I added a ton of blue, but it was still just a deep greenish teal - I bet a drop or two of red may have blued it up.  I'm no color theorist.  But it was fun to play with the colors!
Dyed Pasta for Crafts
1/4 cup rubbing alcohol
10 drops food coloring, all one color or mixed
1 to 2 cups pasta, whatever shape you like

1.  In a gallon-size Ziploc bag, add the alcohol and food coloring, swishing to mix.  Add the pasta and seal the bag, pressing out the air.  Swish the bag around with your hands to coat the pasta, and place on a surface covered with newspaper (or I did a baking sheet covered with foil, just in case of leaks.)  Flip and swish the bag(s) every 30 minutes or so for a few hours or until you like the color.  It fades a little, but not much, as it dries.

2.  Drain the pasta in a colander and spread out on thick layers of newspaper or paper towels to dry.  Now your pasta is ready for stringing, gluing, or whatever craft you want!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Scarred for Life

What was already promising to be an eventful week started out even moreso.  Last night we went to a friend's house for dinner.  I made rolls, so we also brought our butter bell and a jar of apricot jam.  Ed and I carried hot pans of rolls from the car; Ginger carried the butter bell, and Hazel carried the jam.  The sidewalk was dark, and Ginger was concentrating so hard on carrying her dish, that she accidentally tripped and crashed not steps from the door.  She started screaming, "I'm sorry!  I'm sorry!" when she saw the broken dish.  We all rushed to her, and when she looked up, her face was covered with blood, and gushing into (or out of ) her mouth and down her coat.

I picked her up and ran to the door - this was our first time at their house, and what a way to arrive! We rushed in and asked where the bathroom was.  I had her around the waist with one arm and the other hand cupped under her chin, hoping not to spill blood on their floor!  There were a lot of people there, all was commotion, but I got her in the bathroom.  I tried to hold her over the sink to contain the blood but when she saw herself in the mirror she started screaming, so I had to put her down.

I wiped her up with toilet paper enough to see that it all came from a large, clean cut on her forehead that was bleeding profusely.  We put pressure on it and started to wipe up her face, mouth, clothes, and the floor.  She said her head didn't hurt, but her knee did, so Ed started doctoring the large scrape there.  They brought us a first aid box, and we continued to wipe and press.  I was afraid she'd hit her mouth, too, but then remembered she has so few teeth in the front, there couldn't be much damage there, and in fact there wasn't any.  Her hair and coat were crusted with blood, and my hands were covered.  She kept crying how sorry she was, and of course we kept telling her it didn't matter, we don't care about the dish.

We waffled over stitches, but decided to just give her a tight band aid for the duration of our visit (they didn't have butterfly bandages.)  She was shaken up and melancholy for a little while, then cheered up and played and ate with the other kids.

On our way home, we stopped at CVS to get butterflies, but they didn't have any.  So we went to another one.  Ginger and Hazel fell asleep in the car.  That store didn't have them either.  We finally drove to a third drugstore, and also called my brother-in-law, who's a doctor.  As we'd been driving, doubt had crept into our minds about home gluing or bandaging it, and he confirmed that with a cut so long, of unknown depth, and in such a prominent place, we should take her to the hospital.

We dropped off Ed and the other girls, then I drove to the hospital and parked in the last ER spot, but not before getting into a fender bender in the parking lot (awesome.)  I woke Ginger up and took my exhausted, disoriented, almost-6-year-old in for the lengthy runaround that is the Emergency Room.  Did I mention tomorrow is her birthday?  That's why our week was already going to be eventful.  Family and school festivities on Wednesday, then a friends party Friday night.  We've been preparing for weeks.
Luckily the ER wasn't crowded, so we got in quickly and took a look.  She definitely needed stitches.  They slathered on a topical anesthetic ("Tinkerbell's Magic Fairy Paste" - I told the doctor she could talk straight about everything, that Ginger was cool and wouldn't freak out if she told things like they are, but we still liked calling that stuff Tinkerbell Paste.)  Then we had to wait 40 minutes.  At home I'd armed my purse with a banana, the iPad, and a handful of lollipops, so we were good.  We played games, then I took the opportunity to film her 6-year-old interview on my phone.  Adorable.  Candid.  Sweet.  She said she wanted to give me her saved allowance to pay for the butter bell.  I told her too bad because I was going to order a new one on my phone before we even got home.  I'll put some excerpts from the interview in her birthday post.
 They finally came in and gave her five stitches in blue thread.  She cringed a lot so I don't know if the whole area was anesthetized or if it just felt strange.  We put her blood-crusted coat back on, with our marching orders for laceration care and blood stain removal, and came wearily home just after midnight.
When she first found out she'd have stitches, she said she didn't want to go to school until they were gone and she was all healed; she didn't want anyone to see them.  Then I told her about how when I was little, I was so envious of kids when they had stories of going to the ER and getting stitches or a cast.  I never once got to do that, and I thought it sounded like such an adventure.  She must have thought about it, because on our way home, after being built up by the doctor's praise of her bravery, she said she did feel like she'd had an adventure.  And this morning, after she slept in as late as she wanted, she proudly regaled her sisters with tales of the ER, and was excited to go to school with a big bandage across her forehead - a bright pink Barbie band aid.

I'd been a little sentimental earlier, as we drove from drugstore to drugstore, that our perfect little girl was scarred just before her 6th birthday, but Ed put it in perspective.  Everyone gets scarred, he said, sooner or later.  It's part of life, and each scar tells a story, and now she has a story to tell.

I have a feeling she's having a good time telling it today at school. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

PeeWees: Harry the Dirty Dog (week 2)

Week 2 of Harry was as good, if not better, than the first.  This was the first book I've done where I had more ideas and activities than we could possibly do, and they were all also pretty successful!  Yippee!

Arrival:  We played with the plastic dogs from last week, and this time with "tunnels" for them to crawl through and play in.  (One of the things Harry does to get dirty is play tag with the other dogs in an empty lot that has some old pipes they crawl through.) 

Circle Time:   We sang the welcome song, and the alphabet a few times.  We counted out the plastic dogs several times - up to 10 together, and then from 11 to 20 I said the number and had them repeat it.  This was hard for them to do.  Maybe I wasn't explaining it well, because some would say it with me, some after, and it was jumbled.  I finally got them to echo me if I said it loud and with my whole body shifted, as if to show my turn, your turn.  It was tricky, but I think repeating the teens is helpful.

Book:  We used the prop bags again, starting with, "Everyone get your Harry out!"
 They love wearing the construction hats, for the page when Harry plays where they're fixing the street.

 This is everyone flip-flopping and flop-flipping.  Then rolling over and playing dead.

 Our favorite part is when the family realizes it's Harry under all that dirt.  Together we shouted, "It's Harry!  It's Harry!  It's Harry!" over and over again.  Here they are brushing him "lovingly."

Snack:  Sliced apples and alphabet cookies (Harry has a big H on his doghouse.)  Everyone got at least one of the letters in their names.

Art:  As you see on the scanned page above, "Harry's bath was the soapiest one he'd ever had."  So we did some soapy art today - bubble prints!  I added food coloring to bubble-blowing solution, and had them blow bubbles onto thick watercolor paper, held upright on easels.  Each kid had a color, then we rotated them, so by the end everyone had had three of the colors, and none were the same. 
 Blowing bubbles is a challenging, but not frustrating, task at this age.  Sometimes the pigmented soap just splattered from the blowing, but sometimes they would get a real bubble to blow and land on their paper, popping to make a colored circle.  Everyone liked blowing the bubbles; no one lost interest sooner than the others, as sometimes happens.  But I have to say, I think Henry got the most personal satisfaction out of this - every time he got a good bubble, he shouted, "I did it!!!"
 Using food coloring makes pale colors - you can add tempera paint to the soap to make stronger colors. 

Activity 1: As you can see on this page, Harry has a large "H" on the side of his doghouse.  
 So we made our own doghouses, with decorations...
 ...and initials, using the same alphabet cookies we'd had for snack.
 And fruit leather for the doors.
Break:  While I cleaned this one up, they ran around to "Who Let the Dogs Out" again.  Classic.

Re-read:  Since reading the book with the props bag takes a long time, I did our re-read at this point, to make sure there was time for it.  Then I could ax our second activity if needed.  But the second time through the book went more quickly - they knew what prop or action went with what page, and towards the end, we added even more actions, like shaking our heads when the family said, "Oh, no, it couldn't be Harry!"

Activity 2:  Since this book is a lot about getting dirty, and getting clean, I wanted to do something tactile on that theme without too much disaster, so we washed pennies.  Everyone got a bowl of soapy water and a handful of pennies.  I showed them how to hold a penny and scrub it with a toothbrush scrubbing brush - the more you scrub, the more bubbles you make!  And you get the pennies clean!  
 Again, this was challenging - the fine motor demands of holding a wet penny in one hand, and scrubbing it with a long-handled brush with the other, were not everyone's favorites, but they gave it a good go, and they really liked lining them up on the towel once they were clean.  
 Right at the end we cleaned up and did our goodbye chant, also trying another one Lisa found in a Highlights magazine.  But mostly they just wanted to run the track in my house, so I let them for the last few minutes before moms arrived.  These two weeks were the best I've ever had with these guys, partly because we're all really in the PeeWee groove, but mostly because Harry the Dirty Dog is such a great book!  Everyone got to take their Harry dogs home - I hope they like them as much as Poppy loves hers!
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