Sunday, June 21, 2015

Strawberry Picking

I took all the kids strawberry picking on Thursday and it was a resounding success.  For the first time, the girls were enthusiastic pickers; they probably picked about half the strawberries we brought home.  They went ahead of me in our row so that they could pick the biggest and juiciest berries ahead of me.   And they did not like it when I tried to catch up with them.

Nathaniel, on the other hand, followed along behind my basket and ate strawberries pretty much constantly.  The first time he picked his own strawberry, he put the whole berry with the leaves in his mouth, then made a face and took it out.  I showed him how to pull the leaves off, and he figured out how to pull the leaves off one at a time for all the rest that he ate.

Amelia helped Nathaniel pick just a couple berries himself, but he had a hard time getting them off, and preferred eating the ones I had already picked.  Nathaniel is always delighted when one of the girls makes the time to help him with something.

As we were leaving the farm, Nathaniel saw an old tractor sitting in the field, and since tractors are one of his three favorite things (along with trains and trucks) we had to go take a look at it.  After walking around it three times shouting "Kra-ka", he went over to the tire and gave it a hug and a kiss.

We ended up picking about 15 pounds of extremely ripe and delicious strawberries that we had to process in just a few days.  The girls helped me make three batches of strawberry jam and four strawberry coffee cakes.  They sliced and mashed the strawberries, measured the sugar, and did a lot of stirring. 

 Megan helped measure and stir the ingredients for Grandma Sylvester's strawberry coffee cake, too, and decided that she wanted to help with the kneading.  But once she got her hands on the dough, she quickly changed her mind!  Both girls helped lay all the strawberries on the dough - they crammed them in as close as the could, which meant the juice ran over the pans a little in the oven.  But oh wow, the coffee cake is delicious!

I also IQFd almost a gallon of whole strawberries for later use, and the girls helped make some strawberry yogurt popsicles that are in the freezer right now.  Plus, we had strawberry shortcake and have just enough berries left to have it again tomorrow night.

Oh, before we left to go strawberry picking, I found Nathaniel doing this:

When I told him "NO", he immediately started up his new little pouting and rubbing his eyes routine, feeling all sad and sorry for himself.  It cracks me up.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

A Rainy Day

We were planning on going hiking at Devil's Lake today, but the forecast didn't look very good, so we stayed home instead.  It rained pretty heavily for a little while this afternoon, and afterwards the girls wanted to go play outside.  They put on galoshes and raincoats and headed out to find some puddles to splash in.  Sadly for them, our neighborhood is well-drained and the only puddle we could find was a little one on the walking path near the pond (the same one they jumped in two and a half years ago). 

After the first big jump, Megan started complaining that she was getting wet, and so she refused to jump anymore.  But then Amelia accidentally invented a new game, called kick-your-boot-off:

We had no idea Amelia's boot was about to fly off, and I just happened to be taking a photo of Megan at exactly the right moment.  Anyway, the girls thought that was hilarious, and spent the next 30 minutes kicking their boots off all over the place.

They were laughing like loons, so I thought maybe I could get some photos of their genuinely happy faces, not the goofy faces they like to make when I take the camera out.

I made them do some running, hopping, skipping and galloping races to try and burn off some of their craziness.  I'm not sure it worked, because they would revert back to the boot-kicking game as soon as they had a break from running.  But, oh, we had a fun time!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Amelia's 7th Birthday

Amelia had a fantastic day on her birthday this year.  Ben took the afternoon off work, and we all went to school to eat lunch with her.  She was excited to sit next to some of her best friends, and she was also happy that I had made her seven 7-shaped pancakes for lunch.  Instead of bringing treats for her entire class, Amelia chose to have extra recess for her classmates instead.  It was a beautiful day, so I'm sure her class enjoyed the chance to have the playground all to themselves for 20 minutes that afternoon.

Unbeknownst to Amelia, she received a special Red Carpet Award during the all-school assembly in the afternoon.  We all went to school to watch her get her award.  She was so excited!  Her really good neighbor friend Aiden shares her birthday and also got a Red Carpet Award, so it was a very special day for the birthday girls.

She got to pick what we were going to have for dinner, and for the first time ever, she chose to go out to eat.  So she had cheesy bread at Rocky Roccoco's and then frozen yogurt with toppings at Orange Leaf.  It was quite a change from the pancakes and watermelon that she has been requesting for her birthday dinner for the last five years.

She didn't get a lot of presents on her actual birthday, but I gave her the kitty necklace and bracelet that she had seen at the store a few weeks before and really wanted to buy.  She was impressed that I had been able to sneakily buy it for her while she was with me at the store.  Megan gave her a locket necklace, and I also gave her a charm bracelet (in the last two weeks, she's received a cupcake charm for her birthday, a cat charm for her birthday party, and a soccer ball charm to celebrate her last soccer game.)  Plus she got two packages in the mail; a circuit board game thing from Uncle David's family (which Megan was really excited about) and a penguin DreamLite from Aunt Anna's family (which she was thrilled about because her old DreamLite had broken recently and we had to throw it out).  She has slept with her new DreamLite every night since her birthday.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Amelia's 7th Birthday Party

I'm having a hard time believing that Amelia is 7 already; I actually typed the title as her 6th birthday.  Oops.

Amelia wanted to have a cat party with her friends this year, but I wasn't sure I wanted to have a big to-do after the craziness of her party last year.  After some discussion about why she wanted to have a big party (her answer - so that she could play with her friends from school), we decided to have a smaller party, where she could invite only 5 friends from school and where she would request donations to the Humane Society instead of presents.  She colored and wrote the invitations herself, while I added the printed text:

When her friends arrived, they could choose their own cat ears and cat tails and get their face painted like a cat by the lovely and talented Aunt Becky.  Here's the birthday girl with her friends Emma, Gia, Aiden, Noah, Natalie and Gwen.

When the kids came inside the house, they found that the house had been covered in yarn, and each kitty girl or boy had to follow their own color yarn to find the hidden mouse toy at the end.  Most of the kids were able to wind up the yarn themselves, but Megan needed some help.  This was a fun activity for 6 and 7 year olds, and it took about 15 minutes.  It probably took Becky and I no more than 30 minutes to set it all up, although it would have taken less time if the blue yarn hadn't been so tangled.  I attached the starting end of the yarn to a strip of thick cardboard for the kids to wind the yarn up on.  We got it finished about an hour before the party started, and it meant that all of us had to climb over and under the yarn to finish setting up for the party and put Nathaniel down for a nap.  Nathaniel didn't quite know what to make of all the yarn!

Then Amelia wanted to play Pin the Face on the Cat, which everyone thought was hilarious.  Amelia drew the cat face and cut out the parts of the face all by herself.

Then each kid got to adopt their own stuffed animal cat, fill out an adoption certificate, and make the cat its own kitty collar with beads and pipe cleaners.  Everyone but Gwen had a good time with this activity; I heard a few girls say "This is the best birthday party ever" while they were playing with their cats. 

Everyone got to make their own cat food snack mix with various types of goldfish and Swedish fish.  Then we played cat picture bingo with some bingo cards that I made up.  The kids used their goldfish snack mix as bingo markers.  Aunt Becky hand made beautiful bag toppers that we stapled on after they'd eaten some snack mix so that they could take the rest home.  Thanks, Becky!

After everyone used Sharpies to color cat shaped sun catchers while eating a healthy fruit snack, they had some time to play on the  playset outside.

Then we had birthday cake - this time Amelia requested a chocolate cake with white frosting.  After the problems I had with the cake last year, I bought two boxes of cake mix and three bags of powdered sugar.  I didn't need the extras, though, this cake came together very nicely.  I did have to do a crumb coat followed by a top frosting layer, because I was trying to make a white cat out of a chocolate cake.  I ended up doing a double batch of frosting, and I used almost all of it (6 cups powdered sugar, 2 sticks butter, 6 tbsp milk, 2 tsp vanilla).

Jane had helped me turn balloons and paper lanterns into cute little hanging kitties, and Aunt Becky made little cat ears for the cups and the plates, so the table looked really cute:

Even though Amelia had requested donations for the Humane Society, most of the girls still brought her presents.  She did get quite a few cat toys, a bunch of cans of cat food, a litter box scooper, and a monetary donation for the Humane Society, so she was very excited about that.  We still haven't taken the donations there yet, but we will do that later this week.  She was happy to have some presents to open, too.  Natalie and Noah gave her a mosaic stained glass window kit (which Megan was also very excited about), some Madlibs, and a needlepoint kit (which she hasn't opened yet).  Her friends gave her a tie-dye kit and a white shirt, some modeling clay, and a few outdoor toys.  She and Megan have been playing with the modeling clay a lot lately.

Amelia had a fantastic time at her party, and even told me thanks for letting her have a party, so I'm glad we had one.  Other than Gwen deciding she didn't want to participate in anything (thanks, Brian, for keeping an eye on her outside the entire time!), everything went really well.  The girls (and Noah) were well-behaved, had fun with all the games and activities, and got along very nicely.  It was so much better than last year!

Notes for next year:
-- Two hours is the perfect length for a party
-- Four friends, two cousins and one sister were the perfect number of guests
-- Having 6 adults for 9 children was fantastic!  See if grandparents can come up for all parties.
-- Guests will bring presents, even when donations are requested
-- Let trick candles burn for a minute before blowing them out.  That's much longer than singing Happy Birthday.  Otherwise, they won't relight.
-- Coloring sun catchers with Sharpies was a great idea.  Everyone had fun, and it was cheap and easy.  Try to remember to order sun catchers from Oriental Trading well in advance so that you don't have to go to four different Walmart stores to find enough for all the kids.
-- Ask Becky to design bag toppers on her computer prior to the party so that all we have to do is print them out.
-- A cat theme is very easy to plan and inexpensive, and all the kids loved it.