Archive for the ‘kid fun’ Category

Winter Camp

Talk About TuesdayHello. My talk is on S’mores.

I’m not one to often make frivolous purchases for myself. For the Baby, okay, but not for me. However, my nice Mother-in-law gave me the funnest fun-in-a-box I’ve had for a long time, made even better by the novelty of such a “just because” thing. It is called a S’more Making Thing (or something like that) and it is cool. The fact is I needed one of these, but the realization only flooded mind after we used it. Why? This was the old way of toasting marshmallows in the winter.

old way

I am not suggesting anyone try this, since it obviously carries a risk of catching you on fire or burning your lips on a hot fork.

Isp is very task oriented and initiated our first s’more making activity.


What you do is light a can of chafing fuel (Sterno) in the li’l fire pit, and use fondue forks for mini weiner sticks. It is just like a tiny camp fire, without the smoke and mosquitoes. Then you lightly toast marshmallows for the s’mores.


Or catch them on fire. Whatever works. The instructions actually suggested keeping a little water tank handy to submerge flaming marshmallows in. Bizarre.

We made s’mores…


and made s’mores…

and made some more s’mores. Ood kept making them and giving them away when his own tummy was at capacity. A fair number of marshmallows were consumed sans the chocolate and graham, as Tood demonstrates here:
I think this is as close to winter camping as I ever want to come.

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I think Pi was two the year we first broke a homemade piñata on Christmas Eve. Why a piñata? I don’t know. We were new parents trying to drum up a kid-friendly activity. All she dared do was lightly tap it with the stick from a safe distance, and even that took some prodding, gentle creature that she was. Still, in the spirit of forging family traditions we have repeated this activity every Christmas Eve since.

The piñata is made from a balloon covered with paper maché, and so must resemble something round, like a planet or Humpty Dumpty. This year we made a pig because it is the year of the boar in the Chinese zodiac (or so Isp informs us, and why wouldn’t a seven year old know such things?)


The legs and snout were pieces of paper towel tube, the tail a chenille stem which means “pipe cleaner” in craft language. A piece of twine was tied criss-cross around the balloon for something to hang the piñata by. The paper was dipped in flour paste then layered over everything. One layer of paper maché is strong enough for us, but muscles don’t exactly run in the family.


Everybody helps. Or at least watches.

After a couple days when the paper maché was dry, we sawed a little hole in the top (since we forgot to leave one) and popped the balloon. Then we painted it pink. I’m embarrassed to admit I didn’t take a photo of the finished product before we had embarked on its destruction. My Spouse secretly loads the piñata so its contents are a surprise.


Go Pi! We had another family over on Christmas Eve so there was a whole crowd of children whacking at the pig. Our friend maneuvering the pole made it harder for the big kids and easier for the littles. Even with eight kids, everybody had several turns before…


Look at the Baby! When she saw the kids dive for the loot, she turbo-crawled in to get some too.

The process of creating the piñata together and waiting for it to dry seems to bring our kids together and make the final event so looked forward to and fun. I love that it is unique to our family and a constant every Christmas Eve.

Finally, here is a snapshot of Pi and Tood with their piñatas taken in 2000, way back before color photography.


We did it. A bona fide family tradition.

(For more wonderful from-scratchiness, visit the from scratch blog carnival!)

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swear weirds

Swear words are strictly taboo in this family. Yes, I am a prude. But Isp is a kid who likes to push his limits. From the back seat of the car I heard him taunt, “I’m going to swear. Hhh…. eeeeh…”

“If you say a swear word, I will wash your mouth out with a soapy washcloth, ” I reminded him.

He protested, “But my teacher says those words!”

I was caught off guard. “Really? When?”

“When we are doing P.E. she says, ‘in hell, ex hell.”


Ood’s been at it again! This time play dough.

stir the pot

Dissolve ½ cup salt in 1 ½ cup boiling water. Stir in 1 Tbsp. alum, 2 Tbsp. salad oil, and 2 cups flour. Mix ’til lumpy, knead ’til smooth. Break into pieces and knead in food color until desired shades are reached. (For single color, add food color to boiling water.)

play dough



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I asked Isp what he wanted for his birthday dinner. He started to automatically quip, “Pizz–” but stopped short and revised hiself, “Yams! We never, never have yams. Why don’t we ever have yams?”

“Are you saying you want yams for your birthday dinner?”

His face brightened. “Yes!” He ran off giggling.

birthday yams

Who am I to argue with a kid who knows what he likes? We had pizza, yams, broccoli (shut up, Isp loves broccoli too) and dirt cake.

dirt cake

The dirt cake is crunched up oreos, gummy worms, and lolly pop “flowers” on top of a frosted chocolate cake. A from-scratch chocolate cake that we love and dream about and wake up drooling on our pillows for. That cake. This is what you do:

Chocolate Cake
Stir together:

  • 2 C. sugar
  • 1¾ C. flour
  • ¾ C. cocoa
  • ½ Tbsp. baking soda
  • ½ Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt


  • 2 eggs
  • 1 C. milk
  • ½ C. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla

Beat with a mixer for two minutes. Then stir in:

  • 1 C. boiling water

You could be microwaving that water while you beat the cake so it will be boiling at the end of the two minutes. Your batter will be so thin, you’ll think you ruined the cake, but relax, it is going to be superb. Pour into greased pans and bake at 350°F. for 35-40 minutes for a 9″x13″ pan, or 30-35 minutes for two 9″ round pans. Voila. Best chocolate cake in the world.
Just in case you are feeling sorry for poor Isp and his yams, yesterday we also went for some birthday fun at the airplane museum.


I love that Isp.

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Wacky is the new normal.

pb apple

This lovely piece of plastic surgery is compliments of Ood and Tood, who used peanut butter to reconstruct their lunchtime apple slices. Maybe that’s how Dr. Frankenstein got his start too.

In the anarchy that was scouts I forgot to snap any photos, but did get a couple immediately afterward. For the den meeting we ground some wheat into flour and rolled some groats into oats with my little roller mill. None of the boys or other leaders had seen where their oatmeal comes from before.

groats to oats

We also shook whipping cream in a mason jar until it turned to butter, then smothered that wonderful butter on hot scones. That’s where the from scratchiness ended, though, because we used frozen roll dough for the scones. Each boy stretched his dough blob into a circle, then watched as it turned golden in the hot oil. Suprisingly, no major injuries were sustained.


Scones! Oh! I had forgotten how yummy those things are! That creamy butter pushed them over the edge of earthly wonderfulness to simply heavenly. I can’t wait to repeat this activity with my children.

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code words

I love the jargon peculiar to individual families, which seems to flourish in big families where the natives gradually take over and invent their own language. Here are a few of the terms I grew up with:

  • coil – a burner on a stove top. I still slip and say “coil” now and then, and my stove is gas.
  • salve – this is ointment or neosporin, and is a term I refuse to quit using even though nobody outside my family has any clue what it means.
  • ethel (or sometimes ethel lemon) – a piece of food stuck on one’s face/lips. If you want to be discreet, you may hint that someone has an ethel by mysteriously stating, “I’m thinking of a citrus fruit…” Or to be blunt, simply call, “Hey, Ethel.” (If you are the original Ethel Lemon, I apologize that your name became a noun in my childhood household.)
  • dinners – boobs. You know, the baby is having her dinner.
  • Henry – in a family of daughters, it was a misbehaving child. Why? “Because no nice little girl of mine would ever act that way!” –Mom
  • Jobbie – I was in my twenties before I realized this was not the universal polite word for “poop.”

We also had a wonderful little song, created by a sibling who wished her older sisters would let her in their room. The lyrics: “Charlie Warley wants some. And Charlie Warley couldn’t get some. So Charlie Warley made some. And Charlie Warley got some!”

Words to live by.

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I woke up in a cold sweat yesterday morning realizing that the school kids would be doing some sort of fun Halloweeny stuff in school, and I hadn’t planned anything at all for home schooling Tood. Dangit! But down the road this historical farm had a corn maze so we quick flew over there for a Halloween outing.


Oops, took it in sepia. Anyway, YAY CORN MAZE! Our new favorite Halloween activity! Since we went Halloween day, we were actually the only people in the maze and the boys had free reign to run and holler like wild maniacs while Derek kept tabs on where we were with a map (of course we cheated!) They also had a smaller hay maze, which basically was a McDonalds play place made from hay. I’m thinking the neighbors would be so impressed if I could round up a few hay bales and duplicate that in our front yard.

We broke with our tradition of last-minute, thrown-together Halloween costumes this year. The kids each had a few costume accessories purchased from a store well before Halloween. But I had to note that pirates with plastic swords and Johnny Depp hair did not really look superior to our previous version of no-cost pirates. Compare this year and two years ago:






See? Just as fab if you ask me. It’s all how you belt your mom’s shirt over your rolled up Sunday pants that makes an authentic pirate. Of course, the cat and the penguine came off tons better with off the shelf goods than if we had tried to make them out of tin foil and toilet paper tubes.

Yay, Halloween!





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