Sunday, November 29, 2015

Peter's Lego Birthday Party, September 2015

Peter's blue-eyed grin when he saw how I had transformed him into a lego minifigure for his birthday invitation almost made the pain of the emergency c-section that preceded his actual birth worth it. 

I originally designed this invitation for Peter, but since then, I've created personalized minifigures with a variety of hairstyles and clothing and accessories and even light sabers. (My favorite was a lego stormtrooper that I made to say "This is the birthday party you're looking for!")  If you have a lego lover that would like a personalized invitation, go to my etsy shop here

I think this is one of the first parties I've planned for the under-ten set that didn't involve a "craft project" like painting t-shirts or sewing scarves or rolling around in glitter as part of the party. When I made this fact known to Eric he reminded me that the older kids and I had stayed up late into the night before the party making homemade lego gummies, so he was still counting it as a craft project. 


Our huge lego brick piñata was the quickest, easiest, most indestructible piñata I've ever made. We just wrapped up a diaper box in a red plastic tablecloth and then glued on the tops of red plastic cups. Bam. Lego piñata. 

Each of the kids whacked that over-sized brick with all of their might, but it wouldn't break open until Holden, who towered over the little kids like some sort of pinata-obliterating Goliath, smacked it with an actual baseball bat several times with no blindfold on.

One of our more extroverted partygoers kept yelling, "It's rigged! It's rigged!" (Why would we rig a birthday pinata? I'm not sure. But the kid wouldn't stop yelling until he was  showered in minifigures and candy. Then he stopped complaining.)



For their party favor, each child received a basket into which I had glued a flat lego base. They also received a bag of crayons shaped like minifigures, lego gummies, a mold to make their own lego gummies and the recipe for lego gummies (Eric says I need to stop saying the word "gummies" now.)
We divided the kids into teams and then a "builder" from each team had to build a certain object. The other members of their team tried to guess what they had built before the other teams guessed to get a point. 

We played our own lego-based take on the game "Hungry Hungry Hippos" at the church gym across the street from our house. Our party guests each had to take turns scooting out to the middle of the gym and trying to bring back as may legos as possible back to their corner.

The only rule was that they had to be on their scooter the whole time. Most of the kids struggled to bring the legos back to their team's corner while trying to maneuver the scooter with their arms.

The winning team was lucky enough to have a team member who thoughtfully considered how to be able to have his hands free, but still bring back a load of legos to his team. He sat on his scooter, scooped up legos into a big pile in his shirt and then happily scooted back to his team.

For our final party game, we played Ultimate Lego Head, which is like Ultimate Frisbee, but played with an oversized yellow head. It was mighty funny to watch the kids toss the giant plastic cranium while screaming and yelling and running around.










The lego head cake was created out of two dome-shaped ice cream cakes that were sandwiched together. I used vanilla cake with vanilla ice cream for one half and chocolate cake with chocolate ice cream for the other half. The face was made from edible black fondant.

(I'll refrain from making any Biblical allusions the cake on the platter brought to mind.)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Camp d'Evegnee 2015: Sherlock Week

Eric and I had been sleuthing for ideas for Sherlock Week for months, plotting the mysterious twists and turns of Camp d'Evegnee 2015. We'd huddle together like Sherlock and Watson on our Friday nights, deducing which of our ideas might help our little detectives have the most exhilarating time, no matter what their age.

I'll admit that during the last strangling, straggling days of my third semester in a row without a substantial break, I would think to myself while gasping through grading, "As soon as this is over, you can do Sherlock Week!" 

Sherlock's Mystery Meal

We started off the week with a little lesson about deductive reasoning (you know, as most parents do on their vacation), and then Eric played some logic games with our novice investigators. For dinner our first night, we had "Sherlock's Mystery Meal," which was a four-course meal comprised of giggles, guesswork, and a few groans. The kids had to try and figure out which food or utensil might match with which clue. 

There were some interesting culinary combinations like a complete course with only a knife, pepperoni, chocolate sauce, and a napkin. I've put both the menu and the answer key here. Eric and I used some of our best word-play skills to some up with the clues. I especially liked "Apricot Tree's Fruit" (popcorn), "Piggy Polka Dots" (pepperoni), Jonah's Weekend (whale crackers), Personal Shouting (Ice Cream), and "Favorite of the Lazy Student" (spoon). 

You'll notice that in the photo below, Peter has a full-blown brownie sundae with ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. I was quite impressed with his deductive ability until the other kids told me that he had been getting brownies and ice cream for more than one course.  Peter blatantly ignored the rule about only ordering each thing once, and he said, "Well! I figured out which numbers I needed for the dessert and I just kept ordering them!" (I honestly couldn't decide whether to be appalled or proud. . . maybe a little of each?) Eric and I didn't notice because we were too busy scurrying from the dining room to the kitchen with a total of TWENTY-EIGHT different courses for our greedy gumshoes!


Mystery Dinner or The Blind Feeding the Blind

Our second dinner for Sherlock Week involved dining at what Eric called "Café Aveugle." I don't think a group of seven little detectives could possibly be more delightful, despite being blindfolded and forced to eat whatever we placed in front of them.

We had them eat in two shifts so that the younger kids wouldn't be too nervous about what we were going to do to them. 

We tried to choose foods with unpredictable tastes and shapes like drinkable yogurt, potstickers, and cheese curds. 

One of the best moments of the evening was watching Marie try and eat a perogi. She couldn't see how big the item was that she had dangling from the end of her fork, so she kept missing her mouth. 

Clearly our Peter, Peter picky eater didn't love some of the items he ate. 

Later, when I asked Marie if it was scary to eat with a blindfold on, she said, "Oh no! It was fun!"



Mystery Meal #3
Our last dinner for Sherlock Week was a little less  precarious, and we served the kids Korean Barbeque because they hadn't ever had it before (it was a bit tricky to think of something our adventurous eaters hadn't ever tried).

For dessert, we let them create wild liquid mixtures and called them "Mystery Drinks."

On our final day of Camp d'Evegnee, I woke up to a full day of Camp d'Evegnee on the horizon, glanced around at the mountainous peaks of folded laundry piled in my living room and said in my best chirpy Mom voice: "Hey guys! Who wants to play a Sherlock-based game??? It's called. . . 'See If You Can Figure Out Which Closet the Clothes Go in!' YAY!" They were surprisingly willing to play along, those blessed offspring of mine.


The Mystery of the Lost Boy

Our coup de grace for Sherlock Week for Camp d'Evegnee was on Friday when we asked our flock of budding detectives to go and get Charlie so we could get ice cream. This is the note they found in his bed (hopefully slightly bone-chilling, but not too creepy). They DID find him in the end, though, through a series of adventures involving deductive reasoning and the reconstruction of a ghostly back-story.
Where would you go to find the first clue?


"I've taken the boy, You can have him back if you can find him. I saw him with you yesterday when I was with my friend, David Saylor, who is an expert on that place. He has even written books about it.That little boy looks just like my Joseph--the boy I lost in the tragedy on 6/5/76/. That blonde hair and those blue eyes. I thought I would never see him again. We named him after my grandfather, Joseph Ricks. If you can find all of the clues i will consider you worthy enough to get him back."





If a grieving psychopath lost a son on 6/5/76 in Rexburg, what kind of house would he build?
With the back-story about a man who lost a son in the Teton Flood, how could we not involve this awesome house somehow?
It was almost like someone had visited earlier that day and had coached the nice man working at the front desk of The Standard Journal about what to say to six kids who might come in later that day.
Again, it was almost like some people had visited earlier that day, making a donation to the museum, and asking the nice woman volunteering at the front desk to let the kids in for free to look at the newspapers if they just happened to show up later that day.



Our cute babysitter/caregiver of the kidnapped was reluctant to let me pay her for babysitting. I looked at her seriously, handed her some cash and said, "You have to take it. It's ransom money."

Friday, October 30, 2015

Jurrasic Camp d'Evegnee 2015


For phase one of Camp d'Evegnee this year, we decided to have a mini-session at the end of June to tide us over until Eric and I finished school at the end of July. The theme really chose us because of one of the summer blockbusters. To say that we were a little excited to see Jurassic World would be like saying Doctor Allen Grant is just a little handsome.

When our three oldest were just wee little ones, we had more dinosaurs than articles of clothing in our house. There were times when our trio believed that they had been hatched rather than born.

We watched cartoons, movies, and documentaries about dinosaurs until our video tapes were wearing thin. The boys knew more about Dr. Sue Hendrickson the Paleontologist than they did about Bob the Builder. They could pronounce words like "diplodocus" and "ankylosaurus" through their baby teeth before they could recite their ABC's.

We winced with just a tad of guilt when we showed them Jurassic Park on video tape when Holden was three because we were worried it might scare them. As the credits rolled and John Williams' score soared, our guilt was completed abated. The only time they had been scared was when the T-Rex seemed to be in danger. "Mom?" they asked with fear in their eyes, "Did the dinosaurs get hurt?"

We quickly realized that rather than identifying with the humans, our tribe identified with and sympathized with the dinosaurs. Jurassic Park soon became a regular in our family movie night rotation.

We even dressed up as Jurassic Park one year for Halloween:
This summer, we couldn't resist watching one Jurassic Park movie each day on the days leading up to our outing to take all seven kids to see Jurassic World. There. I admitted it. We took every single one of our kids to see Jurassic World. And we took them to see the. . . late. . . show. (I will look away while you judge me.). 

Each day we watched one of the Jurassic Park movies and prepared a Jurassic Park-themed meal. The kids helped me brainstorm about what we would make for each dinner and you would think they had been raised just to come up with party food. 


This one was easily my favorite in the world-play menu. When Caleb came up with this one, I thought my professorial heart would burst.



This is an actual photo of the ribs we ate for dinner, and as I was taking the photo, the kids said, "Mom! Wouldn't it be cool if you could photoshop the ribs so they looked like they were being lowered into the raptor's pen at feeding time?" How could I resist?

When we went to Utah for our family reunion only days later, I took Charlie to Build-a-Bear while all of the other kids were at Grandma and Grandpa Camp. I think he might be just a little thrilled out of his mind about this T-Rex. It was the whipped cream on the jell-o of our Jurassic Park Week.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Volume XI, issue vi, July 2015

The Hafen Family Reunion 2015

Meet the Hafengers! Don't mess with us--we'll correct your grammar or feed you dinner or analyze legal briefs or have gospel-related discussions until we wear you down into smiley submission!


Since the older kids/craft slaves were with my parents at Grandma and Grandpa Camp, Eric helped me paint dozens of t-shirts until the wee, small hours of the morning. He wouldn't ever tell you that he loved being part of my crafty assembly line, but he did admit that he tolerated it because he loves me. That, my friends, is progress.
This is the photo that one of my friends says looks like a bag of human Skittles. This SUPER photo was taken in front of the house my Grandpa Kartchner built with his own two strong and gentle hands. The whole chaotic mess of us boarded a bus and took what my parents called a "Heritage Tour" around Bountiful to learn about my Mom's history and childhood. I've never felt so loved and so appreciative and so weepy while on a bus! This was easily the highlight of the reunion. 
For part of the family reunion, we were all able to go to Lagoon, the amusement park in Utah that my parents used to take us to if we would practice our musical instruments during the summer.

After dragging my three teens around Lagoon all day like some teenaged amuse park cruise director, I allowed them to take a break at my brother, Jon's house for some dinner and then I forced two of my teens back to the park with me so we could make ourselves sick on rides until the minute the park closed.

When I heard that my sister, Rachel, had sweetly said, "Wow. Sarah took the boys back to Lagoon? She is the best mom!" I laughed out loud.

Holden and Caleb were quite reluctant to go on the newest ride in the park, (appropriately named Cannibal) which had only been operational for a half day before we arrived. I cajoled them with all of the maternal persuasion I could muster. Some mothers plead with their kids to eat their vegetables or to finish their homework.

I begged mine to please go on the insane roller-coaster with me. "Please? Please? It won't be that scary. I'm your mother! You have to defy death with me just this once!"




Sunday, June 7, 2015

Volume IX, issue v, May 2015

The Scarlet Letter
"Ah, but let [him] cover the mark as [he] will, the pang of it will be always in [his] heart."
-Nathaniel Howthorne
There are two unfortunate facts about this photo. The first one is that Caleb's hair and face are reminiscent of the famous Nick Nolte mugshot. . .
 and the second one is that the photo doesn't do the event it represents justice because I couldn't sneak the photo shoot in until the day after said events took place because I didn't want Caleb to be mad at me. I had to wait until he wasn't sure why I was taking the photo (hence the mugshot aura about the whole thing). I circled the affected area so you could see it, but it is a mere echo of what it had been the day before. Trust me, though. It was bad. Very, very bad.

During a Saturday trip to the local dollar store, Charlie had picked out a water toy that uses  a "pump action" to suction water and then spray it like a squirt gun.
All of the kids immediately did what most normal kids would do with a toy that operates using suction. They started suctioning each other's arms and legs and other body parts. I walked away from the suction party as soon as Eric tried to suction my derriere and I didn't look back.

Sunday morning, during the chaotic tumble of pre-church preparation, I was doing my frantic rounds from one head of hair to the next, like some triage hair-nurse, and Caleb stuck his face close to mine and said, "Does my hair look okay?" 

The involuntarily gasp that escaped my lips as I jumped with shock was probably a lot quieter than it should have been, considering the 3 inch wine-colored hickey that gaped at me from right between Caleb's baffled brown eyes. Without thinking it completely through, I said, "What in the world happened?" 

He was clueless. Apparently he doesn't look in the mirror when he combs his hair.

Before he could answer me, the awful truth hit me: "Oh my goodness! Did someone suction your face with Charlie's new toy?" 

He looked in the mirror and grunted with shock before fleeing the bathroom, speeding down the stairs and slamming the door to his bedroom so hard that I could feel the vibrations of adolescent awkwardness reverberating up the stairs. 

In exactly 15 minutes he was supposed to be at church solemnly serving the Sacrament to our congregation, and he had a Mick Jagger-sized hickey on his forehead. 

To his credit, he timidly came back up stairs after Ethan convinced him I had a way to fix it. 

I applied a thick layer of my cover-up powder to his forehead, which covered the mark of shame enough for it to be just barely visible. During Sacrament Meeting, Eric and I smirked at each other as Caleb self-consciously passed the Sacrament to the Bishop and his counselors, who didn't seem to notice the scarlet "O" between his shy eyes. 

Breaking Boy

I had to prod Eve just a little to get her to come with me to the orientation for the "Challenge Class" last summer, and after the orientation, the two of us were the perfect models for the masks of comedy and tragedy. On the way home, I started my wide-mouthed gushing before I noticed Eve's downcast visage. I knew that this was a rare moment when a little nudge forward was required.  Ironically, she gave me the same look of disbelief that I gave my parents when they nudged me into a rigorous private school as a shy 14-year-old. I told Eve about my experience there, and how it had opened the blinds on my brain, and had changed my world beautifully for the better. I could tell she still had her doubts.
It was a mere matter of days before her teacher, Mr Durfee, changed her mind. He is the quintessential "cool" teacher in every movie that glamorizes teachers. He was the Miss Stacy to Eve's Anne Shirley this year and Eve's relationship with books, numbers, and ideas will never be the same. Eve and her classmates hunkered down for hours, even working all day the Saturday before, to prepare for their "History Museum," which involved working in small groups to present different eras of American History. Eve chose the "Progressive Era" and specialized in the topics of women's rights and child labor. (Of course we had to tease her about going in to school to work all day Saturday.)

The last day of school we offered Mr Durfee a bouquet of books rather than a bouquet of flowers, knowing how when you choose a profession that involves teaching out of the best books, being able to buy them becomes a luxury.

I asked Eve to inscribe one of the books in the bouquet and this is what she wrote:

At the beginning of the school year I was very nervous, but now after learning how great you are and how I can triumph in this class, I feel like I can do anything. 
I have loved to hear your funny stories and jokes, but what I've found is that the best part is the way you teach. I used to hate math and thought that it was boring. Now I think math is wonderful.
I love the way you do everything and keep doing it that way. I am so grateful I am in your class.

Breaking Boy II or The Royal Toilet Decree

Perhaps it was all of the reading about women's rights that inspired Eves official bathroom door declaration, or maybe it was simply having to share a bathroom with a younger brother whose mind tends to wander during even the most basic of tasks.

Eve posted this note on the bathroom door after an unfortunate "incident"

The note says, "From now on by royal decree you must clean up after yourself!!! And if you have already made a mess then clean it up!!! I'm serious!" I'd say that this note is a "Royal Flush." I especially adore how the happy little character cleaning up is singing, "Clean up. Clean up, everybody, everywhere."

Our Little Shoe-In

I received a phone call last week informing me that our Marie had won a new pair of shoes for running the most number of laps in her grade during what they call "pacers." When I informed her about her victory, Marie's face broke into the cutest overwhelmed smile and she said, "Really?"

She received the nicest pair of running shoes anyone in our family has ever owned and started running laps around the house as soon as she put them on. Eric keeps threatening to steal them from her, and she ignores his teasing patiently.

The cheer evident in her self-portrait seen above and in the photo of her on the right with her "play glasses" is pretty much consistent with her daily demeanor.

Marie Turns Seven and Mom is in Heaven

The most significant event this month (and maybe even my life!) was Marie's Annie birthday party.

When I was ten-years-old, nothing seemed as romantic as being a red-headed orphan. On Sunday nights, my sister and I would spend starry-eyed hours in the living room, passionately belting out "Tomorrow" and "Maybe" as our own Daddy Warbucks accompanied us on the "piana." As we resolutely shouted out the chorus to song after song, my oldest brother would growl from the basement, "Stop! Yelling!" and we would smile and just keep on singing because we knew that "belting it" was how it was supposed to be done.

For Christmas that year, my parents surprised me with tickets to see Annie in Salt Lake City on my birthday only a few weeks later. I couldn't have been more pleased if they had announced I was going to NYC and leaving Miss Hannigan's orphanage. It wasn't long after that that I wrote, directed, and starred in a play for my class at school about an orphan girl with a cat. I brought our feral feline, Muffy, to play my pet, and was forced to exit the production in shame as the poor, nervous creature fouled up the carpet in the classroom. I still remember crying as I trekked up the hill to our house, carrying Muffy as she tried to claw her way free.

So when Marie quietly whispered to me a few months ago, "I think I'd like to have an Annie party for my birthday" the ten-year-old in me started singing and I didn't tell her to stop yelling. Not one bit.

video
I tried to avoid tearing up constantly as our Peter Pan collared-crew sang their little hearts out at the same piano where I used to sing on Sunday nights. I don't look like I'm having any fun at all. . .

 Marie and all of her girly guests agreed that "The Search for Sandy" was their favorite event of the party. Caleb snuck outside while we were singing and knocked at the front door. I rushed to the door and said dramatically, "I wonder who THAT could be!"

In his best English accent, Caleb/The Butler exclaimed with urgency, "I have a letter for Annie from Daddy Warbucks!" I was going for my birthday party Emmy during this part of the game, and gasped and ooo-ed and aaah-ed just like I did when I was in the chorus of all of those theatrical productions as a child.
The girls raced to find each paw print with such speed and determination that I could barely keep up with their mary-janed feet. They huffed and puffed their way down the sidewalk and up the hill, screaming with glee as they found each one in our path of paw prints until we finally arrived at our kind neighbor's house that made the perfect Warbucks Manor.

Eric greeted us the door, complete with bald cap and suit, and exclaimed that we had not only found Sandy, but that we had found a Sandy for each girl! True love is when you dress up and act like Daddy Warbucks without grumbling about it just because you know it will make your wife happy. As excited as the girls were, I can say that I was probably more thrilled than any of them as we handed each overwhelmed girl her own little plush dog.
Yes. I wanted to sing "I don't need anything but you" to that absolutely charming fellow on the right. He couldn't be any more wonderful, and yet sometimes he gets more wonderful with each passing party, costume, and year.

I had been planning for months and absolutely swooned when I found the perfect puppies and the most wonderful golden lockets at a discount online. I couldn't resist making "bottom dollars" out of chocolate. I couldn't stop myself from letting little girls become dripping--not with diamonds or pearls, but with chocolate and caramel as they dipped their "Big Apples." Oh! There was sun! It was like it was tomorrow. . . . all day long.





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