Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cue Horror Movie Scream

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa M. has her driver's license aaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa and she's a senior now aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Play-Doh Personalities

We had fun playing with some of Daddy's birthday gifts the other night. I wonder, what does each creation say about the creator?

Daddy's basket. Useful, well-constructed, no-nonsense.

Mommy's spider. Visions of injecting people with venom, wrapping them in sticky webs, and hanging them from the ceiling, a la Lord of the Rings.

It was a long day.

C.'s spider - just like Mommy's, only squished. Flat.

Maybe he had a long day, too.

C.'s...scene of mass carnage. I know she said one piece was a head. I didn't ask further.

M.'s zombies. She'll be a senior soon. Future of our country.

I don't understand WHY they wouldn't give me any!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Summer Reading Kickoff

Since our theme for Summer Reading this year is "Dream Big", we decided to have a pajama party for our kickoff registration. We sent home flyers to all the schools inviting kids to wear their PJs and come from 6-7PM for "stories, games, crafts, and a bedtime snack."

As soon as I mentioned it to the staff, several people asked if they could wear their pajamas that day, too. Of course! Everyone looked very cute:

And was very comfortable! Do you suppose we could get away with this once a week?

I kept having that oh-no feeling you get in a bad dream, when you suddenly realize you forgot to put clothes on.

Last year I think we had about 30 kids come to our early registration at a local venue, on a Saturday morning. I planned for a few more than that. When, at 5:40PM, I had a room full of kids in PJs waiting to start, I realized I had better quickly plan for a LOT more.

They were all so stinkin' cute! We had healthy(ish) snacks and cold milk,

bedtime stories read by Miss Jane (the only person I will let take over reading duties),

and crafts like creating a monster to go under your bed. There were also games: Pin the PJs on Spongebob (run by Miss Clara) and the Laundry Toss (run by M.) Thank-you, ladies!!!

I ran the registration table, while C. hid out behind me. He still gets shy sometimes - like when he sees his favorite young lady IN HER NIGHTIE! He did manage to traverse the distance to the snack table a few times.

In all, 77 kids registered that evening - and then promptly checked out stacks of books. The next morning, half the staff put in leave requests for all of June and July (they were all denied). By the end of summer we usually have between 1300-1500 kids participating, so opening registration is just a start. Kids can register right up to the end of July, and everything is always FREE. Our age range is birth through 18 years - which brings me to what will probably be my favorite story of the summer.

We start at birth, so I usually say no to pregnant Mommies who want to register their baby to be. When a Mommy came in Thursday night, however, having contractions two minutes apart, I decided that was close enough. Baby M. was born the next morning, and I expect him to have War and Peace finished by the time he makes his first library visit!

Now, if that Mommy can make it in to get her kids signed up, I will accept no excuses from anyone else! If you are in the area, stop by the children's desk any time - it just takes a few minutes, no ID or such required. Programs start June 4, but there is nothing you are required to attend - just do as much or as little as fits your summer. And have fun!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Baking - or - How Long Has This Been in the Cupboard?

As I mentioned earlier, painting the kitchen means moving everything out first - and since the new paint looks so nice, you don't want to just jam everything back in. Some of my preserves (apples in various form, pumpkin puree, all types of peaches, plums, and pears) have been there since Fall of 2010. Still perfectly good, but it would probably be wise to use them up before I go on another canning kick this fall.

So, I am on a baking kick. Much more productive! Now I will have plenty of shelf space - and no freezer space. I'll deal with that later.

I don't know about your household, but breakfast just doesn't happen in ours most mornings. Not in that 1950's hot-off-the-griddle way, anyway. Maybe some oatmeal, hot out of the microwave. We did have sausage and eggs today - for lunch! Breakfast tends to be whatever we can grab and pour out or heat up quickly, and if we can take it with us, all the better. Every once in a while I will take two whole loaves of bread, make them into french toast, flash freeze them, then bag them up and put them back in the freezer. Just pop one in the toaster, and it's ready for butter and syrup!

Biscuits and muffins are also a good alternative, and they generally freeze well. I had a box of baking mix (I have no idea why) that was close to expiration date, so I started with that. Keeping in mind that this is bulk cooking, we have:

Cheesy Garlic Breakfast Biscuits

Start with one box (40 oz) of baking mix.
Stir in 2 1/2 cups milk.
Add 2 T garlic salt and 1-2 cups shredded cheddar (other cheeses might be good too)

Stir until just mixed. Drop heaping spoonfuls onto cookie sheets and bake at 450 for about ten minutes. Watch carefully, the bottoms can burn before the tops look done.

There were a LOT of these...but every time someone walked through the kitchen, they ate one or two...or ten. I rescued a few dozen to put in the freezer, but that was only about half of what I made!

Next we made:

Christmas Muffins

So named because, as soon as I opened the oven, the whole room smelled like Christmas - you know, that smell you get in stores that sell Christmas decorations, usually including huge bins of cinnamon-cranberry potpourri sitting right by the door? In other words, yum! I ate...er...a couple of these myself.

Stir together:

1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white sugar
6 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
2 T baking powder
1 tsp salt
5 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp ginger

Then add:

2 cups butter, melted
4 eggs
2 1/2 cups milk

Gently fold in:

1 bag cranberries that you found in the freezer
2-3 cups of apple pulp left over from when Daddy made cider, and which was also in the freezer (or, applesauce might work)
1 bag of chopped pecans

It will look something like this:

But will smell and taste a lot better, I promise.

I had some large muffin ppers I wanted to use, but no tins that size, so I filled them partway and put them on cookie sheets and in a baking pan.

They came out kind of square - which, when you think about it, makes more sense than round muffins. Much easier to store! And ohhhhhhhhh are they good! Perfect mix of tart and sweet, super moist without being soggy, and did I mention the smell? I may have eaten more than two.

While I was baking, I also had pinto beans simmering on the stove. I rinsed a bag of dried beans the night before, then soaked them overnight. In the morning I drained them, and covered them with water again. In the frying pan that I had made that sausage in earlier, I tossed the leftover onions from Saturday's burgers, a LOT of minced garlic (people who measure out garlic in teaspoons should stay out of the kitchen), and about a third of that bag of bacon ends and pieces that I forgot was in the freezer along with the cranberries and apple pulp. Cooked them enough to drive everyone in the house crazy with the smell, added some cumin to give everything this sickly yellow color, and stirred it all into the beans.

Again, they taste and smell better than they look. A lot better! I simmered them all day, adding water a few times when it got low, stirring every now and then. I'll can some, and serve the rest later this week with the leftover burgers.

Next up was this chocolate applesauce cake - sort of. I made muffins, not a cake. And I doubled the recipe. And I didn't make the topping, I just mixed a bag of chocolate chips right in. But, otherwise, it was exactly the same. (Note to self: Next time, try chocolate pudding mix instead of cocoa.)

S., of course, was a huge help once again. She especially likes to dump things in the bowl as I measure them out, and to help me operate the mixer.
No, I'm not completely crazy - look at the outlet.
M. deemed these "amazing", and ate enough to prove her sincerity.

They do look pretty yummy, don't they? And super moist - I love cooking with applesauce!

Unfortunately, by the time I finished baking these, I had exactly one muffin paper left. Not to mention, it was approximately 900 degrees in the kitchen by that point. I had plenty more preserves, but regretfully knocked off for the day. But there is a three-day weekend coming up...

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What We're Reading

This summer I thought I'd share what the kids - and I, when I have time - are reading, whether old or new books. If nothing else, it will help us keep track for the Summer Reading Program!

This week we kicked off with these picture books:

Gideon and Otto


LOVE all of Dunrea's books. Wouldn't the pictures make fantastic decorations for a nursery? In this one, young Gideon plays with his best friend, Otto the stuffed octopus - but then Otto is lost! The kids got a giggle out of the way Otto turns back up again. We have read "Where's My T-R-U-C-K" by Karen Beaumont a bajillion times this week, so another lost toy book fit in nicely.

Giant Children

J 811.54 BAGE

C., who is obsessed with all things Fly Guy right now, immediately recognized Tedd Arnold's illustrations. Some of the poems were a little over their heads, but they liked "Stinky Boys", and of course we all heartily approved of "The Princess and the Dragon".

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?


Okay, "The Pigeon Wants a Puppy" WAS my favorite Mo Willems, but this one just took its place! You just gotta love that pigeon.

Boy and Bot


I ordered this for the library after reading Amanda's review at A Patchwork of Books (she also reviews the Pigeon book in that post). She had me at "Dan Yaccarino", but it was also a fun read-aloud. These would also be great illustrations for a boy's room walls, don't you think? (I seem to be a bit obsessed with painting walls lately). A hit with all three kids.

That's what the kiddos are reading (and rereading) this weekend. Lots more to come!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

You're Turning How Old?

Daddy has a birthday this week. He is terribly happy about that. (Now, where did my sarcasm font go?) This is one of those birthdays that end in a zero, the ones that everyone else looks forward to a lot more than the person actually having the birthday!

Of COURSE we had a party, and we (M. and I) started planning it a couple months ago. It occurred to us that while fifty seems like a large number (a VERY large number), part of it is the zero, and zero is nothing.  So, if you think about it, Daddy is just turning five.

That made it 1967:

Year of great TV shows like Bonanza, Beverly Hillbillies, and Hogan's Heroes. Toys of choice included Silly Putty and GI Joe.

And Play-Do. Which makes for a colorful centerpiece.

Jiffy Pop makes a nice artistic statement as well.

The little ones got daddy a can of...

1960's favorite candies. I notice the cinnamon toothpicks have already disappeared. And no, he does not have to share with anyone.

He got both a cap gun and an airsoft gun.

He already has plans for this present, and a certain group of elk who won't leave the yard most mornings. (He throws sticks at them, and they go over and sniff the sticks. I am waiting for one of them to fetch the stick and bring it back to him.)

Of course, there were other, more useful presents.

It's camouflaged, so nobody can tell you're using one!

Recipes for people with no teeth.

S. was a big help opening gifts.

She helped make the burgers, too.

We also had a baked potato bar, with lots of fixin's.

You're right, I just like taking pictures of my 'new' kitchen.

L. was less than impressed by most of it. If he had known there was going to be ice cream, he would have woken up sooner - so, it's just as well that he slept!

S., on the other hand, decided that Cousin B. - who she absolutely loves - was suddenly the enemy. The whole time we were eating, she had a hissy fit if he so much as looked at her (literally - "Daddy!!! Somebody is looking at me!!!") She was munching on an onion and announced, "I like onions!" B. said, "I like onions too." S. gave him the stink-eye, put it back down, and announced, "I don't like onions." (It should be noted that, at naptime, B. was one of the first people she God-blessed.)

I can't believe I forgot to take a picture of the cake. World's easiest cake to decorate - Daddy prefers them plain, no frosting, just butter if it's hot out of the oven. I put out a can each of chocolate and vanilla frosting, so people could frost their own piece. For toppers, we usually choose whatever toys the kids like to play with, and everybody I asked - including Daddy - said he liked to play with the same thing when he was five. So, M. and S. went out and found a handful of sticks and rocks, and we washed them off, and plopped them on top. Done.

And the best part? It will be nine more years before my 50th birthday, and cousin M. didn't buy him enough memory pills to last that long. Happy birthday to my favorite guy, however old you may be:)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Painting and Pumpkins and Other Things That Don't Start with "P" - or, the Week in Review

This was supposed to be a weekend in review, but I was so busy, I didn't have time to post! That seems to be the story of my life, lately...and yet these nice publishers still keep sending me books to review. I'll get to those, I promise, but first things first:

The walls of my kitchen are off-white. Actually, all the walls in my house are off-white. I like neutral colors in general, but I also like dark colors for certain things - the living room carpet, for example. My clothes. Things that are likely to be dirty at any given time, but which I would like to project the illusion of being clean.
Things show up on light-colored walls. Handprints. Muddy-dog-tail-swishes. Food spatters from the stove or the slow cooker. Footprints. Footprints??? I'm not even asking. 
A short time ago, I was scrubbing the walls in the kitchen for the 8,942nd time since....Tuesday, and I had a thought (it happens.) Know what's easier than cleaning a wall? Painting the whole darn thing! And not all off-white, thank-you very much. I brought home some paint chips, and M. helped me pick a nice chocolate brown for the walls that get dirtiest. The other walls need freshening, and I've never been able to color match this particular sickly yellow-beige, so we got paint for them, too. Of course, if I'm painting the walls, I really should do the ceiling and cover the old leak stains:

And, as long as I'm doing the kitchen, it only makes sense to do the entryway too, right? (Isn't it amazing how quickly one little project snowballs?)

Of course, painting the kitchen means emptying out the kitchen first. I had Friday off, so I boxed up odds and ends, fixed a few things here and there, filled in some nail holes, and then sat looking at all the pumpkin, apple, and peach varieties I canned last year, and which will have to go back up again when I'm done.

Unless we spend the rest of the weekend baking!

Pumpkin first (because they ended up on top.) S. helped me make these pumpkin biscuits. I figured they would make a good on-the-go breakfast food, and should freeze well too, so I doubled the recipe.

See, she does wear clothes at home sometimes!

S. was a big help, counting teaspoons and tablespoons, dumping the cups of flour in as I measured them out, etc. She even made herself a special biscuit with the last of the scraps:

Boy, did they smell good baking! Daddy came home for lunch just as they came out of the oven, so we split a bunch open, slathered on butter and honey, and sat down to dig in.

They were terrible. S. took a bite and then sat there with her mouth open before letting it fall back out onto her plate. We didn't scold her, because by that time we were both reaching for our drinks. All you could taste was baking soda . SO disappointing! 

I can't blame the recipe, though - looking back, I think between doubling it and having 'assistance', I probably put in way too much. Sigh. I gave the rest of this batch to the dogs and chickens, and even they weren't thrilled - Emily, the golden retriever, just walked around with hers in her mouth, looking guilty, like I was punishing her for something. I may try the same recipe again when we have recovered.

After Daddy left, we moved on to these Pumpkin Streusel Muffins. S. thought we should alter the recipe slightly, and added more fiber while I went for the eggs.


I got lazy and didn't do the streusel topping. I also decided to just plop the cream cheese bits on top and give them half a stir.

Yum! The day has been redeemed! If I make these again, I think I will do them the exact same way, but mix some powdered sugar in with the cream cheese first.
By then it was nap time (just for S. and L., unfortunately), and I really am dying to get this kitchen done, so I thought, hey, why not start now?
World's. Shortest. Naps. Oh, THAT'S why.
The kids were actually very helpful while I tackled the ceiling. S. stationed herself on a chair in the middle of the kitchen and pointed out every single drip that dripped, ordering me to clean it up at once, and L. then crawled through each drip, smearing it across the floor with his knees. I was going to get a picture of his legs, but then he crawled across the carpet I had just steam cleaned, and which was still wet. See? Helpful all the way around.

Of course, even with help, the job can't be simple. Our ceilings are textured. I HATE painting textured ceilings. Especially when, instead of the paint going on, the texture comes off:

Oh, goody.
Enough for one day. I cleaned up in time for us to go to my mil's for dinner, which was especially great since my kitchen is now mostly in boxes in other rooms.

Saturday I worked, getting ready for the Summer Reading Program. Sunday we were all home, so we herded everyone outside and attacked the garage. After living here for three years, Daddy just about has a shop he can work in, and I can sort-of-see most of the things I have in storage. It helped that I decided to sell half of what is actually in storage (anybody want to buy a 14 foot table???) Fortunately, we got everything back into the garage before the clouds moved in. We had a little bit of weather in the evening:

Yay for Daddy, who played a quick round of automobile rodeo with our cars AND the fire truck that is parked here, getting everything to a relatively sheltered spot. Our garden actually survived this and another hailstorm the next day - some of our neighbors up here weren't so lucky:(

Monday and Tuesday were my last chances to take a full day off until August...and then we got the schedule for city budget meetings. Sigh. Monday at least was still clear, so I shipped the kids off to Grandma's, and started moving furniture and appliances.

This buffet was built to fit, and I mean to FIT. There was less than half an inch of a gap between the left side and the wall - and, of course, I wanted the gap to be on the other side, anyway, so I could run an extension cord down the side to the nearby outlet. It took a lot of wiggling back and forth, with M. helping me get it out, and Daddy helping me get it back in after I painted, but I now have that half inch where I want it. Who, me? Picky?

Totally worth it, though:

Happy sigh. I finished it all, stepped back, and thought...

I'm hungry. I need something...chocolate.
Daddy walked in right then, surveyed the wall, and announced, "I need coffee."

Oops. This may not have been the best color to have to walk past several times a day.

But doesn't it look nice?

See the latch on the cabinet? If you need help with that, S. can open it for you.

No, I am not showing you a before picture of the greasy wall. And I am ESPECIALLY not showing you pictures of what I found when I moved the washer, dryer, and refrigerator in the entry way. Why not? Go move your washer and look at the floor underneath. I'll wait.

'Nuff said?

I did have a few moments of, "Oh, so THAT's where that went!", along with some, "Huh - I didn't know this was open from the top", but mostly there was a whole lot of "Ew! EWWWW!!! Yuck!!! Somebody get me a rag! And some Lysol! And a stun gun!!!"

I had to buy more Lysol today.

And chocolate. Lots of chocolate.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

A Young Jedi Turns Six

C. turns six next week, and we had his party this weekend. He has been planning it for approximately 364 days, and while I have tried over the past year to steer it towards something various other themes, it became quite clear, quite early on, that this would be a Star Wars party. If you don't see any problem with that, you obviously do not have a child who is OBSESSED with said movie franchise. I mean, there was the near-incident at Halloween:

and the gift that brought Christmas to a screeching halt:

A book of ALL SIX Star Wars movies. He pretty much didn't want to open anything else after that. Until Grandma came over and gave him the first three movies. Um - thanks, Grandma.

Every stick, ruler, or other remotely oblong-shaped object immediately becomes a light saber. Little sister has been likewise infected:

Even L. has caught the light saber bug.

So, okay, Star Wars it is. At least it's easy to find related items...well, anywhere! And as a happy coincidence, C's birthday falls very close to National Star Wars Day, May 4 (May the Fourth Be With You - get it? Har.)

As any good Cakewrecks fan knows, the cake is the centerpiece of the theme. A fellow Mommy I ran into at Walmart (isn't that where all Mommies meet up?) suggested an R2D2 cake. That sounded simple enough three weeks ago, but as it got closer to the date, and as I started looking at all the lines and doohickies I would have to draw, I got less optimistic about the final outcome. Then I thought, hey, know what's WAY COOLER than R2D2? A light saber!

Okay, so it will never make a Sunday Sweets, but C. was happy with it.

Of course, we had to have utensils to eat it with:

And some 'real' food:

(Vader Tots not pictured, but I'll bet you can figure out what they looked like)

And then some other desserts:

You can find a million recipes for this by googling "birthday cake popcorn", but one word of warning: a couple of them suggest salting the popcorn first. This wasn't common, but when I saw it I thought, "hey, salty and sweet, I like kettle corn, I'll do that." Don't. Just don't. That was the foulest thing I have ever tasted - and I have eaten bugs! Just trust me on this one. I had to throw the entire first batch in the trash. The second was excellent, though:) The only thing I would do differently is have it scooped into individual cups for people to pick up, this was a little difficult to scoop out.

You can get these cute printables at Sandy Toes and Popsicles, a blog I need to add to my following list. We also had Yoda Soda - lemon-lime soda with green sherbet.

I used to plan activities for parties, but soon discovered the kids just want to run around and play. For today I just filled a trash can with water and squirt guns, and stationed it by the back door, then shooed them all out when they were finished eating. It didn't take long for them to coax big sister M. into joining the fun. She came out armed with an old dish soap bottle, which squirts much more water:

which doesn't help a whole lot when it's everyone vs. you!

S. picked up on how to operate the guns pretty quickly - and smuggled one inside to get all the grown-ups! And yes, that is a Halloween witch costume. I guess they can't say they weren't warned.

Smart kid, grabbing the high ground.

Puppy break!

The littlest ones stayed inside - this time, anyway. Baby A. here is one of L.'s special friends.

Couldn't you just gobble her up?

She feels the same way about L.

Then, presents!

Little bit of a Star Wars theme here, too.

I almost forgot we had hidden Star Wars Easter eggs (love after-holiday sales!), but M. reminded me, and everyone had fun hunting. This led to the 'discovery' of C's hide-out, and playing outside until we were dried off enough for our Moms to let us back in the car.

D. was the only non-family girl, but quite capable of holding her own!

Some other friends came by later, so C. got extra playtime while S. and L. crashed. Then we had another birthday party to go to in the evening, so it was a pretty entertaining day for everyone - and pretty tiring! Now it's time to rest. Or, work on the next party. Hmm...did I hear something about someone turning half a century soon?