Monday, August 22, 2011

Lovely, Love My Family

Things are settling in nicely here with the nieces being here after school.  The first week was a bit of an adjustment-testing boundaries, convincing the Little Dude that he has to share with even more kids, the usual.  But it's brought a surprising amount of love into our home, which was something I didn't really think would happen.  My nieces are very open in showing each other love, and it spills over to me, the LD, and the other boy I babysit.  They'll pull they boys onto their laps for hugs and kisses, play with them, and generally make a happy mess.  One activity we did today that the older and younger kids all had fun with was finger painting with shaving cream.  Sometimes, we'll use paper and color, but today we just spread it out onto the train table and let everyone get to it.

I knew from previous experience that I'd have to stay on my toes with activities for all the kids, and that's been a challenge for me.  Things that will engage the 2- and 3-year-olds won't do the trick for the 10 year olds.  Fortunately, they have come up with some great ideas.  The older girls are convinced that I'm going to teach them to cook!  So we've been working on some basics, as well as actually giving them some experience with an oven.  They've learned how to use a knife, how to measure, how to sift, and they've gotten a healthy dose of respect for a hot oven.  So, to let them test their skills, the 4 girls all chipped in to make homemade pizzas for a large family dinner.  For the dough, we used a recipe from Once A Month Mom.

2 3/4 c. lukewarm water
1.5 T. granulated active yeast
1.5 T. kosher salt
1 T. sugar
1/4 c. olive oil
6 1/2 c. flour.  I used whole wheat flour for the dough.  Mix the yeast, salt, sugar, and olive oil with the water in a large bowl.  I let my littlest niece, who is 3, pour in and stir the ingredients.  Next, mix in the flour without kneading, using a wooden spoon.  Leaving the dough in the bowl, cover with a towel and let it sit for 2 hours.  At this point, you can either use the dough immediately, or you can refrigerate it for 4 hours, then separate into individual portions (we got 3 medium pizzas out of this batch), wrap it with plastic wrap or parchment paper, place into freezer bags, and freeze them.  If you choose to use the dough immediately, preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Grease your pan, press out the dough and top with whatever you choose.  Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the crust and toppings are golden.  If you want to use frozen dough, thaw it in the fridge, dust it with flour, then roll or press it for your crust.  The older girls prepared all the toppings, including chopping up tomatoes and peppers, as well as putting on the saucy pepperoni, etc.  They all really liked cooking it, and they really liked eating it!  The crust got a thumbs up from everyone involved, and it was really easy to work with.

But, more than the food, or the messy projects, I think the kids (and the parents) are enjoying our increased closeness the most.  The title seems very appropriate, especially since it's from a song by The Roots that appeared in Yo Gabba Gabba, a favorite show of my 3 youngest charges.  Enjoy!

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