Thursday, March 29, 2012

Three Ghost Friends and Eric VanRaepenbusch celebrated on Happy Birthday Author

Hi Happy Birthday Author readers! I’m Colleen Kessler, from Raising Lifelong Learners, and I am SO excited to be guest posting about a VERY special birthday today:

Happy Birthday to author 

Yes… today is the birthday of your {usual} blog host, Eric. My kids and I wanted to celebrate HIM, so we *cooked* up a special birthday celebration for one of our favorite bloggers, a talented author, and someone I consider a great friend…

Eric’s sweet books, featuring THREE GHOST FRIENDS are available from iTunes for iPad, iPod Touch, and iPhone. While we have a used iPad coming to us, it hasn’t arrived yet, but that didn’t matter – my kids loved reading the books on both my phone and iTouch. Logan (2) said, “Do it again!” every time I finished a reading {and we read… and read… and read… and read… and… well, you get the picture}!

In the first book, Three Ghost Friends Learn about Colors, three ghosts eat fruit and change color. When they start dancing and playing, some unexpected consequences occur – they squish together, mixing primary colors and creating secondary colors. The book is super-silly and Trevor’s favorite of the two.

The second book, Three Ghost Friends Learn about Opposites, features the same three quirky ghosts acting out familiar opposites. Molly loved this one! Logan… well, she liked them both equally, and has discovered how to access iBook on my phone, and she keeps disappearing with the ghosts.

Readers of this blog are very familiar with Eric’s love of children’s literature, but he wasn’t always into books… in fact, he was a pretty reluctant reader when he was young. Reading was tough for him, and he was embarrassed to read aloud (sounds like a certain nine year old I homeschool…), but he eventually discovered fun books by Dr. Seuss, Remy Charlip, Judi Barrett, and moved onto Choose Your Own Adventure Stories. In high school, he became discouraged again as he wasn’t at all interested in the assigned books.

He finally got excited about reading again once he took a children’s literature class in college. Rediscovering favorite picture book authors like Richard Scarry, and finding new ones like Ezra Jack Keats and Faith Ringgold reignited his enjoyment of children’s books, and he’s found great ways to incorporate that love in all he does.

Eric taught special education, and used the hook of celebrating authors’ birthdays to get his students reading… who can pass up a good birthday celebration? Not this family…

…so yesterday we headed over to Eric’s to combine our love of hands-on science with his love of picture books, and created an author birthday celebration both sets of kids {seven in all!} won’t forget… the adults had a good time, too!

When we got there, we spent some time getting to know the newest little Van Raepenbusch – super sweet and only SIX days old!! Isn’t she just the sweetest little thing you’ever seen…

And… while I was tempted to hand over the project materials and hide out in a corner to nuzzle and coo, and kiss little fingers and toes, I pulled myself together and headed to round up the rest of the brood. With my “let’s do science!” cry, boxes of My little Ponies and *ahem* a warehouse of Star Wars action figures and ships were abandoned and the troops headed upstairs to destroy Eric’s dining room mix some colors. {a side-note for Eric… I just need to know when I can drop Trevor off for awhile to play. He knows we’ll never have a Star Wars collection that can even touch yours (I mean your son’s), and ours just isn’t good enough now that he’s seen the Holy Grail of action figures. I think if he stays with you for a week or two, he’ll be ready to visit us again… If he’s any trouble, just set your bees on him.)

As the ghosts in Three Ghost Friends Learn about Colors play with primary and secondary colors, we decided to as well. We used:

  • Color Changing Tablets – these are great for science experiments and sensory play because they’re designed for the bathtub so they are safe, non-toxic, non-staining, and they fizz in a fun way as they dissolve
  • Four clear cups per child
  • Water
  • A bowl for dumping color after they’ve been mixed
  • Medicine syringes, droppers, pipettes, etc. I got mine from CVS by telling my pharmacist I needed them to do science activities with kids… I have a lot now!

Then we set them up by giving them three cups with water, an empty one, three color-changing tablets (red, blue, yellow) and a syringe:

We told each kiddo to put their tablets in their water cups – one in each – and watch what happened:

Next, they mixed red and blue together:

We asked questions like, what color did you get (purple), how could you make the purple lighter (adding red), and then told them to try it out:

Finally, we asked them to dump their purple and try mixing other combinations. And then we stepped back… It’s amazing the magic that happens when you let kids explore their world.

Eric’s older son worked on making black, his younger one wanted more and more color {and splattered it all over his cute little face in the process}, his daughter was methodical and mixed and dumped, mixed and dumped. My kids tried very different things, too. Trevor played with the streams of water coming out of the syringe to see the difference as he shot it close to and far from his cups. Molly worked on “squirt-dyeing” her paper towel, and Logan poured colored water back and forth from cup to cup. The same materials… six kids… six different experiences…

Once experiment/exploration/playtime was done, it was time to clean up for cake! And, since Trevor loves to bake, and I love playing around with cake decorating, and we love Eric, we decided to replicate his adorable ghost as a three-dimensional ghost cake. It turned out FABULOUS! And… I think Eric liked it. His younger son, whose love of ghosts was the inspiration for the books, was fascinated by the cake. To complete the theme, Molly, Trevor, and I dyed the three layers different primary colors. {Come visit us on our blog sometime next week for a tutorial on how to make a ghost cake of your own!}

What do YOU think? Did Eric and his kids like it:

And while this was a fun celebration and a great way to kick off a new year for Eric – a year older, a sweet new baby, TWO books launched, a “blog party,” and a big mess – he’s been blessed with a lifetime of great birthday memories. Here are some in his own words:

“When I was younger, my family always recognized birthdays with a party — grandmas and grandpas, uncles and aunts, and cousins came together with my mom, dad, and sister. My immediate and extended family has always been and continues to be very generous with gifts and for this I am very thankful.

In addition to the tradition of getting together with family, I have had a few birthdays that stick out in my mind.  I remember my first party with school friends that was held at McDonalds. I can remember enjoying the party games including dropping clothespins in a jar.  I remember my 21st birthday when my father fulfilled a promise to take me to Las Vegas.  He had said for many years that he would take me there once I was legal gambling age.  I didn’t win any money but I had an unforgettable trip with my dad.

Lastly, I remember my first surprise birthday party.  I was in college and I had just started dating a lovely gal (who I ended up marrying).  We went to a movie and then headed over to Chi Chi’s Restaurant.  When I arrived, she had reserved a party room and all my friends from school were there!  I even got to wear a sombrero!  

I need to take this moment and tell my whole family that I love them very much and thank you for all the great birthday memories!”

Eric, thank you for welcoming us into your home yesterday, for becoming such a great friend in such a short time, for the inspiration you’ve blessed me with, and for trusting me with this baby – your blog. I hope this is your best year yet. I’m so proud to have been able to celebrate YOUR birthday…


Colleen Kessler is a homeschooling mom to three highly gifted kiddos and is passionate about hands-on learning, fun, and exploration. She is the author of seven books for teachers including “FREE Resources for Elementary Teachers” released this week from Prufrock Press, seven books for kids, and lots of other classroom and educational materials. She spends her free time playing with her kids, launching rockets, hunting for salamanders, dreaming up new activities to try, and blogging about life, learning, and kids at:

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