In which Miss Molly feeds the masses.

We had our Fall Reading Finale last week, which was an all-out extravaganza! As you may recall, the Children’s Department did a One Town, One Book program focused around local Southington artist Ed Tuttle’s version of There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly. From September through November 20th, we had all kinds of programs that played on the book. The kids made nesting dolls and created their own stories to go with them, we had silly animal stories, we had ispy games, and drawing classes with the artist. You name it, it probably happened.

With such great programming happening throughout the fall months, we knew that the finale had to be something big. Something bold. Something we hadn’t done before. We decided to have separate programs for each of the age groups that our department serves.

For birth to 6 there was a puppet show/storytime. This included, not only a puppet show and several books, but songs, dancing, and a make-your-own bug craft.

For 7 and 8s, there was an art program centered around making spider fossils and  weaving bowls with yarn. Using clay, various sized and shaped spider toys, yarn, paper and their imaginations, the kids crafted and wove all manner of shapes and sized fossils and bowls.

The 9 to 12s made their own silent movie based around the book. They used our batch of iPads, a silent movie app, costumes, and their imaginations to recreate and reinterpret the book.  It was absolutely hilarious. If you feel so inclined, you can view the video on our facebook page.

And that left me. With my coworkers covering the all the normally served age groups, I wondered what I would do. How would I contribute? Was I just going to collect tickets, give money back, and hang out with the parents?

Then it hit me! The Parents. Who is always in our department without really being helped? The parents. Who dutifully schleps the wonderful children that we hold near and dear to our hearts to our programs each month? The parents! What better way to encourage their continued patronage, and thank them, than by doing something grown-up focused.

I decided, along with my department head, that doing dinner for the parents would be great. Not only would it be awesome to test my culinary chops, but it really fit, since all the other programs were happening simultaneously at 6:30. Aka dinner time.

In preparation, I created a sign up sheet so I would have a general number of how many to cook for. By the night of the dinner, I was planning on cooking for 20. Of course, one should always make a little extra, since you never know how hungry your group is going to be.

My menu: BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, homemade coleslaw, homemade mac n’cheese, and the New Zealand delicacy pavlova for dessert. I that week making my own BBQ sauce from scratch, planning the menu, the time needed to cook everything, lists of what I needed to get. I spent all of Thursday morning prepping, cooking, baking.

I ended up with 13 pounds of pulled pork, and lots of sides. I had the buns, I had some classic Sinatra playing to set the mood, the pavlova was resting, the fresh whipped cream was nicely peaked…I was ready.

The parents came down, grabbed plates and relaxed for about 30 minutes. I had about 13. So I definitely had enough food. Some people had seconds. Everyone had dessert. No one had ever eaten pavlova before. I am a firm believer. It’s wonderful and might be one of my favorite desserts. Ever.

As the program as a whole drew to a close, I realized I had a bunch more food left over. So, I went upstairs to see if anyone else wanted to have something to eat…and ended up feeding over 40 people.

It was wonderful. It was really unexpected. I had way too much food.

I still ended up sending people home with leftovers, and taking some home myself.

It was a fantastic experience; one that I would be happy to do again. Doing a food program specifically for parents, to give them a break from their busy schedules, was really rewarding. I could see them taking a break, not having to worry about anything for 40 minutes. I think it was really great that we are acknowledging the people who are so important to our having a successful programs at the library. If the parents don’t bring their kids to the library, we have no participants for programs.

I just think it’s important to let parents know that we value them, too.

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