JANESVILLE—Mashed potatoes are complicated.
Pies are delicious.
And first-graders are thankful for a surprising variety of things.
The week before Thanksgiving, The Gazette sat down with first-graders from Madison Elementary School in Janesville and talked with them about the upcoming holiday.
When we asked kids to name three things they were thankful for, we expected that the first two answers would be "family and friends."
But it didn't always work out that way.
Sophie Krafjack, 7, said she was thankful for "the world, animals and my health."
Her health? Really? Thinking the poor child might have a sick family member, we asked her why she picked those things.
"I don't know," Sophie said cheerfully.
Her friend Makayla Colby, also 7, is especially grateful for her teacher.
"She's really nice," Makayla said. "She helps me when I need help."
William Ballinger, 6, said he was thankful for "veterans, my house, family and friends." He's also grateful for "the Army for saving our country" and "buildings that keep us safe during the war." It was unclear what he meant about safe buildings.
One of William's uncles, Noah Bollerud, is in the Marines.
The last three students we interviewed had a strange affection for helping others. It seemed contagious.
When asked what she was thankful for, Kaytlinn Swenson, 6, said, "I like helping on Thanksgiving and cleaning up and then going to bed."
Zoee Haines, 6, said she was thankful that she could help her grandma make pies on Thanksgiving.
And Bowie Ueland, 6, said he was thankful for "helping my mom with the food, helping decorate and helping to clean up."
Parents, start putting those kids to work.
Plenty of kids said they helped with cooking, even if they weren't sure about the recipes.
Layton Phillips, 7, helps with measuring.
"I keep an eye on the turkey so it doesn't burn," Layton said.
Layton and William didn't have much experience making pies, but they offered this pumpkin pie recipe, taking turns to answer. Or maybe they took turns interrupting. Either way, it was a friendly conversation. It went like this:
Layton: "You take seeds, and you cook them, and then you take the the flesh..."
William: "Then you take the flesh..."
Layton: "And then you wash..."
William: "The flesh is an important part; that's what makes pie."
Mashed potatoes required more steps.
Bowie didn't help with Thanksgiving last year because he was too little. This year, he planned to help.
His mashed potatoes recipe: Shave the outside of the potatoes. Use a potato crusher on them and squish them.
"Then I would put some salt on them," Bowie said.
Ah, yes, don't forget the salt.
Sophie's recipe for mashed potatoes was easy, too: "Take the skins off, put them in the Crock Pot, then blend them up and put butter on them and put them in bowls."
Sophie declared that if she could have anything she wanted for Thanksgiving dessert, it would be ice cream.
Zoee's Thanksgiving will be a little different this year.
"My dad's mom always baked the Thanksgiving breakfast, and my grandma always bakes the dinner, but this time my dad's mom died, so he's going to make the breakfast," Zoee explained.
What will you have?
"We usually have, like, pie and pancakes," Zoee said.