Archive for the ‘Motherhood’ Category

Ruffles from plastic tablecloths?  Yep.  Easy and darling.  Here’s how I made them for our Activity Day Mother-Daughter Dinner Recognition Night (click here and here for more info).  I saw this tutorial and decided to try it out.  However, instead of needing my ruffles to run down the center of long tables, I wanted them to travel in a circle around the centerpiece of each round table.  This required some adjusting of the instructions.

These took about an hour to create.  I made 8 ruffles in that time.  They were the last thing on my list and after a crazy week, I wasn’t sure if they were going to get done.  After setting up for the evening I had about an hour to run home and make dinner.  Instead of slaving at the stove I decided to see if I could get these done in time.  I did.  And aren’t you glad?  They turned out really cute and were the finishing touch on an already great-looking party.  Give them a try!  They were worth serving PBJs for dinner.

First, cut down the length of a long rectangle plastic tablecloth.  Create 4 strips, all the same width.  I used the fold marks as a guide and it was very easy.  Fold one strip over lengthwise so that you have two layers of plastic, one about 2″ shorter than the other.  This will create your layered ruffle look.

Sew a gathering stitch (longest that you can on your machine) about 1/2″ from the fold.  This stitch will go through both layers.

After stitched along the entire length of the plastic, tie the threads at one end together in a knot.  This will secure the ends so you don’t pull the thread all the way through, leaving you without any stitching.  Next, take one thread from the other end of your plastic and pull gently.  It should start to gather your plastic.  Carefully use your fingers to shift the gathering down the length of your plastic ruffle, spreading out the gathering evenly as you go.  Pull it as gathered as you need it.  I based mine on how large I needed my circle to be.  Gather your ruffle to the length you need it to be and tie off the ends of the string.  Trim threads.

You’re done!  Now you just need a party!  Use these ruffles as centerpiece runners, swag them from tables or walls or other decor to create backdrops.  Attach them to edges of tables or doorways for a fabulous trim.  Whatever.  The possibilities really are endless!  I’m thinking they would look great this weekend at your Memorial Day BBQs.  Enjoy!

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I have lots to share, though so I need to get to it.  Today, enjoy the first installment of our mother-daughter Activity Day Recognition Night.  Seriously, this thing was put together 92% with the Silhouette.  It should be a commercial.

(Click here for Part 2 and here for Part 3 of this activity.)

download jpeg of invite – blank (I used Copperplate Gothic font)

Overview of the evening:
(Click here for Part 2 and here for Part 3 of this activity.)

Click on the following image to download a large jpeg of the logo.

Happily Ever After Circles

Theme: Your Happily Ever After (based on speech given by Dieter Uchdorf here) leading to a focus on PRINCESSES.  Could there be anything better for 8-11 year-old girls?  As you will see, there is not.

Food was involved…salad, yummy biscuits, skewered fruit and daughter-served brownie sundaes.  But I wasn’t in charge of that part and happily put it out of my mind.  Give me the assignment for decorations any day.

Note: If I were doing this activity again, I would skip the dinner and replace that time with a more hands-on learning activity (relating to President Uchtdorf’s talk) and an opportunity for the girls to share their learning about the gospel with their mothers.  Either way is great but after doing activities for the last 2 years, that is something I would have done a little differently now.


(photoshoot as arriving)


Dinner (girls served moms and brought dishes to kitchen before picking up desserts)

Message & Recognition of Activities Girls had done over the last 6 months


Concluding Remarks & Clean Up


1. Cake Stands – a staple in throwing parties and can be used for everything, not just food display.

I used my pink, aqua, lime, yellow and white cake stands (made with a little epoxy attaching a candlestick or dessert glass to the bottom of a plate and spray painting the entire thing with 2X Rustoleum paint) as the centerpieces because….well, because it’s spring and they are little girls and we were doing princess stuff and…it’s what I already had.

2. Mason Jars with Colored Daisies 

Believe me when I tell you that you only need one flower per table to make it work.  Especially when you add a couple of skinny-doweled Silhouette cut-outs to portray the theme.  For me, it meant a crown and a “Your Happily Ever After” label card.  Wrap them loosely in tissue paper to keep them in place and to hide the ends.  Cost: about $1 if you shop sales for the daisies.

click here to download the smaller logo that we used in the layered centerpiece picks

3.  Plastic Tablecloth Ruffles

I saw this idea for creating a table runner using a plastic tablecloth and adapted it to work on a round table.  Click for tutorial here.  Perfect for anchoring the centerpiece on these large tables and making the whole thing look and feel more rich than it cost.  You get 4 ruffles from each plastic tablecloth = that means 25 cents each.  Plus, the ruffles look great draped at the top of my shutter backdrop.

4.  Plastic Tablecloth Chair Bows

I’m sure you have seen these before but they must be done.  An inexpensive way to add flair to ordinary folding chairs and to make the whole place feel like a celebration.  Just cut down the length of a long plastic table cloth (we used the fold lines as guides) and you get 8 strips for bows.  12.5 cents each.

5.  Candy Jars

I’ll post about these in just a bit and give you a quick tutorial but what I will say here is that the girls made these darling candy jars in the activity before our event with the intention of using them as our primary decoration at the Recognition Night.  Click here for instructions.  Personalized, filled with purpose, and the perfect way to reinforce the message of the evening.  More coming on what I mean by that.  These are not your ordinary candy jar.  But let me tell you that the impact of the girls walking into the night with their mothers and seeing their work looking so perfectly lovely and enticing was a highlight of the evening.

6.  Supplies for Craft

Part of our evening included a take-away craft that each girl got to create with their mothers.  After cutting a 2″x6″ board into 6″ blocks, painting and sanding them, they were ready for the night.  Our partners were in charge of that part (bless them) and I tackled 28 sets of vinyl lettering on the Silhouette.  The vinyl shapes are available in my Silhouette store.  Click here for the princess and crown.  Click here for daughter of a heavenly king.  I added some Staz-On ink to the vinyl edges to create a distressed look but it really didn’t need it.  Plain or distressed – it looked great either way. The girls added a little rhinestone bling to their blocks and got to take them home as well to remind them of who they are and why they are here.

Here’s the thing, though.  I like everything to have purpose.  So, I designed the craft supplies to be part of the actual centerpieces of the table.  Large shallow bowls that held the vinyl, craft sticks for rubbing, and rhinestones rested on a cake stand.  Wood blocks were loving tucked under another pedestal and the ruffled tablecloth surrounded the entire thing.  It looked great and there was no time wasted on handing out supplies.  Efficient and beautiful.  The perfect party.

7.  Photo Booth

You first saw my photo booth at Cole’s superhero party and here it makes an appearance so that we could snap a quick pic of each mother with their daughter (probably to be used at a future activity….still working on the exact project idea).  Invites told them that they could come dressed as princesses or in coordinating outfits if they chose.  DARLING!  Some of them really got into it and only added to the feeling of celebration.  Seriously, do this every year, Kolette.

8.  Scallop Wrapping Paper Placemats

The Silhouette didn’t fail me as I cut out a slew of 12″ scalloped circles from a roll of wrapping paper.  I cut it into squares first then used two mats to keep the assembly line going as I cut out all the cute scallops.  We mixed and matched napkins and paper cup colors to keep it all random but coordinating.  They looked great with the green polka-dot placemats.

See, I told you that the Silhouette played a big role in pulling off this evening!  We were so happy to see all the mothers embracing the evening and making it special for each of their daughters.  Whether they dressed alike or worked side by side to complete the craft, it was a beautiful evening of sharing one-on-one time with some of the most important people in their lives.  Thank you mothers!

Click here for Part II and here for Part III of this activity.

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I’ve made about 30 cake stands using this technique so when the idea of creating candy jars doing the same thing, it was a quick yes from me.  You’ll see the cake stands used as the decor in so many of my events and parties because they are super versatile.  Click here for a quick list of how to create them.  Today I’ll tell you how I made our candy jars for our Activity Day Recognition Night.  These are great for any occasion, event, or gift-giving need.  Grad gifts?  Sure. Father’s Day?  Why not?  Just change out the tag, fill it with a favorite treat or small item and it will work for any person or event.

Here’s How:

1.  Gather supplies.

  • candlestick (I purchased mine at Dollar Tree and they can also be ordered here in cases of 12 and delivered to your store for free.)
  • jar with wide mouth lid (Also purchased at a dollar store with squishy veggies inside.  Those got dumped, jars were washed and labels removed.)
  • Rustoleum 2X Coverage spray paint
  • quick-drying epoxy (Gorilla or Hammerhead)
  • E6000
  • small wood drawer pull or wood knob (found at Hobby Lobby for less than $.10 each)
  • ribbon and tag (optional)
  • candy or other treat
  • written notes (optional)
  • tag – jpeg download click here (you can add your own name to the space)

2.  Clean jars.  I chose a short, squatty jar and tall skinny one for variation.  I also tested them to make sure I could get the labels off easily since I was doing so many.  Plus, the lids needed to not stink after washing (so no pickle jars for me).

3.  Attach knob or drawer pull to lid with E6000 (can also use epoxy for quick-drying).  Note: knobs are not meant to be pulled on when opening.  To make them more sturdy, consider nailing a small nail through the lid and into the knob after attaching.

4.  Spray paint candlestick and lid with knob.  Spray lightly in multiple coats for the smoothest coverage.  Be sure to get in all the nooks and crannies.  Dry completely.

5.  Attach candlestick to bottom of jar using quick-dry epoxy or E6000.

6.  Add ribbon and tag.  Fill with candy, nuts, or other treats and treasures.

If you look closely, you’ll see that I used Double Bubble Gum for this project.  To create even more connection to the event, we took excerpts from the message of the evening and little tasks that we wanted the girls to do supporting the idea of their “Happily Ever After” and typed them out onto white paper.  We cut them into strips and had each girl wrap a piece of gum with a strip of paper, attaching one end with scotch tape to the gum then rolling it up and attaching it with another piece of tape.

The girls took their candy jars home that night and were encouraged to take one piece of candy each day, unwrap the task, do it or think about the message while they enjoyed their treat.  Our jars fit about 18 pieces of candy.  This was a great way to take the message home with them and reinforce the principles for over two weeks.  If you are giving these as a gift, consider wrapping each candy with a message of why you admire that person, favorite memories, or reasons why you love them.  Click on the image below to get a pdf of our messages.

If you are using the actual creating of these jars as an activity like we did, plan on having the knobs already attached to the lids and the candlesticks and lids pre-painted so they are dry.  You can have them clean their own jars if you want but we washed them ahead of time and soaked them to remove the labels.  The girls got to choose the type of jar they wanted and the color as well.  They also assembled their tags and tied the ribbon.  Finally, they wrapped each candy in a strip of paper.  Everyone was finished with theirs as well as completing the ones for absent girls within an hour.  We had them keep their jars with us and the next time they saw them it was looking so fabulous at the dinner a few weeks later.

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Honestly, blogging has not really crossed my mind over the last few weeks.  Between crazy work deadlines and beautiful spring weather (i.e. yanking out all the yard muck accumulated over the winter and endless bike rides with a new training-wheeled 3-year-old and his friends), time has vanished into thin air.  I’ve had my Silhouette maxed out on cutting…over the course of two days it ran for no less than 16 hours and went through three blades.  Although I did figure out that a little scotch tape on the back of my nicked mat will give it at least 30 more cutting assignments to conquer.  Good to know.

With spring comes the time to clean out my closet.  I do this a couple times a year and have no problem generously tossing things that I need to move on from but this year it’s different.  Last week was the two-year mark of when pancreatitis struck the Hall family.  It’s taken this long to get back on track.  Throughout the course of the last two years my body has been through the ringer.  I went from gaining 60 pounds of water the first week to being fed through a tube in my arm for months and turning into a human skeleton.  I am finally back to a “normal” weight for me but after multiple surgeries I still have a strange little belly that won’t be taken care of until I decide to do a full tummy tuck in the future.  Since I’m not ready for anyone to go digging around my tummy for a while, this will have to wait.

In the meantime, the way that I have gained my weight back is different than I used to gain weight.  It’s landed in different places that it did before.  Needless to say, I’m totally confused about how to deal with my new body, lumps and bumps and all.  I have a happy life but if I can make something in it a little more beautiful, I will.  Right now, that something is my new body.

So, I decided to call in a specialist.  Tressa is a local personal stylist who, after a lengthy questionnaire, all kinds of measurements, endless rummaging through my closet and a few tears on my part, empowered me with tools for dressing my new body in a way that helped me look my best.  It’s been like What Not to Wear but better because she is also a realist – she let me keep my Athleta pants but just helped me figure out how to make them look a little more put together.  Let’s face it.  I’m a mom. I work from home. I’m not going to dress like I’m going to the office when I’m sitting at my computer or chasing after a little one all day. That’s my reality.  But can I at least look a little better while doing those things?  Yes.

I’ve been spending a lot of time on this project.  Learning.  Marking up my Personal Style Solutions book with all of the things that work “great” for me so that I know exactly where the pockets should land on a shirt or what types of fabric are best for my body. Hence the closet-purging.  Piles were sent to the thrift store or to other people that would look better in them than on me.

And it was freeing.  I am now replacing things step by step with items that work.  Work for me.  I’m figuring out places I can shop (thank you Boden) to be most successful and how to analyze clothes before I even try them on.  My closet is now full of colors I didn’t realize were best for me and being a color girl, I love it.  Since I hate shopping and going to the mall overwhelms me, I have ordered entire stores online (free shipping and returns are a must), tried them on at home and sent three-fourths of it back.  But I feel confident with the things that make the cut.  Come on.  This is cute.  And it actually looks really good on me – Ocean and French Blue now live in my closet.

Once I receive a couple more packages this week I will be setting up another appointment with Tressa to go over what I think I should keep and get a second opinion on my choices and altering needs.  But really I just want to show off some stuff and let her know that I’ve learned something.  I’ve always been a teacher-pleaser that way.

Do I love my strange-shaped belly?  No.  But it’s who I am and at least I don’t dread trying to dress it now.  I love myself and my life, bumps and all.  This is just one way that I can empower myself to make my “place,” my new body, beautiful.  I’m embracing the lovely, colorful, comfortable journey.

Happy closet cleaning – you’ll thank me once you get the job done.

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Cole’s birthday is the end of January.  I’ve always felt like that time period was sort of the black hole of holiday decor.  After the Christmas things are put away you can hurry and put up some Valentine items but then I end up taking those down almost by the time I get them up.  I’ve decided to do a little bit of “winter” decorating that can last from Christmas through March – stuff about snow and snowmen – and that helps during the awkward January weeks.

But this year I went all out for Cole’s birthday (click here for a reminder of the superhero party).  I wanted to make a wreath for our front door to welcome our guests to the event.  It was pretty simple to wrap wide red ribbon around a straw wreath and add some laminated printables to it.  But it still took time.  And money.  And I didn’t want it to go to waste on just one event, one day.

So, I left it up.  For about a month.  Everyone who came to our house knew that Cole had a birthday and the festivities continued with happy wishes and lots of chances to show off three fingers instead of two when asked how old he was.

I then made a decision.  Post-Christmas seasonal decor is going to be birthday decor at the Hall house.  I’ll be making a Happy Birthday banner for next year that we can pull out for Jason’s birthday on December 26 and leave up till mine in March.  Why not?  Why mess around with valentines and hearts when what I really want to celebrate is our family and each person in it?  I have my eye on adapting this one to become a birthday banner.

Since then, I have noticed others who are jumping on to this trend.  Here’s my neighbor’s birthday wreath made from balloons.  It goes up for every birthday that happens in their house.  You can find all kinds of tutorials on the internet for this thing – here’s one and another.

And here is how my sister chooses to decorate her kitchen island whenever there is a birthday in their family.  March is a big month with three different people getting highlighted and celebrated all month long.  Gathering a few photos of the person’s life, creating a little sign that says when their birthday is and you’re done.  Now, everyone who comes to her home is connected to the birthday person.

Isn’t that what birthdays are all about?  Connecting.  Celebrating.  Letting someone shine and feel loved.  What better way to do this than to shout to the world that someone you love is having a birthday?  I don’t care how old you get and how much you complain about another birthday adding to your age – everyone wants to feel special.  Consider replacing or adding to your seasonal decor with the most important holidays of all – celebrating the ones you love on their birthday.

Happy birthday to all of us!

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Red Stamp Love

Just sent my first card from my Red Stamp app.  It took me about 3 minutes and was so much more lovely than just forwarding a pic.  I sent it to Jason – who was sitting right next to me while we watched TV.  That way I could participate in the sending and the receiving of the card.  Because that’s what happens when you have one child to focus all of your energy on.  You become a little obsessed in sharing the wonderfulness of that child.

Love this photo.  Love this kid.  What happened to our chubby baby?  I’m so grateful that I believed people when they told me that the time goes so fast.  I try not to wish away even the annoying or frustrating or maddening parts – even when they are annoying and frustrating and maddening.  I admit that I want to hold on to each moment, each stage forever.

This instagram will have to do it for me.

What are you capturing today?

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I used to teach elementary school.  Sometimes life offers up twists and turns that you feel like you are supposed to take until you find yourself in a place that you never imagined but is exactly where you are supposed to be at that time.  That’s how I became a licensed designer.  When I first started my scrapbooking company, we specialized in photo organization.  I had a team of people and we would help a client take their boxes and drawers of photos and organize them.  Sometimes they just wanted everything stored in folders or envelopes.  Sometimes they wanted everything scrapbooked.  We helped them with whatever they decided they wanted to have done at that time.

I started offering 8″x8″ mini-albums with specific themes.  This helped clients to focus on an event or birthday instead of trying to tackle all of the years of memories they had stored.  I asked each client to choose various phrases or quotes that they wanted to accompany their photos in these albums.  Many of the quotes came from lists that I gave them with one of their own put in here or there.  I realized that I had a knack for finding just the right words for different photos.

I took this skill with me throughout my scrapbooking career.  One of our first products that we manufactured years ago were 12″x12″ vellum sheets with various quotes printed on them.  We were the first to do this and the industry picked it up and ran with it.  Now you can find quotes on just about anything.  I believe that it is because of one simple reason – the beauty of a good quote will tell you what you feel or think or wish in words that we may not be able to pen ourselves.

I haven’t created a lot of quotes or phrases for the Silhouette store yet so I decided to go back to my roots this week and give you some.  Click on each image to find them in my store.  A few have to do with Easter like these:

Pair these next two files together by creating a carrot patch of three carrots where the last carrot has a bite taken out of it.  Then add the word “yum” to the end of your patch for a darling springtime decoration or card.  You can layer the carrots or not for a two-toned look.  Everything is included in one file in my store.

The rest are more applicable to living everyday life.  Many would make fabulous wall art.  Just cut it out with vellum and attach it directly to a wall or door.  Or mount them on wood, sheet metal or anything else you can come up with for beautiful but simple home decor.  Did I mention they would look great on cards or framed?  Sure.  Go for it.

Finally, don’t look Grandmas! This one is in plenty of time for Mother’s Day.  My own little Cole has lots of friends and many people who love him and he loves them right back.  But his cousin Claire is three months younger than him and they are like two little peas in a pod.  They get to Grandma’s house and are each other’s shadow as they run and play and laugh.  I hope they stay like that forever.  To celebrate the relationships we develop as cousins, I have created this file.  It comes with each line joined or separate so that you can layer the words if you choose.  I think that’s what I am going to do.  I haven’t decided quite yet.

Enjoy the green peeking through the ground during this time of year.  We’ll probably get another snow but for now we are basking in the sunshine with short-sleeved shirts and buds on the trees.  Happy Spring!

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I’m here sitting by the pool with the sun shining down and a pile of books loaded on my Kindle.  What could be better than that for the birthday girl?  I find myself settling into my vacation – physically, mentally, emotionally letting go of stresses or deadlines, lists of things to do and not enough sleep to make it happen.  That gentle easing of the mind and body that happens when you have the chance to let go for a minute.

Someone said to me before I left, “You deserve a good break!”  After almost two years of battling back to reasonable health and some sense of normal life, that is probably true.  But I find myself today thinking about that idea of getting a break and I’ve decided that it doesn’t really describe how I feel about my vacation.

After waiting for 16 years to have our little Cole, you can imagine my desire to savor every second of motherhood.  That doesn’t mean that I love every second of it.  It simply means that I don’t want to miss a thing.  This is my one and only chance to watch a little person develop and to have a hand in the process.  The changes and stages fascinate me as I witness someone grow before my very eyes.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get tired.  I do.  You already know this.  However, I’d rather describe this week away from responsibilities as something other than “a break” from motherhood.  A break seems like such a harsh word with its jagged edges and severed pieces.  I’m thinking of it more as a little rest – with my heart still attached to the ones I love across an ocean of miles.  I want to reach out and touch my boys with one finger, just to make sure they are still there.  Still a part of me.  Still my life.

When I was in the throes of recovery from my pancreatitis, I couldn’t lift Cole.  I also couldn’t hold him near me because of the risk of elbows and knees and hands bumping my swollen belly.  When I was able to start holding him, he would have to climb up onto the chair or sofa next to me.  One day I was trying to put him down for a nap.  He usually goes right down without any fuss but this day he exercised his independence to let me know that in bed was not where he wanted to be.  As he wailed both verbally and physically in my lap, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to make it through that moment.  His wrestling hurt my belly and I didn’t have the strength to fight the wiggles.

I remember joining him as he cried, both of us with tears running down our cheeks.  Him wanting anything other than a nap and me just wanting it to stop.  I cried as I spoke softly to him, “Cole, please.  Mommy can’t do this.  I need your help.  Please help mommy.”  His 18-month-old mind didn’t understand.  And I wish I could say that a special miracle happened and he settled right down simply because we both needed him to.  But he didn’t.  He kept wiggling as I kept praying and we both kept crying.  Finally I had to just put him in bed and walk away.  He fell asleep soon after and we both took a nap.

Motherhood is stressful.  It’s tiring and taxing.  But even in the worst moments of my illness I have never wanted to give it up.  I have never wanted to make that break from this child of my heart.  But I have wanted to rest.  Needed to rest.  We all need to rest.  From whatever fills our days – whether it’s work or a spouse or children or not.  We all need to take moments where we can sink into a state of peacefulness and let go of some of the stresses that make up daily life.

You deserve a rest today.  Or at least in the near future.  I hope to return home with even more love in my heart and more strength to carry out that love.  Just a little rest.  Enjoy it.  I’m loving mine.

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It’s winter.  Last week Cole was cooped up in the house with a nasty cold – which means no friends could come over to break up the day.  And the television was on way too much.  Oh well.

I definitely work hard at not wishing each stage of his life away to something better but when it comes to long winter days, playing independently for a barely three-year-old is a short-lived activity.  Our little man would be in heaven to have a dozen siblings to run around the house with.  Since that’s not in the cards, I admit that am looking forward to a time not far from now when we can add a few “Cole Activities” to our list.  Pre-school.  Soccer.  Both are right up his alley: friends, singing, running, kicking a ball, learning…all are part of his Top Ten list of favorite things to do.

Right now we go to our 9-year-old neighbor’s ballgames once a week and it’s all Cole can do to sit on the bleachers patiently until the game is over and it’s his turn to shoot the basketball.  Classes, teams, practices, field trips – he will love them.

In the meantime, we have installed a 6′ trampoline in the basement, he rides the wiggle car and scooter in the house and we look for any opportunity to have a friend over to play Nerf guns.  Oh, and the TV is on.  A lot.  It’s like a little friend in the background while he plays and I try to do something other than have him attached to my hip, climbing on my lap or throwing a fit because I’m not paying attention to him.  His current TV faves include Dora, Go! Diego Go!, and Spiderman and His Amazing Friends.  Netflix access on the AppleTV is great but we’ve had to nix just about every other Spiderman show that has ever been made because they are a little high drama and dark for a little person.  I’ll be honest.  They kind of scare him.  That’s ok, though.  Spidey and his friends Firestar and Iceman were staples while Jason and I were kids – isn’t it funny when the things we liked top the list of our kids’ favorites 30 years later?

But his latest Movie-of-the-Week is Cars 2 of which I have seen some parts a million times and all parts zero times.  That is motherhood in a nutshell.  Being able to sing the entire theme song for Wonder Pets and retro Blues Clues but never really sitting down to watch the thing from start to finish.

He’s just carried his trusty two-step stool into my office and is now sitting right by my chair, waiting for something to come out of the printer and telling me, “I’m not touching any-sing,” as he almost shuts down my computer with the chubby-finger-push of a single button.

That’s why the television is on.  A few minutes to get something done – like live my life in fifteen minute increments.

Ah, Cole.  I love that you want me near you.  Please don’t change that.  I don’t think I could bear it.  But could you go play with your race cars for awhile?

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Almost 12-year-olds.  In our neighborhood that means one thing.  Almost old enough to land some real babysitting gigs and start rolling in the dough.  Hey, babysitters get paid the big bucks around here (not really).  Usually about $2 an hour per child.  For some families that can mean a nice little chunk of change for a teenager.  At the Hall house, it means following Cole around for $2 an hour.  Hey, I try to throw in a few perks like unlimited access to the pantry and a couple extra bucks when I come home to find the toys picked up.  They seem to like it.  Cole is pretty easy and working for us means that there are not five children to wrestle to bed.

It’s a win-win and the list of great boy and girl sitters we have proves it.  Yep, you read that correctly boy AND girl sitters.  I LOVE hiring boys (like Gordon that you see in the above picture) to babysit Cole – the house might be a little bit messier than when the girls come over BUT I know that Cole has had a blast wrestling, running, playing ball and doing all the “boy stuff” that he loves so much.  Both sitter and child are usually tired and happy, with grins spreading across their sweaty, red-cheeked faces from all the fun they have had.

But back to our activity.  Given the fact that many of our 10-11 year-0ld Activity Day girls are getting excited to start babysitting outside of their own homes soon, we decided to start them on their own “Babysitting Kit” complete with lots of info on how to care for a child, how to show responsibility and activities to make them want you to come back again.  I thought that a bomb could have gone off outside and the girls would not have turned their attention away from the lesson that my partner Jessica was teaching.  Honestly, I had no idea they would be so into this idea and want to take preparing for babysitting so seriously.  It was fabulously cute!

Now, I want to tell you that I have all kinds of downloads for you to print out and use at your next tween/teen activity but I can’t.  You see, we borrowed this idea from the fabulous ladies who came before us in this job and simply copied the info that they had compiled.  As a matter of fact, my partner Jess was in charge of this activity and I don’t even have a copy of the handouts myself because we needed to use them all for the girls that came that day.

What I am going to do is tell you what info Jessica went over, the resources included in their kits, and some activities that she helped them create to start their bag of tricks off on the right foot.  The rest you will have to fill in but there are all kinds of resources online to help you.

First, this Notes on Babysitting pdf had a lot of the info that Jess went over.  Our version looked cuter but this is a good place to start and you can take what you want from it to create your own handout.  Also, find a printable here that can be filled out for each family that they babysit for.  We gave each girl a large manilla envelope to keep forms, tips and activity idea sheets contained within their bag.  In doing a quick search for resources I found lots of ideas out there – including some YouTube videos of teen babysitters showing us what they have put in their babysitting bags.  You decide what works for you and the babysitters you are teaching without overwhelming them with too much info.

Here’s What Happened:

1.  Lesson about how to be a responsible babysitter, ideas of how to care for different aged children (including dealing with a diaper), and simple activity and game ideas.

2.  Question time for the girls to ask about any concerns they had.  They were very thoughtful in their questions – you could tell it was important to them that they do a good job.

3.  Assembling 2 activities for them to put into their bags and discussing a third activity.

About the Bags:

Jessica had 9 canvas bags that her mom had found at the Dollar Store (lucky!) so we didn’t have to fork over any cash for those.  But with 12 girls, we needed a few more.  We found these canvas bags at Wal-mart in packs of 3 for about $6 which made each bag $2.  It was more than we wanted to spend but since we only needed a few, it was fine and they looked almost exactly like the free ones we had so we went with them.  There are often totes for $1 at various dollar or discount stores if you keep an eye out.  I noticed some at Old Navy that would have worked fine.  They had something printed on them but that wouldn’t have been a big deal.  When you’re on a budget, you take what you can get for the right price.  Besides, these bags are to get the girls started – if they want to transfer their kits to a different or perhaps larger bag on their own then that is great!

We could have spent time decorating the bags but decided against it.  The important part of the activity was to teach and prepare them to be better babysitters so we focused on that instead of decorating the bag.  But you certainly could do this if you choose.

About the Activities:

Included in the list of songs and activities that the girls could do with the children were a couple of simple games that Jessica had ready for them to compile and place in their bags.  Each took about five minutes to put together and were simple but fun things that make a babysitter great!

1.  Cotton Ball Race

Use a piece of string (about 12″-18″ long) as a finish line.  Flick or blow cotton balls across a table or floor to see who can cross the finish line the fastest.  You could even set up an obstacle course using toys or household items that you must flick your cotton ball through to get to the finish line.

2. Sink or Float

Fill up a medium-sized bowl with water.  Choose household items (waterproof!) and have the children predict if it will sink or float in the water.  Then try it out to see who is right.  Jessica gave each girl a stash of a few things to use but the babysitter and children could also use items found in the house as long as they are careful that nothing will be ruined with water.  Then you can even predict how quickly different items will sink by holding a “Sink Off” between items, narrowing it down to the fastest sinker!

3.  Hidden Object

This activity didn’t require any items other than what is found at a home.  Use a sock (can even be your own!) and hide an object in it.  Have the child touch and feel the shape of the object and try to guess what it is without looking.  After they guess the object, let the child choose the next object to place in the sock for you or the other children to guess!

End Note:

This activity was meant to teach about babysitting and get things started with a babysitting kit.  It was not meant to be comprehensive.  Our local hospital offers a babysitting class that fills up very quickly and teaches teens how to care for children – we encouraged them to sign up for that class before they started babysitting.  We also discussed having their parents help them add to their kits with other activities, stickers, treats, and other appropriate items.

But the big idea is that we would like to revisit this activity in the future and add items to their kits.  We couldn’t cover everything in one hour but multiple activities throughout the year would be a great way to build up their kits and their excitement for babysitting.  For example, I think that the next thing that needs to be added is a first aid kit with a lesson from a nurse or health professional on basic first aid skills.

We also thought that other activities we hold could include something that could be added to their babysitting kit.  Perhaps the whole activity isn’t focused on babysitting but they could make something that could become a part of their babysitting kit.  I’ll let you know where we go from here on that idea.

What it all boils down to is that lots of tweens are excited to babysit.  A lot of them like children and are eager to earn their own money.  Getting them started on the right foot with information and resources to be successful gives them confidence and helps them become the responsible babysitter that parents are looking for.

Plus, I know that I’m training my own batch of sitters for Cole!  Lucky us!

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