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We planned a great activity to do before Valentines Day – here it is, in Planning With a Purpose format.  Refer to this post for more info on how to do Planning With a Purpose and for downloads to help you in the process.

Heart Attack Service

As of last Sunday, I am now serving as the Stake Primary Counselor over Activity Days – that means I am no longer carrying out the activities.  But we had already planned these activities with our two youth leaders so I want to share them even though I don’t have photos of the actual activity.  I will continue to share ideas as I see them in our Stake.  Enjoy!

Want to see a Heart Attack activity in action?  This video from the 2013 Primary Auxiliary Training will inspire you.  Click here.

1.  What do we value?
(click here to see “Value Sheet” download)

  • We value accomplishing the Faith in God requirements.
  • We value everyone feeling included.
  • We value people coming.
  • We value making friends.
  • We value respect toward each other.
  • We value learning in a fun way (short lesson plus activity of some sort)

2.  What do we want to have happen? (goals)
(click here to see ” Planning Sheet” download)

Instead of asking, “What do we want to do?” always ask, “WHAT DO WE WANT TO HAVE HAPPEN?
Refer to your list of values to help you answer this question – your values and goals should go hand-in-hand.

From the Faith in God Book: Read and discuss the parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30–37). Plan and complete a service project that helps a family member or neighbor. After completing the project, discuss how it helped your faith grow stronger.

For our Heart Attack activity, this is what we came up with:

  • serve girls in our group who don’t come to activity days by showing love
  • show thanks to bishopric
  • have fun while learning a new way to serve
  • make sure everyone is part of the serving

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3.  How are we going to make this happen? (plans + implementation)

NOTE: Holly + Sydney will cut extra hearts before the activity because we probably can’t cut them all and decorate the doors in 1 hour.
Use extra cardstock and paper from Sister Hall so we don’t have to use the budget.

ACTIVITY PLAN
1.  Welcome (opening prayer) – 5 min. (Sydney is in charge)
2.  Read and discuss the parable of the good Samaritan (see Luke 10:30–37).  Discuss that service increases faith.
3.  Heart Preparation: everyone cuts out hearts from donated paper, write messages on some hearts, group into 4-5 piles – 20 min.
4.  Closing prayer before we leave
5.  Divide into 2 groups – each do a bishopric/clerk door and at least one home of an activity day girl who doesn’t usually come.  (The youth leaders thought thought it was so funny to do the doors of the bishopric.)
6.  Heart Attack: use painters tape to attach hearts all over the doors of the bishopric/clerk and activity day girls – try to keep it a secret (Sister Denny get the key to the church)
7.  Leaders take girls home when finished

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SET UP PLAN:

  • cardstock and paper for hearts
  • scissors
  • sharpies / markers
  • painters tape or masking tape – enough for 2 groups

Use the kitchen counter and kitchen table to create hearts (cover table with cloth)

CLEAN UP PLAN:
Everyone helps clean up the mess before the closing prayer and heart attack delivery (Holly in charge)

HOW WE WILL LET EVERYONE KNOW ABOUT THE ACTIVITY:
Calendar (we deliver a 3-month calendar to all the girls before the activities start)
Text Reminder to Moms (the day before)

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4.  Evaluate the process and the implementation
Ask yourself often:
What DID we want to have happen?
Is that actually happening / did that happen?
Do we need to change something to get closer to what we want to have happen?
How can we do that?

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Oh, how I love service.   We are in the process at the Hall house of trying to teach this concept to Coleman – that service is the same thing as helping people.  We ask him each day, “Who did you help today?” and although his answer often focuses on his teacher at preschool, he’s getting the idea.  We want him to not only understand the concept but to live it and make it a habit in his life.  An attitude, really.  There are those people who just seem to be aware of ways that they might help someone and it’s because they are actively looking for opportunities to serve, to help, to pitch in.  That’s the kind of person we want Coleman to be.

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For Activity Days, we are contributing to a Christmas Tree Auction to raise money for the special needs kids in a local school district.  This year they are adding holiday wreaths to the auction so we tackled that project.  The part of the wreath I wanted the girls to do was to decoupage paper-mache stars found at many craft stores.  I got ours at Hobby Lobby for $1.17 each.

You might know by now that I am a believer in providing a lesson with whatever activity we are doing so we started off with the following:

SERVICE LESSON IDEA (about 20 minutes):

1.  Discuss how Christmas and Thanksgiving is an amazing time to serve.  Ask: What are some ways we serve during this time of year?

2.  Divide girls into groups of 3-4 people (we like to count them off 1,2,3,4, to scramble them up…1s go together, etc.)

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Give each of them the following questions to discuss together.  Each girl can read one of the questions to the group then they all answer.  Come back together as a whole group and have each girl share one thing that SOMEONE ELSE said in their discussion.

3.  Show girls a finished paper-mache star.  Discuss that the star represents the birth of the Savior at Christmas but it also represents light.  Read 3 Nephi 12:16 found in the Book of Mormon.  We all have the light of Christ that shines when we do good works – or service.   The stars on our wreath will represent the light that we share through our good works.

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4.  Have each girl write their feelings about service.  You can use any format you choose but here is the template I had the girls in our group follow to compose their thoughts.  We then put their letters about service in an envelope and tucked it into the wreath as a little treasure for the auction winner to find.

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STAR ORNAMENT CRAFT PROJECT:

Supplies:
paper-mache star or other shape
pages from a book (I used The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson)
mod podge (I use matte finish but it doesn’t matter if it’s glossy)
sponge brushes
paper plates and some kind of covering for your workspace
glitter – optional (I used Diamond Dust clear crystals)

1.  Tear the pages from your book and cut off the blank edges of each page.  Cut the text pages into about 1/2″ strips then cut most of the strips into about 1 1/2″ lengths and the rest into 1/2″ lengths.

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2.  Paint Mod Podge onto the center point of the star and press a square paper firmly over the point’s ridges.  Wrap a length of paper around each of the star tips and Mod Podge them down.  Don’t be afraid to use the glue.  Just smooth out any lumps or excess glue with your foam brush.  Press down the paper as you go.

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3.  Cover entire star with paper strips, pressing down and overlapping until the entire star is covered.  Paint a final thin coat of Mod Podge over the entire star and quickly sprinkle glitter while the glue is still wet.  Place somewhere safe to dry.

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For our wreath, I used a beautiful boxwood wreath and fun red and white ornaments.  I had the custom word “give” cut from a local laser cutting company so that it fit the wreath perfectly.  All of the products used for our wreath were donated by a local doctor’s office so we didn’t have to use our budget for the supplies.  There are many local businesses who are willing to help with events like the Christmas Tree Auction but who do not want to make the tree or wreath themselves.  Ask around and see if you can partner with a business for this project.

I handled putting the wreath together because it takes too long for the Mod Podge to dry.   The girls were happy to do their part and didn’t seem to need to see the finished project that day.  I love that about them!

Decoupage is a simple project for kids this age to do so while we worked, we talked about techniques and discussed other projects (like frames or clipboards or the cover of a journal) that could be Mod Podged.  We also discussed all of the types of papers that could be used as well.  We like to inspire them to try things on their own with the skills they’ve learned and Mod Podging is a great way for kids to be successful at crafting.

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This activity can be translated to Cub Scouts or youth groups as well.  When contributing something to an auction, think about how the kids can be involved but also raise the most money possible for your project.  That is the point of charity auctions – to raise money.  Kids can have a fabulous experience learning about service and contributing to the project without having to do every single part of the end product.  And it’s great to teach them a crafting skill as well.

I truly hope you enjoy this holiday season of crafting and serving!

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Do you want to have 10-11 year-old girls come out in droves to learn something new at Activity Days?

Just tell them you will be decorating cupcakes.

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We had virtually all of our Activity Day girls show up at my front door for our last activity and for good reason.   With the help of my neighbor Nikki and her skills with frosting, our Cupcake Decorating Service Project was a huge hit.  And I can’t forget the other three moms who came to help with our activity – we needed extra hands to help with the bag filling, decorating, card making, wrapping, and overall encouraging.  We had 5 adults for 16 girls and if you are lucky enough to have people willing to help you with this activity, that was a good child/parent ratio for this age of girls.  Our awesome activity would have been a completely different experience without fabulous moms willing to get up to their elbows in frosting and curling ribbon.

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Goal #1: Teach the girls how to do different techniques using frosting tips.

Goal #2: Teach how to write a meaningful thank you or thinking of you note and experience serving others.

How we accomplished Goal #1:

1.  Nikki demonstrated how to create an icing bag using a ziplock and different frosting tips.  We pre-filled some bags with various colors and used a variety of tips for them to choose from.  Any other color/tip combinations they wanted were “made to order” as the activity went on.

2.  We divided the girls into two groups to spread out the activity.  This helped us give more one-on-one attention and made it so we didn’t need quite as many tools as we would have if all 16 girls had been decorating at the same time.  The other group worked on creating cards and cupcake toppers for their cupcakes.

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3.  Skills taught:

  • How to make grass.  We added jellybeans to the pile of grass on their cupcake for a great Easter theme if they chose.
  • How to make flowers.  They were challenged to fill an entire cupcake top with star flowers – you could see them get better as they went along.
  • How to do the famous cupcake swirl.  Everyone needs to know how to do this one, right?

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They were then unleashed to decorate to their hearts content with frosting and little candies and sprinkles.  My favorite part was listening to them help each other, give tips to one another, and ask for certain tip/color combinations.  They did a great job of sharing and being creative as they created 3 cupcake works of art to give away and 1 cupcake for them to eat!

In the meantime, the second group was working on Goal #2:

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1.  I covered the table in butcher paper to protect it and wrote the instructions in multiple places directly on the butcher paper so it was easy to see what to do.  They created either a thank you card or a thinking of you card by adhering all pieces together.  They added fun foam glitter hearts because glitter + hearts = fabulous.

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2.  Inside their card, they were challenged to write a MEANINGFUL note to someone special that they were going to give 3 of their cupcakes to.  Here were the steps that I outlined to help them write their notes.  This template can be used for kids of all ages to help them learn how to communicate their appreciation more clearly and meaningfully.

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3.  They created a cupcake topper by taking two glitter fun foam hearts and attaching them back-to-back onto a toothpick.  Easy and so cute.

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4.  Finally, they wrapped up their 3 “give away” cupcakes, tied on the card with a ribbon and left an hour later with gorgeous gifts in their hands, smiles on their faces, and the challenge to deliver their gift sometime that day.

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I’m a big believer in activities with purpose so instead of just decorating cupcakes for themselves, we added more purpose and got the girls to think outside of themselves by turning it into a service project.  Service always wins when it comes to developing the character of our kids so why not build service into as many things they are already doing as possible?  I think that decorating their cupcakes with the intention of giving them away changed their commitment to the project.  It got them focused on celebrating others while loving the activity at the same time.  And the sense of accomplishment was even stronger when service was involved.  Give it a try – let me know if adding service makes a difference in your activities.

Is that a horse made out of Hershey kisses?

One word.

Wow.

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I am constantly amazed by human nature.  Sometimes in a not-so-good way.  But mostly in a fabulous way.  The little things we do for one another that make the difference.  I’ve talked about the Relief Society before.  It’s the women’s organization in the LDS Church and with 6 million members, is referred to as one of the “oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world.”

It was started by a group of 20 women in 1842 who saw a need to organize their efforts to serve and care for those around them.  It was a common practice during that time – establishing societies or clubs to carry out charitable acts.  What is uncommon, however, is that although their focus was to meet the temporal and spiritual needs of their community, the leaders of the group envisioned more.  Emma Smith, the first president of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo said the following at their first meeting, “we are going to do something extraordinary.”  Little did she know that their humble efforts would grow to include so many women all over the world.

The name of the organization has since been changed to simply being called the Relief Society, but the purpose remains the same.  To look after the temporal and spiritual welfare of those in need.  Recently we had an event in our neighborhood, celebrating the founding of the Relief Society and eating some tasty food.  Because let’s face it, everything is better if food is involved!

The women planning this event asked me to help them with a favor for the party.  They wanted a little bookmark at each place setting when the women arrived.  The theme of the event was “Something Extraordinary,” based on the words from Emma Smith at that first meeting.  As I thought about what I wanted to create, it became very important to me to focus on each woman individually.  Maybe it was because I felt like it was my opportunity to celebrate the many women who have cared for me over the last year while I have been sick.  Maybe it was because I know how much each of us do, as women, to take the time to watch out for one another in emotional, physical and spiritual ways.  I think I just wanted to say thank you to all those who have helped my little family – the countless ways that they have made a difference.

The question became: how to do that with something mass produced?  I decided to add two words to the theme: “you are.”

These simple words say what I feel about the women who have touched my life.  And I wanted to include you in this list.  You are out there, in your own towns and your own homes, making a difference.  You have cared for your families.  You have watched over your communities and neighbors and congregations and friends.  You look for people to serve and take the time to help.  You provide relief.

So yes, I created this favor for the women in my neighborhood but I wanted to share it with you as well.  Just click on the photo to download the pdf.  This is for you but you probably have people in your life that you would like to share it with.  The ones lending a hand.  The ones offering a shoulder to cry on or a hug to comfort.  The ones sending the note or making the phone call that says, “I care about you.”

You are something extraordinary.

Thanks.  Thanks for making the difference.

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I promised in my last post to give you our cute tag and recipe for Taco Soup in our next Download Day so here they are.  I simply used the same frame as our “Birthday Girl” tags and changed the artwork inside to apply to our pantry meal kits that we compiled at our activity (click here for more info).

You can see how easily this idea can be adapted to any recipe and for any purpose.  All you need is a paper bag, a hole punch, some ribbon and the recipe.  Oh, and the ingredients to make a delicious, easy meal, of course.  And just because this particular recipe is all typed out and cute, that doesn’t have to be the case.  Just write it on a card and include it with your ingredients.  Simple.  I think you’ll agree that it is easy to have some grocery sacks and ribbon on hand to be able to compile an instant meal for a friend in need – the possibilities are lovely and tasty and endless.

Happy sharing!

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I was just having  a conversation with a neighbor a few days ago about friendship and including people into our lives.  I’ve thought a lot about this topic over the years because although I feel like I am a good friend, I’m not necessarily the one putting myself out there to seek out new friendships.  I get nervous.  I’m not ever sure what to say or how to do it.  And I am very comfortable with having a few close friends and many, many acquaintances.

Jason, on the other hand, can make friends with a person while they wait on a street corner for the light to turn green.  It is his gift and talent.  He has and makes friends everywhere.  Thomas Hughes wrote:

Blessed are they who have the gift of making friends, for it is one of God’s best gifts.  It involves many things, but above all, the power of going out of one’s self, and appreciating whatever is noble and loving in another.

In the last 16 years (almost 17 – I can’t believe it!) of our marriage, I have often used Jason somewhat as a crutch when it comes to this friend-making ability.  When we go to a new place, he is in charge of making the friends and forging a path in the “building relationships” area.  With him paving the way in this partnership of sorts, I then have more courage to follow along, using his strength to help me be more brave.

However, as we have recently moved to a new town, I have decided that I want to become better at doing this myself.  I believe that people can change.  It’s true that we come pre-wired, so to speak, with certain attributes and characteristics that make up the essence of who we are.  On the other hand, I also believe that we each have the ability to adapt or change, improve or get rid of certain qualities that we don’t like while adding characteristics to ourselves that we want to have more of.  With desire and hard work, we literally have the chance to become the best version of our own selves that we can be – no matter what our past has doled out for us or what our natural tendencies are.

So, with that in mind, I have worked on developing this quality of making friends in my life over the course of many years.  I want to be more like Jason.  I want to be more comfortable and open and able to create more meaningful relationships with those around me.  Throughout this personal quest for the ability to make friends more easily, I have learned something.  Having acquaintances is easy for me.  I have a lot of those.  I have business acquaintances, church acquaintances, neighborhood acquaintances, and so on.  I try to be kind to all those I meet – whether they are the person at the checkout stand or someone I pass while taking Cole for a walk.  That’s not the issue.

The trick for me that I have been working on is in developing those deeper, lasting relationships that mean more than just a wave or a hello in passing.  And the hard part about that is one simple thing – it takes a lot of time to build a strong friendship.  It takes effort.  It takes moment after moment after moment, all piled on top of each other to create something more substantial than a friendly smile to an unknown stranger.

But I’m working on it.  I am mustering up my inner courage and I am getting better at it.  I am taking the initiative more to be “that friend” to others.  I am stepping out of my comfort zone on purpose – with the understanding that if I truly want to become better at making new friends, I have to be willing to put in the time and effort to develop something with more meaning.  How do you do it?  Think about the best friendships you have – and they can include family because sometimes those are the hardest ones to maintain.  What do you do to develop and cultivate meaningful friendships?

With those thoughts in mind, here’s today’s download.  You can use it to make a card for a friend or maybe you are a little like me and you want to become better at creating strong friendships in your life.  If so, perhaps you’ll want to print it out and frame it as a reminder of this inner characteristic you are trying to develop or strengthen.

The best friendships are built piece by piece, conversation by conversation, kindness by kindness, memory by memory.  A million little things that each take a little time – but as that time passes, we emerge with more of our best selves invested in someone else’s life and deeper, stronger, more meaningful friendships.

please click on image to download pdf

please click on image to download pdf

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Van

Let me tell you a little bit about this van.

It’s green.  It is the extended cargo version so it can practically hold a whole soccer team plus their gear (it has a little soccer ball hanging from the rear view mirror and is decorated with soccer stickers on the back window so I assume it’s seen a lot of soccer fields in its day).  It has a DVD player, stereo, air conditioning, and all the automatic features that we look for in a vehicle these days.  Although it’s been well-loved, it’s in great condition.

And it made its way into my Project 365 of Gratitude last week due to a simple act of kindness from a stranger.

You see, along with soccer players, this van has also carried a young man with cerebral palsy who is confined to a wheelchair.  A few months ago his family purchased a new mini van and since then, this van has been in their driveway.

His mom is going to sell it.  His dad just returned from serving in the Air Force in Afghanistan and her son just had surgery so she hasn’t gotten around to selling it.  In the meantime, it’s been simply waiting.

When Jason totaled his van a few weeks ago, our first concern was that we would have to get a new one – and that is expensive.  But it didn’t seem so bad since his van was 10 years old with 100,000 miles on it and we knew that it was only a matter of time before we would have to get a new one anyway.  But due to the specific needs that he has, it often takes 2-3 months to get a new van converted specifically for him.  Therefore, our biggest concern became what to do in the interim period until his new van arrived.

That is where the Coffee family comes in.  They were neighbors to our neighbors the Joneses when they lived across town (you’ve heard me talk about the Jones Family many times).  The Joneses knew that we were in a predicament and started doing what they do best – helping.  They got us in touch with the Coffee family who then offered to let us “rent” their van indefinitely – for about the price of what it would have cost us to rent one from a service for 2 days.  You could basically say that we are really just borrowing it instead of renting it.

This is a big deal.  We had figured that it would cost us at least $5,000 to rent a van over the next two months.  That’s right – $5,000.  That, on top of having to purchase a $65,000 vehicle was very stressful for us.  I wasn’t quite sure how we were going to manage it all.

So, this week we are grateful – immensely grateful for the simple act of kindness from a family who doesn’t even know us but is willing to help where they can by lending us their extra handicap accessible van.  The floor isn’t lowered so Jason rides in it with his head tilted to one side and I have to drive him everywhere because, of course, it’s not set up for him to drive.  But I have no doubt that the reason why the mother hasn’t gotten around to selling it is because I believe it waited in their driveway for us.

I know that this small coincidence is no coincidence at all.  Call it fate.  Call it luck.  Call it whatever you want.  But I’m calling it a little miracle.  A tender mercy to help us manage something that was going to be very stressful and difficult for us.

Thanks, Coffee family.  Thanks for your generosity.  Thanks for your kindness.  Thanks for being our miracle.  Oh, and thanks for the van – it’s working great!

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