Archive for February, 2012

Homemade lip gloss.  What tween doesn’t love it?  None, I say.  So, of course we had to whip up a batch for Activity Days.  But since we care about a message being a part of anything fun and crafty and cute, we paired the mixing of strawberry lip gloss with a lesson on the perils of gossip.

Let’s face it.  Gossiping is real.  It’s a part of just about every day in the life of a teenager.  Heck, it runs rampant in about every neighborhood and workplace in the world no matter how old you are!  Sigh.  I hate gossiping.  I hate hearing it.  But I really hate finding myself getting caught up in it.  It’s something I have to work at deflecting on a regular basis and this can be hard to do.  But it’s even harder for a self-emerging teenager to manage without a strong sense of self so I think that any reinforcement and encouragement in this area is a good thing.

Meet the Dubiens Tutorial

What better way to connect the idea of saying kind things than by making juicy lip gloss!  My beautiful partner Jessica took the lead on this one because honestly, she is just good at this stuff.  She is a jewelry business owner and always looks darling – down to her perfectly glossed lips.  And she’s nice, too.  So of course she would be great at teaching this principle to a dozen lovely young ladies.

This activity was simple.  A 15 minute lesson about gossip – what it is, how to avoid it, what to do when you’re in the middle of it and how to turn it into something positive.  “Reverse Gossip” was the big idea here.  When you hear something negative about someone else, turn it around into something positive to avoid the trap of spreading nasty comments.  Gossip involves three people – although the girls thought that it only involved two at first.  Then they realized that the third person is the one being gossiped about.  And since they had all been that person, they all knew how it feels and wanted to try and be better.  Click here for a link to a story about “Reverse Gossip.”

Another activity you could include was found on sugardoodle:  Place an empty chair in the middle of the room and then discuss how one good way to avoid gossiping is to imagine the person who you are talking about is sitting in that chair. Are you telling the truth? Is it kind? Is it necessary to tell? Do you have that person’s permission to tell this story or news? Would you really say these things if the person were sitting in the chair? If you can’t answer yes to all of these questions, then you are probably gossiping and should talk about something else.

Next came the lip gloss making.  Jess kept it simple.  And cheap.  Activity Days is all about keeping it simple and inexpensive.  She used a post from Meet the Dubiens as a quick and easy tutorial for making lip gloss – petroleum jelly and kool-aid!  Now, I know that petroleum jelly isn’t eco-friendly and some people feel strongly against using it.  But like I said, we were looking for something simple and inexpensive and honestly, most of the recipes for homemade lip gloss out there require hunting down a wide variety of ingredients that we didn’t have the time or budget for.  So, if you choose to use a different recipe, by all means – go for it!  But this was a great option for our needs and it worked fabulously.

Just click here for the step-by-step instructions and some updates about how people were most successful with this craft.  For us, we started warming the petroleum jelly on the stove while Jessica was teaching the lesson.  You keep stirring and it will liquify.  Then it needs to cool down so that it is fairly cool and stays beaded if you drop some on your finger.  Then we used a wire wisk to stir in a packet of kool-aid.  Jessica added a little packet of Crystal Light flavoring as well to give it a little more kick and color.

We then scooped the mixture into little plastic containers – you can use lip gloss or bead containers.  Ours had a snap on lid and worked fine and they were 12 for a buck.  Sweet!  Using the printable in Meet the Dubiens post, labels were punched and added to the top of each container.  We then popped them into the freezer for about 5 minutes and tied it all together with this poem (found here).

The only thing I might do differently next time is attach the label after the container has spent time in the freezer because we had to re-glue some of them since the adhesive refused to work after getting cold.  But other than that, it was a resounding success and the girls were out the door in just under an hour.  Perfection.

Thanks to Jessica for a great activity and to Jill at Meet the Dubiens for sharing her great tutorial. It truly made this activity a lip-smacking success!

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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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Three years.

Is it possible that you have only been with us for three years?  I watch the slideshow of baby photos that kicks on when our AppleTV is on pause and can’t believe you were ever so tiny.  I want to grab each photo and hold it, stare at it and remember each moment that still slips through my fingers.  People always ask me, “How’s your baby?”  You’re not a baby any more, little one.  A boy.  Riding your scooter around the kitchen island.  Learning new tricks on your basement trampoline.  Memorizing the moves to “This is Halloween” on Just Dance II.

And talking.  Talking, talking, talking.  Something has happened over the last couple of months.  You are processing information differently and I can see you thinking through a conversation.  Coming up with your own conclusions and often getting them right.  You are becoming a person.

Pre-Party with the Saunders

Of course we had to celebrate the big day in style, with both sides of the family and the Saunders – our adopted family.  You are getting old enough that you understand and can get excited about a party so I went with a theme this time.  I wouldn’t say that you necessarily LOVE just one thing right now – you like lots of things.  Dinosaurs.  Anything with wheels.  Anything that involves a ball.  Trains.

And superheros.

After coming across the vintage comic book party done by Hostess with the Mostess, I was sold.  I know how long it takes to design all those bits and pieces that make a party pop, so I opted to purchase andersandruff’s party pack of printables.  Trust me, there was enough DIY involved without having to start it all from scratch (like the Super Wreath I made for the front door).  Cole, you caught on fast as I went shopping for superhero capes for the little cousins and the fun started there.  You were my right-hand-man every step of the way, usually hauling out the scotch tape dispenser and safety scissors to accomplish your task.

You helped me order the capes – telling me the whole time that you were going to have pink.  We steered you to the blue simply because we knew that cousin Claire would have a meltdown if she didn’t get the pink one like the other girls.  I used my brand new Silhouette Cameo to monogram the back of each cape (already in love with my Cameo – more on that another day) and we ordered superhero masks to match.

Super Max Rocked His Cape & Mask

You were very generous with the tape as we turned Melissa and Doug blocks into buildings to create a skyline.  And then the balloons.  You stuck with it as we pumped up 60 balloons and tied them to a ribbon to string across the ceiling.  No wandering off the job for you!  I have to keep reminding myself that being able to focus is a great quality….even when that means my tasks take twice as long as your attention span refuses to wither.  I find myself sneaking around the house, quietly opening the dryer door if I’m in a hurry so that you won’t hear me folding laundry and want to come help.  I love your help.  Really, I do.  It’s just that sometimes we need to chop! chop! get the job done fast!  And by fast, this mother of a three-year-old has learned actually means, “in secret.”

We used butcher paper as the table cloths and added some black and white images for people to color if they chose while hanging around.  Then I found a school teacher website that made instant word searches and crossword puzzles with any words you choose!  So, I stuck some of those activities to the butcher paper as well, knowing that the tweens and teens would like figuring out what your favorite snack is or how long your mother was in labor.

The photo backdrop was my favorite part of the party – I fell in love the instant I saw it on Hostess with the Mostess.  I covered a huge sheet of foam board in fabric, covered the top section in wrapping paper and added the superhero logo.  I used duct tape the day of to attach the pieces together because I know that this background is definitely something that I will be using in the future and wanted to make it as adaptable as I could.  I think every event needs a fun photo booth instead of the blah walls or same-old background that we always see in our house.  This is a keeper.

I turned back time and served my grandparents’ recipe for “Band Booster Hamburgers,” which are simply grilled burgers simmered in yummy sauce before you add all the fixin’s.  Why are they called “Band Boosters?”  Because it’s what they served as boosters for all the fundraisers at the school when my mom was growing up – marching band, sports teams, you name it.  You can call them whatever you want but in our family, they are “Band Boosters.”

Add some salads and appetizers from family members, an array of cupcakes from the local Sweet Tooth Fairy shop, and some of your favorite treats like mini Reese’s peanut butter cups, chocolate covered pomegranates (Sam’s Club), and ice cream with sprinkles, and we had a full spread fit for the crowd.  I added my personal favorite of chocolate covered raspberries (also found at Sam’s Club) so that everyone could oooh and ahhhh at the juicy scrumptousness that happens when you bite into one of those.  Be sure to let them sit out for about 20 minutes for maximum yum.

Grandma Judy Gets a Super Kiss!

You loved every minute of it, Cole.  Blowing out the candles.  Singing yourself, “Happy Birthday.”  Playing in your new tent with the tunnel – and the flashlight to go with it.  It doesn’t take much to please you as long as you are surrounded by adoring fans.  No, I won’t do it every year – too much work.  But it was fun to have the energy and the desire to “go the distance” this time and make a real party out of your day.

Grandpa & Grandma Hall

You are loved.  Greatly.  Abundantly.  Fiercely.  And aren’t we all lucky to be a part of the Super Cole show?

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I love that term – “Turn Over a New Leaf.”  I don’t really know what it means in terms of leaves to turn over a leaf but I know what it represents to me.  Change.  Redirection.  Focus.  Intentions.  Becoming better.  And that is the message that we taught during our “Goal Banner” activity for Activity Days.

We talked about this phrase about leaves and turning them over.  What does it mean?  We talked about things that we wanted to change in our lives.  Ways we wanted to be better.  Times that we have set goals and succeeded and times that we have not.  What makes us not succeed at a goal?  These girls already have had experience with accomplishing and not accomplishing goals that they have set for themselves.  Some want to play soccer better.  One wanted to do some kind of gymnastics trick.  One wanted to make a different choice concerning a friend.

We can all change and become better.  That is the purpose of this life – celebrating our successes and looking toward the future to become even better than we already are.  Throwing off old habits and shouting to the world I. AM. BETTER. THAN. THIS.

I love setting goals.  I don’t like setting them in January.  There is too much pressure, honestly.  I like setting goals along the way – when I feel strongly about making a change, I set a goal to change.  So, yes.  This post might seem a little late for you to use but really it’s not.  Improving who we are can start anytime.  In fact, it SHOULD start anytime.  And if you don’t follow through with the goal set, start again.  There is always another day to make a fresh start and move forward.

For our activity, we made little banners for each girl.  Five flags = four goals and one spot for their name.  Everyone knows that goals are easier to accomplish when they are cute so we made these cute by placing pennies on colored cardstock and lightly spray painting over the top of the pennies with white paint.  The pennies were the mask and when removed, created darling dots on the cardstock flags.  The girls were thrilled to know that I had made the pattern myself so you can bet that we will be teaching them this technique at an activity in the near future.  It’s a life skill – think of how much more fun a science fair project will be when it’s painted with polka dots!

I believe that some goals help us actually become better than other goals.  In order to set a “good goal,” we should keep a couple of things in mind.  Goals should be:

  1. Specific (be a better friend vs. talk to a new person every day)
  2. Measurable (make new friends vs. invite a new person over to my house by next Friday)
  3. Written Down (put it in a place you can see it)
  4. Accountable (tell someone your goal!)

After discussing how to set effective goals, I decided to divide their goal-setting up into 4 areas to create a full and well-rounded life.  Each of these areas was represented by one flag on their banners, with the center flag being the spot for their monogram and name.

  • how can I be a better friend?
  • how can I be a better family member?
  • how can I feel the Holy Ghost (spirituality) in my life?
  • how can I improve physically or educationally?

click on image to download journaling spots

Here are the Monogram Circles (ie “initial spots”).  Click on each one to download.  I had them put their initial in the center flag of each banner.

Initial Spots A-I
Initial Spots J-R
Initial Spots S-Z

The girls then spent time thinking about goals that they want to accomplish in each area, writing them down and practicing how to make them measurable and specific.  They then assembled their banners by gluing down the goal journaling spot and stapling each flag to a ribbon.  The final touch was adding their pre-printed initial and name to make it their own.

We wrote our goals in pencil so that when we accomplish something, we can erase that goal and set a new one.  Always moving forward.  Always trying to become better than we already are.  And with such a cute way to remember what our goals are, we are sure to succeed!

What are you ready to accomplish?

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That’s this activity’s ranking in the list of experiences called Activity Days.  So even though you will see from the background of some of my pictures that this activity was done during Christmastime, I have decided to still share it with you.  Seriously, apple pies can be made any time of the year!  So put this activity on your calendar soon and then you’ll see for yourself that it belongs in the “favorite” column, too.

Honestly, if you could see 12 little 10-year-olds busily moving from station to station in my kitchen, peeling this, pouring that, sprinkling those, rolling more….then it would be your favorite, too.  Here’s how it went down:

1.  Find someone who knows how to bake a lovely pie and would be willing to teach a bunch of girls (Nancy was our pick and she is even lovelier than her apple pies).

2.  Pre-mix pie crusts for how many pies are needed, roll them into balls, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate (Nancy did this part – see, I told you she was even lovelier than the pies).  It’s not ideal to pre-make the crust dough like this but it’s reality when you have a dozen pies to crank out in 90 minutes.

3. Have each girl bring their own pie dish and 5-6 Granny Smith apples (be prepared for softer apples, too).  We just told them to being 5-6 apples and I wish I had just said Granny Smith up front.  It would have been easier – even if someone forgot and brought something different.  Granny Smiths are more firm and work on the peeler/corer/slicer the best.

4.  Ask a bunch of mothers or fathers to help with the activity.  This was an all-hands-on-deck kind of thing and went so smoothly because we were prepared with people to help.

5.  Gather some supplies in multiples: apple peeler/corer/slicer machines like this one, rolling pins, one bowl for each girl, large spoons for stirring, measuring cups and spoons according to recipe (Jana was our ingredient queen!), and knives for peeling (when the apple is too soft to work with the machine…or the machine gets jammed….or the apple gets stuck…trust me, you need some paring knives).

We ended up with about 5 peeler/corer/slicer machines for 12 girls.  You’d think that was plenty – and it was.  But we realized quickly that one adult had to stay in charge of helping each girl with the various machines and fixing them when they jammed or the apples were too soft.  We had two fabulous moms with paring knives in hand, ready to take the apple off the machine once it got jammed and peel/slice it by hand (Patty was there to help but Monica saw a need and decided to stay as well – love her for that!).  I had also tried clamping all of the slicers to my countertop beforehand and some of them wouldn’t fit the depth of my granite.  So, we used a board and the edge of cutting boards to clamp the slicers.  It required someone helping to hold the board down but I like when they have to work together so it was great by me to do it this way.

Each girl had a mixing bowl from my cupboard that they used to transport and mix all the filling ingredients and apple slices.

There were three stations:

  • apple peeling/slicing (3 adults)
  • measuring sugar and other ingredients (1 adult)
  • rolling out the crust (2 adults)

After a 10 minute lesson from Nancy about pastry handling (less is better!) and how to build their pies, the organized chaos began!

The girls moved from station to station according to what they needed.  The timing wasn’t exactly equal for each station so we just had them go to the next station when they were ready.  Amazingly enough, it actually worked this way!  By the time the 90 minutes was up, we had 12 beautiful girls with 12 beautiful pies – edges pinched, centers cut for steam and some of them with a leafy decoration or two from extra dough (thank you, Staci)!  It was one of the most gorgeous sites I have ever seen.  The proud looks of each of those girls who knew that THEY had created something from scratch was quite the image.  And as everyone pitched in to help clean up (especially the saintly mothers who worked their tails off), the place was spic-and-span by the time the clock chimed 90 minutes.

Let me tell you something.  I have never baked a pie (I was the jammed slicer/corer fixer).  But a whole bunch of 10-year-olds have.  And I’m so happy to have been a part of giving these girls this experience.  Chalk it up as one of the best activities ever – but a word of caution….I believe that it worked so well because we were organized and prepared – with tools and capable people.  This is not an activity for the feint in heart!  But well worth the effort if you just take a little time to think it through and stay organized.  I would also recommend saving this activity for the 10-11 year-olds instead of the 8-9 year-olds.

The grins stretched ear to ear as each girl proudly held their pie high and carried it home to bake.  Yum.  Pie is always better when made with love and by the end of this activity we had 12 dishes overflowing with plenty of sugary, apple love!

Coming Next: a goal-setting activity for Activity Days and Cole’s Third Birthday Party!  Stay tuned.

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