by Sharla

5 Tips to Master Pack Meeting

March 13, 2015 in Kids by Sharla

5 Tips to Master Pack Meeting

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My son was a Wolf when I began as his Cub Scout Pack Master.  I had been to pack meetings in the past for him, and I’ll be brutally honest, I wanted to slit my own wrists.  The boys were inattentive, rude, and seemed to have no interest in what was happening.  As a parent I was discouraged.  Pack meeting happens once a month and it is the one time they get the pay off for the hard work they put in.  Pins, awards, recognition and fun is what these meetings are all about but it all seemed to be lost in the fray.  It even got to the point that I would make excuses not to go because I couldn’t handle the craziness of it.  

Now, I’m bossy by nature, but I also really love kids, so why did I want to wring all of their necks (including and especially my son’s)?  I guess that’s the nature of the beast, put your money where your mouth is.  Shortly after I started giving up on the who thing I was asked to take over these three-ring-circus meetings.  Great.

I have one brother who never spent a day in scouts and a husband who doesn’t have much good to say about the program.  I had to find what would work for me with absolutely no back ground in the program.  I know there are “Round Table” meetings to give leaders ideas on how to do these meetings, but I was turned off by the idea of going because of what the meetings I had been to in the past were like.  I finally decided to be selfish.  If it worked for me, it will work for the parents and it would trickle down to the kids.  No, I did not duct tape the boys to their chairs, but I did sit down and really think about what pack meeting was really about, and what wasn’t working for me and what I would like the boys to get out of it.  Here is how I turned a “Lord of the Flies” situation into a program that every single person who attends pack meeting enjoys and is meaningful to the boys involved.

Step 1:  Get the boys under control.  

  • I started by sending an email out to the parents and den leaders before my first meeting outlining my expectations.  They included arriving on time.  Cubs were not allowed to enter the room until the meeting began, but parents and family members were to take a seat inside.  There was NO gather activity.  I know, I know,  the BSA likes gathering activities but I felt it promoted a feeling of chaos.  When the cubs arrived, their job was to sit lined up in the hall until we started.  I had a den leader stay with them to keep them under control.  
  • When it was almost time to beging I had a talk with the scouts themselves.  First off, if I wanted their attention or to get them to quiet down I would yell “Cub Scouts” and they would respond “yes, cub master”.  Then they were expected to be quiet.  We practiced this several times in the hall until they were a little used to it.  
  • Next I told them they would not be sitting in the front row as they had in the past, they would be sitting with their families.  They were to enter and find a seat with a parent.  Parents are far more likely to keep kids in line if they can whisper in their ear (which I wished I could do countless times in the past).  
  • In addition, I had three special treats set aside that would be awarded to the most respectful and quiet scouts during the meeting.  I called it the reverence award and I let them know these awards were available to the most reverent.
  • Next we discussed that they are men in training, that is why they are in scouts.  In short, this is their first exposure to preparing to be a man.  Men don’t speak out of turn in meetings.  Men don’t back talk.  Men don’t get out their seats when it’s inappropriate.  Men congratulated each other on a job well done.  The aren’t men yet, so they won’t be perfect, but this is their time to practice.    
  • Finally, after each scout received their awards the rest of the pack would stand and give him the scout salute on my cue.  No silly cheers, I went for straight ceremony.  If during the meeting they got loud I would call them back to attention with “cub scouts” and them responding “yes cub master”.  
  • PS. A microphone does wonders in keeping attention.

Step 2: Respect during the meeting.  During the actual meeting there were no games or silliness.  We did the flag ceremony, prayer, core value (very short), awards for each boy, info on what to expect in the month to come, reverence awards, closing prayer and flag ceremony, and then fun!  I try to keep the actual ceremony as short as possible.  They are 8-10 year-old-boys, there is only so much patience they can handle.

Step 3: Let the fun begin!  This is a celebration for their hard work for crying out loud!  There is a time and a place for boys to be boys and after the seriousness of the ceremony it’s time to celebrate.  Selfishly, I didn’t want to force boys to do things they might not enjoy and that I had to run so I set up four stations around the room for them to do at their leisure.  As time went on I found I could create stations that actually passed off electives for them, but were fun to do.  I’ll cover those in future posts.  

Step 4:  Choose a theme and run with it!  This is what makes each meeting special.  Of course awards are cool but every meeting I choose a theme and deck out the room.  Decorations, activities focused around the theme and themes that are relevant and exciting to the boys make it a red letter evening.  Legos and Minecraft are just a couple of the themes that were huge hits.  That is part of the reason they wait in the hall, so that when they enter the room the theme is revealed to them.  They love the surprise of what I’m going to do next.  They are enthusiastic while being appropriate.

Step 5:  Make a rank award special.  In our pack we award ranks every month a scout has a birthday and moves up.  Some packs give them once a year, either way, you can make it a serious and proud event.  I bought a black stick of face paint from a craft store and when a boy moves up in rank in addition to giving him his award and his mom the pin I mark his face in a tribal-ish type way with the paint.  It’s a badge of honor and for the most part the boys love the recognition.  So much of scouts is ceremonial, and that’s cool!  It creates a feeling of honor.  Soldiers, athletes, even actors wear war paint and we as a society connect it with a feeling of importance.  This is one of the best parts of pack meeting.

Since I have adopted this format our meetings have gotten better and better until one day, without me asking them to, the cubs all sat in the front row without their parents and were the picture of respect. I was so impressed that at the next meeting I gave everyone of them a reverence award.  We have not had a problem with respect and reverence since.

<3,Sharla

by Sharla

Adventure Time Birthday Party Cup Cakes

July 31, 2014 in Cooking, Deserts, Kids, Parties by Sharla

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Look at that cute 11-year-old.  Smiling, party with friends, the summer sun shining down and her favorite show made in frosting on cupcakes.  Adventure Time cup cakes.  Right?!  Does life get better than that?  I admit, I’m crafty and creative but decorating cup cakes…that’s a different story.  Really, I’m not a bad cook, but this was way out of my comfort zone.  But how do you say no when your only daughter asks for her favorite TV show on her birthday treat?  You don’t.  You warn her it might not turn out perfect but you’ll give it your best shot.  Actually, they turned out great.  Sometimes, I don’t suck.  :)

What you need:

1 Box cake mix and ingredients to make it

Butter cream frosting, double the recipe (recipe below)

Classic color food coloring

Neon food coloring

Black food coloring*

Red food coloring*

Piping bags

Large round piping tip

Medium star piping tip 

Skinny round piping tip

Mini Marshmallows

Medium sized blue dragees (you know, those little can balls you can decorate food with)

*I know the red and black food coloring can be found in boxes of food coloring, but I find you get a much better hue if you buy a jar of coloring gel or a bottle specifically that color.  I bought mine from Jo Ann Cake Decorating & Foods Crafts at Joann.com as well as the dragees.  Amazon also has dragees if you have having a hard time finding them at a craft store.  

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The Method:

Allow me a moment to get on my soap box.  There is absolutely no reason to make a cake from scratch for a bunch of kids.  They are going to love the cake no matter what, and box mixes are actually really delicious.  And don’t buy the expensive version!  I’ve tried them all, and trust me, they are all the same.

Make the cupcakes according to the box instructions.  Let them cool.

Meanwhile make the butter cream frosting.  Start by creaming the soften butter,  powdered sugar, and milk in a mixer until light and fluffy (on hight for about 5 minutes).  Divide the frosting into 8 different bowls, equal amounts in each.

Now, let’s color the frosting, this part is actually pretty fun.  I don’t actually list when to use the red, but for the pink hues you can dip a toothpick into the jar and mix to get just the right color.  I recommend decorating each of the cupcakes without the black face first, then do all of the faces at once.  Have fun with it, I mean, its Adventure Time after all.

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Jake Colors:  

For his face and jowls mix 5 drops yellow and 1-2 red.  Play with it until you get the right shade of orange.  Be warned, this is the hardest color to get right so don’t be neurotic about it.  Once all of the cupcakes are put together it’s going to look great.

For his mouth, nose and eye background mix black.  Go crazy with that food coloring.  It is imperative that you have a high quality back food coloring, other wise you’ll end up with gray.  I bought my black from  Jo Ann Cake Decorating & Foods Crafts at Joann.com.

For his pupils just leave a bowl of frosting white.  

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Fin Colors:

For his face you are going for a peach color.  Again, mix a little color at a time to get it right.  I started with 3 drops of yellow and 1 drop of neon pink.

White for his hat and the ears on top (if you choose not to use mini marshmallows).

For his eyes and mouth use the same black used for Jake.

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Princess Bubblegum Colors:

For her face use 1-2 drops of neon pink food coloring.

For her hair use 5 drops of neon pink food coloring.

For her crown use 5 drops of yellow food coloring.

For her eyes and use the same black used for Jake.

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Lumpy Space Princess (LSP for short)Colors:

For her body use 5 drops of neon purple.

For her star use the same yellow you used on Princess Bubblegum’s crown.

For her eyes, eyebrows and frown, you guessed it, black. :)

Time to frost those puppies:

This is the fun part.  I admit, the idea of using so many different tips for piping frosting is intimidating for someone who isn’t’ used to using them (i.e. me).  Don’t be scared!  They are fairly inexpensive and fun to use!  You can spring for the reusable piping bags but I just bought a 100 pack of parchment paper ones for about $10.00 from Jo Ann Cake Decorating & Foods Crafts at Joann.com.  Just follow the instructions and tape the cone then cut the tip off about 1/2 inch from the bottom.  Remember, you are going to need 8 piping bags total (unless you are using reusable bags in which case you’ll have to clean you bag between frosting colors).

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To Create Lumpy Space Princess:

No need for a tip with this one, you’re just going to cut the bottom of about 1/2 and inch up.  Simply fill the bag with the purple frosting, twist tight at the top so frosting doesn’t escape and squeeze where you twisted the bag.  Start in the center of the cupcake and gently squeeze making 5 star arms continually applying pressure to the top of the bag and not lifting the tip until the star is complete.  

 

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You can use a tip in a piping bag one of two ways.  Your parchment piping bags should come with a small funnel that slips down into the bag.  If the opening you cut is too small just cut a little more.  Now slip the medium star tip into the funnel and use the screw circle to tighten on the outside of the bag.  

If you are uncomfortable or don’t have the pastry bag screw bottom, you just slide the tip into the bag.

Fill the bag with yellow and make a single star at the top of her head by squeezing lightly and lifting directly up.  

Last, use the small round tip and fill the bag with black frosting and pipe on her face.  I think it’s best to wait until all of the base work for each cupcake is done and then I did the black faces on all of them last.

To Create Jake:

Using a different bag insert your large round tip and fill with your orange frosting and smoothly cover the entire cupcake in a circle starting at the outside and ending in the center.  

Using a different bag insert the small round tip and fill with frosting.  To create the gowle use a lot of pressure and move the tip slowly in the middle of the face in a frown shape.  

Then create the nose, eyes, and mouth using the small round tip with black.

To Create Fin:

Start with the white frosting in a pastry bag with the large round tip.  Cover the top of the cupcake smoothly with white in the same way you covered the cupcake for Jake.  

Now clean the round tip and fit it into a new bag.  Fill the bag with peach.  In the center of the white make a smooth oval.  

You can pipe the ears of his hat on the top but we found mini marshmallows to be more fun.  Just stick two mini marshmallows on the top of his hat for the ears.  

For the face use the small round tip and black frosting and simply make two small dots for his eyes and, of course, a smile.

To Create Princess Gumball:

Fit the large round tip into a bag and fill with the light purple color.  Smoothly cover the top of the cupcake.  

Now fit small star tip in a bag and fill with yellow (you could also use a medium round tip to make her hair smoother).  Pipe the frosting down both sides of the cupcake meeting at the bottom.  Then create a line for her bangs about 1/3 from the top of the cupcake and fill in to the top.  

Last, fit the small star tip into a new bag and fill with yellow frosting.  I started on one side of the hair and swooped to the top center.  Complete by doing the same to the other side.  Finish the crown with a single blue dragee at the top.

For the Faces:

Here’s what they will look like faceless (don’t worry, it’s not scary).

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Fit a pastry bag with the small round tip and fill with black frosting.  Using the pictures as guides make each of the faces using black.  While I was doing this I found that all of my small dots had sharp tips from where I lifted the bag.  This is an easy fix!  I just got a cup of warm water and dipped my finger in and patted down the spikes.  

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Adventure Time Achieved!  Happy Birthday, Olivia!

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<3, Sharla

 

Adventure Time Cup Cakes
Yields 24
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
2 hr
Ingredients
  1. 1 Box cake mix to include ingredients called for on box
Frosting
  1. 2 Cups powdered sugar
  2. 1/2 Cup butter (softened)
  3. 2-3 Tablespoons of milk
  4. 1 box classic food coloring
  5. 1 box neon food coloring
  6. 1 bottle red food coloring
  7. 1 bottle black food coloring
  8. handfull mini marshmallows
  9. handful blue dragees
  10. piping bags
  11. #808 large circle piping tip
  12. #18 small star piping tip
  13. small circle piping tip
Instructions
  1. Make cupcake cake mix according to instructions on box. Allow cupcakes to cool completely.
  2. In a mixer mix the softened butter, powdered sugar and milk until light and fluffy (on hight about 5 minutes).
  3. *Remember to double the recipe
  4. Follow decorating instructions on blog page.
This Is Do-Able http://www.thisisdoable.com/
As a side note, I had to include the party favors we made for the party.  I took an extra long pixie stick and wrapped a licorice rope around the length of it and secured with tape.  I found and image of Lady Rainicorn online (shown below), printed it and cut out the head and back legs and glued to each end of the licorice wrapped pixie stick.  They were a hit, and inexpensive!  Oh Lady Rainicorn, you’re so sweet! 

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by Sharla

Never Pay full Price at Jo Ann Michael’s Hobby Lobby or Amazon

July 29, 2014 in Creating, Halloween Creations, Kids, Parties, Sewing, Thanksgiving Creations, Valentine Creations by Sharla

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This is a big promise, right? I know, I am aware. If someone offered me a pot of endless coupons for all of the craft stores I shop at, I might be a bit dubious (no I wouldn’t). So, let me be clear this is not advice for you creative types who are not willing to put a little effort into it (wait, a lazy creative type…that’s an oxymoron). This post comes straight from my heart, wallet, and experience (not necessarily in that order).

Here’s the deal (pun intended), I by 99.9 of my craft/sewing/decorating supplies from big box craft stores, namely Jo Ann, Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and Amazon (I know Amazon isn’t usually regarded as a craft store, but they have, like, everything you could want and I don’t have to load up the kids in the car). I love a good deal and my Etsy business depends on a good price, so I have made a science out of getting the deal at these stores. Additionally, I’m super bossy when it comes to things I’m passionate about (i.e. books, advice, deserts) therefore my burning desire to help you save when you’re crafting can no longer go ignored. Thus, the tips I live by when shopping for creativity were born (generally, these rules apply to online shopping as well).

Jo Ann for Crafts, Sewing Home Decor and Casses
My first stop is always Jo Ann, CLICK HERE for Joann.com. I don’t know if it’s because they have so many options or because I know every isle inside and out.  Actually I think it might be because they have the most lenient policies when it comes to coupon use. Put on your seat belts, I’m about to save you some serious moola and here’s how to do it.

Sign up for the mailers!!! No, seriously, we all want to avoid getting more junk in the mailbox but Jo Ann doesn’t let down. When you sign up for mailers from Jo Ann, they mail you ads and coupons that are encrypted with a code that is linked specifically to you, so the more you use these the more coupons you get. However, you can only use mailer coupons once.  Period.  No really, they tear them up in front of you. :(

Sign up for text coupons  Have a smart phone? The possibilities with these are endless. Namely, saving money! As far as I know Michael’s and Jo Ann are the only ones who offer regular text coupons. You can use these coupons as many times as you want per day and in conjunction with any other coupon until the expiration date. It takes no effort to get them, just present your phone at the time of purchase. You can only use it once per purchase (but as many purchases as you want to make per day). To sign up for Jo Ann text coupons text BEADS to 56266 (JOANN). *Message and data rates may apply.

Sign up for email coupons. Junk mail, junk mail, JUNK MAIL! You hate it as much as I do, but don’t mistake junk mail for a great deal. 90% of the time Jo Ann emails include some sort of coupon. Jo Ann sends out the same emails over and over when they are offering a coupon and they don’t have a limit on how many email coupons you can use. If you have 3 in your inbox, you can use all three in the same purchase.

Get the app! Sorry to all of you out there who don’t have smart phones because here is another tip for one. Get the Jo Ann app. They offer a coupon every week as well as keep you updated on what’s on sale. The nice thing about the app is it is crazy convienient. Just open the app and use the coupon, however, unlike email coupons you can only use the Jo Ann app coupon once per purchase but there is no limit on how many purchases you can use it for as long as it’s not expired.

Guess what, Jo Ann accept competitor’s coupons! That’s pretty huge and I give it up to them. Woot Woot! There is no limit for how many competitor’s coupons you can use per purchase, but you can’t use the same coupon more than once and you usually have to have a hard copy of the coupons (but they will accept printed versions of coupons you find online).  Depending on the store, you may get away with using a digital coupon, particularly Hobby Lobby, but that’s not set in stone.  If in doubt, just ask!  What’s the worst they can say?  “No, and you’re banned for life!”  Ok, that might be my own fear, but trust me, it’s not reality.

Lastly, shop at Jo Ann Online and you can CLICK HERE for Joann.com Although you can’t use competitor’s coupons online you can use all of the others. Also, Jo Ann makes special offers to online buyers for shipping and additional coupons that can’t be used in the store.

Michael’s Arts and Craft Supplies
Moving on. I like Michael’s Free Shipping on $50+ at Michaels.com because they also have a great selection, but especially on things that Jo Ann doesn’t carry. The other reason I go to Michael’s is for their paper/scrapbook supplies. I’m sorry, but Jo Ann can’t touch Michael’s in this area. Here we go:

Sign up for mailers! Again, this is a great option at this store. They not only include what’s on sale but they offer special coupons in mailers that can’t be found any where else. But remember, you can only use mailers once per purchase.  I signed up in the store when I was checing out.

Michael’s also offers text coupons. Same deal, you can only use the text coupon once per purchase. To sign up for Michael’s text coupons, text the word JOIN2 to CREATE (273283).

Yes, they also have email offers, but not every email offers a coupon. Most of the time they are just letting you know what’s on sale, but occasionally they bless you with a coupon or 10! Really, they are worth watching for in you inbox because when they do finally send a coupon it’s usually with 10 others.

Get the app! Just search the Michael’s app on your Smart phone, its totally free!  Michael’s is much more structured about their app coupons. They always have a 40% off one regular priced item coupon in their app, but they digitally track when you use it. Once you use it it’s gone until it expires and a new one is offered.  Each coupon is good for a week, so just using the app you can get 40% off one item every week.

Michael’s accepts competitor’s coupons but, again, you have to have a hard copy. Printed versions are accepted, but they have never accepted the coupon offered on a competitor’s app.  Also, every time you shop there you get a 40% off coupon with your receipt.  Check out this link to read the full coupon policy for Michael’s.

Hobby Lobby
Hobby Lobby is the warehouse of craft stores. It’s dizzying going in there. Some people find it overwhelming, other’s love it! I have found that if you can’t find what you are after at other craft stores, Hobby Lobby has it.

Here’s the bottom line with Hobby Lobby and coupons, they are extreamly strict. As far as I’ve seen, they don’t offer coupons in the mail (please correct me if I’m wrong about that because I would love to have some) or email. They do not accept competitor’s coupons and they only let you use one coupon per purchase.  Click here to sign up the their meal offers.

Having said that, get the app!  They do continuously offer a 40% off a regular priced item on the app and you can use it as many times as you want, as long as it’s not on the same day.

Check their sale items.  They are, however, great at putting things on sale. Take for instance their ribbon. I think they have the best selection so I keep an eye on their ads and when ribbon goes on sale I always head over. It’s always on all ribbon so no need for coupons, just buy as many as you want and the sale price applies to all of them.  Keep an eye on their sales by signing up for emails and their app.  I will say that a friend of mine went shopping for items she needed for a specific project and started at Jo Ann with coupons in hand.  Then, on a whim she stopped by Hobby Lobby to see if they had the same items and how the prices compared.  Everything she found at Hobby Lobby was cheaper, even without coupons, so she re-bought all of her items from Hobby Lobby then went back to Jo Ann and returned the others.  Just Sayin’.

Amazon
I know what you’re thinking, “Amazon—craft supplies…what’s the connection?” I get it, but Amazon offers sales regularly as well as used items at a discounted price.  Plus, if you are an Amazon Prime Member you can get discounted and free shipping on many of your purchases, amazon Arts/Crafts/Sewing.
Did I mention you can order while the baby sleeps?  Big.  Fat.  Win.

Last thing, if you are bent on saving money but have a lot to buy, go through the line more than once.  I have been known to shop at Jo Ann, check out, go to the car and drop off my stuff, then go back in again and buy the rest of what I needed.  I did this by using their email, text and app coupons.  

Ok, I have now offered you the the Holy Grail to saving while crafting.  I don’t want any excuses, get out there and create something!

<3, Sharla

by Sharla

Daily Doable 7/22/14

July 22, 2014 in Daily Doable, Kids by Sharla

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Over the years, Matt has taught me a great moto. When it comes to raising kids, you can’t force good behavior, happiness, or high quality choice making. Actually, that is true for anyone, young or old. The way to inspire those around you (including you kids) is to teach them a good way and then let them choose. Yes, sometimes this includes hard consequences, but the reward for good consequences is the real teacher.

Just to be clear, I am in no way pushing Scouts. In truth, Matt and I have never really been fans, but when Davis turned 8 and entered the scouting world…well, he loved it. How can I deny a program that focuses on rearing great citizens, instills quality principles, and is so fun for most kids?! Ok, we can deal. Then, I was asked to be his Cub Scout Master. Yikes! Now I couldn’t pretend, I had to know my junk. I mean, doing crap that you hate for your kids is what being a parent is all about, right?

Well, today I went to Cub Scout camp with our pack. The verdict, awesome. Dirt, arrows, and silliness, every kid’s dream come true. But that’s not what I found great as a parent. What I loved was that those 20-something-year-old kids chose as their job to teach young kids about nature, earth, and team work. In a nutshell, if you can get your child involved with a program that teaches correct principles to live their lives, don’t pass it up. After they learn what the principles are, let them choose for themselves. The chips will fall, sometimes where you might not want them to, but the lesson is life long.
<3, Sharla

by Sharla

Daily Doable 7/8/14

July 8, 2014 in Daily Doable, Kids by Sharla

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How to get your kids to Unplug this Summer!

Remember the Daily Doable I did just one short month ago about spoiling your kids with doing what ever they felt like this summer?  Well, I lived up to that idea.  I spoiled them…..rotten….their drug of choice?  Electronics.  I created monsters, and it didn’t take lightning, but it did take electricity.  One day I realized that I saw my 9-year-old son for a grand total of 1 hour the whole day (I know that sounds kind of great) but he was playing the computer non stop (ok, he stopped to eat and use the bathroom).  But that’s not even the worst part.  It got to the point that any time I made the kids turn off their various electronic I had to deal with a grouchy, rude, down right angry mob!  Something had to be done.  

I have to give my husband the credit, he’s the one who spurred the change.  He woke up one morning and suggested that the kids have to earn electronic time by reading.  Hour for hour.  This got my mind going…what if we didn’t just have them read but incorporated a bunch of non-electronic options?  Thus, our effort to unplug began.  I sat the kids down and explained the plan.  They took it great (no they didn’t).  There was much weeping and waling and gnashing of teeth but I stuck to my guns.  Here is our plan.

Start with a Good Book

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For some kids, reading is not their idea of a good time, so it goes for Davis.  Unfortunately for those kids there is just way too much research on the crazy great benefits of reading for all ages.  So, that is where we started.  The kids had to start with one hour of reading before anything else.  When that hour is up they get one hour of electronic time.  

Let’s not torture them, though!  Head to the library or buy a book from Amazon Kids Books (you can get great books for under $5 if you buy them used).  Let them read what they like.  Your little guy wants to brush up on his Pokemon trivia, let him read a book on it.  When kids read what they are interested in they learn that reading can be fun and it helps them develop a love for it.

Practice makes Perfect!

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Another option for earning electronic time is to practice.  Olivia happens to play the violin, but getting her to practice is like pulling teeth.  All of them.  At once.  Slowly.  Maybe your daughter plays soccer, or your son plays lacrosse.  Even better!  Adding in that physical activity that playing electronics robs them of is a great option.  Again, one hour of practice equals one hour of electronics.

Play a Board Game!

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So, this is a little bit of a cheat because our BINGO game happens to be DVD BINGO (which which I got from Amazon Disney DVD Bingo), but it’s engaging and easy for little ones.  Dust off some of your old board games or splurge on a new one.  Another great place to get amazing educational games is from Lakeshore Toys.  

Do something Creative!

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I know this bucket looks like a mess (ok, it is a mess) but it’s a mess with creative potential!  Anytime I have to buy a craft something-or-other for the various things I do I put the left overs in this box.  It’s fun to get it out and let the kids go to town.  Encouraging creativity is a great way to help kids learn what they like, what they are good at, and even who they are.  You don’t need a lot of supplies, a box of crayons on an extra big sheet of paper is equally exciting. Again, a great way to stock up on unique craft supplies is at Amazon Arts/Crafts/Sewing.

Play Outdoors!

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I know this seems obvious, but my kids were so into their electronics I couldn’t even get them to go to the pool!  What is this world coming to?!  I think it’s fair to say that if you go swimming for a couple of hours, you get to play electronics for a couple of hours.

The reality in my house is that my kids love their electronics, and can you blame them?  Electronics are fun!  But, if you can stick to your own rules you can help them unplug and make it so that EVERYONE has a great summer!

<3, Sharla

by Sharla

Daily Doable 6/13/14

June 13, 2014 in Daily Doable, Kids by Sharla

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Meet Sawyer’s New Friend!

The kids and I were at the pool one day, the sun was shining, the weather was perfect, and with the pool noodle in hand, Sawyer (my 3-year-old) had the nerve to get bored!  He was ready to go but the other kids weren’t.  Bummer for me.  I was left trying to entertain a grouchy, tired toddler.  That’s when his new friend was born.  Simply twist the strap of some goggles around the end of a pool noodle and position the eyes over the top edge.  He was trilled!  He talked to the noodle, taught it to swim and then I used it to attack him from the comfort of my pool chair.  Funoodle Friend, don’t ever leave me!

<3, Sharla

by Sharla

Daily Doable 6/4/14

June 4, 2014 in Daily Doable, Kids by Sharla

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Daily Doable: No More Teachers, No More Books!

Hallelujah!  Finally, school is out for summer!  I have been anticipating this day more than anyone, even my kids.  Ok, teachers have anticipated it more, I bet.  I love having free time with my kids.  I love spoiling them with TV, electronics, and laziness.  But I love spending un-pressured time with them more.  I feel like during the school year we are ruled by schedules.  Time to get up.  Time to eat breakfast.  Time to go to school.  Time to do homework.  Time to go to practice.  Time to eat.  Time to brush teeth.  Time for bed.  It’s a continuous cycle of pushing and prodding.  In other words, it’s exhausting.  Who knew my when my kids started school it would be like I was doing it all over again with them?  So, here we are.  A sumer stretching out in front of us, how will you spend it?  I challenge you to spoil them.  Give them extra time doing the things they can’t do during the school year.  That means something different to every family, so figure out what it is that would make your kids over-the-moon happy to do, and let them do it.  A lot.  Then, after they are through gorging themselves on their favorite pass-time, give them your time.  Whether they realize it or not, kids crave the company of their parents.  Be silly, do a craft, take them to the park.  Set a goal to spend time with your kids.  It can be an hour a day or an activity a week, but take the extra time summer allows and give it to your kids.  Childhood is short and there are precious few summers in it, so make this one a great one!

<3, Sharla

by Sharla

Medication, ADHD and Kids

May 9, 2014 in ADHD, Family, Kids, Matt by Sharla

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Let me start by saying that I’m no expert.  I don’t have a degree in child psychology and I’m not a doctor.  I am, however, the mother of a child with ADHD for 9+ years.  What I will claim is experience.  I hope our family’s experience will help yours.

Our son was diagnosed with ADHD over two years ago but his teachers have been pushing for us to medicate him since the day he started kindergarten.  Grrrrrrrrrrrr.  How frustrating to feel like teachers and loved ones were not only judging our son, Davis, but also treating him as if some pill could make life easier for THEM?!  The simple truth we found, after much thought, research, and observation, is that a pill actually made life better for him.

Choosing to try medication to treat Davis’s ADHD was not a decision we came to lightly.  Although my husband, Matt, had been on medication before for similar issues, we weren’t sure that popping a pill every morning was the right way to help Davis.  We had so many worries concerning addiction, side effects, and how it would effect his self esteem.  Although Davis was diagnose Developmentally Delayed at 15 months old, we were resistant to having him tested for further issues once he hit kindergarten.  We didn’t want him to be labeled.  We were afraid his teachers and friends would judge him.  We were especially concerned that it would ruin his self esteem.  All of those concerned turned around his first grade year.  What was the catalyst?   A loving and devoted teacher.  Mrs. Beck (his first grade teacher) contacted me early in the year with concernes about Davis’s behavior during class, negative interactions with other students, and his ability to focus on and complete school work.  We spent the fist half of the year up until Christmas working hand in hand trying different reward strategies, clear consequences, and structured classroom rules, only to be met with no success.  By the time Decmeber rolled around we were both at our wits end.  He was constantly distracted during lectures, frequently lashed out in physical ways towards fellow students, and had a complete disregard for the responsibilities placed on him.  

While all of this was going on at school, I couldn’t ignore what was in my heart.  At home he was constantly in trouble.  I felt like I was yelling at him all the time because the first 5 times I asked nicely yielded no results.  I could see that between school and home he was constantly being bombarded with a clear message, “you are not good”.  I felt like I was failing him as a mother.  

It was about this time Mrs. Beck called to see if I would meet with her and the school psychologist about Davis.  The three of us sat down and first discussed the things Davis struggled with.  At first I thought, “why are we focussing so much on what he’s doing wrong.  He isn’t all bad!”  It was when Mrs. Beck started to cry while describing a particularly difficult day for Davis that I realized, she wasn’t upset for herself, she was truly frustrated that she had to watch this student day in and day out struggle and fail.  Her tears were for him.  I was deeply touched.  At that moment I put my defenses away and really listened.  I asked her what we should do.  She suggested testing for ADHD.  How could I refuse?  We were on the same side, helping Davis.  She wanted to see him succeed, learn, grow, and build meaningful relationships with his peers.  All of which had been arrested in the current situation.  

First, I contacted my pediatrician to see where to start.  He arranged the proper paperwork over the phone and the school psychologist carried out the actual testing.  It included extensive surveys for Matt and I, his teacher, extended observation by the school psychologist of Davis in the classroom, as well as specific testing for Davis to rule out any other factors that may be contributing to his struggles (i.e. learning disabilities, hearing impairments, or other mental issues such as autism or Asp burgers) .  When it was all said and done the result was clear, he had Attention Deficiency Hyperactivity Disorder.  

It was strange, I wasn’t sad.  I actually felt relieved.  It’s like a patient who is sick that finally gets a diagnosis after years of testing.  Now we could treat the issue.  We might get results.  We might finally begin to help Davis be happy.

I set Davis up on an IEP with the school so that the ADHD would be documented and he could get the full benefit from the school, such has extend and supervised testing for state tests.  Next, I made a visit to my pediatrician with the results.  Matt, Davis and I sat down with him and discussed medication options.  Again, we were reluctant.  Then my pediatrician told us about a study that was done with three focus groups of children, all of which were diagnosed sever ADHD.  The first group had no help at all, just lived life as usual.  The second group was treated with extensive therapy, meaning they saw a therapist at least three times a week for 2 hours at a time to help them learn to cope with ADHD.  The third group was treated only with medication.  After one month of the experiment the researchers deemed it unethical and stopped the whole thing.  The reason why is that the third group’s success rate on medication so completely outweighed both of the other groups that they decided to deny the other kids the benefit of carefully prescribed medications was unethical.

Sold.  Where do I sign?

I’m not going to lie, getting the right prescription and dosage is a lengthy and sometimes painful process, but in our case, well worth it.  Once we were able to dial in the details of the prescription the change in Davis was immeasurable.  He wasn’t a different or a perfect kid.  He was still very much himself as far as his sense of humor or what excited or angered him, but he was able to complete a task when it was asked of him.  He started focussing better in school and finishing school work.  He was able to control his emotions, to include avoiding verbal and physical outbursts.  In other words, he was able to do what he couldn’t before, control himself.  That equaled increased happiness.  

Shortly after Davis was diagnosed my husband, Matt was also diagnosed with ADHD as a result of relating to Davis’s struggles.  He was able to find a medication that works for him.  Researchers believe that as many was 4%-5% of adults and between 3%-10% of children struggle with ADHD.  At first we talked to Davis a little about ADHD and his medication but not a ton.  After Matt was diagnosed and started learning more about it we decided that, like it or not, this was a label that he would live with his whole life, so we have tried to make it a positive part of his identity.  Matt has had many conversations with Davis about his own diagnosis, struggles, medication, and successes.  There have been times when Davis was resentful of the medication and in those times we have tried to remind him of the positives of taking it.  Matt reminds him of the truth; that people who are diagnosed ADHD are in a rare and elite group.  There are no other people in the world that belong to it.  This is a blessing.  One day Davis told me that he didn’t want to take his pill because he didn’t want to get rid of his ADHD.  Following Matt’s example, I explained that the pill doesn’t get rid of his ADHD, he is still the same unique person he is without it.  However, I said, people with ADHD have different struggles and different talents than people who don’t.  The pill he takes helps him control the things that are hard about ADHD so that the things that are great about it can shine through.

Is Davis the epitome of the perfect son, student, brother or friend?  Um, no.  He still has his struggles, just like everybody else.  The difference is that on medication he has the ability to think and then react instead of living on impulse.  Davis takes a pill because it helps him live a life that is happy and successful.  The pill doesn’t make him happy and successful, the pill allows him to have control of himself therefore resulting in success and happiness.

<3, Sharla

*If you are interested in helping your child with ADHD succeed in the class room click here.  To find out how to get support and additional ideas for helping your loved ones with ADHD click here.

 

by Sharla

Daily Doable 4/29/14

April 29, 2014 in Daily Doable, Family, For Fun, Kids by Sharla

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How to Create Memorable Birthdays!

First of all, shout out to my littlest guy, Sawyer!  He turns 4 today!  He is an angle without wings.  Really, to know him is to love him.  He is so full of happiness and fun and life.  Of course, as his parents, we would love to do some huge, extravagant party for him every chance we get, but my husband pointed out long ago (right about the time our first turned 3) that big parties, lots of gifts and tons of friends aren’t what he remembers most about his birthdays.  His dad started a tradition with him that has stuck, and I’m going to share it with you.

With your first kid every parents imagines every birthday being red letter.  Don’t get me wrong, it is.  But when you start having more than one child and birthdays fall close to other holidays or birthdays, life can get complicated.  So, Matt suggested taking a page out his father’s book.  We decided to let each of our kids have a party every other year, on the odd birthdays (1st, 3rd, 5th…..you get it) and the years they don’t have a party they get a date night out with just mom and dad.  Our oldest is getting ready to turn 12 this summer and she already has the restaurant picked out that she wants to go to.  We don’t put any limitations on it (after all, a party is always going to cost more than a meal).  Some of her choices were Wingers, Applebee’s, and most recently, our favorite steak house (ok, that one might have come close to the same cost).  My other son chose his first dinner date with us to be McDonald’s in the play land, and his sister was invited.

The point is, on the years the kids don’t have a party Matt and I get a break from planning all of the hoopla, but more importantly, we get the opportunity to spend some quality time on our child’s special day.  It’s a chance for us to connect and make memories with them, teach them good restaurant etiquette, and give 100% of our attention to that child.  Plus, it makes the years they have parties that much more memorable.  It’s a tradition that Matt and his dad still hold, because one day those little 4-year-olds will grow up and the parties and toys will be gone, but the tradition will continue.  

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, SAWYER!

<3, Sharla

by Sharla

Lego Party!

April 1, 2014 in For Fun, Fun, Kids, Parties by Sharla

Lego Party!

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Seriously, what is hotter for grade school boys right now than Legos?  I’ll tell you, NOTHING!  If you want a sure fire way to please a bunch of little boys do a Lego party, you don’t even have to have the actual toys!  Just label it a lego party and make everything colorful and rectangled.  I am the Cub Master for my son’s Cub Scout troupe and we had our monthly pack meeting as a Lego theme and the boys were over the moon about it.  First, we did the usual cub scout stuff (flag ceremony, talked about the core value, and gave out awards) then, after we closed, I simply had four stations set up around the room that the boys could play with and explore while having treats and the parents could talk.  That, my friends, is what I call a win-win.  

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In addition to the stations I had lego candy bags (they taste like runts and are inexpensive in the bulk food isle), just 5 streamers of different colors in a circus tent pattern hung form the celling and some construction lego paper decorations on the walls inspired from my “Scouts.  The Universe Hates Me Pinterest board.  This pack meeting easily converts to a birthday party or other gathering.  It was a blast, and if you have a Lego lover in your life, I highly recommend doing this party!

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Station #1: Sugar Cube Sculptures

Let’s start with what’s simple.  I didn’t have a single actual Lego at this party, did the kids notice?  Um, no.  I just used the idea of geometric shapes and a lot of bold color to remind them of Legos (it also helped that I had the song “Everything is Awesome” from the Lego Movie playing in the background).  Above you see a picture of one of my more genius ideas.  Sugar cubes for building with.  The kids loved making sculptures that they could eat, and can you blame them?  I left a stack of small bags beside this so they could take some home with them.

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Station #2: Giant Lego Building

Have you seen these cardboard blocks?  I bought mine for about $40 from amazon and the kit came with about 30 different sized blocks.  Best.  Purchase.  Ever.  I have used these over and over for parties and my kids play with them constantly at home.  I just set them out and told the boys to build a giant Lego sculpture.  This is their giant Lego robot.  I couldn’t get the boys away from this activity.

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Station #3: Lego Coloring Page

I found the coloring Lego page online and then printed a picture of the hero from the Lego Movie so the kids had a reference to color with.  Simple and fun.

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Station #4: DIY Lego Heads

This, by far was the favorite part of the party.  This is a simple, easy craft with very little prep.  

What you Need:

  • Yellow construction paper for faces
  • Brown, black or yellow construction paper for the back of the head/hair
  • Staples and stapler
  • Crayons
  • Circle cutting tool

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Start by making the eye holes.  I have this handy little circle cutting tool.  It’s from Making Memories Scrapbook Supplies, but there are many circle cutters out there that would work great.  Measure about half way up from the bottom and about 2″ space between the holes and cut the two holes.  Mine are 1″ across, very Lego face-ish.

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Now color the face.  I thought the kids would like some ideas for faces so I printed the picture below to give them some guidance.  When the faces are done simply choose the color for the back of the head and staple both sides to make a cylinder.  

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Now slap that puppy on.  I know boys who kept their’s for weeks (until mom finally got sick of them and snuck them to the trash).  The point is, the boys loved them, and it was simple, inexpensive and fun!

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The final touch that really added to the fun of the party was a simple app.  It’s called Block Cam and I used it to transform each boy into a lego self portrait.  I printed it at home on computer paper and they each got to take their picture home.  This would also be a great idea for a Thank You card.

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There are so many ways to adjust these ideas to suit any party.  Make the sugar cube or giant Lego building a competition.  Have the boys make their own live action movie with their Lego heads.  Have a dance contest or play the freeze game with the Lego Movie Song.  Through in some cake, ice cream, and presents, and that, my friends, is a party to remember!

<3, Sharla