Category: Fun with The Kids

Pulling out the Big Words

When I am not focused on anything else or when I do not want to be focused on anything else, I play Words With Friends.

words with friendsIt is my relaxing task, the one that helps me keep it together when I am about to spin out from grief. It also distracts me from tasks at hand and the things I need to get done.

It is my sin and my salvation.

Through Words with Friends, I have become a master with four-, five-, and six-letter words. If the opportunity strikes, I can place a seven-, eight-, or nine-lettered word. But those moments are rare. Satisfying, as when I was able to place ‘seances’ on two triple letter tiles and the triple word tile.

But recently my daughter competed in a conference spelling bee. She forced asked me to help her study for this contest. Before I would have said I am a woman of letters, i know tough words. I am willing to use those words in a sentence.

I was wrong.

oxford dictionaryOh, sure there were some simple words such as ‘wok’ and ‘aria.’ Then came some of the simple hard words such as ‘zygote’ and ‘quiche.’

None of these compared to ‘chiaroscuro’ or ‘fuliginous’ or ‘mulligatawny.’

I pulled out the dictionary for a pronunciation guide. I tried pulling it up on google to hear the words spoken out loud. After we got through her list, I felt as if I should be crumpled on the kitchen floor waiting for a bit of wine to revive me. Shakespeare had never made me feel this incomplete.

In the end, the girl was third overall in the spelling bee. One of her girlfriends made it to first place and their team won the competition overall over seven other schools.

Now that the bragging is done, you must excuse me. I am still trying to figure out ‘persiflage.’


Are you a youth group leader?

Then you know what I am about to say is true.

Picture by Xandert

Picture by Xandert

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get stale. How many times can we do the same lesson to a bunch of kids who may or may not want to listen?

There is a scene in Soul Surfer in which the kids are listening to their youth group leader  quietly and attentively.

That was real fiction because I have never had that happen. When I mention it to the kids, they usually say “you know that is a movie, right? It is not real life.”

So the other night when the kids gathered, I asked then to pair up and gave them six pieces of paper. I tried to hum the theme song from “The Dating Game” before I announced that tonight we were going to play a new game.

I called it “Things I Don’t Remember Talking About in Youth Group?” or something similar.

The kids laughed because they realized I wanted to make what we talk about fun but not like a test. At some point I wanted to see if they remembered anything we talk about because most of the time they are busy trying to out-talk me.

The five questions went like this:

*Who was the guy who freed the Jews from Egypt?

* Name one of Jacob’s two wives.

* What was the first name that Paul went by?

* Name six of the twelve disciples?

* Where was Jesus born and where did he die?

Bonus Question: How many people did David have to kill to prove to Saul he was worthy of being King?

The answers were pretty interesting, especially when everyone remember Rachel but not Leah. And the most disciples anyone could remember was four. Well, guess what the next few lessons will be focusing on. Yep, we are learning about each disciple.

Poster Image from

Poster Image from

As we move close to Easter and the resurrection, it is important to know about the men who kept the movement going after Jesus left the earth.

I am not sure if I will go into the deaths of each man but their lives before meeting holds interesting facts. None of these men were perfect, like the rest of us.

I can’t wait for next week’s youth group. I just need a way to make it fun.

Suggestions, anyone?

Every time I turn around, I hear someone talking about Chicken and Waffles.

People rave about this dish and I have never had it. I looked up a few recipes and knew I could do it so my last Sunday Supper meal was just that.

My central problem was my waffle iron. It is not a traditional iron with the square pockets.

chicken and waffles - Waffle Iron

My waffle iron is a Mickey Mouse design with the heads of the six main characters. That would be Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, Daisy and Pluto. However, why let a little issue like that bother you when there is is chicken waiting to be fried.

Now, I did not use a recipe per sae. That’s right, I made it all up as I went along. This could bother some people and some times it bothers me because I like to time everything.

Instead, I took my chicken breasts and pounded them a little thinner so they would cook faster. After that, I prepared a dredging pan of flour, salt and pepper. I made a skillet get hot on the stove, put the oven at 250 and took out a glass dish to put my cooked chicken pieces in and keep warm in the oven.

chicken and waffles - ingredients

Meanwhile, my daughter made the waffle batter while the iron  heated up. But here is where our first snafu came up. I forgot to spray the iron with Pam before we started. The first batch stuck to the plates and would not come off. It would take practically burning the dough off of the plates in order to clean them.

However, once that debacle was over we were in waffle-making and chicken frying heaven. I put a little vegetable oil in the hot skillet before starting the chicken. The waffle iron was sprayed with Pam and all came out fairly well. What was made went into the low oven to stay warm without drying out and waited for all to be done.

Last thing that needed to happen – besides the steaming of broccoli – was to make the chicken gravy. I did a simple rue in the pan we used for cooking the chicken. Then I added chicken broth, let that simmer down for a bit to reduce before adding the milk. The husband oversaw the final part of cooking the sauce because that is what he likes to do best.

chicken and waffles - plated

Now some people make the layers with waffle on the bottom, chicken next and then the gravy. Others add syrup between the waffle and the chicken. Some pictures showed just the chicken on the waffle.

At our table, we had people eating the components separately with syrup on the waffles. I went for the syrup between the chick and the waffle while my husband choose to have only the gravy covering his stack.

I guess it does not matter how you eat it because the leftovers were minimal. The kids kept going back for chicken and waffle pieces.  The broccoli was eaten by some and the last of that became omelets the next morning.

chicken and waffles - components

This is one meal I was told to “add to the rotation.”

Are you trying any new recipes this spring?

Summertime, Summertime

It is summer time.

The kids are home and driving the husband crazy.

This is when working at home can suck. You have deadlines to live by but the kids want all of your attention. And a big fight is the best way to get it.

So what do you do as a work-at-home parent when the other parent works out of the house?

We have come up with a three-prong plan.

Image by Sanguglen

First of all, plan a chore list everyday or most days depending on your schedule. Our lists comprise of things that have to be taken care of everyday such as pet care, music practice time and reading.  I also throw things on to keep the house picked up. They do jobs around the house as well as keep their rooms cleaned up.

This year I told the kids that if their jobs are not done when I get home from work, there will be consequences. Dad should not have to stand over them every moment of the day to make sure the chores are done. I will take away devices, turn off the tv, and ban friends from the house. They also know I will follow through on this.

No one wants to lose screen time.

Image by Phaewilk

Secondly, we utilize every Vacation Bible School (VBS) program we can find. For one week during the morning or the evening, kids get to learn a little about Jesus while making crafts and singing songs. Many of their friends are there and a good time is had by all.

One of the churches is doing a one day VBS on a Saturday. Yep, the kids are going to that one as well. Luckily, most of the VBS programs at various churches are well spaced out so just when staying at home all of the time gets a little boring, they are off to another church.

My personal jar of boredom buster ideas

Lastly, I have the “I’m Bored”  jar. Other people have posted blog entries about their jar. I loved one post that listed 150 different ideas to break the curse of boredom.

Of course, this was from a stay-at-home mom who was trying to come up with ideas for winter/Christmas break. And I applaud her creativity from which I completely stole as I worked on my “I’m Bored” jar.  The slips of ideas I put in were more relative to the interests of my kids but I did write out about 150 different ideas.

I have things that involve raspberry picking, going to the Farmer’s Market or writing a letter to Grandma. I ask that they go with whatever hits the hand first but the kids have been known to sift through the slips until they find one they like.

It doesn’t hurt that we have the County Fair near the end of the summer which means there will be things to get ready. And the end of fair always seem to signal the end of summer, especially when band camp starts the next day.

But for now, it is time to enjoy hotter than hot days that end with cool breezes in the evening. There are fruits to be picked, books to read, and water sprinklers to dance under.

Bring it on!!!!

How do you deal with  Summer Boredom Syndrome at your house?

Dirt Cups

There are days that dessert does not have to be one of those gazillion step creations. Granted, they look and taste great. But can they be made by a first grader?

Today, Sam and I will demonstrate how to make Dirt Cups. As you can imagine, I forced Sam volunteered to make the dessert for his meal later that night.

Most of the ingredients

First thing we did was gather all of the ingredients. We only needed four things to make this tasty dessert. The milk was in the fridge in an effort to remain icy cold.

The dessert cups

Next, we gathered all of the dessert cups. These pretty things came from a family member as a wedding present.

Still with us? I know. There are a lot of steps here.

Making the Crumbs

So the next part is crushing the chocolate cookies for the topping. Sam and I sacrificed ourselves in the removal of the cream centers. The rest of the bag of cookies disappeared  when the oldest took them into a room of hungry Yu-Gi-Oh players.

Whisking the Pudding

With that done, we got out a big bowl and started work on the instant chocolate pudding. Sam used a whisk to get the air worked in the pudding.

The steps to set up: worms, pudding, topping.

Now it is time for set up. First, each cup gets two gummy worms. Then we put in some pudding. Finally, the chocolate crumbs are sprinkled on top to give the cup that ‘dirt’ look.

Chilling in the fridge.

We chilled them and served at dinner time. I forgot to take that picture. However, the cups were emptied so fast there was no time to take a picture.

Do you have a super easy dessert that even a first-grader can make?

Image from

Did you know that this is the 100th year of Girl Scouts?

I am highly aware since my daughter is currently in Girl Scouts. She loves it as the troop is always doing something fun. Derby cars, scarecrow making, pie making, crafts and what not.

However, now is the time for cookie sales in our area. My daughter has till Sunday to sell 150 boxes that she put down for her goal. We are no where near half way but we have not hit all possible places to get sales.

You could consider this a call to arms to help my daughter. But what I really want  you t do is buy from whomever is closest geographically. Help make the local troop have the best sales ever. There is an app that can tell you where sales are taking place in your area.

Image by Click

When I was in college, I volunteered at a local brownie troop. The sales I made sent the girls to camp that summer. Now that was cool. Wouldn’t you like to help send a girl to summer camp where they do fun things?

Well then, you know what you have to do. There is no point in debating which is the best cookie flavor because we all know Thin Mints are the bomb. All of the others are good too but everyone knows which is the best. Buy a box of Thin Mints and another cookie that is your second favorite. That is an $8.00 investment of pure joy.

What a great way to celebrate the 100th year of Girl Scouts.

On the Book Pile

Do you have a book pile by the bed?

I do along with a magazine pile and a catalog pile. There is no end to these things. And yet, I love it all. One magazine has a picture of how I want my hair highlighted the next time I get it done. A few catalogs show outfits I would like to own.

I also have books I am currently reading or have read and would like to read again. Then there is the pile of books I need to take over to the paperback book store to add credit to my account and buy more books.

Some of the books by my bedside are the books we read at bedtime. Dr. Seuss and other favorites gather around. My seven-year-old has been getting books about the planets and weather events from the library which is always fun. These two books are ones we have read recently. One is almost 20 years old (and still a lot of fun). The other is a newer book.

Image from AuthorHouse

I was recently sent a review copy of The Year the Snow Didn’t Melt by Dr. William Kirmes by AuthorHouse in Bloomington, Indiana to review. It is a small book, about 27 pages long. The pictures are worked in solid bold colors and fun in their depictions of snow falling all year-long.

The story is about a town that gets an early snowfall in October. The snow lasts through the winter and does not go away when the spring months arrive. Nor does the snow go away when summer comes around as well.

My children liked the story, found images of people playing baseball in the snow funny, and enjoyed the idea of ice cream cones lasting longer.

When I was cleaning up around the house I found The Three Little Wolves and the Big, Bad Pig by Eugene Trivizas and illustrated by Helen Oxenbury. We received it through the RIF program at our school but it was published around 1993. There have been several re-tellings of old fairy tales and this one is just as clever and insightful as many of those.

Image from Barnes and

Here we find that the three little wolves are being put in the world by their mother. They build wonderfully strong homes but the Big, Bad Pig destroys each and every one. Then one day they decide to try a different tack with the Pig.

Does it work? Well, you are going to have to read the book to find out. I find that this book tells a good story and makes the wolves likeable. Their creativity along with a real love for each other is something that the classic story does not always give to the readers. In any case, if you happen upon this book expect to have a good time.

Now a note for adults. Chick Lit Plus ran a challenge this year to encourage her readers to read twelve books in the Chick Lit genre, including two by debut authors. She enjoyed it so much that she is doing it again this year. I have already signed up and she is asking those who did sign up to tell others.

So if you are interested in taking a reading challenge, here is your chance.

What have you been reading lately?

No Punch Bug Back!

Last week, WordPress decided to freshly press a post with a picture of a Volkswagen. It was a good-looking teeny-tiny picture and I wanted to see it bigger. Too bad my computer would not let me. The other thing that came to my head was “Dang it! Now I cannot do the post I was planning on doing about VW Bugs.”

But you know me. Why let someone else’s good fortune stop me from doing what I really want. I mean, in no way is this a “hey, look at me. I am doing the same thing as them and they were freshly pressed last week” kind of post. I am actually telling a story of sorts and they have more pictures than I do. Go back to compare and contrast. Explain in the comment area. (Just kidding, I really do not want essay answers.)

Now, do you remember that game of punching your companion in the arm whenever you see a Volkswagen Beetle? You yell “No Punch Bug Back” so they cannot hit you in the arm. Don’t say it and your arm is open season.

2006 Volkswagen Beetle; Image from Carmax

Who can forget, especially if you have a 14-year-old in the crowd who knows how to punch the part of your arm that has the least amount of fat.

Owww, that hurts.

In our town there are two beetles of the newer variety. One is dark blue and the other is a cream color. In an effort to stop fighting in the car one day, I saw one coming and yelled out “Punch Bug, No Punch Bug Back” as I tapped the closest kid on the leg.

This was great! Kids went ‘what?’ and hands went flying. Kids started keeping an eye out for the rounded car and hitting each other.

Sometimes, we yell out the color so there is no confusion. The seven-year-old ran with this game. He was on the watch at all times. Chances are he will see one before the rest of us.  The ten-year-old, however, got tired of being on the receiving end of her older brother’s punches.

They really do hurt.

Picture by Alvimann

She took herself out of the game then had to yell that she wasn’t in the game anymore every time they tried to hit her. I got her back in by playing with me when it was only us in the car. Later I had to set the rule that the punches had to be gentle and not bone-jarring.

Call me the no-fun mom, if you will. But once I did that, the game became fun again.

Without the threat of punches hard enough to make your bones wish you still weighed more than you should for that extra protective layer of fat, the game became a pleasurable distraction from what was another boring trip to run endless errands.

 And it is one of those games you can play in the car while traveling. Which would you rather have – kids fighting because they are bored and miserable OR kids hitting each other because they spotted a VW Bug. Alex, I will take VW Bug for $500, please.

The funny thing is I see these bugs all over the place these days. I see them with convertible tops and without. I see red and silver and black. Sometimes, I even see old ones that remind my husband how his first car was a bug. I think about how in the winter they took forever to warm up. Brrrr.

2002 Beetle, Image from Carmax

Now that they are popular again, it is easier to play this game. And the ten-year-old says she wants her first car to be a VW. I told her to start saving her money now. The thing is, I think by the time she is ready to drive, she will have that money because she likes saving up for stuff. And you have to admit, it is a cool-looking car.

Punch Bug Red! No Punch Bug Back!

Jackpot Drop Cookies

Ah, summer time.

Sure, there is nothing like playing and doing whatever you want to do. That is if you are not in 4H.

My kids are having fun and playing with friends. But they also have to get ready for the County Fair at the beginning of August. Or sooner if you took on a cooking project which my daughter did. So on July 5th she has to present three cookies she made herself from a recipe in the Cooking 101 manual.

So the family is going to be forced to sample the cookies she makes. By herself with no help from me.

I am there in the kitchen giving helpful hints as we go through each step.

Be quick with the non-stick spray and do not over load the pan with that stuff.

Turn on the mixer on after the beaters are firmly on the bottom of the bowl.

Keep the dog out of the kitchen at all costs during this cooking adventure.

It is ok to sample a few chocolate chips.

After sifting flour and mixing it with the baking soda and baking powder, we move on to the next step.

Cream together some other ingredients.

Egg, softened butter, brown sugar, white sugar, vanilla

Next comes the mixer.
Look at her technique! No splattering!

Time for the dry ingredients to be added.

So now is when the mixer can still be used but it gets a little harder. Once the nuts and chips are added, she has to use a spoon to stir the rest of the ingredients in the dough.
This is the part where we do not talk about the taste testing. One must make sure the dough is ready for baking. Using two teaspoons, dough is placed on the pans. Pans are placed in the oven for ten minutes and then taken out.

 The book says to put them on wire racks. I prefer using newspaper but I guess this way is better. By the time the second pan came out, we were able to sample the first batch. This was when I taught the fine art of picking the ugliest cookies for sampling.


We plan to make another batch on Thursday before our Friday Fun night and again on Sunday. On the fifth, she will have to have a plate of three cookies, a copy of the recipe and a day’s menu with the cookies as a component of one meal. This year I think she is getting a blue ribbon for her efforts.
Are your kids doing any special projects this summer?

Quiet On the Set

Getting REady to be the Ghost Girl

This past weekend I had the pleasure of watching my daughter take part in a movie. It is a thriller and she is the ghost girl.

Granted, this is no Hollywood production with big names and potential for superstardom. It is as about as indie as you can get. Once it is done the movie will only be about 10-15 minutes long.

This is how people get started if you cannot leave your hometown and go to Hollywood. Want to know something even cooler? The producer/director has a listing on

Let me start at the beginning.

We have known Shannon Feaster for several years as our boys have been in school together since kindergarten. They share this interest of movies. When Johnny Depp came to our town to shoot a scene for Public Enemies, Dakota and David were first and second in line for hand shakes.

Dakota has been making small videos and made his first horror short last winter. It was really good, scary, unsettling.

So Shannon and Michelle (wife/producer/makeup artist/actress/whatever is needed) belong to a collective of people making horror movie shorts. They are given a prompt and put together their own scripts. The one my daughter is making an appearance in is called The Keepsake. It is spooky and scary with a bit a realism.

A director with his actor

Shannon is filming it in a friend’s house and on a local street. If you have never been on a film set, it is a fascinating process. I have been on the set of Prison Break which was really interesting with multiple cameras.

One scene that lasts a minute can take several hours as cameras get various angles. Perhaps the actors figure out a different way to do a scene that works better. Someone does a look in one scene they don’t do in another. Or after several scenes of doing the scene the actors get a case of the giggles.

I was fascinated. While the genre is not one of my favorites, I loved seeing the creative process play out. The need to get several takes of the same shot. The need for the rest of us not to move or make a sound as the mike catches everything. I felt the same way with the TV show I watched.

It was a great experience. I only hope my daughter appreciates it later.