Tag Archive: fun with the kids


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 IMDb.com

Poster Image from IMDb.com

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?

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?
 
 

Some days, you just know what you are going to write for that day’s post. And it is going to be brilliant. Then your daughter, who is having her birthday says she wants you to do something.

Sara with her birthday fruit tart.

When it is her birthday, you cave just a little. Because it is her tenth birthday and she is your only daughter. Someone suggested to me that I should have another baby since I enjoy playing with a friend’s newborn.

The problem with that is I am 47 and my friend is 32. fifteen years of energy that I no longer have. Those late nights of crying and fussing. Those days of complete exhaustion. I prefer playing with Emma now and again.

But back to my daughter whose birthday is today. Ten years ago, I went to the hospital for an inducement. (Ladies, don’t do it if you do not have to.) A couple of days later I took home a girl. Later this week she will get her ears pierced. She has been begging me to do it for the last two years and I promised when she hit ten we would do it. Today, she hits ten.

As you may remember, each Sunday a different family member at our house chooses the menu and makes the meal. So this Sunday’s supper was her choice which she traded in order to have it. It was the perfect meal for a cold spring day. Roast beef that had been in the crock pot all afternoon along with potatoes and carrots. Biscuits were on the side. But dessert, dessert was the kicker.

It was a tart made in my smallest springform pan. We did not have the cute fluted sided pan but the springform allowed for easier removal. But once the pastry was ready, we put down a layer of melted chocolate chips, a layer of sugared neufchatel cheese and topped with fresh halved strawberries.

Written by Liz Franklin; Image from Borders.com

The recipe came from Cooking Italian with Kids by Liz Franklin. Ever since I have had this book, it has been nothing but a godsend of recipe ideas. Rosemary potatoes, tomato and bread soup, and sugared ricotta with fresh fruit are just a few of the recipes we have made and enjoyed.

This time around it was the Summer Fruit Tart and here is the exact recipe.

For the Pastry

12 Tablespoons of butter, softened

1/3 cup sugar

1 egg yolk

2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra to sprinkle

Chocolate Base

2 1/2 oz Semi-sweet Chocolate

Filling

8 oz Marscarpone cheese

2 tablespoons sugar

2 1/4 lbs mixed summer fruit

a 9-inch loose-bottomed tart pan

a pastry brush

I have to admit we changed a few things around. Without marscapone, we went for the neufchatel cheese. We may have spread more chocolate than needed on the tart. Just strawberries were requested because the b-day girl did not want blueberries.

The recipe was fairly easy for my daughter to make on her own for the most part. I showed her how to cut the strawberries and corrected her form a few times. Then I had to stop watching because I kept imagining the worst.

When it came time for eating the tart, we were ready. None of that tart lasted beyond a half an hour. Which means it is on the list of desserts to make again.

I can’t imagine what it will taste like when we get berries from the berry farm. The crust makes enough for two tarts.

We might have to make several.

I haven’t talked about books lately so I wanted to throw out what is being read at our house right now.

Our school does a RIF (reading is fundamental) program which means the youngest kids get new books every now and again.

Book by Doreen Cronin, Illustrated by Betsy Lewin; Picture from BarnesandNoble.com

One of the books that has shown up from that program in our house lately is Click Clack Moo by Doreen Cronin and we really love it.

The cows have discovered an old typewriter in the barn and write a note to the farmer. The barn gets cold and they want electric blankets.  They will even go on strike to get their demands met.

We laugh, we cry, we watch the duck be the go-between.

It is a great book.

Another great book I have been reading lately is Princess Academy by Shannon Hale. I picked this book up at a garage sale. Then it hung around for a while. I picked it up last month and really enjoyed it.

Book by Shannon Hale; Image from BarnesandNoble.com

The story is about Miri who is the smallest girl in her mountain village. Life is hard and tough. The people are stone cutters and have a special language that Miri wants to learn. One day a messenger from the king announces that the new princess will be picked from their village and therefore all girls will need to attend the new princess academy.

There is the challenge of the lessons, discovery about life beyond their village, the possibility of romance and action as the girls have never imagined will take place during the 18 months of the academy. I loved every moment, especially when Miri figures out how to speak to others without speaking.

This next selection I have not read. That is not the important part here.

"Stormrider" by Anthony Horowitz; Picture from Amazon.com

The reader of the Alex Rider series by Anthony Horowitz is my fourteen-year-old who is not a big reader.

Every week, he has to read 100 minutes for his language class. The books he wants to read lately is Alex Rider. At this point in time he is on the fourth book of the series . Then he expressed sadness that when he graduates from 8th grade he will no longer be able to get these books from the library.

When you are a big reader yourself is there no sweeter sound than to hear your child state he wants a specific book series?

What is your family reading?

Recently the kids and I were discussing favorite books.

It happened over Strawberry Shortcake because one book we remember lovingly was named Cook-a-doodle-doo! by Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel.

Picture from Barnes&Noble.com

The story is about a red rooster who is sick of chicken feed. So he decides to make something out of the cook book from his great granny, L.R. Hen. But the dog, cat and goose refuse to help. New helpers arrive in the form of the turtle, the iguana and the pig.

From there on the comedy ensues as the turtle reads the recipe , the iguana tries to help but has no clue about cooking terms and the pig waits for the moment of taste testing none too patiently.

Every time one of the kids gets this book, we laugh ourselves silly. And we make the shortcake recipe at the end of the book and have a great time eating it. It is fun comedy with a bit of a lesson tied into it. (Love the part where the iguana looks for a bat to beat the eggs)

Picture from BarnesandNoble.com

Another book that make us laugh is Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive The Bus.  Mo Willems really understand how to write for pre-schoolers and kindergartners about frustrations. Plus, we get to yell “no” at almost every page when the pigeon asks to drive the bus. But we are under strict orders from the driver, who is taking a quick break, to not let the pigeon get near the steering wheel.

It is great fun, even when the pigeon has a total meltdown at being thwarted so many times. He even resorts to saying that “your mom would let me do it.”  That pigeon does not know me and is grasping at straws. And my kids know it which is why we laugh at that line. Still, the pigeon makes for a great read at bedtime when the kids are trying to avoid going to sleep.

Picture from BarnesandNoble.com

One book that gets us laughing every time is Tom by Tomie dePaola. Now many of dePaola’s book make us laugh, many make us smile. But there is something about this book that has me chuckling when I am not reading it.

This little book tells about a grandfather and grandson who have a special relationship. They fix various things at the grandfather’s house and hang out at the store where Grandpa is a butcher. One day Grandpa tells the boy to bury a chicken head to get a chicken bush. Another time he shows the boy how to pull the tendon on a chicken foot, once it has been removed from the chicken, to make the toes move.

At this point you are thinking “That’s Gross!,” or “That’s Inhuman! Who would suggest such a book?,” or “That’s really funny!”

I went for really funny because I grew up as a farm girl and understand that your food has legs and breathes. Sooner or later that creature will become supper.  It is not as neat and pretty as chicken wrapped in plastic at the supermarket but that was life at that time. Maybe this is an opportunity, a teachable moment if you will, to talk about daily life 75 or more years ago.

Or maybe it is just a good opportunity to laugh at a little boy playing a trick that maybe he should not. Which is something we all do at some point and we count our blessings for being lucky at nothing going too wrong.

What books belonging to your children or grandchildren make you laugh?

Reading with our youngest

My six-year-old who is in kindergarten surprised me this past week.

Picture by Kahanaboy

He has been studying sight words at school and so we have been reading the little booklets they make every week.

Lately, I have asked him to pick out these word in whatever book we are reading. I want to encourage him without frustrating him.

This week we have been working on a collection of Biscuit stories. My mother likes to buy the kids ‘collection’ books and this one seemed perfect for him. We also have Scooby Doo and Curious George and Dr. Seuss books in collection form that get the “go around” until we get though each book.

So he is going along, pointing out sight words when he decides he is going to try for each word on the page. Some words he knows and are easy. Some, like those pesky “w” or “wh” words don’t want to sound out so I whisper the word to him and he tries it on for size.

Picture from Barnesandnoble.com

Soon, he knows “biscuit” and “woof” as soon as he sees them. Other words come easily while those “w” and “wh” continue their troubling way. But he hears my little whisper and sounds them out on his own. Before you know it, he is reading the whole sentence on the page.

The next night we work on a different Biscuit story. That puppy wants to make friends with the kittens but they want to follow the butterfly. After the word gets broken down into simpler pieces, he gets it. He gets that this jumble of letters means “butterfly. ”

Suddenly, I have a new reader on my hands. I am very excited. But I must be patient. He is not quite ready for that first Harry Potter book.

The Pink Mystical Tree

Every year for Christmas, my mother includes a few little projects in the box along with the presents and crackers.

Some year we get to it and some years we forget about it totally. Magic rocks, tiny sea monkeys, mystical trees have all come to the house. This year it was the pink trees called Mystical Trees.

Picture by Me

Instead of another year of the package sitting around,  my daughter decided she was going to get it done.

She opened one of the packages, made the tree, poured the special solution in the tray and put the tree in the tray.

At first, there was only white fuzz on the cardboard. But a day later it looked like this – pink and fuzzy.

Picture by Me

Maybe you can sit there and watch it grow. I noticed it last night looking a little pink. By this morning it looked like something you can find in a Dr. Seuss book.

In years past we have tried to leave the experiments on the dining room table. But then the dog would try to eat it. Is there anything remotely appetizing about this little science project? Apparently, there is to the dog.

This year our tree is safely hidden behind the dish drainer. Storm has to really work to get at it, requiring a step stool. I do not think he can do that quite yet.

Picture by Me

So now we have an inside mini garden that makes us laugh or smile and it only took a few minutes.

How are you getting through the winter doldrums?