Thursday, February 27, 2014

#FastFoodFreeFeb

If you follow me on Twitter, you might have noticed a few tweets throughout this month about me not eating Fast Food. I didn't make a huge deal about it, because I just didn't feel like I should. If you recall, one of my Thirty before 30 goals was to go a whole month without eating Fast Food. I decided that I was going to do it this month

I wanted to take just a minute to explain why this was on my list of goals. I didn't want to do it to lose weight or anything like that. I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it. I eat out, particularly fast food, way too much. I wanted to show myself that I could survive without having to pull up to the drive thru window. Seriously, some days lunch and dinner were both fast food. It is just so convenient, and easy. It is relatively inexpensive, compared to grocery shopping and cooking for one person. I had quite the addiction.

I went into this thinking that it was going to be extremely difficult. I knew that I would be tempted and that I would be surrounded with endless opportunity to fail. However, after a few days, I found that I really didn't think about it. I would drive past all the fast food places and not even think about stopping. When my parents would bring home food and I ask if I wanted anything, saying "no" was easy. 

As I write this, I am 27 days Fast Food Free... I don't see me eating any tomorrow, either... so I am going to call this little project a success. I have only really craved one thing during the whole month that is fast food... a biscuit from Bojangles. It will be my first fast food purchase on March 1. 

I'm really glad that I did this, and that I was successful. It really has shown me that I can cut back on it. In the spirit of transparency, I still had burgers and fries... but they were homemade burgers and fries that weren't loaded with all the preservative crap that fast food joints have in them. People have told me that I won't even have a taste for fast food anymore... I think that it will take more than a month for me to develop that.  I really didn't change much else about my diet throughout the month, so I'm not sure if I saw any weight loss as a result. I will weigh Saturday morning to see. 

I might still eat fast food from time to time, but I have a feeling that it will be with less frequency! 

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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Just Watching Airplanes


Last Friday, I spent the afternoon working in the office, and stayed a little longer than I had planned. I needed to leave to get to the church lock in. Parker and Maggie were at my mom's and I also wanted to spend a little bit of time with them, since I wouldn't be spending the night with them, and wouldn't see them much on Saturday because I had a Tupperware party. 

It was a 'busy' weekend, without much downtime. So, when Parker wanted to go outside to look for airplanes, I really didn't have time for it, but then I remembered the blog post I'd read on Molly's blog the day before. She wrote about Quitting the "Busy" Trap.  The take away from her post was that we really aren't as busy as we claim, and we really need to make time for the things that matter. 

So when Parker asked again to go outside and look for airplanes, I quickly sent a text to another youth leader and told her that I would be there, but I would be late. Parker and I went outside, sat on the porch, and watched the sky. Mama's house isn't too far from an airport, so usually you can see a plane or two go by. That day, we saw 4. Parker was so excited that we saw so many planes. He said they were racing in the sky. He asked where they were going, and why they were going in different directions. Hearing him retell the story about us seeing all the airplanes to my Mom was great. 

Some days, you just have to take a second to just watch airplanes. One day, Parker won't beg me to go outside and watch the sky with him. Soon he will be too big or too cool to hang out with his Aunt Crystal. I want him to remember these times with me because it is these small moments with him that I cherish. 
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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

10 Tips to Plan A Successful Church Youth Lock In

Earlier this year, I wrote about growing up as a church kid, and how now that I am an adult in the church, I want to ensure that our Youth Group looks back on their time as a church kid in the same positive light that I do. That post was in response to another blog post: 20 Signs You Grew Up as a Church Kid. Number 4 on that list was: "You participated in a youth group “lock-in.”

When I was a kid, lock ins were so much fun. They made for a long night, because we stayed up all night... playing games, hanging out and chatting, and probably driving our Youth Leaders crazy because we just wouldn't go to sleep. So, when our Youth Leaders decided that we were going to have a lock in, I was scared. I envisioned a sleepless night with kids running around everywhere.

Last weekend, we had a lock in, and it was so successful. All of the kids were asleep by 11:30 pm, up before 7 am and back with their families by 8 am, and most importantly, a lot of fun was had. I'll admit, I didn't have a huge hand in planning the lock in, but as I was sitting there, waiting for the last of the kids to drift off into dream world, I jotted down some notes about what I felt like made this lock in a success, as well as things that we could have done a little bit differently. I also thought about things that could be done with different age groups and with other purposes and came up with this list.


1. Make sure all logistics are covered.
When your Youth Leaders first decide that you are going to have a lock in, make sure that you are all on board with the logistics. Date, Time, Location, etc. You want to make sure that you have a large enough area for everyone to be able to run around and have fun, but also be able to have separate sleeping areas for boys and girls. We are lucky enough at our church to have a large activity center that provided enough space for all of our needs. You also want to make sure that parents know what time to drop off their kids, and what time to pick them up. Usually, lock ins last at least 12 hours, and depending on your purpose, can run as long as 24 hours. Do what works for your kids. We started at 6 pm and had a pick up time of 8 am.

2. Age Groups
You want to make sure that your age groups aren't too large. Our church youth group is divided into 3 age groups. 3-8, 9-12, and 13-19. For this lock in, we only had the youngest two groups. However, none of the 3 and 4 year olds came, so we had ages 5 to about 11. If you want to include all of your age groups, it is possible, but know that you will have to have separate activities, since teenagers aren't going to want to play with the little kids. 

3. Adult to Kid Ratio
The Adult to Kid Ratio is really important from a safety stand point, but you also don't want the kids to overwhelm just a few adults. You may have to ask for more help, outside of just the Youth Leaders. Depending on the age of the kids, I would suggest a ratio of around 1:4. 1 adult per every 4 kids. We had 16 kids, and 6 adults, so we were closer to a 1:3 ratio. You also want to make sure that you have both male and female adults present to help with things like bathroom visits and changing into pajamas and for when it is time to go to sleep. 

4. Have a Theme or Purpose
The reason that we decided to have a lock in last weekend is because some of our kids wanted to go camping. With our weather being a little unpredictable lately, we decided that we could do the lock in with a camping theme, and bring it all inside. We went with a "camp in" theme. We used tents to separate the sleeping areas, roasted marshmallows and ate at picnic tables which had lanterns on them. We had camping chairs set up for when we watched a movie.

I also thought about some other themes or purposes that you use for a lock in. You could really do anything, but here are a few other ideas.

Service Based
Design a lock in around a service project. You could plan your lock in for the fall and pack boxes for Operation Christmas Child. You could pack boxes for your church missions. Have your lock in that night, and then wake up and clean up the church yard or plant flowers in the Spring. There are so many options. Just pick one and make it the purpose for having everyone get together and do something good.
Fundraiser
I remember as a kid, we used to have Rock a Thons in our church fellowship hall. I was recently going through old home videos and found one from a Rock a Thon in 1990 that was also a lock in. They are a perfect thing to do together. Have each youth group member bring their own rocking chair and collect pledges for the number of hours that they would rock. Set the rocking chairs up in front of a projected movie, or in front of TV where kids could play (church appropriate) video games. Set the chairs up in a circle and play games or sing songs or have devotion time. Just keep rocking and raising money for your cause.
Worship Retreat
Design your lock in to be a time of Worship and Spiritual Renewal. I think that this one would work really well with older kids, like teenagers. Sing songs, have a time for testimonies, spend a lot of time in prayer, have several devotion times throughout the night. Plan your activities to bring your youth group closer together and closer to God.
5. Have Food
If there is anything that our church does well, it is eating. Our Activity Center has a large kitchen in which we prepare meals often. It is important to include some type of food in your lock in, whether it is a meal or just a bunch of snack type food. Kids like to eat, especially when they are in a party type atmosphere. We kicked off our lock in with Supper. That's a good way to get everyone together for a meal before all of the activities begin. We kept it simple with cheeseburgers that one of our male youth leaders cooked on the grill. We had chips and cookies to go with them. We also had snacks that the kids could go in and grab throughout the night. It is important though, to make sure that you set a cut off time for the food and the drinks, especially if you are dealing with younger kids. 
We also had doughnuts the next morning for a quick breakfast before the kids left. Since they were leaving so early, we didn't need anything too heavy. I have been to lock ins where there was a big breakfast the next morning, and that might be a good idea, depending on your time frame. 

6. Have Lots of Activities Planned.
We had a lot of things for our kids to do throughout the night, but there really wasn't a set schedule of when things would happen. We kind of played it by ear to see what the kids were doing, if they were getting bored with one thing or if we needed to move on to something else. Plan out activities that are geared towards your theme or purpose. 

Since we were going with a "camp in" theme, we knew that one thing we wanted to do was to roast marshmallows. We used a fire pit outside and had the kids take turns roasting their marshmallows. We didn't want to do this too close to dinner time, but we didn't want it to be too late either. After we ate, we let the kids run around and play. We had games like Twister and Giant Tic Tac Toe set up in stations in the gym. We also had access to basketballs, other kinds of balls, scooter boards, plasma cars, etc for the kids to play with. We kind of just let them run around and do whatever they wanted.

Around 8 pm, we could tell that they needed a change, so we went outside to roast marshmallows. They loved it, and it fit in perfectly with our theme. 

After we were done with that, we came back inside and washed up for some group activities. It is important to have whole group activities for your youth to bond as a youth group. We wanted to make sure that we did a short devotion, so once everyone was settled back inside, we started with that. One of our youth leaders did a devotion that related to the camping theme.

After the devotion, we played some group games to wear them out even more. Think of "old school" games like Four Corners. They loved that game, and it gave them more opportunities to run around and play before we wanted them to go to sleep. After Four Corners, we played a teacher's favorite, Silent Ball. After a couple of rounds of each, it was time for a movie. 

We projected the movie on the wall, and some kids sat in the camping chairs, while others curled up in their sleeping bags. Pick a movie that is appropriate and not gender specific (no princess movies or super hero movies). The movie was the final "wind down" activity for the night... some of the kids even went to sleep before it was over. 

7. Know that Some Kids Won't Stay.
When planning your activities, keep in mind that some kids will not stay the entire night. There could be several reasons for this. Some might plan to leave for various reason, and their parents will arrive to pick them up. Some kids might wake up and want to go home. When dealing with younger kids, some might get homesick. Keep all of those possibilities in mind. We had a couple of kids that had plans the next morning and needed to leave early. Luckily, we didn't have any kids get homesick. Make sure that you plan activities that these kids can participate in. Since we didn't have anything really going on the next day, the kids that didn't stay, didn't miss anything. If you have big things planned for the second day or overnight activities, make sure that you have things both groups can do as well. 

8. Remember Kids with Special Needs. 
Know your kids and if they have any special needs. If you have kids that have allergies or asthma make sure that you know that in advance. Make sure that if kids need medication that they have it on hand. When we went outside for the marshmallows, the smoke and cool air got to one of our kids with asthma, and she started having trouble breathing, and she didn't have her inhaler. We quickly got her inside and breathing into a paper bag until her parents could drop off her inhaler. Make sure you have what you need. Also, make sure that you have simple first aid supplies on hand in case something happens. 

9. Establish a Bedtime or Lights Out Time. 
For your sanity, this one is important. I think that this was one of the most successful aspects of our lock in. The kids knew that they were expected to go to bed at some point. For us, once the movie was over, the kids that were still awake, went into their tents and went to bed. A couple of the adults stayed up until they were sure that all the kids were asleep. Let your group know from the beginning that everyone needs sleep. It helps if you have activities that will wear them out and make them tired. It also helped that when we started the movie, the lights went off. It calmed everyone down.  Before midnight, all of our youth were sleeping and it was glorious. My fears of a super late night were gone. 

10. Have Fun!  
All of these tips are great, but if no one has fun, it isn't even worth it. Remember that you are dealing with children. Things will happen, someone's feelings will get hurt. Kids will bump into each other and get hurt. There may be tears, but soothe them and assure them that everything is ok. Monitor all of the activities and make sure that the kids are having fun. Have fun with them. Make memories with them.

Have you ever been a part of a youth group lock in? 
Do you have memories of church lock ins as a kid? 



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Monday, February 24, 2014

50 is Sweet: Mama's Surprise 50th Birthday Party

Two years ago, we threw my Daddy a Surprise 50th Birthday party. Since Mama was turning 50 this year, we decided to the same with her. It was a lot harder to keep a surprise from her, since she wasn't in on the party planning. Another thing that was more difficult was deciding on a theme. Daddy was easy... trucks are his "thing." Mama really doesn't have a "thing." I found myself thinking about the stuff that she enjoys, and right now, most of her spare time is taking care of Parker and Maggie, and she wouldn't have it any other way... but I kept coming back to candy. She has a bit of a sweet tooth, especially when it comes to chocolate. I kept thinking that it would be silly to do a candy themed 50th birthday party, but I couldn't think of anything else that would really fit her and that would be simple to do. So, candy theme it was, and I played it off as "50 is Sweet!"

Here's the invitation, which I kept simple. Chocolate drizzle on top, a baby picture and simple wording.

We had a pretty standard menu for lunch: BBQ Chicken on the grill, Red Potatoes, Green Beans, Cole Slaw and Cornbread.

All types of chocolate candy were everywhere in the decorations. This is the Centerpiece on the buffet table.
 

I also built this massive candy "cake" tower for the center of the cake table.

 The cake matched the invitation. Again, my wonderful cake lady did an outstanding job.

For centerpieces on the table, we did simple balloons and piles of candy. The candy was hot glued to Styrofoam shapes. Some were squares and others were cones. The cones looked like candy mountains! 


The pretty flowers that my Daddy gave her for her birthday were the centerpiece of the gift table. Even though we requested no gifts, people brought some anyway.  See there was more candy spread throughout.

The photo wall with a simple banner that said "Happy 50th Birthday Becky" was one of my favorite parts. I love going back and looking at photos of my family from before when I was born. This photo wall included all parts of her life, from growing up, to becoming a wife, mother and grandmother. Of course, there were more candy bowls so that people could snack while they viewed the photos.  

There were some stressful moments, but we pulled it off. Surprise parties are so hard! I told a lot of "little white lies" to her the weekend of the party so that we could keep it a surprise. I think she kind of figured it out the night before, but she didn't say anything. Now... to do a 60th party for my aunt in April.

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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Suck the Happiness Out


I've spent some time this week doing something totally opposite of what I've spent the last few months to a year doing. I sat down and unfollowed a bunch of people on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Bloglovin. I'm not talking one or two here or there... I mean, I unliked about 190 pages on Facebook. I unfollowed over 100 people on Twitter. On a normal day when I'd log into Bloglovin, I'd have 50 to 60 new posts to read. Today when I logged in, I had 6.  Truly a social media purge. 

Why would one do this? Isn't the whole point of social media to interact with lots of different people? What about that whole blogging 'community' that everyone is always talking about? Well, to sum it up kinda quickly, seeing all of those posts and the tweets and the whole blogging community mumbo jumbo every single day, was sucking my happiness out.  I'll explain... 

I don't mean that the people that I unfollowed or unliked were intentionally doing bad things to me. Yes, there were a few times when I felt snubbed by a few of them, but I'd whine about it to some friends and get over it... but there was still just something about blogging and social media that made me sad now... and that is not how it used to be. 

In my first post of this year, I wrote this: 
Honestly, I think I got too caught up in trying to 'fit in' and grow my readership and all that stuff... I stopped wanted to write blog posts that were important to me... and just write for a new link up everyday. I lost sight of the reason that I started blogging in the first place. I felt like the posts that really mattered, no one was reading or responding to. I have to get past all of that and just keep blogging... maybe the numbers will come, maybe they won't... but I have to just keep writing and not worry so much about all of the statistics...
I got caught up in all of that again after just a few short posts. Constantly seeing posts from bloggers who posted every day and feeling the pressure to do the same... watching them grow their communities while all I get are hundreds of spam comments... just not feeling like I could ever really break into this whole mystical blogging community was making me sad, and my blog was and still is suffering for it.

Do I think that there is a great blogging community? Of course I do, but somewhere you have to find where you fit into it... and I just haven't found my place, yet. I always felt like an outsider, and I know that part of it was me... but there were also times where I tried very hard to fit in a be liked and those attempts were blatantly ignored.  To other bloggers out there: If you think that readers don't notice their comments that you delete or never respond to, or notice the behaviors of link up hosts, etc... you are wrong. Readers notice all of that. Here's the other thing about this blogging community... it is very cliquish. I'm talking High School, Mean Girls, cliques. I don't normally do well with those kinds of situations in real life, so there's no way that I want to deal with it online.

A lot of the people/blogs that I stopped following were ones that I'd just started following to enter some massive giveaway or something... and I truly didn't read their posts or interact with them much at all, so they weren't such a big loss. There were others who on most days, I enjoyed what they had to say and would comment from time to time... but reading their blogs was no longer working for me...

So, I just made the decision that I was going to do some "Spring cleaning" and only keep blogs and people on my list who I feel that I have genuinely connected with in some way. I won't ever stop reading new blogs, but from now on, I'm just going to be a lot picker when it comes to actually following, religiously reading and committing to a blog.

I've made friends online with people that I've never met before... some of them, I have been friends with for years... but I felt like all of the people I cut out weren't contributing to my happiness, and on most days were decreasing it, so they had to go.

Have you ever done a social media purge?
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Friday, February 7, 2014

Food Bank Friday: Hearts for Hunger


If you can believe it, Valentine's Day is only a week away. We've all seen the posts about the perfect gift for your loved ones... but have you ever thought about doing something for that special someone that would show your love for them and also help someone else out at the same time? Flowers die, too much candy will make you sick... and there is just not enough room for one more teddy bear or stuffed animal... Why not do something that will have a lasting impact.

The Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina is in the middle of their Valentine's Campaign: Hearts for Hunger. This is an Honor Drive... meaning that you can donate to the Food Bank in honor of someone that you love, and in return you will be able to send them an ecard or print a card detailing that a donation has been made in their honor.

















So why should you consider donating to the Food Bank? Here's a few facts:

  • For every $1 that is donated to the Food Bank, 97 cents goes directly to food and food distribution. 
  • For every $1 that you donate, the Food Bank can provide 5 meals, or $10 worth of food. 
  • FBCENC serves 34 counties in NC, which include over 560,000 individuals in need. 
If you aren't local, please consider donating to your local food bank in honor of someone that you love this Valentine's Season. You can search for a local food bank on the Feeding America Website.


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Thursday, February 6, 2014

February Goals


So, I intended to write this post on Monday, and it just didn't happen. I want to start setting goals each month, in an effort to be more productive, but also to make sure that I'm staying on track with my Thirty Before 30 goals. So at the beginning of each month (or somewhere near the beginning), I will share a list of goals... and next month, I will recap how I did, and go from there. 

February 2014 Goals

  • Finish the JWA Membership Directory...about halfway done with this, and need to get it done soon. 
  • Make a quilt to be raffled off for Relay for Life. 
  • Complete the #fmsphotoaday challenge... I've always started this, and never finished it. Hopefully, I will actually take all of the photos this month. 
  • Fast Food Free February... One of my Thirty Before 30 goals is to go a whole month without eating Fast Food. This one is going to be really really hard, but I have decided that I will not eat Fast Food this month. For the purpose of this goal, I am defining "Fast Food" as anything that I can get at a drive thru window. I'm also going to cut down on the number of times I order in food. I'm 5 days in already, and so far, so good. 
  • Try to figure out some type of regular posting schedule... I'm struggling with consistent posting on the blog, so I need to figure out how to make that happen. Betsy at Musings of a Museum Fanatic kind of inspired this goal with a post that she did towards the end of last month about her Blogging Weekend. I have a lot to figure out, and try to fit in working on my blog. 
  • Read 3 books... I've got to catch up if I'm going to make my bigger goal on my Thirty Before 30. 
There you have it... some goals for February. I feel good about these, and I really think that I can accomplish them. Hopefully, I will get a posting schedule figured out soon, and will be back with more exciting things. 

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