Brag Tags

a fun and easy gift for an encouraging Valentine’s Day!

I was preparing to work in a kindergarten class not too long ago when I discovered a fabulous tool for positive reinforcement and encouragement! I was all set up and meandering around the room, waiting for the students to arrive. This moment is like the calm before the storm for educators. All is serene and peaceful and you think you can handle anything the day will bring. Then the bell rings and they descend upon you in a pile of puffy snowsuits and rosy cheeks, all demanding you help find their lost, frozen mitten that they just flung across the coat room two seconds previous. Nothing like thirty, five-year-olds to make you sleep real well at night! But I digress… back in the classroom, I noticed a large display of “brag tags” hanging from a bulletin board brightly displayed under the same name. They hung on small chains… one for each member of the class. Upon closer examination, I discovered each one contained a few tags for various accomplishments: “I can tie my shoes”, “I can print my name”, “I was a good listener”, etc.

What a brilliant idea, I thought! Such a creative teacher! Such incentive for positive behaviours, self learning and motivation! Upon further research, I discovered that it is not a new concept among teachers… there are a great many teacher/schooling sites that have all kinds of “brag tag” ideas and places to buy your own or edit and print. This teacher was not alone in her ideas! There is a whole classroom incentive entity out there about these fab tabs or spirit sticks (as they are sometimes called)! There was even one teacher who decided teachers themselves should have their own brag tags! A little tongue in cheek, I suppose, but fun! A human resource project for your next motivational meeting perhaps? 🙂 If you are an educator and have come looking for more brag tag ideas, please check out my Pinterest boards for lots of fabulous resources posted there!

Now… even though I work with children and have my own beloveds at home, I will be the first to admit I am not very encouraging. I try. I really do. But more often than not, my task oriented, in the box, do it this way brain takes over, and I am more apt to focus on what you should do instead of what you are doing great already!! It is so much easier to correct then to encourage, isn’t it? The Bible is full of verses about encouragement.  Jesus had a time and place for correction, no doubts about it, but usually, He teaches us to be gently encouraging — even in our corrections.

Our family brag tags!

Which brings me to my Valentine’s Day project. My kids are older now… far beyond their kindergarten years… but no matter what the age, we are are always in need of some encouragement, aren’t we?! So I made each of my family members some brag tags… even the hubby! I gave them 5 different ones each, and included some things I love about each of them. Things I want them to know that I have noticed they are doing, and doing wonderfully! Things they have accomplished or are working diligently on. Some of the tags were ready made ones in my gift wrapping collection. Others I punched or cut out and wrote on. Each were ringed on some old shower rings we had hanging around. Simple, but meaningful. I don’t expect them to wear them around their necks the way a five year old might. It’s a small token. But one I hope they treasure. I’m not a good encourager with my spoken word. I have a hard time saying those things I should. This is one way I can make my thoughts tangible to the people I love. Maybe you are not a good verbal encourager either… so, go ahead, steal my idea… I encourage you to ! Make your own “brag tags” for your crew… and let me know how they turn out!!

Spiritual Awakenings at the Grand Canyon

This week has been frigid — I’m talking record breaking low temperatures and epic snowfalls that made even us, winter-hardened Canadians, quiver. Twitter was all a buzz with hashtags like #snowmageddon2019. It’s supposed to warm up again by the weekend, but the past week had me dreaming of warmer places, and so I thought I would muse a bit about our trip to Arizona and the Grand Canyon from last year! The week deserves some desert reminiscing!

Looking for a spiritual revelation at the Grand Canyon?

We don’t travel much, so when we do, we drive, we trek, we search, and we plan to fit as much in as our meager budgets will allow! Our trip to the Grand Canyon was no exception. We booked tours and saw as many parts of the world wonder (and surrounding places) as we could. I stopped at the burrow ride to the bottom, though… those winding paths on the canyon edge was just a bit too narrow for my liking! Let alone on the back of a teetering donkey! Sedona was one of our favourite places. The Red Rocks and the views were spectacular!! You simply cannot describe the colours.

If you do any research on Sedona, or Arizona in general, you will inevitably discover that it is a hub for “spiritual awakenings”. There is just something about our spirits that are drawn to a timeless place, full of organic mixes of earth and nature, that provokes within us a yearning to find some deeper meaning to our lives — you can call it a spiritual awakening if you want, but — it’s totally a God thing. He put it deep within us when He breathed life into our souls. Many people search for great revelations. Enlightenment. We inherently know there is something bigger than us. Something more powerful than our frail existence. We often feel the need to be challenged, to be driven, to somehow be more Holy. That’s why so many religious pursuits are just that: pursuits. It’s nice to know that we are saved by a free gift of grace and not our own pursuits and merit. Nonetheless, our faith journeys should drive us towards sanctification. I wrote this in my journal on the plane ride to Vegas:

“… Will be super cool to see the Grand Canyon — I ‘m actually hoping to have a bit of spiritual journey there — to see God’s great handiwork and know that this Great Big God loves me — and cares about my parenting and my kids. To be able to trust Him whole-heartedly and see where He takes my dreams: WHAT ARE MY DREAMS?!

Maybe that will be the awakening. That’d be cool. To have a great revelation of some “dream” I should take on. Hmmmn… will have to see what that takes me to….”

March 2017

I’m sorry to report that there was no great revelation the day our eyes beheld the glory of the Cavern. There was no voice from Heaven, no burning bush experience, no tongues of fire. Not for lack of trying. Our tour guide made sure we didn’t peek as we drove along. We were expected to see the grandeur of the Grand Canyon in all it’s finest in one great unearthing. To have that awe inspiring first view. To be honest, it is just too huge to fathom. It almost seems fake. Our minds cannot grasp how wide and vast the expanse is. You can see for miles and miles. Perhaps that is the point. When you first lay eyes on the vastness of a cavern carved out of rock and behold the raging Colorado River from the upper rim… you cannot help but be reminded of how fragile we tiny humans are. How insignificant we are compared to our great big God who flung stars into space! Yet, He has us right where He wants us to be. He is in control — always. This, my friend, is the daily encouragement we need. Not always a grand spiritual awakening. Not always a full revelation of our dreams to pursue, not always visions, dreams or flashes of light. Sometimes it is a still, small whisper that simply says: keep going. I’ve got you right where you need to be today, and tomorrow will be just one more step on the journey. You’ve got this — because God’s got you.

You’ve got this — because God’s got you!

Homemade Apple Sauce

If you have been following along since we started the new year, you will know that I am trying to simplify and be a bit greener in 2019. (If you haven’t been following along? Why not?! Sign up for a weekly musing right in your inbox!! Share too!! ) Recently, I convinced the kids to help me make some homemade apple sauce. They love the packaged stuff — even the ones with hidden veggies! And although the little plastic cups are recyclable (or re-useable as paint pots, planters, etc. etc.) I wanted to see if the kids would enjoy the homemade stuff just as well as the pre-packaged, store bought apple sauce.

It’s not even apple season — but I bought a big bag of “naturally imperfect” fruit (ha! there’s a thought for ya!) and enlisted the youngest two to assist in the process. (I read somewhere that if you get them involved, then children are more likely to try whatever you are making… not so much in our house… but hey! Keep learning, right?)

We divided and conquered: one of the kids peeled the apples, one sliced, and I got to go behind and clean up all the messes! Very quickly we had a nice selection of apples to make our small batch of apple sauce with. Here is the recipe we used:

  • 8 or so medium sized apples (peeled, cored and cut into chunks)
  • about 1 cup of water (use more or less depending on how thick you like your applesauce
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

That’s it! I was tempted to throw in a carrot or two, but since the beloveds were helping me, I didn’t want to scare them off just yet! I have made applesauce in the crock pot as well, but I wanted it a little faster this time, so we boiled the above ingredients in a big pot until the apples were soft enough to blend up with the hand blender. Don’t forget to take the cinnamon sticks out! We didn’t add any sugar to our applesauce, as the cinnamon sticks and natural fruit sweetness make it just fine without added sugar! It smelled WONDERFUL!

I have saved a bunch of these little jars with lids, so once the applesauce was done, we filled up the jars and voila! Homemade apple snacks! The big test?! How did it compare? Well… it is yummy… but the crew decided it was best eaten warm and fresh. I have also discovered it tastes great with yogurt for breakfast! One downside to not having preservatives… our homemade applesauce must be kept in the fridge, so it is just not as convenient to grab and go as the pre-packaged, quick snacks we buy. It might taste better, and be better for us… so we will continue to use it often, but convenience may rule out the effort this time. At least it is not on my shopping list for this particular week!


It’s the way it goes sometimes, isn’t it?! We may know that homemade is better, but despite the benefits, we sometimes opt for the easier choice. I’m reminded of the rich man in Matthew 19. He wants to do right, follow Jesus and do good by following the commands, and yet, he struggles with giving up his wealth, his conveniences, his easy-go-lucky life full of riches. I’m discovering that the “simple” things I am choosing to pursue this year are not always the easier options. It takes time to make healthier meals and map out my shopping lists. It takes time to grow deeper in our relationships; it takes effort to study and plan and better ourselves. It is hard to say “no” to some things in order to prioritize others. I, like the rich man, have done many things well, but I struggle to let go of other things. So be encouraged, with me, that our faith journeys are just that: journeys. We follow a winding path and sometimes take a few steps back before moving forward again. The goal is to keep moving forward. Jesus goes on in the story of the rich man, to remind us that with God, all things are possible, and that our rewards will be waiting for us in Heaven one day, if we chose to follow Him. I bet He will even have homemade applesauce warmed up and ready to share!

5 Ways to Grow “Greener” Kids

Let me start this post by saying that I am, in no way, that fabulous enviro-mummy who feeds her beloveds only organic, wholesome foods packed in bio-hazard free, perfectly chilled lunch boxes. We put out a bag of garbage each week and don’t recycle perfectly. Sometimes we yell a little too much, and we are not always kind to one another. We are just average folks living in the suburbs trying to make a little difference in 2019. However, we are making an attempt to be a tad more environmentally conscious. My goal for this year is to live a little bit more simply, a little bit greener, a little bit more sustainable…. and I am dragging the family kicking and screaming along with me. So. Here you have it. 5 things we are trying to do as a family to go a bit more green:

#1: Pop Top Collecting

This one, I am proud to say, belongs to the youngest. She has initiated a small collection of pop tops (or soda can tabs for those of you who speak “American”) and hopes to recycle them with charitable organizations. These collections are used to raise funds for wheelchairs and other assistive devices. We only have a very small amount (we don’t drink a lot of canned pop) but I am happy that the crew is at least thinking about making changes!! The charities (March of Dimes, Ronald McDonald House and others) collect and send the aluminum tabs to be recycled. In exchange, they receive a small fee that is used to fund the new devices. It takes A LOT of tabs to make any significant change, so our little blip is only a start. 1267 pop tabs make one pound of aluminum… and the current price for a pound of aluminum? Sixty cents. Maybe we need to drink more pop.

#2: Useful Containers

This one is a new eco-friendly initiative for me, so I am hoping it will eventually make a little bit of difference. I have started to save some useful containers and cool recyclables to share with my local schools and summer camps. The internet is full of crazy things you can make and create with all kinds of recyclables like toilet paper roles, cans, containers and such. Our summer camp has been collecting these items for years, and so I thought if I could make it easy to separate, we could share the wealth with our schools and local daycares to illicit some greener and creative play! Our primary school is a platinum winner for it’s eco-school initiatives, so I am sure the teachers will use the donations wisely and creatively! And all the materials are free! What’s not to love?

#3: G.O.O.S Paper

Speaking of school, this idea was stolen from my work in grade one classes some years ago. I discovered something called G.O.O.S Paper… which originally I thought was goose, like the Canadian bird, but really means: Good On One Side. We use a tonne of paper at my house. We make notes, lists, homework help, blog ideas and just general crafting. We also get a lot of paper home… school notes, fliers, cards etc. Some time ago, we made these paper maché boxes that tuck themselves neatly in our living room space. One for paper that is still “good on one side”, and one for brand new paper. The new paper is only allowed in the printer for homework projects or important notes. The rest must be pulled from the G.O.O.S box!

#4: No more Juice Boxes for Lunch

None of my kids are super happy about this one… but I have stuck with it! You can read about this initiative in a previous post here. I was sad to discover how wasteful juice boxes were, and that they could not be recycled! Not to mention that maybe we should not be drinking all that juice! So, I have eliminated the juice box cases from my shopping list! It was an environmentally conscious choice that not only has it been lighter on my back, but it has helped a little on the budget too! All of us now have nice, re-usable water bottles. We still occasionally buy a few boxes when we travel — but they are not overflowing our garbage the way they used to!

#5: Hand me Downs

My kids have been used to this one since they were born. I very rarely need to buy new clothes for our kids. We have been blessed with friends and family (and a plethora of thrift shops!) that keep all four of my kids well dressed and looking fine! The crew sees very little value in designer name brands and are happy with comfortable clothes — even used ones. In fact, it is almost funny that my kids will continue to wear clothes even if they are riding up their too tall legs! When they were younger, they used to think the big garbage bags of donations were fabulous gifts and digging in to them was just like Christmas!!

It’s interesting, isn’t it, what priorities we share with our children? How about you? Any green tips to share? Any eco-friendly activities going on at your house? What other values are you trying to impart on the next generation? Unfortunately, (or fortunately?) our beloved babies are not born with a set of instructions. It is up to us to feed their fires, to enrich their creativity, to instill best practices in their minds and hearts. It’s also true when it comes to their thoughts about spirituality and the church. Yes, it is correct to say that each individual must chose his/her own actions, and we cannot “force” our beliefs on anyone. But you’d be surprised to note what influences you have on others… for better or for worse. As they get older, we have always tried to encourage our children to question and discover their faith for real. And we try to lead by example. We don’t schedule sports or lessons on Sundays on purpose. Those days are reserved for church. Yes, you are expected to join us each and every Sunday and participate in the service. Yes, that means getting up out of bed on a snowy Sunday morning. Like “greening” we sometimes have to drag them along, explaining that even a little bit counts.

Check out my other posts about the Green Debate!

No, we are not perfect. Our children are not perfect. But we strive to build a sense of community — both for our resources and for our church. To do our little part to help. It’s not easy. 1267 pop tops is a lot! It’s hard to wake up early to get to worship practice on a Sunday morning when all your friends are sleeping in. But if we each start with one bit, one church service, one share, one verse memorized, one kind word, one less plastic straw, I think our faith communities… and our pop top collections… will grow and be greener!

Create in Me a Clean Heart

So how goes your January? Still working on your New Year’s resolutions? I am. One of the goals that I am hoping to accomplish this year is to: Live More Simply. To use the “stuff” that I already have, and clear out the clutter. To try and eliminate what we cannot use, and to share our wealth with others. To prepare more and be less “pre-packaged”. To be more real and whole. And from the amount of videos, posts, plugs and pod casts on the topic, I’m guessing it is a goal that many of us have. Especially after the abundance of Christmas and the indulgences of the season past, there’s just something about that clean slate that brings a sense of peace and tranquility back into our lives… at least for me it does.

As I said, there are lots of helpful hints out there on how to purge, clean and organize your life. I’ve been searching out many, and gathering helpful hints and tips as I go. Some work, and some don’t work for me. Have you seen the news about this new cult following of the “queen of clean”? After chatting about my goals for this year, someone mentioned to me that I should look up Marie Kondo and her so called konmari method of cleaning and organizing. For those of you who have not heard of this Japanese guru on zen methods for cleaning, her minimalist style encourages you to keep only the things that “spark joy” for you. Thank the rest of your stashes for their faithful years of service and say adios to the discard pile! Then learn to fold everything in some obscure space saving stand up rectangle thingie and be all neat and tidy going forward! Yeah! I’m in.

This past weekend, I enlisted the hubby to help clean up and purge the furnace room. We don’t have a proper garage at our house, so the furnace room is a big space that holds a lot of our storage-type stuff: decorations, tools, camping equipment, that kind of stuff. My workshop bins also get stored here. Now, I am pretty confident in my organization skills… it’s one of the things that gets my juices flowing, so I am all in for folding bits of tissue papers and saving tiny pieces of ribbons — just in case. But the goal is to live more simply not just more organized. So the entire contents of the left side of the room got emptied out into the hallway and family room. (The right side has tools and will take another whole day to move around). We pulled off the old shelving from the wall and considered our options. There are some exposed pipes and such, as well as the furnace and hot water heater in this room, so we wondered how best to conserve space. I wonder if the “konmari konverts” can fold Rubbermaid bins of Christmas lights to store vertically? I am pleased to say, that we decided not to spend more on new shelving, and use what we had and simply stack the bins. (Hurray for small accomplishments, right?)

The BEFORE

I sat with the youngest crew member and sorted through gift bags and spools of ribbon and tried to be purposeful in what bits I kept. We tossed the 3 air mattresses with holes in them, and I refused to keep storing the aquarium light fixtures that might work if we need them someday. We initiated a project that has been on my to-do list for 10 years. I struggled too. I have two bins left in my family room that I still “need to deal with”. One is the kids old soccer stuff. Cleats and shin pads that won’t fit anyone we know, but are too good to just toss. I need to post them up for sale. The other bin is…yes, I admit it… my craft supplies that have been in the bin forever… but I just might use some day! (I’m one of those girls who could pass on a new pair of shoes, but a brand new pack of colourful paper — oooh…yes please!) I could say that they bring me joy, but I’d be lying to myself. The joy comes when those items get used and turned into something beautiful.

The AFTER

As we dusted and mopped and started to put things back, I reflected a little on how our hearts are like our furnace room. We store so much in there! Useful things, things that truly bring us joy, things that we may only use for a season, but bring renewed happiness each time we bring them out. Then there are the other things. The things we hoard and hide and hope they work… eventually. Or the things we are not willing to give up. Like the box of baby clothes I simply closed the lid on and slid back into place. (Why am I keeping baby clothes?! My youngest is almost 11!) Perhaps you have some bits of ribbon and trinkets that you want to someday make into something beautiful… but haven’t made the time for just yet. So they get stored away in that little space left in the corner of your heart. I will be the first one to say: I hear ya, friend!!

So in this first month of this new year, I am praying the prayer of David in Psalm 51: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Cast me not away from Your Presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” I want my outward de-cluttering to be a reflection of my heart. I want to live simply and use what has been given to me to benefit others and not let those things be quickly tossed away because I have chosen to be careless with it. I am discovering it is a very, very slow process. It takes time. It takes effort. It takes thinking ahead and making conscious choices. It may be simpler… but it is certainly not easier.

So, I am asking you to join me for the next few weeks as I blog about some changes that we are trying here at the Mitton house… to live simply. Hopefully, it will create in us some “cleaner hearts” as well.

When Robots take over The Church

Over the holidays, I started reading an interesting book entitled “The Inevitable” by Kevin Kelly. It claims to help us understand “the 12 technological forces that will shape our future.” Interesting enough. I am not quite through it yet, but am always up for learning something new, so what the heck. Kelly is a techno big wig, and I am not, so I am breezing through the jargon and trying to glean insight as I go. Grains of salt and all that…

I have already stumbled through Chapter 2, entitled “Cognifying”… a technical force involving artificial intelligence (that means machines that can think — for those of us over age 25… ahem…) and am stuck on the following quote from pg. 37:

“Every time you type a query, click on a search-generated link, or create a link on the web, you are training Google AI. When you type Easter Bunny into the image search bar and then click on the most Easter Bunny looking image, you are teaching the AI what an Easter Bunny looks like.”

2016. The Inevitable by Kevin Kelly pg. 37

And so, I muse… what are we teaching Google about GOD?!

Most of the visionary thinkers of our day say that technology is here to stay. We rely on it daily, hourly, even minute by minute in some cases. The next generation won’t know what life was like without the internet. Google, Alexa and Siri have become our best friends. I check my phone before I eat breakfast. Rightly or wrongly, the constant “feeds” are shaping our future… and our spirituality.

Kelly says that technology moves us forward by a force he calls “Becoming”. It is not that technology is driving us to something improved… but something entirely new. Our views are evolving and growing and eventually will change the present thoughts and opinions into something entirely different. Could this be true of our vision of God? Of the church? Of salvation? Of our morality?

Are you prepared for the technology that is changing our view of spirituality?

I am certainly no expert, and I don’t have any definitive answers to my technological muse, but I do know, through simple observation, that the average 7 year old has more knowledge of what Fortnight is than who Jacob and Esau are. So what are we to do? How do we catch the inevitable train and be sure to add spiritual insights to the list of stops?

Number one, I think we have to be aware. Be present. Try and understand. Know that the future will be shaped by this never ending force we call technology. Never stop learning. Unfortunately, our churches are way, way behind. We need to catch up. And Fast.

Perhaps your church has the technological budget and know how to be current in today’s fast paced world. Good for you! But do we then just go crazy with technology and let robots take over our pulpits… since they are going to anyway? Who’s idea of morality is correct? Who gets to make the decisions? No easy answer there, either.

Max Tegmark, an “expert” from MIT, says that before we let AI take complete control, we have to make sure we get it right — the first time. He says we need to certainly be pro active versus reactive. We must make sure that our moral and spiritual goals are aligned with what the robots are going to tell us (because, yes, eventually, they will indeed be smarter than us…)

For example, when technology advanced and we got cars, (and then faster cars) we learned from our mistakes and created seat belts, traffic lights and highway speed limit laws. According to Tegmark, we must think of the mistakes first and plan for them accordingly. I hope I am well equipped. I fear, however, that I am not.

What about you? Do you feel you are equipped for when Robots take over your church? Has your church taken steps to follow the technology movement? Let me know your thoughts….

New Beginnings


“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creation: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. ” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJ 2000 Version)

Happy New Year!! I love a new beginning! That moment when you crack the spine of a brand new book, the joy and sweet smell of a newborn baby still all tiny and wrinkly, a brand new box of crayons — still pristine, with sharpened points ready for creating! There is just something about a clean slate that gives us hope. It is exactly what this verse is telling us… our past person is no longer… God has made us new and improved! Full of potential and hope!

Many of you know that I like to dabble in crafting and have been a big scrapbooker for many years. My scrapping friends like to tease me, because after I finish a page (or layout, as the proper term is…) I tend to tidy up my space before I begin the next one… it’s kind of a funny quirk I have… perhaps it is because I am used to working in a small craft space and need to give myself some room. Maybe I just like to start fresh. To get the creative juices flowing again. To begin with a clean slate. The first day of school is like that for me too. New teachers, new grade, new school supplies. It’s a chance to start, again, with new possibilities for learning, new friendships to develop, new skills to learn and master. That new box of crayons!

And so, as we enter in to a new year, I am again reminded of all things “new”. I look back and reflect to a time when I was younger and tried to keep up with the newest trends and fashion. Truth be told, part of me still succumbs to that drive for perfection… but I have a new goal for 2019… to try and live simply. To let “stuff” go a little, to use less, to be less consumed by the pettiness of this world. Even that has become trendy though… and the new and improved lifestyles of the younger generation is one of minimalist living. We easily fall into the trap of judging others based on how they choose their lifestyles. It’s a complicated world, isn’t it?

When I was much younger, 2 Corinthians 5:17 was a verse that a very wise Sunday school teacher made us memorize. I was (and still am) terrible at memorizing, so I had to say it over and over again. The verse’s message is simple and yet so profound. We became completely new in Christ when we gave our lives to Him. That is the hope that we have for new beginnings. That is that fresh new baby in the manger smell (okay maybe not that smell…) It’s that blank slate that cleanses us of the past. It allows us the freedom to simply be a child again; to put away the old things that tend to crush our spirits, that make us heavy with the burdens of adulthood, that weigh us down.

Perhaps this last year has been a difficult one for you. Perhaps you have suffered loss and pain and heartache. Perhaps you simply want a clean slate with less “bad” and more “good”. That’s the thing about the new box of crayons… sometimes you gotta ruin that beautiful pristine point to get all the beautiful colours down on paper.

So… as we begin a new year of muses together, rejoice in the hope we have for that new beginning, the one that makes us new creations in Christ. The old has gone, the new has come… the clean slate is ready and you have a brand new box of crayons….happy colouring!!