Aloe Vera

I’ve been reflecting, lately, on how complex our world is, and yet, how it all seamlessly works together to provide us with all that we need:

  • Our middle school son has been learning about parts of a cell and all the intricate workings of the tiniest of living things. I love that! Besides, it’s just fun to say “rough endoplasmic reticulum” and know what it means.
  • We have been surviving the snowmaggedon of 2019 here, and many are waiting for spring to arrive — and it will — eventually. The snow will melt and nourish the land just in time for spring flowers to peep up out of the ground. But for now, we continue to shovel out.
  • We’ve marked the year anniversary of my beloved mother-in-law’s final battle with Alzheimer’s, and reflected on how painful it was to watch this awful disease rob her of so many things. Yet the beauty of her life was cared for so diligently by her beloved husband and family.

Which brings me to my Aloe Vera muse. In case you don’t know, aloe vera is the term given to a variety of succulent plants know for it’s “healing” or “soothing” properties. The aloe vera gel is harvested and used in countless beauty and hair products. It’s been grown by many a gardener for it’s attractive, easy growing nature and it’s medicinal properties. A few years ago, I received a huge pot of aloe. It had been left untouched for some time and had propagated to about 40 “pups” or off shoots — baby plants, if you will. I have shared or used most of those babies and now have a few lone survivors left on my windowsill. Recently, I bought an aloe stem (stalk?) with my groceries! It didn’t cost too much, and held all the promise of good things. Only issue… what to do with the crazy thing?!

You tube to the rescue again! Apparently, you harvest the gel inside by trimming away the sharp, spiky edges, filleting the green off, and scooping up all the yummy aloe vera gel from the inside! I wish I was better at videos, because it would have been much more entertaining for you to watch the process as opposed to my still photos! The plant smelled a little funny, it tastes bitter direct from the plant, and the gel is like trying to herd a slippery pile of snot. We laughed. All in all, we harvested a good sized jar of the soothing aloe gel — currently stored in my refrigerator.

Further research says I can use it on my skin, hair and nails. We’ve been trying some natural bar shampoo that is a little drying, so hair help might be on the agenda. I can mix it in with my smoothies for digestion help (or a good cleanse (apparently) if one adds too much!) I use it all the time for minor burns and skin irritations. It works wonders on sunburn (not that we are having any of that in the middle of winter!) but supposedly it works well on chapped lips, so this is a current seasonal option! I figure if it worked for Cleopatra’s beauty regime, it will certainly help with ours!

Learning more about this miracle plant has shown me, that yet again, the Creator of this world takes good care of us! Time and time again the words of Psalm 147:3 ring true: “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (ESV) Like the soothing gel of the aloe vera plant, God is the balm that calms our hurts, heals our pain, and binds our wounds. Sometimes it is messy. We get lost in the snotty goo of our imperfections, but His grace covers us and provides that added layer of protection on our parched, chapped skin.

His nourishing word cleanses us from the inside. Our bible study group last week reminded me that meditation on God’s word gives us the tools we need to navigate through our daily routines. Like the aloe, a little nourishment can keep us “clean” and boost our immunity.

So, if you are like us, and dreaming of more tropical weather and sunburn season… remember the little Aloe Vera plant and all it’s benefits. Let it be a green reminder to you of how God is the balm that cleanses and purifies. The One who heals and calms our hurts. Be blessed!

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!!

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!