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!!

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!