Simple String Busy Bag

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As always, my favourite activities are those that are easy and inexpensive to put together. This busy bag is both of those but it also creates open-ended play possibilities.

A busy bag that is easy to create and offers open ended play possibilities.Materials needed:

  • string
  • scissors
  • large piece of thin cardboard
  • large resealable bag

To create this string busy bag, cut a piece of cardboard into a circle (it doesn’t have to be exact). I placed a plate down on the cardboard and traced it and then cut out the shape. Using scissors, cut triangles along the outside of the circle at regular intervals. Again, this does not have to be exact.

You want to use cardboard that isn’t too thick. Often the cardboard that comes in packaging is the right thickness or you can use the side of a cereal box.

Place the cardboard cutout and some pieces of long string or yarn into a large resealable bag. Your busy bag is ready to be used!string weavingUsing the cardboard cutout, your child can create patterns or shapes with the string. They can also use the cardboard to create a bit of a weaving wheel.

We store all of our busy bags in one place so that I can easily grab a few on our way out the door to use in the vehicle or in a waiting room. It also gives our daughter a place that she knows she can go to get a quiet activity to do when she is bored or when I am working with her older siblings.

If you are looking for more busy bag ideas, you may be interested in following my Activity Bags board on Pinterest.

Follow Sharla Kostelyk’s board Activity Bags on Pinterest.

3 Busy Bags with Popsicle Sticks

5 Busy Bags with Pipe Cleaners

7 Busy Bags for Learning Colours

7 Busy Bags with Paint Chips

Kindness for the Win!

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Last week, our son experienced a scary and disturbing incident where not only did four unknown older boys gang up and throw rocks at him, they also flung a racial slur at him as well that hurt far worse than rocks ever could.

You can read the full incident here. I wrote about it that night because I was so upset that I couldn’t sleep and I often process things better through writing.

The following day, I posted the article on my blog and people began to share it on their Facebook pages. It spread quickly, particularly locally and strangers sent messages of support and love.

Kindness for the Win (a story of love overcoming hatred)Mothers and fathers responded by saying that what happened inspired them to have an honest discussion with their kids about racism. For many, it was the first time they had spoken about this topic to their kids. Some of them read what I wrote to their kids directly and talked about how racism is never okay and even addressed what to do if you see it happening to someone. That meant so much to us.

I read many of the comments and private messages I received to my son and at one point, he said to me, “mom, if this had to happen to somebody, I’m glad it was to me because my mom’s a writer and now people are going to know that this isn’t ok”. It was a humbling moment for me to see just how beautiful my boy’s heart is.

The day of “the incident”, my son had also lost money from his pocket that he had been planning on spending at the bookstore and the chain on his bike had broken.

After reading about what happened to him, our community stepped up to show him that he is loved and that the hatred that he experienced that day is not shared by the majority of people.

One woman who read about his experience arranged with the bike shop to pay for his chain to be replaced.

Another anonymous woman who has never met our family (to my knowledge anyway!), gave him a beautiful card and a gift card to Starbucks and a gift card to the bookstore.

A friend of mine shared our story with one of the councillors for the County that we live in and he spoke to me over the phone and offered to help in any way he could. He also arranged to have me bring the kids in for a tour of the County government offices.

When we arrived, we were treated like royalty. He, along with our division councillor met with us in a boardroom (the kids loved the fancy chairs that could ride up and down and spin around!) and shook our kids’ hands and sat them down to chat. They explained that what happened to him is unacceptable and expressed how impressed they were at how he had handled it and gave their sincere apologies at what he had gone through. They reiterated that what was expressed that day is not how most people in our community feel. They presented him with gifts including gift cards to the bookstore, a book, a bluetooth speaker, and a handwritten card from the Mayor. They were incredibly gracious.

We were then taken on a tour of both the new and old Council Chambers and the kids got to sit in the chairs of the Mayor and councillors and have a debate about whether we should have apple pie or pumpkin pie for dessert before putting it to a vote. This of course made my homeschool momma heart soar with satisfaction as surely this counted as our homeschool field trip for the week!

kids touring Council ChambersI would like to say “thank you” to all those who have reached out to show my son that people care. Your words whether through private messages or public comments or emails or phone calls mean a lot to us.

Thank you to those who took something bad and used it for good by having a conversation about racism with your family.

Thank you to those who did something to demonstrate to our son that he is loved and that he is worth something. It touched our hearts.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” ~ Romans 8:28

It’s hard to believe it’s only been one week since “the incident” happened. In some ways, we are forever changed, not just because we lost a bit of our innocence that day, but also because we’ve been so moved by the response.

Last Tuesday, our family and more specifically, our son, experienced hatred and saw a glimpse of evil. But love trumps all.

Strangers and friends banded together to show our son that he is loved and worthy of respect. Our community demonstrated that love is stronger and that one person at a time, hearts can be changed. Parents got the conversation started with their children. People showed generosity and grace. Love flooded in.

Kindness wins.

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool This Summer

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This week has been a scorcher where we live! Since we live in a climate that is cold most of the year, we don’t have air conditioning so for the few weeks a year when we get a heatwave, it’s pretty hot in here.

Don't have air conditioning? These tricks will help keep you and your house cool this summer.Image Copyright: anikasalsera / 123RF Stock Photo

Our kids have a hard time sleeping when it’s hot and they tend to get pretty grouchy during the daytime when they are overheated too.

Here are some tricks to help keep your house (and family) cool during those heat waves:

Keep the blinds and doors closed.

Sunshine may be good for many things, but keeping the house cool isn’t one of them! Keep the blinds drawn and the doors closed during the daylight hours when it’s hot outside. This will help keep the temperature of the house down.

Prepare your bed.

Use cotton sheets to create more breathability. Summer is not the time for flannel sheets! Another great trick is to put your pillow in a garbage bag and throw it in the freezer an hour or two before you head to bed. You of course will want to take it out of the garbage bag before you use it.

Use fans and ceiling fans.

In the hot summers, set your ceiling fans to counter-clockwise. Position house fans to create a cross breeze. There are many types of fans out there, floor fans (that can also be set on a table), the traditional pedestal fan, box fans, and those fancy new tower fans with remote controls. Any can help you create a cooler environment.

Great trick: You can set large pieces of ice (fill ice cream buckets with water and freeze) in a bowl in front of an oscillating fan to create a misting effect. Just point the fan towards the ice!

Even turning on the exhaust fan in your kitchen and bathrooms can help move hot air out of your house.

Maximize the cool night air.

In the evenings when things finally start to cool down, open your windows and get a good cross draft going (use fans to help you if you can). Cool your house down as much as you can at night and then in the daytime, keep the blinds drawn and keep the opening of the doors to a minimum to keep the hot air out.

Stay in the dark.

Incandescent lightbulbs give off heat, so keeping the lights out will help keep the house cool. Or switch out your light bulbs.


Drink plenty of water and be sure to get your kids to drink more water than usual too. Freezing water in popsicle container from the dollar store helps keep them cool and makes water more fun!

A trick to help your kids sleep.

Have your kids keep a spray bottle of water in their rooms. Misting their bare feet with water will help them sleep.

Put your slow cooker to work.

On hot days when you can’t turn your oven on, your crock pot becomes a necessity. I use mine year-round, but I use it even more during the summer months. It allows me to make supper (or lunch) without adding to the heat in the kitchen.

Some of our family’s favourite slow cooker recipes:

Tricks to Keep Your House Cool This SummerOther tricks:

  • delay running dishwashers until evening
  • hang bamboo shades outside some of your windows
  • give your kids a water misting fan
  • set up the sprinkled in the yard
  • take a cool bath or shower
  • spend time in the basement (if you have one)
  • turn off computers and TVs (they give off heat)
  • angle your blinds up
  • drink hot drinks like tea and eat soup or spicy food as it will help your body work to cool you off
  • be sure your home is well insulated
  • plant trees near the house to create shade

For other helpful tips, be sure to follow me on Pinterest or sign up for newsletter updates.

They Called My Son the ‘N’ Word

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He came to us last night, asking if he could go into work today with his daddy to ride his bike around town. I arranged for him to go visit a friend of his this morning and then he could enjoy some freedom as he periodically checked in at my husband’s office the rest of the day. He had plans to buy himself lunch and maybe stop at the bike park. He also wanted to go to the bookstore, one of his favourite places in the world and spend some of the hard earned money he had made helping my brother-in-law build a deck.

This morning, they loaded his bike onto my husband’s vehicle and he set off for his adventure. Things started to go sideways when his $20 fell out of his pocket on the way to his friend’s. He retraced his steps but was never able to find it, so his plans for choosing a brand new book went out the window. It was because of this that he decided to forgo the bookstore and head for the bike park.

They called my son the 'n' wordIt’s usually pretty empty midweek but today when he arrived, there were four teen boys there, older than he is. They were fighting among themselves and he heard them saying the ‘f’ word to each other, so he knew enough to steer clear.

He was riding up and down the jumps, enjoying the new bike he just won a week ago in a draw when they directed their attention at him. They swore at him and accused him of spraying dirt in their direction. He ignored them and rode further away. And then the words came, “What the f*@& are you doing, you N******?”.

Typing that made me almost throw up.

You see, this is a day that I had tried to prepare for, in the way that you prepare for a tragedy or freak accident, knowing that it could happen, but thinking that it will never happen to you, to your family.

I had told my boys, all four of them, but my black sons in particular, about racism. I had had “that talk” with them, bawling my way through it when Trayvon Martin was killed.

Earlier this week when mothers lost their children and children lost their fathers and mothers in the church shooting in Charleston in an act that can only be described as racism, I wondered again how to explain to my children the hatred in this world.

Today, my gentle giant saw that hatred first-hand. After those boys yelled at him and swore at him and called him the ‘n’ word, they picked up rocks and threw them at him. A group of four older teen boys were throwing rocks at my 13 year old, there by himself.

The momma bear in me is so angry and I wish I had been there to protect him, but what can you say to change the minds of those so corrupted by hatred that they would even dare to whisper that word?

So when my sweet son told me what had happened, his bottom lip quivering until he could no longer contain the tears, I held him standing in a parking lot and cried with him. I told him that he is made in the image of God, that the colour of his skin is no accident, but nor does it define him. I told him that those boys were ignorant, unaware of the truth, that I was angry and sad all at once. That when I thought about the hatred that they held in their hearts, it made me want to weep.

Later, when we had gotten home when he had calmed down somewhat, he told me the rest of the story. Like how scared he had felt and how after he left the bike park, he broke the chain on his brand new bike and how it was such a bad day, the kind where every little thing (and every big thing) seems to go wrong. From losing his money to the broken chain, to not having enough money to have the chain fixed to what those boys did and said to him, it had been a hard, hard day.

I told him how wrong what had happened to him was. I told him that we had to stand up for what was right to try to help others who would come after him. I called the police.

My boy, my boy who has Aspergers and who has a hard time articulating himself and who gets flustered when people ask him his name became so nervous about the police coming to talk to him that he could hardly breathe. But he agreed that it was the right thing to do. He was brave. I’m so proud of him. It’s always such a privilege to be his mom.

They called my son the ‘n’ word and I can only cry for them tonight, cry that they were taught to hate, cry that they saw my son’s skin colour and not his heart, cry that they thought that skin colour made him less than them when maybe it will make him more because of what he will have to overcome.