Cooking together makes memories that last longer than gifts. Photo: Monica Brinkley
This is one New Year’s resolution that I can get behind –
give less stuff and give more self. We’ve just wrapped up December – a month of massive giving. We gave gifts, we made charitable monetary donations, and we’ve overdone “bake-and-take” as I call it. It takes a lot of expendable income to give so many things, but you can choose to manage your resources wisely throughout the year and give through acts of service instead.
I particularly love this idea with small children who may want to buy gifts for loved ones but who aren’t old enough to earn money yet, but it works great for kids of all ages. Rather than doing coupon books for hugs and kisses (cute and welcome as those may be), I help them arrange to spend part of a day with a loved one instead. They help with household chores, do some baking or cooking with them, tackle a difficult chore and so on. Not only are they helping with age appropriate tasks, but they’re getting to spend time together and make memories.
Encourage youth in your life to look around during the year and see who needs help and what they can do to help. Instead of giving more stuff, give more self.
4-H teaches youth life skills such as planning/organizing, wise use of resources, social skills, and character. By encouraging 4-H youth to serve in any large or small way they can, we help them build these and other crucial life skills. Find your local UF/IFAS Extension office to explore how 4-H teaches youth valuable life skills through its project areas..
You can see the skepticism on this young 4-H’ers face! Try this activity with your kids and see this same look change to amazement and laughter when ice cream really does come out!
That’s right! It’s National Ice Cream Day, and you know in 4-H we learn by doing. So let’s beat the summer heat and make some ice cream!
1 c. half-and-half
2 tbsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
3 c. ice
1/3 c. kosher salt
Toppings of your choice
1. In a small Ziploc bag, combine half-and-half, sugar and vanilla. Push out excess air and seal.
2. Into a larger Ziploc bag, combine ice and salt.
3. Place small bag inside the bigger bag and shake vigorously, 7 to 10 minutes, until ice cream has hardened.
4. Remove from bag and enjoy with your favorite ice cream toppings.
I know this activity doesn’t seem to fall under the heading of healthy lifestyles, but it does support our dairy industry- bonus! – and it’s riddled with science concepts. You can talk to your youth about salt being a catalyst, why we have to shake the bag for it to be creamy, or the awesome invention of ziploc bags and how people come up with ideas like that- aka the engineering design process.
But more than this, every time you do something new with your kids, not only are you making memories and strengthening relationships, you are building their confidence too. They are mastering new skills and becoming more independent. They become excited about sharing their new knowledge and experiences which improves their communications skills. It’s a win-win-win!
So whether you’re home with your own kids, are helping with summer day camps, or are planning club kickoff meetings for the fall, try this easy activity with your 4-H members, and have fun. Because sometimes learning is fun!
Max (far left) along with other graduating seniors at camp last year. Congratulations to all of our grads in the district!!!!
It’s graduation season, and for many 4-H agents, this is a bittersweet time. On the one hand we are seeing our senior 4-H’ers accomplish big goals and reach out to take hold of their dreams for the future. On the other hand, it can feel like we’re losing them – or at least in their current roles – the best always seem to boomerang back.
One such 4-H’er that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and who will be missed terribly this summer is Max Scott. He has developed all 4 H’s (head, heart, hands, and health), and even the sometimes joked about “5th H”…hustle. But by far, Max will be known for putting his heart into everything he does.
Max is a student in Calhoun County. He volunteers with 4-H every summer as a Camp Counselor at Camp Timpoochee, a five day residential camp in Niceville, FL. When I asked Max to share is 4-H story, this is what he said:
“4-H has helped to teach and reinforce many positive qualities in my life such as honesty, hard work, and patience.
I first got involved with 4-H by winning the countywide 4-H Tropicana speech competition in fifth grade. One of the rewards for winning was a free trip to 4-H Camp Timpoochee. I soon learned that one of my best friends was planning on going to camp also, so I went, and there began my 4-H journey.
After several years of attending as a camper, I was finally able to go as a counselor.
The part I enjoy most about being a camp counselor is being given the honor of playing a positive role in a younger kid’s life.”
Max has indeed done just that. He quickly became the most requested cabin counselor among my young 4-H boys, and just this week an excited camper came in my office to sign up for camp. He shared with me that last year was his favorite year of camp yet. I found that interesting since this camper has been for a number of years and it rained all day every day last summer, so I asked him why that was. His reply? “Because Max was my counselor. He’s the best.” I couldn’t help but grin.
As I sat through a rather lengthy graduation ceremony last night for no other reason than to support this young man, I was reminded of just how much he has grown since I first met him as a cautious, shy, 11 year old boy. Since then, he has been elected to several offices in school organizations, serves on the executive board of the local republican party, has paged at the capital in Tallahassee, earned the honor of being his class valedictorian, and was voted most likely to succeed by both his peers and faculty at his High School.
With his sights now set on law school and perhaps political aspirations, I know that Max is in for a bright and glorious future. I’m so proud of him and all that he has accomplished. Surely he will be missed this summer, but I know I will not be surprised to find another young Max in the crowd at camp this year, eager to find his footing and become just as great a counselor as Max was.
To leave you with a few words from the man of the hour, “If I could offer just one piece of advice to other students who are thinking about volunteering with 4-H it would be to just go for it. You don’t have to start out volunteering for a 5 day camp, you can start small by volunteering at a one day camp and if you like it then move on to the longer camps.”
As you can see, Max is always thinking of others and how they can leave a positive influence on the lives of others.
For more information on how you, like Max, can make a positive difference in the lives of youth in our community, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.
These 4-H’ers started their own seeds and sold them in a plant sale to raise money to help feed hungry children in their communities.
It seems like as the weather warms, we all start itching to get outside. A favorite outdoor project of many of our 4-H’ers is starting plants from seeds. There is something exciting and satisfying about raising your own vegies or flowers from seed.
If you’ve never started your own seedlings before, you’re in for a treat. It’s not as hard as you may think. Seeds can be purchased locally at any feed and seed store, nursery, or garden center. Follow the planting instructions on the package, and don’t be afraid to ask store employees for advice. We also have vegetable planting guides at your local Extension office with best times to plant, planting depths, seed and row spacing, etc. These are free of charge, so feel free to call, email, or stop by to pick one up.
For first timers, now is the time to research. Get your plan together for what you’re planting and when it needs to be sewn. Then start collecting containers. Special seed trays can be purchased, or you can recycle old nursery trays and pots if they’re cleaned properly with a mild solution of bleach and water and rinsed well. You can also use disposable cups, newspapers can be turned into biodegradable pots very easily, or you can sew seeds in old deli trays, rotisserie chicken containers, milk jugs, almost anything that will hold a couple inches of soil.
Seed starting is a great project for all 4-H’ers and it’s a great way to teach responsibility, record keeping, teamwork, and care for living things.
These 4-H’ers are working together to fill orders at the plant sale. They started these plants from seed.
For more information on 4-H gardening programs, contact your local 4-H agent.
Though it’s been a few years, Ty still vividly recalls his accident. Thankfully he is still around to enjoy 4-H projects like gardening, cooking, and embryology.
Anyone who deals with youth knows that we must constantly assess risks and decide how to handle them. The risks we encounter can be assumed, reduced, transferred, or avoided. My husband and I decided early on that we would be altogether avoiding the risks associated with ATV’s when it came to our personal children.
However, in the spring after Ty, our son, turned 2 we learned that my in-laws were taking him on ATV rides not only in their yard and in the woods, but on paved public roads and across major highways to visit friends. We repeatedly asked them to stop, but Ty was hooked, and they found it difficult to tell him no. In fact, on the day of Ty’s final four wheeler ride, my brother-in-law showed up at our house on his ATV to take Ty home with him. I told him to ride home and I’d bring Ty shortly. I waited until I thought he would be safely home and off the roads. After all, it would have been tragically ironic if I had been the one to run over him.
When I took Ty over I made it very clear that my husband and I did not want Ty on a four wheeler at all, and that he certainly should not be on the highway. I explained that we had both had friends die in serious ATV accidents when we were younger, and we weren’t willing to assume the risks with our own children. It just didn’t seem worth it to us. Besides, Ty had no gear, the ATVs weren’t made for two passengers, and I knew it was against the law to ride on highways. It all seemed very rational to me, and I thought it was settled. I was wrong.
Later that day when my husband answered the phone and then without another word stood up from the table and began walking toward the door, I knew something was wrong with Ty. I was changing our newborn daughter’s clothes after her lunch. I remember grabbing her, picking up a pair of shoes from beside the door for myself, and climbing in the truck with my husband who was still on the cordless phone as we pulled out of the drive. Needless to say it cut him off pretty quickly, and all he could say was, “Blayne said Daddy and Ty flipped the four wheeler on the highway, and Ty’s not breathing.” When we pulled in the drive my father-in-law rushed into the yard with Ty in his arms. Ty’s eyes were open, and he was breathing now. But he was having a hard time, and I could tell he was in shock, so we headed to the ER.
X-rays, CT scans, lots of drawn blood, one serious scare that nearly resulted in an ambulance ride to a larger hospital, and seemingly countless hours later, they let us go home with him. He seemed fine, but we had to follow up the next day, and of course, stay up with him during the night in case of a concussion. The whole ordeal was nerve wracking. But the worst part of all was watching my husband hold Ty during the night and repeatedly ask, “What if we had lost him? What would we have done?” Clearly he wasn’t worried about the potential for missed time from work or funeral expenses. He was talking about losing his son – living a life without him in it. It was a moment of shocking clarity when we realized that we loved him more than we even knew. It would have been hard to have lost him that day.
Ty miraculously survived his accident with little more than a bruised chest and abdomen and a story to tell. I never said anything to my father-in-law. I didn’t have to. Watching him recount the story to the police investigator, the doctors, and other friends and family who quickly gathered with us in the hospital was punishment enough for both of us. He knew it could have been worse. I didn’t have to say it.
For those of you who are curious, a friend had called and asked my father-in-law to come over to help with something. Ty wanted to take the four wheeler, and my father-in-law caved. Ty was riding in front of my father-in-law on the ATV. As they were headed up a steep hill along the way, a large rattle snake was stretched across the road. My father-in-law didn’t want to drive over it with Ty on the ATV with him, and he didn’t want to leave it alive either, so he decided turn around and take Ty home so he could get a gun and come back to kill the snake. With the wheel cut at a sharp angle, and as he was shifting to reverse, Ty reached up and mashed the gas hard. The ATV careened out of control throwing them both and landing on Ty bending the handle bars in his chest. Thankfully, Ty landed in the grass on the shoulder of the road instead of on the pavement preventing further serious injury, and neither of them landed on the snake. (In the chaos, the snake got away. I know someone is asking that right now.) The ATV sat where they left it for weeks before someone moved it. It was more than a year before my father-in-law even had it fixed. It was a sickening reminder of a tough, and unnecessary lesson in ATV safety.
Not everyone wants to avoid ATVs altogether though. And I totally understand why. They’re fun. And when used properly, a lot of the risk associated with them can be reduced or avoided. That’s why 4-H has partnered with the ATV safety institute to bring ATV safety classes to youth and families across the nation.
During these courses, youth learn the golden rules which address the leading causes of serious injury and death in ATV-related accidents. Can you pick out the ones broken in Ty’s story? (Hint: There are only two not broken that day! Answer: 1,2,4,5,7,8.)
- Always wear a helmet and protective gear
- Never ride on public roads
- Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle
- Ride an ATV that’s right for your age
- Riders younger than 16 should be supervised
- Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed
- Take an ATV rider course – to do this you can visit www.atvsafety.org
Our family’s story is not unique. According to recent reports, emergency departments treated nearly 100,000 ATV-related injuries in the United States in 2013, and nearly 25 percent of those involved children younger than 16. Fortunately, our story has a happy ending, but others are not so lucky. Twenty-three percent of ATV-related fatalities occur in children younger than 16 and most of those, in children younger than 12. So take the time to educate the youth in your life about the importance of ATV safety, and teach them how to be safe on any ATV’s they may be riding.
Remember, riding ATV’s is fun. ER visits are not.
4-H offers curriculum, training (face to face and online) and even an ATV Safety App, Treadsylvania, to learn about ATV safety. For more information on ATV safety or 4-H in general , contact your local UF IFAS Extension office. If you have a passion for ATV safety, consider becoming a certified ATV instructor with 4-H. Learn more at http://florida4h.org/volunteers.
On behalf of 4-H agents across the Florida panhandle, I wish you a fun and safe summer!