Not all volunteering has to involve helping strangers in need.
When looking for volunteering opportunities I also looked in my inner circle as well. Close friends of ours are parents to two young children. In the past, I have tried to make an effort to give them a parent’s night out, away from places that serve chicken nuggets, and away from having to cutup someone else’s food. However, life gets busy and complicated and I wind up offering it far less than I would like.
My friend recently won the Teacher of the Year award for the high school she taught at. There was to be a reward ceremony and her parents were driving in from out of town to attend. At one of our girl’s dinners out, she told me she was having trouble securing a babysitter for that night and might have to take the kids along. Knowing this would add stress to her special night, as a five and three year old would have trouble sitting still, I volunteered to babysit.
Some of my friends may see my volunteering as a babysitter akin to Katniss Everdeen volunteering as a tribute. Voluntarily throwing myself into the toddler trenches. But I am a babysitter extraordinaire. I don’t just park myself on the couch, turn the tv on and make sure the kids don’t burn the house down. I’m crafty, embodying both definitions of the word, clever and creative. I have a plan of attack before I ever step foot in the house. I’m Mary Poppins mixed with a touch of Nanny Mcphee and dash of Super Nanny.
Kid projects keep little hands busy, and busy hands make for happy kids. I try to combine activities that get their creative juices flowing, and an outdoor activity to run off some of their boundless energy. Sleepy kids make for happy parents after a night out.
I planned to have them first make no-bake Oreo balls for their mom as a congrats(since she loves all things Oreo). Then we would run around outside and jump on the trampoline and then to wind down we would make birdfeeders out of large pinecones.
Plans are good in theory. And as a general rule, the plans I conceive in my head always carry an air of Mary Poppins perfection but in truth look like Elizabeth Shue in Adventures in Babysitting.
Problem #1-To grind up a box of Oreos properly one must use a food processor. The circulating blades are not kid appropriate. But a five-year old thinks they are close enough to eighteen and think they should be allowed. So I obliged Bryson, the five-year old, to only press the start button to turn Oreo cookies into Oreo sand. Though I didn’t realize he had “adjusted” the lid when I wasn’t looking and when he pressed the button Oreo sand went everywhere. That’s cool, I thought, we’ll clean it up later . . .
Problem #2– A three-year old does not possess the dexterity to roll dough into balls. Maddie, the three year old, would make tiny turd like objects and her brother and I would have to go behind her and re-roll them. She wasn’t a fan of us destroying her turd creations. So one of us would create a distraction while the other tried to save as many as we could. Plus more than a few turd bits didn’t make it to the pan, but accompanied the Oreo sand on the floor.
With the first step of making Oreo balls done, we placed our sugary creations into the fridge to chill. In one hour we would return to glaze them. I left the dirty pans, dishes, utensils and Oreo mess for later. Now it was time to get outside and burn off some energy–and sugar (no kid or normal adult can pass up eating Oreos when laying right in from of them). They jumped and flipped and danced their hearts out on the trampoline. I took slo-mo videos of them flipping about and they thought that was hilarious. I even caught one minor meltdown on video accidentlly. In slo-mo mode a toddler tantrum looks scarier then in real time –like a tiny monster roaring in anger about to tear the town apart. I showed this to said toddler who lost herself in a fit of giggles. Tears gone and the kitchen timer ringing, we moseyed back to our baking duties.
Making an icing glaze was easy and fun for the kids. They love to stir! However trying to instruct little hands on how to delicately dip small misshapen balls into a bowl of soft sticky icing is not easy or fun for the adult. I didn’t take the task away, allowing them to give it their best dip with some gentle nudging. Perfection wasn’t the point, thoughtfulness and learning was. But white icing was dripped and slung in so many places; I’m not sure how they accomplished the splatter range. Oh well, I’ll wipe that up later too . . .
I placed the Oreo project back in the fridge and we moved on to pinecone bird-feeders on the back deck. Using the large pinecones an friend gave me, they were to apply peanut butter to the pinecone edges and then roll the pinecone in the tray deep with the birdseed I gave each of them.
Problem #3– Large pinecones have sharp edges capable to scraping or poking little hands. I went in search of gloves. I found adult gardening gloves instead. This made handling the pinecones safer but trickier to hold, and more of a mess with the peanut butter. They used spatulas to cake the pinecones in peanut butter, not forgetting to wipe the excess on the table, their clothes and somehow in their hair.
Problem #4 – To a child a bucket of birdseed seems pointless to roll just one pinecone in. There’s so much left over. They didn’t think ahead about re-bagging it as I did. They instead decided to free it from the confines of the buckets… into the air, onto the porch and off the back deck. Jiminy Cricket! Well, I’ll sweep that up once they get in their pajamas . . .
Once the pinecones were fully coated and the back deck was unrecognizable, the projects were finished. Or so I thought. Bryson saw a bird fly by and just knew it had smelled the new birdfeeders. He begged me to hang them quickly. I told him his dad could do it later. But he feared the bird was starving. So after finding some twine, my short frame hung over the side of the deck and struggled to reach a branch and tie the pinecones to the strongest one I could reach.
Nearing an hour from bedtime, I told them they could watch one cartoon before bed if they brushed their teeth and put their pajamas on at lightening speed. They accepted the challenge without whining when hearing the word bedtime.
While they brushed, I assessed the damage the three of us accumulated. The kitchen was almost a total loss. I wished I really was Mary Poppins and could snap the dishes clean, counters spotless, floor vacuumed and back deck power washed. No worries though, I’d have it shining like a new penny before their parents returned home.
Problem #5—As I began to wash the first dish, I heard a car door slam. The parents had come home early. Whoops . . .
When they walked into their disheveled and sticky kitchen, I think their words were, “Looks like ya’ll had fun.” And you know what– we did. Those kids were proud to show their mom what they created for her and tell their dad what they made on the back porch. It may have been structured fun, but they were able to use their hands to create and learn, jump around and make messes along the way.
Messes are where memories are made.
Their parents were good sports about the mess, which I cleaned up before leaving and their kids were clean and ready for bed ( as long as they didn’t inspect their hair).
Any of you have any volunteering stories or ideas for another adventure in volunteering? Currently, I’m looking at another type of animal rescue venue!
” No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” ~ Aesop
**PSA: Multiple hand washing was conducted and Pictures were approved for posting by their mother 😉 **
11 Comments Add yours
Great story, Cara! You have a huge heart.
Thank you Jane! It’s been fun trying to find my next Volunteering venture . Learning a lot of resources in the area too! Something you know a lot about 🙂
I LOVE EVERY WORD!
Aww thanks Sarah! Appreciate you being so supportive!! Means a lot 🙂 hope you guys are well !
Wow! What a return to your inner nanny😊Love it! Great lay out and format too. Sweet and chuckle-able
I’m glad it made you laugh 🙂
I do love the kiddos and being crafty, lol 😉
I’d eat an Oreo turd, yum
You should have taken your hubbie there; he’d have had fun, too and been an equalizer, 2 kids 2 adults
I know, right! An Oreo is an Oreo! We had a messy blast 🙂
Reblogged this on Dream Big, Dream Often.
I almost feel like I was taking the pictures 😉. Very interesting. Volunteering, is always a fun thing, it makes another person happy, so it makes you happy. Good job!!!
Thank you so much ! I do enjoy it. Trying to find time lately has been tough. But I’m motivated to get back in it soon!