Monday, April 25, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Puddle Jumping and Rain Showers by Erin Uda

April’s coming to an end, and if your month was anything like ours, there should be a ton of flowers this May! Needless to say; it’s been incredibly wet here in Utah and the forecast isn’t changing much through the end of the month. So pull on your Hunters (or Wellingtons) and a waterproof jacket – we’re going to get wet!

The best thing about rain, in my opinion, is the fabulous smell afterward. The air is clean, the worms are out in force (along with the birds), and everything feels refreshed.

The second best thing about rain is the amazing variety of puddles left behind. You can find them everywhere – and no two are ever alike.

There is something incredibly youthful about jumping in a puddle and allowing yourself to get wet and make a mess. So go ahead, indulge your inner child and start splashing.

Fun ideas to keep your child’s attention after the first few splashes:
  • Biggest Splash
  • Loudest Splash
  • Biggest Puddle Finder
  • Smallest Puddle Finder
  • Wettest Person
  • Dryest Person

If you prefer not to get wet, go on a nature walk after the rain and show your child how different the world looks. Point out the worms (and possibly help a few back into the dirt), enjoy the clean, fresh air, and squish your toes into the wet ground. Bring a camera with you and see what kind of pictures you can take to document the changes caused by the rain. Put them together in a book or album to document your adventure.

If possible, arrange to go outside while it’s still raining. (This is best done later in the summer when the rain is warm.) You can wear your rain gear or just go out in your bathing suits. While you’re out there, watch the way the raindrops hit the ground, the grass, and the flowers. Try to catch some on your tongue. Fill up a jar or glass with rain water and see how much you can capture. Is there anything in there other than rain? If so, talk about how it may have gotten there.

If your child still has a lot of energy left after sitting in the house through all the rain, try to make your own rainstorm by following the directions found at this link:

Explore the world with all your senses – it’s the way we were meant to live!

Suggested Books:
  • Spring Goes Squish – Marty Kelley (ISBN: 9781559333153; Call #: P Kelley)
  • Puddle Wonderful: Poems to Welcome Spring – Mary Morgan (ISBN: 978-0679814931; Call #: P Morgan)
  • Puddles – Jonathan London (ISBN: 9780140561753; Call #: P London)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Little VACATION!!!

Tomorrow morning at 4 am, I will be crawling out of bed, loading up my kidlets, and flying out of Chicago! Yes my friends, I will be going on a VACATION!!! Thus, I will not be on the computer, and consequently, will not be blogging. I won't be back until May 12th so I was going to leave you with a calendar for May, but something is wrong with my computer and I can't pull up my calendar to give it to you. So... you just get this. A loving farewell and an invitation to check back on May 12th to see what fun new ideas we have for you and your kids. PEACE OUT YO!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Ball Games by Erin Uda

Some of my favorite outdoor memories involve our back patio, which was concrete and had been poured into four large squares. It was the perfect four-square court. My siblings and I would play the game for hours, making up our own special moves (or modifications) to give ourselves any advantage we could. When I became a camp counselor, I was amazed at how the entire camp would come together for a kickball game. No matter the age, this game was a perpetual favorite. And even now, as a mother of two school-age boys, ball games are still important. I don’t go one week without hearing a dodgeball story where one of them caught the ball and got someone out, or became the hero of their team by staying in the game until the end and knocking others out of play. These stories bring back memories of my own elementary school adventures in dodgeball, helping me to remember what life is like at that age.

Ball games are unique in the way they can tie our generations together. They are a staple of the PE gym and playground; a universal skill for any American child. As mothers, there are so many benefits to introducing our children to these games and spending time playing them together. Not only do they encourage coordination and imagination, they’re also inexpensive, easy to play, and provide endless teaching and bonding moments. What parent doesn’t want their child to be a good sport, whether they win or lose? And what child would pass up the opportunity to play ball with their childhood hero – Mom?

So grab a ball (playground balls can be found almost anywhere for under $5), get outside, and share some sun and fun together with your children. And when you’re done playing, come back and share your stories with us! Let us know your favorite strategies for winning, adjustments that make play easier for youngsters, and all those 4-square mods that come flooding back once you’re King.

I don’t have space to list all of our favorite ball games, but here are the top 3 at our house, plus one extra:

If you’ve never played this before, you must not have grown up in the US. It’s such a ubiquitous part of our culture that they’ve made a movie about it – but I wouldn’t recommend watching that movie with the kids…

An easy version of baseball, this is an American classic.

Some popular mods:
Bus-stop – like dribbling in basketball, only slower, and with two hands
Tree-top – almost like a volleyball set, toss the ball above your head and then spike it down into your opponent’s square
Bubbles – bounce the ball repeatedly about 5 inches above your hands, you must remain stationary when using this mod

This game is the most fun for little ones, although I’ve seen even college kids get into it. Try using different types of balls each time you play – it also works well with a Frisbee. The rules at this link aren’t the be-all-end-all for this game; use your imagination and make it fun for everyone.

Suggested Books:
  • The ultimate playground & recess game book Guy Bailey – 796.1 B152
  • My yellow ball; Dee Lillegard – P Lillegard
  • The story of red rubber ball; Constance Levy – P Levy
  • Balls; Melanie Davis Jones – B Jones
  • Watch me throw the ball!; Mo Willems – B Willems
  • Little Pig’s bouncy ball; Alan Baron – B Baron

Friday, April 15, 2011

Poor Chip and Dale!

After watching an episode of Franklin on TV, Brooklyn decided that she wanted me to buy her a pet goldfish. I want my kids to have pets, but a big part of me just isn't ready to take on another responsibility (because we all know who will be feeding that fish and cleaning out his bowl.)

Anyway, as I was thinking it over, I was reminded of my own goldfish when I was a little girl. My older sister and I had been begging for a pet as well and were finally rewarded with two goldfish whom we lovingly named Chip and Dale. We adored our little guys and were so excited to share our magical little lives with them.

Not too long after bringing them home, my sister and I decided to show our fish how fun life could really be with us, so...we dressed Chip and Dale up in new, super-spiffy toilet paper outfits, sat them in our big brothers toy truck, and drove them around for hours. They took some cool road trips, chatted it up with our barbies, had a nice lunch, and then, when my sister and I got bored, we left them to talk amongst themselves.

Obviously, we weren't quite ready to take on the responsibility of having pets (as my poor mother discovered when she went to pick up our toys), but at least Chip and Dale left this world in their best clothes, knowing that they were loved!

Needless to say, after this memory flashed through my mind, I decided that my beautiful, sweet daughter, who is even more imaginative than I, is not quite ready to be a pet owner. Maybe for her 4th birthday...we shall see! :)

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Of Things That Matter Most

As a young stay-at-home mother, I am frequently striving to find satisfaction in the mundane tasks I do from day to day. I am often discouraged, stressed out, and left with feelings of inadequacy. After those moments pass, I find myself pushing harder, adding more, wanting perfection...only to fall short again and be filled with the frustrations of taking one step forward, two steps back.

I believe this to be a refining process of my fortitude and character, but that doesn't make it any easier. It is still difficult to live each day for others. Once you bring a child into the world, you give up the right to live for yourself, and instead put yourself in the position to eat last, wake up first, stay behind, and forgo "you time" for "family time". There are many great rewards for making those sacrifices, but because we are human, and inherently selfish, there are also moments of self doubt and self pity.

In those moments, I like to seek help from my mother, mother-in-law, sisters, and best friend. But when they can't help me either, I inevitably turn to the Lord and the council he has give through modern day apostles and prophets. The talk, "Of Things That Matter Most" by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, is one of the most inspiring talks I've ever heard. It really caught me in a time of need and just made sense! So today I am sharing it with you. I've highlighted some of my favorite parts in blue if you don't want to read the whole thing, otherwise, its a great read and I highly recommend taking the time to read it all.
(However, if you don't have time to read, you can click THIS LINK to go to a website that will let you listen to the talk whilst you go about your regular day!)

Of Things That Matter Most
By: Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Second Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
"If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most."

It’s remarkable how much we can learn about life by studying nature. For example, scientists can look at the rings of trees and make educated guesses about climate and growing conditions hundreds and even thousands of years ago. One of the things we learn from studying the growth of trees is that during seasons when conditions are ideal, trees grow at a normal rate. However, during seasons when growing conditions are not ideal, trees slow down their growth and devote their energy to the basic elements necessary for survival.

At this point some of you may be thinking, “That’s all very fine and good, but what does it have to do with flying an airplane?” Well, let me tell you.

Have you ever been in an airplane and experienced turbulence? The most common cause of turbulence is a sudden change in air movement causing the aircraft to pitch, yaw, and roll. While planes are built to withstand far greater turbulence than anything you would encounter on a regular flight, it still may be disconcerting to passengers.

What do you suppose pilots do when they encounter turbulence? A student pilot may think that increasing speed is a good strategy because it will get them through the turbulence faster. But that may be the wrong thing to do. Professional pilots understand that there is an optimum turbulence penetration speed that will minimize the negative effects of turbulence. And most of the time that would mean to reduce your speed. The same principle applies also to speed bumps on a road.

Therefore, it is good advice to slow down a little, steady the course, and focus on the essentials when experiencing adverse conditions.

The Pace of Modern Life

This is a simple but critical lesson to learn. It may seem logical when put in terms of trees or turbulence, but it’s surprising how easy it is to ignore this lesson when it comes to applying these principles in our own daily lives. When stress levels rise, when distress appears, when tragedy strikes, too often we attempt to keep up the same frantic pace or even accelerate, thinking somehow that the more rushed our pace, the better off we will be.

One of the characteristics of modern life seems to be that we are moving at an ever-increasing rate, regardless of turbulence or obstacles.

Let’s be honest; it’s rather easy to be busy. We all can think up a list of tasks that will overwhelm our schedules. Some might even think that their self-worth depends on the length of their to-do list. They flood the open spaces in their time with lists of meetings and minutia—even during times of stress and fatigue. Because they unnecessarily complicate their lives, they often feel increased frustration, diminished joy, and too little sense of meaning in their lives.

It is said that any virtue when taken to an extreme can become a vice. Over-scheduling our days would certainly qualify for this. There comes a point where milestones can become millstones and ambitions, albatrosses around our necks.

What Is the Solution?

The wise understand and apply the lessons of tree rings and air turbulence. They resist the temptation to get caught up in the frantic rush of everyday life. They follow the advice “There is more to life than increasing its speed.” In short, they focus on the things that matter most.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in a recent general conference, taught, “We have to forego some good things in order to choose others that are better or best because they develop faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen our families.”

The search for the best things inevitably leads to the foundational principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ—the simple and beautiful truths revealed to us by a caring, eternal, and all-knowing Father in Heaven. These core doctrines and principles, though simple enough for a child to understand, provide the answers to the most complex questions of life.

There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.

For example, it wasn’t long after astronauts and cosmonauts orbited the earth that they realized ballpoint pens would not work in space. And so some very smart people went to work solving the problem. It took thousands of hours and millions of dollars, but in the end, they developed a pen that could write anywhere, in any temperature, and on nearly any surface. But how did the astronauts and cosmonauts get along until the problem was solved? They simply used a pencil.

Leonardo da Vinci is quoted as saying that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” When we look at the foundational principles of the plan of happiness, the plan of salvation, we can recognize and appreciate in its plainness and simplicity the elegance and beauty of our Heavenly Father’s wisdom. Then, turning our ways to His ways is the beginning of our wisdom.

The Power of Basics

The story is told that the legendary football coach Vince Lombardi had a ritual he performed on the first day of training. He would hold up a football, show it to the athletes who had been playing the sport for many years, and say, “Gentlemen, … this is a football!” He talked about its size and shape, how it can be kicked, carried, or passed. He took the team out onto the empty field and said, “This is a football field.” He walked them around, describing the dimensions, the shape, the rules, and how the game is played.

This coach knew that even these experienced players, and indeed the team, could become great only by mastering the fundamentals. They could spend their time practicing intricate trick plays, but until they mastered the fundamentals of the game, they would never become a championship team.

I think most of us intuitively understand how important the fundamentals are. It is just that we sometimes get distracted by so many things that seem more enticing.

Printed material, wide-ranging media sources, electronic tools and gadgets—all helpful if used properly—can become hurtful diversions or heartless chambers of isolation.

Yet amidst the multitude of voices and choices, the humble Man of Galilee stands with hands outstretched, waiting. His is a simple message: “Come, follow me.” And He does not speak with a powerful megaphone but with a still, small voice. It is so easy for the basic gospel message to get lost amidst the deluge of information that hits us from all sides.

The holy scriptures and the spoken word of the living prophets give emphasis to the fundamental principles and doctrines of the gospel. The reason we return to these foundational principles, to the pure doctrines, is because they are the gateway to truths of profound meaning. They are the door to experiences of sublime importance that would otherwise be beyond our capacity to comprehend. These simple, basic principles are the key to living in harmony with God and man. They are the keys to opening the windows of heaven. They lead us to the peace, joy, and understanding that Heavenly Father has promised to His children who hear and obey Him.

My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby … win the prize.”

Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world. That is why “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, … that [we] may know to what source [we] may look for a remission of [our] sins.” In the complexity, confusion, and rush of modern living, this is the “more excellent way.”

So What Are the Basics?

As we turn to our Heavenly Father and seek His wisdom regarding the things that matter most, we learn over and over again the importance of four key relationships: with our God, with our families, with our fellowman, and with ourselves. As we evaluate our own lives with a willing mind, we will see where we have drifted from the more excellent way. The eyes of our understanding will be opened, and we will recognize what needs to be done to purify our heart and refocus our life.

First, our relationship with God is most sacred and vital. We are His spirit children. He is our Father. He desires our happiness. As we seek Him, as we learn of His Son, Jesus Christ, as we open our hearts to the influence of the Holy Spirit, our lives become more stable and secure. We experience greater peace, joy, and fulfillment as we give our best to live according to God’s eternal plan and keep His commandments.

We improve our relationship with our Heavenly Father by learning of Him, by communing with Him, by repenting of our sins, and by actively following Jesus Christ, for “no man cometh unto the Father, but by [Christ].” To strengthen our relationship with God, we need some meaningful time alone with Him. Quietly focusing on daily personal prayer and scripture study, always aiming to be worthy of a current temple recommend—these will be some wise investments of our time and efforts to draw closer to our Heavenly Father. Let us heed the invitation in Psalms: “Be still, and know that I am God.”

Our second key relationship is with our families. Since “no other success can compensate for failure” here, we must place high priority on our families. We build deep and loving family relationships by doing simple things together, like family dinner and family home evening and by just having fun together. In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time. Taking time for each other is the key for harmony at home. We talk with, rather than about, each other. We learn from each other, and we appreciate our differences as well as our commonalities. We establish a divine bond with each other as we approach God together through family prayer, gospel study, and Sunday worship.

The third key relationship we have is with our fellowman. We build this relationship one person at a time—by being sensitive to the needs of others, serving them, and giving of our time and talents. I was deeply impressed by one sister who was burdened with the challenges of age and illness but decided that although she couldn’t do much, she could listen. And so each week she watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged, and she spent time with them, listening. What a blessing she was in the lives of so many people.

The fourth key relationship is with ourselves. It may seem odd to think of having a relationship with ourselves, but we do. Some people can’t get along with themselves. They criticize and belittle themselves all day long until they begin to hate themselves. May I suggest that you reduce the rush and take a little extra time to get to know yourself better. Walk in nature, watch a sunrise, enjoy God’s creations, ponder the truths of the restored gospel, and find out what they mean for you personally. Learn to see yourself as Heavenly Father sees you—as His precious daughter or son with divine potential.

Rejoice in the Pure Gospel

Brothers and sisters, let us be wise. Let us turn to the pure doctrinal waters of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Let us joyfully partake of them in their simplicity and plainness. The heavens are open again. The gospel of Jesus Christ is on earth once more, and its simple truths are a plentiful source of joy!

Brothers and sisters, indeed we have great reason to rejoice. If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.

Strength comes not from frantic activity but from being settled on a firm foundation of truth and light. It comes from placing our attention and efforts on the basics of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. It comes from paying attention to the divine things that matter most.

Let us simplify our lives a little. Let us make the changes necessary to refocus our lives on the sublime beauty of the simple, humble path of Christian discipleship—the path that leads always toward a life of meaning, gladness, and peace. For this I pray, as I leave you my blessing, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Something Old, Something New

Every once in a while, (about every 6 months) I get a bit stir crazy. In those moments I usually suggest to my husband that we either move somewhere else, or join the Peace Corp. He, being the more rational of the two of us, always finds some kind of logical excuse to stay where we are and eventually helps me to realize that we are just at that stage in life where we are putting down roots and we need to bloom where we are planted. He's always right (on this matter) of course, so I back off my crazy ideas and try to find somewhere else to place my restlessness. That place is usually in a PROJECT.

Like my mother, when I am feeling restless I LOVE to move my furniture, scrub my walls, and make old things look new. One of my favorite changes was to this Ikea chair last year. Kevin thought it would be cute to buy Brooklyn her own chair but didn't realize how messy a white chair can get with a 2 year old in it. So, when Grandma Hanks came out to visit, she created a pattern for me and I sewed a washable slip cover for the chair. It turned out cute and totally hides all the old Cheetos stains underneath, and the new ones on top!

Another favorite of mine is this old secretary. An elderly gentlemen who lived under us at our last apartment was moving out and let us have it for free! It had some weird wood glued on to the glass and some outdated hardware when he gave it to us, but Kevin just cleaned it up, sanded it down, slapped on some paint, and gave it new hardware. Now it is one of my favorite pieces of furniture in the whole house!

Anyway, the point is, I got that restless feeling again a few days ago so I made Kevin saw my table in half. We were running out of space for the girls to play and the leg had fallen off of it already anyway. So, he hacked it in two and now we have an awesome bar table to enjoy our breakfast together (when we're not feeding the girls in the kitchen to prevent them from painting our carpet with food!)

Thus, if you are ever feeling restless, take a look around your house, see what furniture you can move around or refurbish, and make a change! If that doesn't work, try some light spring cleaning. It really feels good!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Sauteed Zucchini with Oregano and Feta

About a year ago, a friend of mine gave me a ton of zucchini! After several loaves of zucchini bread, I ran out of ideas of what to do with it. So, I did a Google search for zucchini recipes and came up with this:

Sauteed Zucchini with Oregano and Feta
  • 2 tsp Olive Oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into 2 inch chunks
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 Tbs parsley, fresh, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add zucchini and oregano, saute until zucchini is golden brown, about 4 to 6 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat and add parsley, toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle feta cheese over top just before serving.

Serving size is 1/2 cup.

We gave the recipe a try and Kevin and I both LOVED it! We make it all the time now and even throw in squash, mushrooms, and onions when we have them around. My girls love it too (because of the cheese I think) and it fills us all up without anything extra. I will, however, throw some chicken on the grill for my husband sometimes just in case! Hope you get the chance to give it a try. Enjoy!

P.S. I don't actually remember where I got the recipe. If you happen to know, please tell me so I can give them the credit!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Teddy Bear Picnic by Erin Uda

(Brooklyn Hanks on her first Teddy Bear Picnic)

It was my son’s birthday this weekend and in honor of that, I’ve decided to share one of his favorite outside activities when he was younger: a teddy bear picnic.

You can make this as complicated or simple as you like, but basically, it’s just sitting outside on a blanket and reading books together – with a favorite stuffed animal, of course.

My favorite version includes going to the library and picking out a solid stack of picture books to read together. If your library has a park, try going there for your picnic. If not, even your backyard will work. Make a fun lunch to eat – or purchase a special treat from the store – and sit down together in the sun to read, snuggle and eat.

And trust me – even though it’s simple, this may turn out to be your child’s favorite activity, too!

And because it can sometimes be difficult to find a good book, here are some of the best from 2010:
  • Oh No! (or how my science project destroyed the world) – Mac Barnett
  • The Boys – Jeff Newman
  • The Quiet Book – Deborah Underwood
  • Art & Max – David Weisner
  • City Dog, Country Frog – Mo Willems
  • We Are in a Book! – Mo Willems
  • Dog Loves Books – Louise Yates
  • Chalk – Bill Thomson
  • It’s a Book – Lane Smith
  • Other Goose: Re-nurseried and Re-rhymed children’s classics – J. Otto Seibold
  • Dilweed’s Revenge: A deadly dose of magic – Florence Parry Heide
  • Shark vs. Train – Chris Barton
  • Seasons – Claudia Bedrick
  • Me and You – Anthony Browne
  • Clever Jack Takes the Cake – Candace Fleming
  • The Boss Baby – Marla Frazee
  • Monsters East Whiny Children – Bruce Eric Kaplan
  • Animal Crackers Fly the Coop – Kevin O’Malley
  • The Chicken Thief – Beatrice Rodriguez
  • What If? – Laura Vaccaro Seeger
  • Bink & Gollie – Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
Some of our Favorite Authors:
  • Mo Willems
  • Eric Carle
  • Judith Viorst
  • David Shannon
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Laura Numeroff
  • Maurice Sendak
  • Tomie DePaola

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Naomi's Top 10: Favorite Physical Activities

As much as I hate getting out the door to get in some exercise, I always love the way I feel afterward. I mean, let's face it... exercise boosts your endorphins, endorphins make you happy, and happy people are better wives, mothers, and friends. So when I need a little happiness boost, here are the top 10 activities I do to put a smile on my face and some bounce in my step:

1. RUNNING- Like I've said before, running really gets me going. It gives me energy, makes me feel like I'm accomplishing something, and its one of the easiest things to get out and do for yourself.

2. WALKING- When I don't want to get sweaty from a good run, I like to go on a nice brisk walk. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone, but either way I find it relaxing and peaceful.

3. BIKING- I love to bike because it makes me feel like a kid again. My balance seems to be getting worse with age, but its still fun to get out every once in a while and ride the trails.

4. SWIMMING- Swimming is a magical way to work out and is also one of the best ways to exercise if you don't want to stress out your joints or look really sweaty when you're done! And who doesn't want to spend a few minutes every once in a while feeling like a dolphin?!

5. KICKBOXING- I love kickboxing! It makes you sweat out your fat cells whilst simultaneously getting out all your aggression and negative energy. (I've obviously never taken a picture of myself kickboxing before, so this one will have to do. You can clearly see that I am making my aggressive face. Check out the fear in my little sister's eye!)

6. ROCK CLIMBING- This isn't a picture of me rock climbing either but... you get the gist :) Anyway, I love rock climbing because it provides both a physical challenge and a mental challenge at the same time. Every inch you make it up the wall is an inch closer to finishing the big puzzle of how to get up in the first place.

7. HIKING- Hiking gives your legs a good burn and your heart some good bounce time, but it also lets you connect with nature, and sometimes, really great friends!

8. HARD WORK- Good old fashioned hard work will make your muscles sore AND it will help you complete tasks and see an immediate result...which sometimes has to hold you off until you can see some good weight loss results :)

9. POLYNESIAN DANCE- Dancing is one of those great workouts that you hardly even realize you are getting. It is fun and challenging and really gives you a great opportunity to just let go!

10. PLAYING WITH MY KIDS- No matter how hard or often I work out, nothing makes my heart race more then playing with my kids! A 5 minute dance party with them will wear me out more then 30 minutes with Jillian Michaels! Plus, it gives me that great mommy-daughter time that makes me feel like I'm doing something right in the world!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Create your OWN Spring!

If you are desperately craving a scene like this to appear out your window...

But are still looking out at the world and seeing this...

Then it's time for you to create your OWN Spring!

About a week ago, Brooklyn, Lily and I decided we'd had enough of the cold wind and sporadic snow, so we turned our living room into a warm, spring-time environment!

Because my girls LOVE butterflies, we started there. I cut out these using felt, scrapbook paper, thread, googly eyes, and a hot glue gun.

In the meantime, I kept Brooklyn's hands busy making this butterfly frame. She was able to do it almost entirely on her own and LOVED feeling like she was a part of everything.

Then, this last weekend during General Conference, we decided to take it a little further. On day one I made this Mod Podge frame with some subway art I printed off from eighteen25.

That same day, Brooklyn and I made a bright felt sun and some sparkly felt rain clouds to hang in our window:

It turned out beautiful and ended up making me feel as happy as it made my children!

On day two of General Conference, we decided to jazz up the window a little more by painting it in the same manner as Amy Thompson from the Progressive Pioneer. My sister-in-law sent me the link and I LOVE how fun and easy it was and how cute it looks!

Now whenever its too cold to go outside, or when its rainy and gloomy, I just look at my beautiful homemade Spring and smile. My girls think its wonderful too and are VERY proud of their handiwork. So if the lingering winter has got you down, take charge of the situation and create your OWN Spring!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Two of my favorite things... when I'm trying to be healthy

One thing I simply can NOT do without is comfort food. I LOVE the experience of eating! I love the flavors, colors, textures, and smells associated with food. I love the company and social atmosphere food can help to create. I love to eat when I'm sad, depressed, angry, happy, excited, lonely, and bored! Food is my friend, my filler, and my addiction.

Obviously, I need to tone down my codependency with all-things-tasty if I don't want to end up loosing my lifestyle to obesity, but that's easier said then done. You see, food is meant to taste WONDERFUL, and ofttimes when I'm trying to be "good" I just can't find any healthy food that satisfies my cravings. However, as I've tried to make better choices and increase my chances of a long and fulfilling life, I've also discovered a few things I can do to create a balance between delicious and sustaining foods. Here are two of my favorites (this week):

The Breakfast of Champions!

A few weeks ago I saw a commercial for oatmeal on the McDonald's breakfast menu. True to my nature, I immediately believed that I couldn't live without it. I didn't have money or a car at the time so I decided to make do with what I had at home and tried to recreate the oatmeal to match the advertisement. This is what I came up with: 1 cup of cooked oatmeal, two tablespoons of brown sugar, a half of an apple cut up, and 1/4 cup of Craisins. It tastes SO good and is really quite healthy. It even keeps me full long enough to make it through a 9 mile run without needing to stop and eat :)

The MAN Salad!

I actually really like salads (because I really like dressing) so its not like I'm compromising much when I eat one. That being said, I never get full enough when I eat salad, which usually results in me binging on less healthy food items later on. That was, until I created this little guy. I simply load up my plate with romaine lettuce of spinach (whatever I have around), and then dice up some tomatoes and any other vegetables I think will be good at the time. After that, I grill up some mushrooms and onions in a little olive oil with salt and pepper to taste. Throw that on top of the salad and top it with 2 tablespoons of ranch (or your favorite dressing) and you're set! When I'm really hungry, I also add some grilled chicken and/or crumbled crispy bacon! YUMMO! (Kevin even likes the salad that way and can get full on it too!)

Obviously, both of these meal ideas have unhealthy parts to them (i.e. brown sugar or salad dressing) but the bones of the meals are mostly healthy and I find it is a fantastic compromise for my taste buds. So... what are your favorite semi-healthy meals? I'd LOVE to hear about them!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Outdoor Adventures: Bird Watching by Erin Uda

The birds have been singing us awake for weeks now. This past week, the nest in our covered parking spot overflowed and we were treated to a close look at the materials the birds used to make their nest. My boys were amazed at the variety: there was a blue ribbon, multiple twigs, dried grass, pieces of litter, and plenty of other random items. We caught sight of some eggs in the nest above; perhaps that was why they were making room!

This week, your outdoor adventure is to go birdwatching. If you’ve heard the birds, you should be able to find a nest relatively close to your home. If not, try a local park in the morning, when birds are most active. Before you go, print out THIS page that I found at and use it to track the birds you find. You could even play bird bingo, if desired.

My favorite way to view birds is up close and personal, but that’s not usually an option for young children, so I suggest bringing a pair of binoculars with you. In fact, it might not hurt to keep your binoculars close for the entire week. Birds are everywhere; my boys even found finches in the grocery store parking lot.

If you have an aviary (or pet store) nearby, consider planning a visit – it’s a great way to see birds that are difficult to find in the wild. It’s also a great way to learn how to care for birds; most aviaries help injured birds until they have recovered enough to return to the wild.

If your budget is as tight as mine, you could plan a visit to a local farm supply store such as CAL ranch or IFA. They sell newly hatched chicks to farmers and usually allow children to handle them. I still remember seeing the eggs in the incubator for weeks, then suddenly there were fuzzy yellow chicks the next time I visited. It was miraculous to me at the time; I thought eggs were just for eating.

If your children like the idea of watching the birds all summer, think about building a birdhouse in your yard. I’m sure Naomi has some great ideas for building one!

(This is Naomi... and here is a great link I found for birdhouses you can make with children. Enjoy!)

It’s always a good idea to be prepared; find bird watching guides and bird encyclopedias at your local library: Call # 598

Book List:

  • Fly High, Fly Low – Don Freeman (ISBN: 9780142408179; Call #: P Freeman) Caldecott Honor Book
  • The Best Nest – P.D. Eastman (ISBN: 9780394800516; Call #: B Eastman)
  • The sad story of the little bluebird and the hungry cat – Edna Mitchell Preston (ISBN:9780590102766; Call #: B Preston)
  • Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America – Kenn Kaufman (ISBN:9780618574230; Call #: 598.097 K1625)
  • Feathers for Lunch – Lois Ehlert (P Ehlert)
  • Dancers in the Garden – Joanne Ryder (P Ryder)

Here are some more helpful links:

Friday, April 1, 2011

General Conference for Nursery Children (as well as your sometimes-sleepy-spouse!)

If you struggle as much as I do to hear anything that is said during General Conference, then this post is for you! I have a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old who follow me around like satellites and are in a state of constant communication (whether its gibberish or English). In the past I've tried to let them loose with their toys while I listen to our leaders speak, but never takes more than one talk before my kids need to tell on each other, or have some kind of emergency I need to help them with.

Well, this year I'm trying something new (and its not just for the kids). We are going to have Jelly Beans for Jesus Jars! I was just thinking how easily kids (and Kevin) are motivated by candy, and how they can easily pick out one word during a conference talk. So, I made these jars for each of us (minus Lily who would brake it in the first 5 minutes of her possession) to put a jelly bean in every time we hear our Savior mentioned during a talk! My hope is that it will help us to listen better, but also that it will help my kids realize the significant roll that the Savior plays in our every day lives.

All I did was take some mason jars, tape a computer printed picture of Jesus inside, and replace the lid with a tag that has our name on it. It took me about 5 minutes to do all three.

Here is the finished product. I think they're pretty cute and I know my family will love trying to get their jars filled.

When we're not trying to earn jelly beans, we will be occupied with conference packets that I printed off of these websites:

To get packets for all ages, go to:

I used this packet for my 3 year old:

And yes, I printed one for Kevin and I as well:

Thank you to all the wonderful people who make these packets available to us for FREE! Also, in case you were curious, the Church also puts out their own packets that can be found at:

Good luck with everything and have a blast listening to General Conference!