Monday, November 18, 2013

Empowerment Experience

As an avid reader I came across a book that talked about taking the feeling of entitlement out of kids. In a nutshell, a mom decided to do an experiment in her home. She was hoping the end result would be less entitlement in her kids. As I read through her account I appreciated many things she was trying to do, but I felt I would do things different for my kids.

That is how our empowerment experience was born.

Empowering kids is teaching them that they are able to do things for themselves. It teaches them self-confidence and gives them opportunities to learn skills and to be better prepared for life. It teaches them the value of work. To realize that things won't be handed to them, rather they will need to work for them.

We are in month 2 of our empowerment experience in our home. Each month we focus on something that I have thought about and want to improve on or change in our home and attitudes.

Month One
Chores. Just the sound of the word makes me brace for the fight that is surely to follow. Chores. The word that sends children into the realm of grunting, moaning, sudden illness, begging, fighting. I can't tell you how many times I heard that so-and-so never had to do chores after school or how mean I was for making them pick up after themselves. Chores, the first thing on our empowerment trail.

We have always had chores for our children. Often times I would break down and help them (or do them) to get them done in a timely manner, to make sure they were done right or because they had so much going I felt they didn't have time. I realized that it was not okay for me to be doing this. Moms and dads...if we do this for our kids like I was, we rob them of the opportunity to know they can do it for themselves. We have to help them grow and learn rather than hold their hand the whole time and hinder them from learning the feeling of accomplishment with a good job done.

We have to first teach. Patiently teach them the correct way to do their chores. They will need to practice doing it right with positive feedback, then they can move forward with more independence.

We tried everything: kid bucks, charts with money rewards, charts with object rewards, punishments for not doing chores, magnetic chore charts, pick a chore buckets, getting mad...everything. Many things worked for several days or weeks but would eventually fizzle out. I needed to do something about this. My kids were definitely old enough to be doing their chores.

The money jar came to be.

Each of my children received a clear jar with a wide opening and a screw on lid. I stuffed each jar with 30 $1 bills. I gave them each this money up front (there were whoops of joy) along with expectations (not so many whoops). Our expectations are as follows:

  1. Bed made
  2. Nothing on the floor
  3. No piles anywhere
  4. Clothes hung up/put away
  5. Bathroom floor free from clothes and towels
  6. Bathroom counter cleared off
The kids were told that if they met the expectations nothing would be taken from their jars. I check their chores every morning before they leave the house. If they miss something and do not meet the expectations they lose $1 out of their jar. It is up to them to keep their chore money. 

It took one day for my child who I will call "tornado" to be on board and doing chores without me hounding. Yes, you heard me hounding at all. It was a miracle! My youngest has only lost one dollar over the past 2 months. It is really incredible for me and them. I don't have to ask and ask. I simply say, "oops, you lost your dollar today." It is followed by "oh, man!" or "really?" Long gone are the comments like "not fair", or "no one else has to do this." And long gone is me losing my temper over something like chores. 

The rule is no one can touch the money until at the end of the month the money is removed from the jar and I refill it with 30 more $1 bills. It is a clean slate and they are motivated all over again. 

Our first month was a HUGE success! The tension in the home decreased and our children have begun to learn a valuable lesson about work and being self-reliant.

Roller Coaster Halloween Costume

So I am behind on my posts, but here is this year's Halloween costume. Roller coaster riders. 
I made the roller coaster out of cardboard, duct tape and pool noodles. We attached stuffed pants and shoes. the only downfall of this costume was the ability to really move around well, but they survived. 

Gratitude Activity

A Grateful Heart
As I was trying to think of something I could do to help my kids be thankful this November I came across an idea. I modified it a bit and this is what I came up with. (I did this with our young women group as well.)
 I made several of these little heart boxes. On both sides it says, "A Grateful Heart." Inside I put as many Hershey Kisses as would fit. I then told those participating that the idea is to learn to recognize and be grateful for someone when they do something nice for us. This can be done throughout the month of November, the week of Thanksgiving, or even Thanksgiving Day.
  1. Recognize an act of kindness, service or likewise
  2. Tell that person how much you appreciate what they have done for you
  3. Present them with one of the Grateful Heart boxes and treats to show your gratitude
  4. Write in your journal what that person did for you and why it touched you
  5. Be quick to recognize future kindnesses and acknowledge them
  6. Thank Heavenly Father for those acts of kindness towards you
  7. Strive to be kind to others

YW Gratitude Journals

Grateful = The Quality of Being Thankful
What a great definition of grateful!
It is a quality that each one of us can develop in our lives.

In honor of Thanksgiving, this month I made a gratitude journal for each of our young women. This gratitude journal is somewhat like a smash journal. The idea is that it is a bit crazy with different shapes and sizes of paper, different colors and patterns, etc. 
I am happy to report that the girls adored the books :)
I included several quotes on gratitude, writing prompts about gratitude, a pocket containing scripture references about being grateful, and an LDS conference talk entitled  "O Remember, Remember" by Elder Henry B. Eyring. (Click on the title or here to view the talk on the website.) I shrunk it down and fit 4 on a page then folded each page in half and added it into the front of the journals. It is a 4 page talk.
 These books are a 4 x 6 size. I would recommend that as the smallest size or you can do a 6 x 6 to give them a bit more room to write. The first picture on this post is a 6 x 6 one that I made as a test run. It was less expensive to make the 4 x 6 and they were still cute.
 The idea behind these gratitude journals is that the girls write about as many things as they can throughout the month that they are grateful for. The girls were then asked to being their journals on a certain Sunday to share some of the things they had written.
 This is one of my favorite parts of the journal. It is a page with butterfly sticky notes that instructs the girls to write one thing they are grateful for about each member of their family on a sticky note and then put it on a mirror or door or somewhere that individual would see it.
 Learning to be grateful for that which we have is an important attribute to develop. Empowering the girls to see the good in their lives will help them recognize the hand of God in their life and that will bring peace and happiness.

For those of you interested, I used a machine "the Cinch" to bind the books. It worked like a charm:) Love my new toy.
May we all remember the things we are grateful for this holiday season and see the good in our lives!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Cecret Lake Hike

Cecret Lake in Alta, Utah is an easily accessible, short 1 mile hike. The nice thing about this hike is that hikers can drive most of the way to the lake. This makes it appealing to hikers with limited abilities such as small children or the elderly who still love getting outdoors. It is an alpine experience without having to hike a long distance. The hike itself starts out nice, easy, flat and gets a bit steeper the closer you get to the lake. This is a highly used trail so do not expect solidarity. Even with that caveat it is a wonderful family hike.

We decided to continue hiking and summit Sugarloaf Peak. Once you reach the lake, look across the water and you will see the trail continuing up the mountain towards the ski lift. When you get to the top you will lose the trail. The goal is to get to the top of the lift where you can once again find the trail located on the ridge between Sugarloaf and Snowbird's mineral basin. If you are unsure where that is, head over towards Snowbird to the view area. Once there look to the left up the small hill and you will find the trail that leads to the summit. It gets steep on loose dirt and rocks, but we all did it without any trouble. 

To get there: Head up Little Cottonwood Canyon until you reach Alta. There is an information booth and you will pass through the booth continuing up the mountain for a good 10 minutes. Stay on the road until it ends at a campground and there is a small parking lot off to the left. Park and then look for the trail that is marked on the southwest side of the lot. Follow the trail until you get to the lake.
There is limited parking so going on a weekday is ideal.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

90 Day Clean Eating Challenge - Day 4

Menu Day 4 
Cinnamon swirl toast
Green tangerine smoothie
Bowl of clean eating rice cereal
1% milk
Clean eating French toast
Real maple syrup
1% milk
10 almonds
2 pieces dark chocolate

As you can see, although it was all clean, I didn't do all that well today. Some days are just going to be that way and this was one for me. Easy meals, not enough fruit and veggies. I found myself snacking all day instead of fixing good meaningful meals. Oh well, there's always tomorrow for the chef in me to come out:)

Scout Falls Hike

Scout Falls from the trail
Scout Falls is a beautiful hike located along the Timpanooeke route to Timpanogos Peak. 
It is a nice easy trail. The first half is relatively flat and the last half is a bit steeper, but very doable. 

First half of the trail
Trail begins to get steep at the first glimpse of the falls
 From the parking lot you need to find the trail. We thought this would be easy, but as we passed the restrooms and headed up the trail there were 3 different trails and no sign to Scout Falls. There is a trail to the left, a trail up the mountain in the middle and a trail to the right. Take the trail in the middle near the ranger house and the sign with the map. It is the same trail you would use to hike Timp. Continue along this trail until you come to the second spur in the trail. The first spur is found about .6 miles and looks like it would take you to the run-off of the falls. This is not the correct spur. Continue on the trail about 1.4 miles total and find the second spur. This one is well-worn and heads out to a beautiful view of the falls. 
What a beautiful bowl

Scout Falls
Don't plan on getting in. There really isn't a suitable place to get in without risking a getting injured. These falls are best suited for viewing:) There are several rocks and places towards the end of the hike to sit and eat a snack or lunch.

View from scout falls
Getting there is fairly straight forward. Head up American Fork Canyon or up Provo Canyon to Sundance (remember there is a pay station) about 8 miles to the Timpanooeke Campground. Turn into the campground and continue up the road past the campground. You will come to the Timpanooeke Trailhead parking lot. Here you will find ample parking and restroom facilities. The trail begins to the right of the restrooms.

This is a good hike for families.
Happy hiking!

90 Day Clean Eating Challenge - Day 3

As I was trying to find recipes for this challenge I came across something I didn't know existed that was extremely helpful to me in choosing seafood options. Monterey Bay Aquarium puts out a
Seafood Watch pocket guide that helps us choose ocean-friendly seafood. What does ocean-friendly mean? It means that the fish are "well-managed and caught or farmed in ocean-friendly ways".

To get the most up-to-date information you can log onto, access their mobile site or use the seafood watch app. I hope you find this information as useful as I did in making good seafood choices.

Menu Day 3
Whole-wheat cinnamon chip toast
1/2 whole wheat ham sandwich
Clean Kettle sea salt chips
10 Almonds
100% Fruit Leather
Stir-fry veggie/beef tacos on corn tortillas (I found great tortilla's at Walmart of all places. They are not cooked, clean, corn tortillas in the cold section).
1% milk

3 mile hike

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

90 Day Clean Eating Challenge - Day 2

After just two days it is already getting easier to eat clean. It amazes me how quickly I can feel the difference. I love that when I am eating clean I feel satisfied quicker and stay fuller longer. I don't have as many cravings. That is because I am eating foods that have loads of energy value. I am avoiding sugars and refined products and my body likes it a lot. Have any of you had a similar experience or does it take longer for some to feel the difference? I would love to know.

Menu Day 2
Green Smoothie
Whole-wheat toast with small amount of butter
Green Smoothie
1/2 veggie sandwich
Kettle chips
Raw almonds
Clean eating crepes with strawberries, blueberries and bananas
1% milk

Walking 60 minutes up canyon

found at

1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1 egg
1 egg white
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 tsp. oil
1/2 tsp. vanilla 

Mix ingredients together in a blender. On a non-stick skillet pour 1/4 cup mix and swirl the pan until the batter is thin. Cook until firm then flip to the other side. Keep crepes in the oven on the lowest setting to keep them warm. Serve with fresh fruit, unsweetened homemade whipped cream and real maple syrup.

Monday, June 3, 2013

90 Day Clean Eating Challenge - Day 1

Ok. So last time I attempted switching to clean eating I learned a lot.

  1. I learned that I feel much better when I eat clean food. My family feels much better. I have more energy. 
  2. I learned that I needed to determine what clean eating meant to me. Some don't do dairy or sugar. For me, we include dairy in our meals. I also used organic sugars as unprocessed as I can find. I mean the point of clean eating is to eat the food as close to the way it appears in nature. I am ok with my decisions. I feel better about eating butter and organic sugars than using other non sugar sweeteners. Decide what works for your family and be okay with it.
  3. I learned that when trials come, it can be harder to eat right. If I'm not in my own kitchen just do my best, it isn't the end of the world
  4. I learned it is okay to be flexible. I learned that it is a way of life but should not take over every social function my family and I attend. We are okay to "cheat" sometimes...moderation in all things - very wise words. 
  5. I learned that it is not more important than relationships with family and friends.  I can't expect others to fix things especially for me and I don't want them to have that burden. 
  6. I learned it isn't always easy to find the food products I need to eat clean. It is a process and I am continually seeking new places to shop, new items that are clean or where to get clean meat. 
  7. Overall I learned that it is the healthiest way to eat for me and my family. I have seen people do lots of crazy eating things to get the results they want. This seems intuitive and doesn't restrict a certain type of food.

After 2 major floods I am back. During our floods we were in and out of our home and clean eating became more difficult. As a general rule I have stuck with the clean eating idea, but felt fine with moderation of other foods. Now that my home is back and it is summer I am once again trying to reach my goal of going 100% clean for 90 days.

I am doing this so that I can see how I feel after a strict 3 months of eating clean. I won't hold my children to the same standard. They are boys and don't like the idea of "restriction". I see it as empowering, they see it as restriction:) So, at home we will eat clean because I fix the food and truth be known they won't even know. I think it is good to educate kids about healthy food choices, but it isn't something we constantly harp on or talk about. I believe healthy body images and healthy habits are important and can be ruined when there is too much focus on food.

Join me if you can and let's see how it goes. Today is my first day and I will always post my meals for the day and my exercise because it is important to do the two together.

Meal plan Day 1
1 egg and 2 egg whites scrambled with 1 slice whole-wheat bread. (I added a bit of cheese and ham)
1 glass 1% low-fat milk
Clean corn chips and homemade salsa (roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, green onions and salt)
Green Smoothie (coconut water, spinach, bananas, gala apple, tangelos, ice)
Apple for snack
Tilapia with brown rice, pineapple and soy sauce for dinner
Water is my drink of choice

Walking 3 miles in canyon
Running/kettleball cross fit workout. (4 rounds: run 400m, 800m, 1200m, 1600m. Each run is followed by 30 kettle ball swings)

Here's to feeling great!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Big Springs Hollow Hike

This hike was a nice easy family hike. It is located up Provo canyon. To get there, head east up the canyon. Turn right at Vivian Park and continue up South Fork about 3 miles. When you see the National Forest Area sign on the left side of the road turn right into the parking lot and continue to the end where you can park. The trailhead is in the Southwest corner of the park.
It is a very mild hike that is about 3.4 miles round trip. It was beautiful. There is a slightly steeper section towards the end of the hike as you approach the springs, but that only lasts about 0.2 miles.
The trail continues past the springs and some of our group didn't realize so they continued on. You can make the hike as long as you want.

This is very pretty in the spring and full of green. Spectacular views of the snow covered mountain peak above the meadows.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Backpacking - Getting Ready

Preparation is always half the battle. When backpacking with our children we find that if we are prepared with good gear everything seems to go so much smoother. In an effort to be useful to those of you just starting to backpack with your family here is our list of must have items.

1. Good water filter - reduces the amount of water you have to carry and therefore reduces weight
2. Down sleeping bags
3. Sleeping pads
4. Backpacks with padded hip belts
5. Backpacking stove
6. Cooking pot
7. Fuel for stove
8. Lighter
9. Lightweight backpacking tent
10. Headlamp
11. Walking sticks for does wonders:)
12. Extra underwear
13. Extra socks
14. Extra set of clothes
15. Spork
16. Toothbrush and toothpaste
17. Thermals if it is going to be cold at night
18. Down jacket (they compress small and are lightweight)
19. Trail snacks...a plethera of trail snacks (food does wonders for little tired people)
20. Dehydrated meals
21. Toilet paper
22. Shovel
23. Plastic bags for garbage and to carry out what needs to be carried used toilet paper :)
24. Chaco or keen sandals for camp
25. Sunglasses
26. Sunscreen
27. Bug repellant
28. Camera
29. Good sturdy hiking boots
30. First Aid kit containing mole skin for hot spots or blisters
31. Chapstick
32. Nalgene water bottles
33. Dice game
34. Biodegradable soap
35. Hand sanitizer
36. Rope to string up wet clothing or food in bear country

We often take our GPS and go geocaching along the way or when we are at camp for a fun activity. The kids love it and it lends itself to some exploring.

Most of all, when the kids need a break, we take a break. It is that simple. A great time is had by all when the kids are happy. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Backpacking The Box in Escalante

We took our family backpacking to The Box in Escalante, Utah. This particular trip requires a vehicle shuttle. We started at the top and backpacked down. The shuttle is needed to retrieve the vehicle at the trailhead.

This canyon starts off in an alpine environment and half way down switches to a desert landscape. The trail follows a river the entire trip. This is fun for the kids as we crossed the river maybe 30 times or so. Your feet will most likely be wet when you finish. One of my boys, with the help of a walking stick, was able to avoid getting his feet soaked.
Rock cairns like this one mark the river crossings.

Crossing the river.
All the data we read on this canyon said that it was about 8.5 miles long. We found it was closer to 11 miles by the time our GPS calculated all the river crossings into the mix. It was all downhill which is nice for a beginning family backpack trip. A 7 year old, 5 year old and an 8 year old all carried their own packs and made it just fine.
Taking a break and smelling the trees... 
We proved it to be true. Ponderosa pines smell like butterscotch!
We camped at 6-6.5 miles in. The camping sites are few (we only saw about 3 good sites) and are trailside. There was plenty of water to filter. The next morning we hiked the remaining 5 miles out.

All in all everyone was happy and well.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Orderville Canyon

Two summers ago I was introduced to canyoneering. 
Canyoneering is a fun sport that allows the participants to explore beautiful slot canyons. Canyoneering at a beginning level may be nothing more than a walk through a narrow canyon or it can be technical needing harnesses, ropes and a good amount of knowledge and skill. There is something for everyone in canyoneering, but please be sure to go with someone who has already been through a canyon and has had some training so you don't find yourself on the news being rescued or worse. Be smart, be careful and have fun if you go.
Zion is a beautiful place to canyoneer. The slot canyons are gorgeous. We went and did a canyon called Orderville this week. It is classified as a non-technical canyon meaning ropes and harnesses aren't necessarily needed, but they are recommended for those who are not experienced and proficient down climbers. We did not take them because we had a good group of experienced people. 

Once we got past the approach to the canyon (where we ran across a rattlesnake who was up and ready to strike, rattles going and all :O) it was beautiful. There were several difficult down climbs along the way. It was a rugged canyon in my opinion. Rugged because there were so many rocks that it was difficult to walk quickly and I found my ankles wanting to turn and my knees feeling weaker. Take really good canyoneering shoes if you go. This is a must in this canyon. 

Negotiating a down climb

Putting on neoprene socks for the chilly water
The start of another down climb

The Virgin River portion of the hike

Why walk it when you can float it?
I am not going to give any beta about the canyon as all of that is easily and readily found online in several other spots. Canyoneering is an amazing activity. At the end of this canyon our feet had blisters, my muscles were sore we had a few scratches and bumps, but overall it was a fantastic and beautiful outing.
I would not take anyone under the age of 12 and then they need to have good gear and be in good physical condition as the hike totals out to be 12.3 miles. To top it off there is good amount of scrambling and rough terrain.
Happy canyoneering:)