Category: Family

10 Last Minute Valentine’s Day Date Ideas

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I’m terrible at thinking ahead of time when it comes to holidays. Obviously, it’s Friday and I’m just now coming up with ideas for Valentine’s Day for…tomorrow. So I was on the search for something I could throw together between today and tomorrow. I found some awesome ideas. Some are for You and Yours only but others would work for the whole family. A few of these are a little over-the-top-cheesy for me but I think the basic ideas are great and I can totally work around the cheesiness and still make it fun and memorable.

Breakfast in Bed1. Breakfast in Bed

Since I’ve been married, I’ve never had Valentine’s Day land on a Saturday…which makes this year SUPER special and the breakfast in bed idea totally doable. I love this stuffed french toast and the bacon on skewers…cute. However, my husband might prefer Chilaquiles or Huevos Rancheros. My advice would be: Don’t worry about it being super fancy, just make what he (or the rest of the family) really likes.
Spa date night

2. Spa Night

One time, while in the mall, I talked my husband into getting a pedicure with me. Well, the Vietnamese lady actually talked him into it. He didn’t want me to tell anybody but he was surprised at how much he liked it. He loves massages so the foot massage in the warm water was right up his alley. Everybody likes to get pampered, whether they want to admit it or not.

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3. Discover a New Town Together

Living in a little podunk town means it’s really easy to get bored here. There’s only one restaurant and two hamburger places. Discovering a new town together is a genius idea to break up the monotony of living in a small town. If you live in the city, maybe you’re aching to find a place with wide open spaces. Find something different and mix it up a little.

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4. Stargazing

When my husband and I were first dating we drove out to the ranch he worked at one night and watched a gorgeous meteor shower. We had a very deep, thought-provoking conversation. It was an incredibly memorable experience. Too bad there isn’t a meteor shower predicted for Valentine’s Day but maybe you’ll get lucky and see a shooting star 🙂

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5. Indoor Camping

We are serious campers in my family. Camping is my absolute favorite thing about the mountains here in Utah. However, Utah winters don’t exactly facilitate camping. This indoor camping idea is a perfect compromise!

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6. Our Love Story Book

My secret hobby (that I rarely have time for anymore) is book making. Let me clarify, I am not a scrapbooker. However, creating a story book about our love story sounds like a lot of fun and you could take it in so many directions with stuff you already have at home. It would be a great excuse to print out some of those digital photos and actually USE them.

Power Outage

7. Power Outage Date

How fun would it be to just unplug for a few hours? Nothing irks me more than people looking at their phones while they’re on a date. It’s easy to pop a movie in but it’s more memorable to do shadow puppets, play games, and eat by candlelight.

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8. The Love Shack

I love forts. 1. They’re a blast to put together and 2. They’re free! Anything to make the night special is worth the few extra minutes (or mess) to put together.

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9. Je T’iame Hotel

I like the idea of recreating a hotel room. My mom gave me some AMAZING percale sheets for Christmas…the kind of sheets I wanted forever but never could justify buying since we have plenty of regular sheets. The first time we used them my husband said, “I feel like we’re in a hotel room!” We also have some nice hotel-quality towels we got for Christmas. This could get fun!

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10. Chopped Date

I’ve actually never seen the show “Chopped” (GASP!) but this sounds like a blast! You could make it more Valentine’s Day themed by requiring the ingredients be the color red or pink.

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I think I may combine a couple of these and have our first ever SUPER special Valentine’s Day Date. Tell me what you come up with!

Valentines Facebook

 

Finding Contentment Through the Trials

Contentment

I grew up with an older brother that was probably comparable to many other brothers. John is 10 years older than I am.   With such a huge gap between us, he was more than mildly letdown that I turned out to be a girl. When I got a little older he would tease me until my blood would boil. “Does the baby need a baba? Does she need her diaper changed?” That incredibly annoying baby-talk tone still rings in my ears. I can’t lie and say it was all him; I was an incredibly difficult child.

Lacie & John

My brother and I didn’t become very close until I was an adult. I was always impressed at what an exceptional father he was; despite the fact he never had a great role model. He never needed a break from his two little girls. Never. I don’t know many fathers that would stay up all night with a sick baby without ever muttering a complaint. For as tough as he was on me, he was a sucker for those little angels.

John was the only one in my family who supported me when I decided to move across the country and get married. We had a heartfelt conversation and although he was protective, he still gave me his blessing, which meant the world to me.

Only months after that memorable conversation, I called him just to chat. He sounded different. I could tell something was wrong. He said he wasn’t feeling well and had thrown his back out. We had a short conversation and that was the last time I spoke to him before the bomb dropped.

After weeks of confusion and uncertainty, doctors finally discovered that John was suffering from a mysterious staph infection and his heart, among other organs, was quickly failing. They were scheduled to perform emergency heart surgery that night to replace one of his valves.

Nobody knew how serious the situation was but I knew I had to get home. My husband and I were driving when I called my mom the next morning to see how the surgery had gone and to tell her we were about halfway there. She was hysterical as she told me, between sobs and half-screams, that the doctor had just told her that John had suffered a major stroke and things looked “grim.” I had to pull over and my husband tried to hold me to keep me from convulsing. Every dark emotion that I had felt in my life suddenly flooded my body and I couldn’t do anything but scream and cry. Why didn’t I just fly home? Why didn’t I call him and talk to him before his surgery? What was I thinking living halfway across the country? How was my mom going to go on if John didn’t make it? He had never even met my husband yet! What about his little girls?

 John & Girls Fishing

Seeing my brother in a coma is an image that I wish could be erased from my memory. He was yellow, almost translucent, and swollen, with his head tilted back in order to accommodate the tube they had to insert in his throat. He looked lifeless. I had an overwhelming realization that I was never going to see my brother again. That he was never going to meet my husband and that his girls were not going to have a father to watch them grow up.

They say God works in mysterious ways. He allows us to endure a trial and then He blesses us with miracles and tender mercies. It would take an entire book to tell about all the miracles and blessings we received as a family. Suffice it to say that God brought my brother back to us.

Although he suffered considerable damage to his brain and has lost most of his physical capacity, the ability to walk, eat, or talk, he is still my brother, with all of his mental capacities intact. I take care of him everyday. I cherish the fact that we didn’t lose him that day when I thought for sure we had. He has even made miraculous improvements and recently found his voice and is able to communicate, albeit limitedly, through speech.

Maicee Hospital

My family has always been my most treasured possession. We have always been tight-knit and are even more so now that we have banded together to take care of John and his girls. My husband and I left a growing business in Texas. My sister sold her home for next-to-nothing. My mother left her home and transferred jobs. My younger brother is attending a university extension in our small community. All of these sacrifices were necessary in order for us to come together and make sure my brother has quality, 24-hour care at home, with his girls.

At times, it’s been extremely difficult physically, emotionally, and financially. We have gone through all of us living under the same roof, pooling our resources and helping each other graduate from college. We’ve been through pregnancies and births, changes in John’s care, and changes in jobs. Since then, I have become the primary caretaker for my brother during the day. I feel more connected and closer to him than ever before in my life.

Although it sure isn’t easy and even John and I argue sometimes, I wouldn’t trade my family for the world. I often have people tell me how unfair life is and how tragic my brother’s situation is. Sometimes I agree and other times I can’t help but think maybe this is the price I have to pay in order to be blessed with such an amazing and loving family. Maybe these kinds of things are what make families great. It breaks my heart that it has come at such a high cost for my brother, but this tragedy has brought us all together again.

Hospital Girls

Time is measured in our family on a different timeline now. It’s now “Before John got Sick” and “After John got Sick.” His experience has changed us forever.

We think twice now before complaining about things such as our weight, the taste of food, or how much we hate to exercise. We try to remember how blessed we are to have the ability to eat, exercise, or even walk. Contentment comes in these small gratitudes.

Finding contentment in life has nothing to do with material possessions, a striking physique, or the most prestigious honors man can receive. Contentment comes from true sacrifice, heartfelt gratitude, and genuine love for other people. Nothing has illustrated this better in my life than my brother’s experience.

I don’t try to explain why this happened or blame God for such a horrific trial for John and his girls. I don’t allow myself to replay it all very often or think about what might happen in the future. For now, I am content to hear my brother’s struggled but clear “I love you” and be exceedingly grateful that he is here and that I know he loves me just as I love him.

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7 Tips to Being a Great Gift-Giver

 

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I’m not gonna lie, I’ve received some weird gifts in my life and wondered, “What were they thinking?” Avoid being that person who gifts the weirdest things that really have no meaning and instead be the other type of person that always gives the most thoughtful gifts.

1. Put some thought into it

This means you need to start ahead of time. Don’t be that person that runs to the nearest Wal-Mart on Christmas Eve, praying there’s something left to give everyone on your list. Start waaaayyyyy ahead of time and force yourself to pay attention. People, even the ones who appear to have everything, are constantly leaving unconscious hints about what they would love to receive as a gift. They may not come out and say, “For Christmas I would like _________” but they are saying it, just in a different way. Listen for cues like, “I wish _________” or “wouldn’t it be nice _________” or “someday _________”. These are great hints for people who are hard to buy for.

box2. Think outside the box

With the cues given above, the person may not be talking about an actual item that you might be able to purchase them as a gift. For example, my mom has pretty much everything. I mean, within reasonable limits, if she wants something she normally just gets it for herself. So it’s sometimes difficult to buy for her. However, when I listen to her and pay attention, she is always talking about making things that she doesn’t have time for, or fixing things that she can’t do herself. I have found that some of the best Christmas gifts I have given her have been acts of service by fixing something or refinishing something she already has. It can be tricky and you may not be able to make it a surprise (which is ALWAYS more fun if you can swing it). However, it’s a great way, and often less expensive way, to give to someone you really care about.

3. Don’t give something just because it’s what you would like to receive

You know that person who always gives you, and everybody else, jewelry? Or makeup? Or workout gear? Or home décor? Or horse-themed stuff? Who’s to say everybody likes the same things you like? It’s an easy way out because it takes a lot less thought. You know you like it, so she’ll like it too right? Unless you’re sure you two are that much alike, dig a little deeper.

4. Price doesn’t always equal value

You don’t have to spend a ton of money to give great gifts. Remember the old adage, “It’s the thought that counts”? It really is. In the end, nobody cares how much you spent on a gift if it is meaningful to that person.

 5. You can’t go wrong with  attaching memories to gifts

photo albumThe best gift, to date I think, that I’ve ever given my dad was putting our home movies on DVD for him. He had all of his photos and memorabilia burn up in a fire a few years ago and it was devastating to him. I figured out how to convert our VHS home movies to DVD on my own computer and he was touched to receive those as his Christmas gift. He still talks about it today. Anytime you can gift memories, people love that! Just make it meaningful and personal and you can’t go wrong. This is especially great for people who seem to have everything.

6. Sometimes less is more

Sometimes you want to go a little overboard but nobody likes to feel bad because they received something huge from the person they gave a keychain to. Remember that size and cost don’t necessarily matter. Meaning is what matters. Do I sound like a broken record here?

7. Last thing, make it appropriate and intentional

Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale and later decide who you might be able to give it to. No joke, my sister received an underwater scuba diving bag one year. She lives in Utah, has never been nor had she ever planned on going scuba diving. WHAT?! Who knows where that came from, probably the sale cart at some random department store. The point is, unless you’re planning on giving her a  ticket to a Caribbean cruise to go along with that bag, don’t do it.

Obviously, as I’ve repeated myself several times, it really is the thought that counts. Not just that you thought about that person and gave them something, but the fact that you put a lot of thought into what you gave that person. Gifts are a great way to show your love and strengthen your relationships. Don’t let a bad gift put a damper on a perfectly great Christmas. It’s not too late to return some things if you think you need to 🙂

Gifts Facebook

7 Steps to Magical Family Meetings

Magical Family Meetings SquareSometimes I feel like life is getting away from me. Like all my good intentions to raise healthy, happy, responsible kids falls victim to the mundane of everyday living. Sometimes I feel like I just don’t have the time I need to teach my children important values and life lessons. Whenever I feel like this, I know it’s because we’ve been slacking on our Family Night.

While reading the book Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle a while back, I was surprised to see a section about Family Meetings. In the church I attend we talk a lot about something similar that I was struggling to implement with small children. Our primary goal was to teach our kids about Jesus Christ and his gospel and it seemed futile to try to teach my then two-year-old boy anything, much less about something so abstract.

After I read that book, (which I seriously LOVED) I decided to tweak our family meetings to be a little more meaningful for everyone involved and accomplish more than just our spiritual family goals. We still talk about spiritual things and try to teach our kids those important value lessons, but we are also working on fleshing those meetings out just a little bit more.

Here are the important things you should know about Family Meetings:

MeetingsCalendar1. Hold them weekly

Just pick a day (ours is Monday) and set aside the amount of time you will need to accomplish what you want to with your unique family situation. With younger kids it probably won’t take as long as with older kids or larger families. We plan on about 30 minutes, which is as long as we can get our three-year-old to focus. Pick a time and commit to it.

2. Give appreciations

In Vicki’s book she talks about how each family member should say something they appreciate about each other family member. At first I thought, yeah, that’s nice on paper but my macho husband is never going to submit to such an open display of feelings. So I randomly started asking the question most men hate. When he would say, “I love you” I would say, “Why?” I’m smiling just thinking about how uncomfortable he was the first few times. He would say, “I don’t know” and get all annoyed that I was asking these deep, probing questions. So I would be the example and tell him why I loved him. After a while, he caught on. He’s still totally macho, but he now knows how to verbalize his “why” for loving someone and I think he gets that it’s important to me and his kids to know the “why.” So if you have a husband or a teenager that isn’t particularly fond of this part, just go with it and they’ll catch on. Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY likes to hear why people appreciate them. Vicki swears this will produce siblings that get along for the most part and are there for each other. I totally believe that.

3. Schedule huddle

I am sort of dreading the day when my kids are all involved in different things and I am running around in a daze trying to keep up with the different schedules and car trips. Even now, we have lots of things that happen or scheduled events that we have to somehow inform each other on. So many times this happens last-minute and my husband will say, “I wish you would have told me about this a long time ago.” So family meetings are a perfect place to talk about the week’s schedule and any other big events happening in the near future. We write stuff on the calendar and make sure we’re all aware of the things we have to look forward to.

chores4. Agree on contributions

Contributions is a euphemism for chores. Vicki explains that they decide on contributions and kids are able to barter and trade as they like until all are more or less satisfied. This accomplishes two things: a) everybody has to pitch in and you don’t have to be the maid anymore and b) virtually eliminates arguments about whose turn it is to do what. Voila! This just saved you probably hours of bickering. Don’t skip this step even when your kids are small. Most kids, above age two, are totally capable of cleaning up their toys and putting their dirty clothes in the hamper.

5. Teach a value

I have found that some of my most precious moments as a mother is when I am able to teach my son something spiritual and see him apply it in his small circle of influence. When I brought his baby sister home from the hospital I was able to peek at him in her nursery, standing on his step stool, singing her a song about being a child of God. I was amazed he knew the words so well since it actually wasn’t one of the songs we sang over and over. But it obviously stuck with him and it absolutely melted my heart. Teach your children values in the home. Whatever is important to you is probably something you consider important for your children. I believe our greatest sub-calling as parents is to be teachers.

money6. Give out allowance

There is another post in the workings about children and allowance. Suffice it to say, allowance is one of the best ways I have read about to help your children learn financial responsibility. I realize that some people don’t agree with this statement but in my mind, it totally makes sense. If kids are allowed to have money, that they’ve earned, from the time they are little, they have plenty of time to make small mistakes before they are older and capable of much larger mistakes. Family meeting night is the best time to hand out this allowance.

7. Have some fun

If there’s still time, play a game. Watch a movie. Go bowling. Go outside and look at the stars together. Do whatever fancies you and counts as quality, uninterrupted time with your kids. They will only be this age for a very short time and you don’t want to miss it. Fun as a family is one of the greatest ways to bond and to ensure you always have things to talk about and memories to relive.

It’s so easy to resort to survival mode and constantly be putting fires out all day, every day. I hope you’ll try family meetings because I know that when we make them a priority, we add a little more intention to our parenting and to our lives.

 Family Meetings Facebook

My Three-Year Old Makes His Own Eggs: 6 Tips to help foster independence in children

Eggs SquareFor those of you with toddlers, I know you’ve all been there. You’ve watched as your kid insists on doing things that are done much quicker, safer, and better when you do them. Most toddlers want to be independent and I believe it’s critical that we foster and encourage that independent spirit.

For one, I think it’s crucial that kids are confident in their abilities to take care of themselves. Hopefully by the time they’re adults, they have little anxiety about setting out on their own because they’ll be ready. Secondly, it makes things easier on us after the initial learning curve because there are less things we have to do for them. The seeds I sowed when my son was only a year or two old have allowed me to reap wonderful benefits now that I have two children. I no longer have to get my son dressed, clean his room, make his bed, or even set out his clothes. He is perfectly capable of doing these things on his own and enjoys the freedom it gives him.

Amidst the sowing and reaping of independent victories we have reached a new milestone; my son made his own eggs for breakfast today. Before you freak out and wonder how in the world this crazy mom lets her toddler cook on the stove, let me assure you I was very close by but I never had to intervene.

I had offered to cook him eggs while I was making some for myself and his sister. He said he didn’t want any. I told him this was his last chance if he wanted eggs for breakfast and he was too wrapped up in what he was playing with to care. Inevitably, 10 minutes later he came in the kitchen asking for eggs. I told him I was done cooking and maybe next time he would eat when it was time to eat (this is a huge problem with this kid and natural consequences are the only thing that works). So I told him he could wait until it was snack time or he could make the eggs himself. Be careful the choices you offer to your toddlers.

He walked right over to the cupboard and pulled out a pan. Then he got out his stepping stool and set it up in front of the stove. He placed the pan on the stove and then walked over to the fridge where he found the eggs. He grabbed a bowl and a fork from the other cupboard and set up his cooking station next to the stove. He cracked the eggs in the bowl, scrambled them with his fork and sprayed the pan with cooking spray. Then he looked at me longingly and said, “Mommy, can you make the fire come on?” At first I was hesitant but he has had lots of experience helping me cook and is very cautious when it comes to the flames on our gas range. I was confident that he was careful enough to handle this task on his own. So I turned the burner on very low. He proceeded to dump the scrambled eggs into the pan. He sprinkled them with salt and then took a spatula and began to stir and flip the eggs. All the while I watched in near disbelief at his capability and cautiousness. I knew he could do most of those things individually but to watch him do all of them in sequence to accomplish something as complicated as cooking his own breakfast about floored me.

When he saw the eggs were no longer wet he said, “They’re done! Mommy, can you turn the fire off?” So I turned the stove off and quietly watched him scoop the eggs out onto his plate. He climbed down his stepping stool and took his plate and fork to the table. Then he got out a cup and poured himself a glass of milk. He sat down to reap the rewards of his great accomplishment.

I realize that not all three-year-olds are the same and there are probably lots of kids who are even more independent than my son and others that are not quite there yet. Please don’t assume that I am tooting my own horn about how independent my son is. What I’m trying to get across here is that our kids are so much more capable than we assume they are sometimes. If we don’t allow them to develop their skills in a safe environment their confidence will shrink and we will have to deal with the aftermath of a child who cannot do anything for himself.

Here are 6 tips to help you encourage independence in your toddler.

duct tape1. Duct tape yourself to your seat

In the book Duct Tape Parenting by Vicki Hoefle she uses the greatest analogy to help us to refrain from doing everything for our kids. She advises us to stay where we are when our kids are doing something hard and to use duct tape if we have to. Of course, use common sense. I would never have allowed my son to cook his own eggs for the first time while I sat in front of the TV, duct taped to the couch. It’s ok to supervise and observe our children, especially in the beginning stages of learning to do something new. The point is to not rush in and do it for them at the first sign of struggle. Allow them to try, many times if necessary, and observe how they’re feeling about their progress. If they start to get frustrated, move onto the next tip.

2. Offer help when needed but don’t do it for them

When my son was learning how to put his own shirt on he had a hard time figuring out how to get the picture on his shirt in the front. While it’s much quicker for me to put his shirt on for him, I duct taped myself to where I was and would wait to see if he was going to figure it out today or if I might need to offer some help. Most of the time he would persist until he got it. Other days, he would be ornery or tired and reach his breaking point much sooner. When I saw those signs of frustration show up on his face and in his grunting voice I would simply say, “Would you like some help?” Sometimes he would feel determined and say, “No I can do it.” Other times he would say, “Yeah,” and I would spin his shirt around the right way showing him where the picture is and that it goes in the front. He quickly picked it up and now I never have to help him get dressed. We have to take the time to teach our children after evaluating what they already know.

Toys3. Once a task has been mastered, expect it from them

After my son learned to make his own bed he felt so big. He would say, “I am so big I can make my own bed all by myself!” But after the sense of accomplishment wore off he had days that he didn’t want to make his bed. I would sympathize and tell him that sometimes I didn’t want to make my bed either but that I do it because it makes my room look nice and clean and I feel better when my room is clean. He is now in the habit of making his bed and if he forgets, usually all I have to say is, “I made my bed did you make yours?” Usually he’ll stop to think and then run in and quickly pull his covers up. Don’t regress into doing the things they used to do on their own just because it’s faster or easier. Once they master something it is their domain now.

4.Take their lead and offer lots of praise and encouragement

Most of the time you’ll know when your child is ready to do a certain task on her own because she will tell you. Even if you don’t think she’s ready, just sit back and observe; she might surprise you. If your child is reluctant to try new things, suggest something you feel he is ready to try and offer lots of encouragement. Don’t force your child to do anything on his/her own but rather offer encouragement and lots of teaching in the beginning. Just like when you feel great after doing something that seemed hard at first, so will your kids. Our motto is: I can do hard things. When my son was really frustrated trying to make his bed just right but wouldn’t let me help him I would just say, “Man, it’s a good thing you can do hard things. You’ll get it buddy just keep working at it.”

Kids room5. Simplify the difficult tasks

Continuing on with the example of bed making, my son had a hard time because his bed was against the wall. Ideally, I would have moved it away from the wall but in my kids’ cracker box bedroom there was nowhere else to put it. One day, while he was struggling trying to line up his sheet and his blanket just right (despite the many times I tried to tell him it doesn’t have to be perfect) he just ripped the sheet off completely with a frustrated grunt. Then he went over and effortlessly pulled his blanket up to meet his pillow. He said, “That’s better.” He doesn’t want a sheet on his bed anymore, and that’s ok. Sometimes the details aren’t worth the effort.

This also encompasses the idea of making sure things are within your child’s reach and everything has a place. We lowered my son’s coat hooks, moved all of his clothes to the bottom couple of drawers in the dresser he shares with his baby sister, and bought him a little stool for everything else.

6. Plan for lots of extra time

I am perpetually tardy. To everything. So this was the hardest part for me. If I am running super late, this whole system falls apart. A while back my son was on a roll learning to snap and zip up his own pants. Some pants were easier than others but he always insisted on doing it himself. I remember agonizingly waiting and checking the clock constantly while he struggled to snap his pants. Every minute or two I would ask if he needed help because we were in a big hurry and he would insist he could do it. One day we were actually 15 minutes later than normal to church because he insisted on buttoning his own shirt, without help. I have learned, the hard way, that he needs almost as much time as I do to get ready. So I plan for it. It makes it easier on everyone and I don’t feel like I have to jump in and do things for him when we’re running late.

If you make the commitment to help your child learn and grow at his/her own pace, despite how difficult it might be in the beginning, I promise you will thank yourself down the road.

 Eggs Facebook