Monthly Archives for January 2013

Resolving to Get Fit as a Family – It’s Easier Than You Think!

Stoller Strides BothellStroller Strides Bothell

It’s that time of year! The time when many individuals and families vow to get up and moving and back into shape. The TV ads and packed gym parking lots are evidence of the “get fit now” mentality that tends to come with the new year. And as someone who places a strong value on health and fitness, I think these are great goals! The problem is that for many people and their families, the goals are too big and our lives are too busy, so after a month or so the fitness resolutions fizzle out (I’m speaking from experience here!).

With a baby on the way in just under a month, I have been thinking ahead to when our little one arrives and different ways that I can get back into a work-out routine that is manageable and fits into what I know is about to become an extremely busy season of life. I’m a first time mom and my workouts in the past have consisted of playing on soccer teams, training at the gym, and a lot of running in recent years. And while all of these have been great for me, I wanted to find some things that I could do together with my husband and child, so we are all getting fit as a family. So, I started to do some research, and I found there are plenty of quick, easy, and fun ways you can get moving as a family, even during these cold, winter months.

Pick one of these to try!

  • Turn your living room into a gym and let the games begin!
    I can remember going over to a friend’s house when I was young and our favorite activity was pretending we were gymnasts. We’d push the couches back (with the help of her mom!), lay out some thick comforters, and swirl, somersault and bound around the living room until we were out of breath and red in the face! This is a great way to get your kids active and moving. Just make sure to move the coffee table and cover any pointy corners!
  • Family Dance Party!
    Find an open space in your house, crank up the music, (pull the blinds if you’re embarrassed!) and dance! My mom has an in-home daycare that I visit regularly and on many occasions I’ve found the kids having an impromptu dance party. Join in and you get a great workout too. Plus, the kids LOVE it. My current favorite dance party music: Casper Baby Pants and Recess Monkey.
  • Walk/Jog as a Family
    If you have kids who are old enough to hit the trails with you, head out on a family walk or jog. Start small and work up to a goal as a family. First, loop the neighborhood, then head to a local track or trail. You can even train for a family race or event! There are many great FREE 1k races for kids locally. Check out race websites to see if they include a kids’ 1k option.
  • Stroller Strides
    While I, (Nicole speaking here), was pregnant with my first I attended a pregnancy workout class offered at Evergreen Hospital and I absolutely LOVED it! It got me out and moving and made the end of my pregnancy tolerable. The instructor was the owner of the Bothell Stroller Strides group and I joined that shortly after Logan was born. I’ll give a shout out to Hillary because she is so outgoing and fun and Stroller Strides (fitness classes where you get to take and bond with your child) was the best thing I ever did for myself as a new mom. When I went back to work full time I had a really hard time keeping a workout schedule and I really regret that, but I fully plan to join Stroller Strides of Bothell once Dylan is born! Hilary makes the classes fun and while you are focused on yourself; you also can bond with your baby. Check it out at Bothell Stroller Strides!

These are just a few of my favorites. For more on family fitness, check out the following websites:

Resolving to Build Faith Together – A few ideas

Boz the BearBoz the Bear

Could there be any more of a daunting task? Teach my child all of the skills necessary to thrive in the world and then also teach them to have good character and desire to learn about God and how to live a spiritual and meaningful life? Yikes! There are many resources out there that have great ideas for teaching young children about God. I think that the biggest struggle with the toddler and preschool age is that often you sit down to do a devotional, sing, and read the bible and within 10 seconds they are up and making dinner in their play kitchen. You feel like you’ve failed. I felt this way for a long time….we tried to make family devotionals a part of our evening schedule ever since Logan was born.

We started in infancy with us reading while he ate and then playing the LullaBible – My absolute favorite-even still!

Now we have progressed to reading a bible story from the Hands on Bible and doing the activities from it and singing a few songs.

Logan usually lasts about 5-10 minutes now and it is still hard to imagine that we are making any difference. We also watch Veggie Tales and Boz the Bear.

Yesterday in the car we were listening to the Veggie Tales worship cd and he started singing (the right words!!). My husband and I just looked at each other and smiled. He might not be reciting any versus right now, but I know that his character is being shaped by what we are doing and that with God’s help (through lots of parental and family prayer) that good values are being built in our little man’s heart.

Resolving to Serve as a Family- Start at Home

Charity Begins at Home
Charity-Begins-at-HomeCharity-Begins-at-Home

I ran across this blog post in early December and was greatly impacted by the simplicity of its concepts. Ever since my son Logan was born 2 years ago my husband and I have talked about how we really want to instill in him a heart to give and serve. I often get frustrated because I feel like we “talk” a lot and then we have a hard time following through. Since having Logan we have done a few small service projects but have definitely not done as much as I would have liked. Finding projects that are appropriate to the toddler and preschool ages is tricky! Anyway, this article struck me because the main premise was just being charitable and giving at home…I can totally do that! We are our children’s role models and if they see us doing nice things, even if it is just for Daddy or Grandma, they will remember. So, my biggest advice for giving as a family is to start small at your home.

When you are ready and have the time, I also recommend this book for ideas on how to serve with young children: The Kid’s Guide to Service Projects: Over 500 Service Ideas for Young People Who Want to Make a Difference

The text is definitely for older kids, but all project ideas can be adapted for our preschoolers!

Author Spotlight: Mo Willems

Knuffle Bunny by Mo WillemsKnuffle Bunny by Mo Willems

As teachers of young children, we’ve spent countless hours over time reading aloud to young audiences and sharing the joy and excitement of books with kids. We’ve seen the impact a book can have on children—to captivate, inspire, entertain… the list goes on and on. Books are powerful, magical teaching tools, and let’s be honest—they can be just plain fun!

We have a passion for children’s books and have fallen in love with numerous books and children’s authors over the years. We’d like to take time monthly to share some of our favorites with you through monthly Author Spotlights and regular Book Buzzes. In addition to sharing about the authors and books we love, we will often share a strategy you can use with the book or books to use with your young reader, if you choose. We hope you’ll find these authors and books as enjoyable as we do! (And if you have a favorite to share with us, please comment! We love hearing about new books and why you and your family love them).

This month’s Author Spotlight: Mo Willems!

If you haven’t been introduced to Mo Willems, you are in for a treat. He is the award-winning children’s author responsible for writing and illustrating kids’ favorites including The Pigeon series, The Knuffle Bunny trio, Elephant and Piggie books, and more. He began his career writing and animating for Sesame Street, while also performing stand-up comedy in New York. He brings this humor and creativity into each book he writes; his witty writing makes his books enjoyable for both kids and adults! (Watch out or you’ll find yourself reading these books long after your kids have left your lap, laughing out loud all by yourself!)

Kids of all ages enjoy the cartoon-like illustrations and quickly come to see that the characters have personality and sometimes even a little attitude. Mo Willems does a wonderful job conveying characters’ emotions through their facial expressions and simple talk-bubbles. The humorous illustrations combined with the engaging story lines draw readers in and leave them wanting more of Mo Willems, and therefore, more reading!! I have yet to meet a child who does not enjoy Mo Willems’ books, and have found many adult fans as well.

Teaching Tips:

  • Making inferences: You can begin teaching young readers the higher-level reading skill of making inferences through the Elephant and Piggie books. Stop at different points throughout the stories to ask children what the characters are feeling based on their facial expressions and the words they are speaking. *I have used this for kids from preschool to fourth grade!*
  • Making connections: Many of Mo Willems’ stories have plot lines that children can relate to. From a favorite toy getting broken in I Love My New Toy, to cherishing a special stuffed animal in the Knuffle Bunny series, kids can relate to the characters in the stories. Making text-to-self connections is a key reading strategy that students will use throughout their lives as readers, and these books are a perfect starting point. As you’re reading with your child, stop and ask your child questions about their own experiences that connect to the characters. Start questions with “Have you ever….?” “Can you understand how _____ might be feeling?” These questions get your child thinking as they read!

For more information on Mo Willems, check out his official website.

We hope you check your local library or book store for some Mo Willems’ favorites soon. Let us know how you like them!

Happy Reading!

Resolving to Spend Quality Family Time

Q is for quality time

We lead such busy lives and I am as guilty as the next Mom of missing out on some of those little moments that present themselves to spend quality time with my son. I often try to catch up on emails and text messages when I get home instead of saving it until after he goes to bed. I have realized that I only get 2 ½ hours with my son each night when we all get home from work. Yikes…that time flies by! And while we can’t add hours to the day, we can be intentional about the time we have with our families and find creative ways to carve out more time to spend with the ones we love.

Here are some quick and mostly low-prep ways to spend quality time with your family.

A few favorites include:

A couple of strategies to create more family time during the week:

  • Make enough dinner for leftovers the next night, or prep meals on the weekend to free up time after work.
  • Limit your screen time – Put down the phones, laptops, tablets, and spend uninterrupted time with family. Emails will still be there for you later.
  • Share jobs and stick to a routine – everything from setting the table, cleaning up, getting PJ’s on, etc., will go faster and smoother if the routine is predictable.
“Because how we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”

~Annie Dillard

A Place of Peace :: Resolving to make the house organized and purposeful

Resolving to Make the House Organized and Purposeful
Front Door Command CenterFront Door Command Center

I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a problem with getting rid of “stuff” that isn’t being used. I do have some organizational struggles though, which are:  1) daily mail, receipts, papers, notes from school, magazines, etc., devouring my kitchen table;  2) Going through my son’s toys and clothes on a regular basis to keep the closet and play areas functional; and 3) Keeping the fridge and pantry from utter chaos.

Here are some ideas that can help you tackle your family’s resolution to get organized:

Happy organizing!

Carrots and Peas, and Green Beans, Oh My!

Resolving to Eat Healthy as a Family
100 Days of Real Food

If eating healthy as a family was one of your New Year’s resolutions, you are not alone. Many families (and individuals) resolve to eat healthier in the New Year, but it is usually easier said than done. I know from my own experience managing a full time job, friends, church, and my husband and toddler’s busy schedules that making time to prepare healthy meals and snacks often falls off of the limited day’s itinerary. I certainly have not mastered every day healthy eating/food preparation, but I have a few resources that have helped me to make it easier that I want to share with you!

  1. Resolve to pack the lunches the night before while one parent does the bath/bedtime routine. We usually have leftovers from dinner the night before for lunch the next day, which means kitchen clean-up and lunch prep go hand in hand.
  2. Bento Box style lunch containers have been instrumental in helping me pack a balanced lunch. They have separate compartments, so I am visually reminded that I need to pack something from each of the food groups. I will slide fruit in one smaller compartment, frozen peas/corn/carrots in another, and then the leftovers (hopefully a balanced meal of protein and carbs) in the biggest section. Here are the ones that I use for our family.
  3. As a previous year’s resolution my family changed to a “real food” mentality. At first, it was daunting for me to try to think of how to eat real, whole foods all of the time, but then I found a website that I use (to this day) for most of my meals; 100 Days of Real Food. We started by doing the mini-pledges to build up to a completely whole foods plan. Her recipes are amazing and tasty (did not find one “dud” on the whole site) and my husband and toddler loved all of it too!
  4. Here are also a few pins from Pinterest that had great resources for healthy eating:
  • Lunches – 100 days of lunches with no processed foods
  • Fruit Snacks – My son LOVES “cheweys”
  • Fruit Leathers – Also a popular snack
  • Breakfast – Breakfast on the go is always tricky…My husband and toddler love these samis! I make mine with the nitrate free ham and Tillamook cheese (no growth hormones).
  • Oatmeal – My toddler won’t eat it, but my husband and I also do a lot of oatmeal during the week!

I hope these resources help you to get off on the right track with your healthy eating resolution!  Remember, don’t beat yourself up if you mess up one day.  It took me many baby steps to change my family’s eating habits!

Happy New Year!!

Happy New Year 2013This morning you are either one of two people: you are feeling rested, refreshed and excited about the possibilities of the New Year because your young children go to bed at 8pm and you followed shortly behind them, or you are feeling exhausted because you stayed up late to ring in the New Year and your children didn’t get the memo to sleep in, but you’ll be excited for the possibilities of the New Year once you get your infusion of morning energy.

Whichever Mommy you are today, I’m sure you know that you have a lot to look forward to in this New Year! Along with the excitement of new possibilities you might also be feeling the “I’ve gotta change some things this year” itch. Isn’t it great that we get this little kick to make things better? As long as you aren’t being hard on yourself, this motivation to change, this resolve, can be great for you and your family. As parents, we can pretty easily see what needs a resolution to change, make a list, make a plan, and attempt to carry out those plans. Our children however might struggle with this concept a bit. Here are some tips to help make some family resolutions that everyone can help carry out this New Year:

  • Start the conversation off with a discussion about grace. It’s easy for kids (and adults) to think that they failed because there are SO many things that they could be doing differently. Remind children that you love them and God loves them even though they aren’t “perfect” (that’s Grace), but that we always have a chance to make ourselves better.
  • Pick realistic and attainable resolutions. One idea is to pick one goal in different areas. For example, pick one goal in health and wellness, one in quality time, and one in spirituality.
  • If you haven’t already, take time to come up with a family mission statement and have a discussion about what things are most valued to your family. This could be a great way for kids to see where the resolutions come from and will help bond you together as a family.
  • Make the 1st a celebration too! Have a special meal together, play games, dance, make a fun craft out of your newly made family resolutions.

Here is a cute craft to help your family display their resolutions.

We hope that you and your family have a wonderful day together today and can use these tips to help build an even stronger bond in 2013!