Saturday, August 22, 2009

Biggest Loser Week #2

At the second weigh in this week I lost another almost 2 pounds! That makes a total of 6 pounds so far. I love the accountability of the scale every week and looking my team members in the eye to tell them how I did. Definitely helps when I want to eat the entire batch of No Bake Cookies I made for Brent to celebrate surviving his first test in medical school! We got our T-shirts this week! I love the yellow because it's cheery and energizing.

The meeting this week was interesting, too. One speaker gave information about a study on sleep. They looked at how the body is affected by the amount of sleep we get each night. They found that 30 years ago people got an average of 8 hours a night (wouldn't THAT be heaven!) and 1 in 10 adults were in the obese category. Now the average is 6 hours of sleep a night (that would still be heaven!) and 1 in 3 adults is in the obese category. Wow!

Then a lady spoke who has lost 200 pounds over the last four years. She shared her story focusing on what got her to decide it was worth the work it takes to change. Four years ago she weighed 350 pounds and now she teaches Disco aerobics at a local gym. Amazing!

My goal this week is to step up the intensity of my workouts. I DVR'd an exercise program on FitTV that is 30 minutes long and does warm-up and cool-down with Tai Chi and the intense part is aerobic kickboxing. Super fun! There's also a 3 mile trail (6 miles roundtrip) that I want to walk and then eventually be able to run. Hopefully I'll keep myself so busy I won't have time to poke around the kitchen for snacks.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Snack Time

The standard education parents get about how much their children should eat goes something like this: "They will eat until they're full." So, based on that I kept giving my oldest food as long as she kept eating. After her third or fourth helping I started to wonder if she'd ever get full! She has also consistently been in the 99th percentile for weight (and, fortunately the 95-98th percentile for height) so I've had to re-evaluate the standard education because my daughter is not standard. She's a bottomless pit!

All day long she asks, "Can I have a snack?" I seriously regret ever using the word snack in the first place. Although I'm sure something else would have taken its place. So I am constantly trying to create ways to lengthen snack time and choose snacks that are filling but lower in calories. Here are some solutions that have worked for us and are quite fun, too!

To lengthen snack time I look for ways to prolong the eating. This gives her tummy a chance to tell her brain she's full. I keep anything that has small sections, like an egg carton. I cut it down so it only has 4 or 6 sections. Then I put a couple of each snack into a compartment. For example, I put 2-3 grapes in one, 2 pretzels in another, her chewable vitamins in a third, 3-4 dried blueberries in the fourth. She gets really excited watching me put the snack tray together. Then we sit down at the table and visit as she eats. I ask her questions and help her remember to swallow before talking. We talk about what she'll choose next, what she likes most, what color the snacks are, how many are in each, how many different snacks, etc.

Sammi's all-time favorite, though, is Easter egg hunting. The Easter eggs from last year have been a regular toy around our house. I fill each egg with just 2 of a snack. Then I hide the eggs around the room, give Sammi a basket and let her find them. If I really want to drag it out, I only let her eat one egg then we hide them all again. We continue hiding/finding until either she's bored or the eggs are all empty. While this is a ton more work and I don't always feel like it, it has been a great way to slow down her eating and get her moving in the meantime.

Here's to fun, healthy snack times everywhere!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Crafts

I've noticed lots of people searching for crafts to do with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and thought today would be a perfect day to share the ones that have been a huge success at our house.

Star on a Stick Craft
Cut out 2 star shapes from heavy paper.
Have little one decorate the stars: color, glitter, buttons.
Glue one star on each side of a craft stick.

Starry Night Craft
Cut out bits of yellow construction paper. These are the "stars."
Put drops of glue on a piece of dark blue construction paper.
Have little one place yellow "stars" on top of the drops of glue.

Star Mobile Craft
Cut out various sizes of stars from heavy paper.
Have little one decorate stars in different ways.
Punch a hole in the top of each star.
Use plastic department store-style hanger that spins and tie stars to the arms of the hanger.

What are your favorite crafts that accompany Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

My Chance to Be the Biggest Loser!

**There are only two reality TV shows I like to watch: The Biggest Loser and So You Think You Can Dance. Last week's season finale of So You Think You Can Dance coincided with the first night of a local church's Biggest Loser competition. I went back and forth about whether I should participate. Then I found out you had to be in teams of at least 4 and I hesitated even more. But, things worked out, I found my team, and I started this journey last week on Thursday.

The first week they took all of our measurements. From weight and inches to fat percentage and blood pressure. We picked a team name (Dedicated DCOM Dieters-since we were all associated somehow with the medical school) and our shirt color (yellow to keep us cheery and motivated!)

I spent the week being more aware of my diet and cutting out bedtime treats and finding ways to include exercise in my day. I ran with Brent, walked/ran with teammates, and found Belly Dancing of FitTV. Overall, I felt pretty good about the seek. Then the night before the weigh in we ate at a pizza joint in town and I felt yucky all night. The food was good, but my body told me it was not healthy. I was so worried I'd killed my goal. I had spent all week chanting "3 pounds, 3 pounds" whenever I wanted to eat a cookie or a bowl of ice cream and I was afraid I'd blown it.

But as it turns out, I was okay! I was by no means the biggest loser of the week (that was 8.34% body weight lost) or the highest number (20 pounds!) but I beat my goal! I lost 4.5 pounds and it felt great! I'm so glad I've committed myself to this competition because I have accountability, teammates and a clear goal. Now I've shared it with you so I'm even more committed to stick with it until I reach my goal! I'll report again next Saturday.

**Brent has such a knack for making me look so short! This is a picture taken over the summer and best represents how I look on a daily basis. Anyone want to nominate me for TLC's What Not To Wear? I'd totally love it!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Physical Friday: Standing Before Walking

The photo-elusive (took 23 pics to get this one!) Elli has picked up a new trick this week. She has started standing up from a squatted position. Last week she stood up holding on to me and then let go for a few milliseconds, but this week it's entirely about balance!

The first time she stood for a long time she happened to have a pair of child-safety scissors in her hand. I know, I know, I'll have to review my own guidelines for teaching children how to use scissors. I was so excited to see how long she could stand without losing her balance, but I was also worried about hose scissors. In the end I didn't disturb her and just waited for her to sit again before I promptly removed the scissors from her hand. I wasn't about to run for the camera at that point!

This morning we made a stop at the Harrogate City Hall (I'll explain that in a future post) and the two gals that were there thought Elli was just so cute. So to get their attention, Sammi started telling them how Elli is learning to stand. She did a perfect re-enactment that made us all smile. Then Elli caught wind of what was going on so she promptly joined the attention seeking and started to stand up. She did it great the first time. The gals oohed and ahed which encouraged Elli to do it again. She had such a grand time that she kept losing her balance as she giggled and hid her head in the floor. It was performance at its best!

While this is probably the norm (to stand before walking) it's a new development path in this house. When Sammi was about 14 months she started walking. I remember starting to wonder if Sammi would really ever walk. She seemed so old and so heavy! But she did it. The first time we left her with a sitter, no less. But she propelled herself by momentum. If she lost her balance or ran out of steam, she fell right over. She didn't learn how to just stand until she'd been walking for well over a week. However children do it and whenever they decide it's time, they'll get it eventually!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Baby, Toddler, Preschooler

What distinguishes a baby from a toddler? A toddler from a preschooler? These are the hard-hitting questions on Sammi's mind these days. We have spent hours talking about every child she knows from newborn up to 5 year olds in depth so she can figure out which group they belong to. This has been a challenge for me, too. While it's easy to say that a baby becomes a toddler when they begin to walk, it's much harder to define the cutoff between toddler and preschooler.
It's been a fascinating process, though, watching Sammi come up with all kinds of rules about why some friends are toddlers and other friends are preschoolers and why her sister is a baby. One of my favorites was when she asked if Suede (her 2-year-old gal pal) was a toddler because she's shorter than Sammi. This strikes me as funny because most of the preschoolers she's played with are also shorter than her {she is in the 99th % for height} so it's not a valid guide.
She runs through the categories and her friends over and over again approaching each child and their category from every angle trying to make sure she really understands why this child is in this category. We talk about age, height, diapers vs. underwear, talking.

Category development begins in infants as they associate events and objects with repeated exposure. At first the categories are very simple: animals, cars, people I know, strangers.But as these categories become more established, toddlers are able to ad more detail to the categories and subdivide them into relate groups: animals becomes dogs, cats, cows, birds, fish. Sammi's at a fun stage where she is no longer passively learning the rules for different categories but is pushing the limits and asking questions to find out who fits in which category and why.

Categories help children learn information. As new information is presented, it's easier to process and remember if the child has old info to connect the new info to. The more we talk about these categories, the firmer they become established for our children, building for them a solid framework that will capture, connect and hold new information.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

School Prep Reading That's Fun!

Back to school is my favorite time of year. The weather starts to cool down; I get to buy new boxes of crayons, notebooks of paper and pretty pencils; and school begins. I'm sort of a nerd. I recognize that and have even learned to embrace it. I love school. I love new books; I love learning; and sometimes I even love homework!

Since the girls are still too young to really embrace the back to school frenzy, I do what I can to get them excited about buying crayons and learning about things related to school. That's why I was really excited for the chance to review I'm Your Bus by Marilyn Singer published by Scholastic. Sammi was so excited when it arrived in the mail.

Sammi loves buses. For over a year now she has talked endlessly about when she'll get to ride a bus to school. One day she even went to far as to tell me all the rules of riding on a bus and that she would help the bus driver tell the other kids to follow the rules! When she saw we had a book with a giant school bus on the front, she was ecstatic. She dropped everything she was doing and wanted to read it right away.

I'm happy to say that the book didn't disappoint. It's written in rhyme and introduces all the different times kids ride the bus as well as different aspects of the school day. Sammi loved that it gave names for the children riding the bus. She points to the different kids and asks who is who. She also likes to read the marquee on the buses on the different pages.

I liked the rhyme scheme because it's not your typical four line rhyme. It has three lines in a row that rhyme and then the next two lines are like the chorus ending with "I'm your bus." I've enjoyed reading it with her again and again. It's given us something concrete to hold and look at as we've talked about the unknown that is school.

It's fun to see Sammi get excited about school. She's just aching to go. I finally found a "preschool" program I'm comfortable with here. I can take her just two days a week for about 2 1/2 hours. She's so excited to start and I'm interested to see how she adjusts to spending that kind of time away from home on such a frequent basis.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tri-State Peak and Pinnacle Overlook

We've had so much fun exploring the mountain tops of Tennessee! We live right on the edge of Cumberland Gap National Park where there are oodles of trails, overlooks, historical sites and beautiful scenery.

One of our first weekends here we hiked from Cumberland Gap (the historic town) up to the Tri-State Peak where we were able to be in Tennessee, Virginia and Kentucky all at once. The trail was decent in difficulty, but Brent definitely won the gold star for pushing the jogging stroller up it with two kids in tow. There is no way I can hike that trail with the girls and not Brent! Along the way we saw The Iron Furnace which produce 3 1/4 ton iron in a day. We also saw a marker indicating we were on the Daniel Boone trail. Now there's an historical figure I'm excited to learn more about!
Then a few Sundays ago we decided to enjoy a beautiful drive up to Pinnacle Overlook where you can see the whole Cumberland Gap valley. While we knew we were going up to a pinnacle, we were surprised by how tight the road curved as it wound its way to the top. Boy was I glad I was driving! {Nothing to do with Brent's driving, I just get ridiculously motion sick unless I'm the one driving.} The view from the overllok was beautiful. We had fun spotting familiar landmarks like Brent's school and the road we drive home on. The whole affair would have been so much more enjoyable if we had remembered the diaper bag to save Elli from that stinky diaper! She was a trooper, though, poor thing.

Last night we decided to join a family back up to Pinnacle Overlook. This time we walked the loop around the parking lot and came across the Cannon at Fort Lyon. This park is full of history just begging to be discovered around every turn and inviting us to climb in and through and feel that history come alive.

We have loved the quick and convenient acces we have to such wonderful trails. I just learned that a trail begins close to our house and continues, paved and through a tunnel!, for 3 miles to the Iron Furnace (mentioned above). My new fitness goal is to be able to walk and then run the entire length of the trail and then back to the car. I walk/ran a mile section of the trail yesterday before we hiked around the Pinnacle Overlook, in 90 degree weather! Hopefully I'll reach this goal by Thanksgiving.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Musical Monday: Grown Ups' Musicians, Children's Music

Do you ever get tired of your children's music? Sammi has two CDs she absolutely loves. They are pretty much the only two she'll listen to. One is Mickey Mouse characters singing songs and the other is a CD of short songs like Three Blind Mice and London Bridges. They are both really fun and I admit that I enjoy them. Most of the time. But every once in a while I long for the days of listening (uninterrupted) to the radio and hearing grown up music.

One day Brent came home from the library with a CD that was the answer to this dilemma. For the Kids is a collection of our favorite musicians performing children's music. Some of it's familiar tunes like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (although this version takes the cake and makes me want to take singing lessons just so I can sing like them!) and others are not the traditional "kids" songs you're used to hearing. Brent and I love listening to this album even when the girls are sleeping in the car!

We've recently introduced Sammi to this CD and she also loves it. Her favorite song is The Hoppity Song by Five For Fighting. My favorite energetic song is Snow Day by Bleu and my favorite lullaby is Willie the King by Dan Wilson, although it is quite sad. Now when Sammi asks to listen to kids' music, I can turn this on and we're both happy.

For the Kids*
1. Mahna Mahna- Cake
2. La La La La Lemon - Barenaked Ladies
3. The Rainbow Connection - Sarah McLachlan
4. I've Got To Be Clean - Guster
5. Wonderwheel - Dan Zanes
6. Have a Little Fun - Glen Phillips
7. The Hoppity Song - Five For Fighting
8. My Flying Saucer - Billy Bragg & Wilco
9. It's All Right To Cry - Darius Rucker
10. Sing - Ivy
11. Bright Eyes - Remy Zero
12. Willie The King - Dan Wilson
13. Snow Day - Bleu
14. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star - Chantal/Raine Maida
15. Good Night Children Everywhere - Sixpence None The Richer
16. Bend Down The Branches - Tom Waits
*Clicking on links to individual songs will open iTunes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thinking Thursday: I See...

A favorite game we invented last year we named "I see..." It's a lot like I spy... but without the guessing. I love this game because we can play it anywhere, inside or out, and it has helped to avert many tantrums! It started when I was pushing Sammi in the swings at the park. We were swinging in silence. To break the silence I said to her, barely two at that time, "I see trees" and she responded "I see trees, too!" We proceeded to name all the things in the park.

The next day when we played it she didn't copy what I said, she found her own things to see! After about six months of playing this game, whenever we are driving in the car and it's silent she pipes up "I see ..." We were driving home one day and as we came around the corner onto our street Sammi said, "I see our mailbox!" I'm always impressed with the details she spots out the window that I miss because I'm looking at the road.

This game also helped us a lot as we drove from Utah to Tennessee. We went through lots of different landscapes and it was fun to find new things and familiar things. We also used it as a way to help her identify the country from the cities we passed through.

While this game is a lot of fun and helps time pass more pleasantly, it has some benefits to development as well. "I see..." is a great way to build a young child's vocabulary. You are naming familiar objects for your little one and, in many cases, the child is repeating and thus learning the names of these objects. This game also develops little ones' awareness of the world around them. Developmentally toddlers are fairly self-centered in their awareness. Through this game they start to broaden their view of their world by looking beyond what is within their reach or what is affecting their immediate situation.

What do you see?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cherish Bound and The Timpanogos Storytelling Festival

I love to tell stories! Don't we all? I love the build up, the climax, the laughter at the end. It's the greatest. It's one of the reasons I love bogging so much. It's a place to record stories. Here I am with a few other local (in Utah) bloggers.

Last November I had the privileged of meeting Carol Rice, co-founder of Cherish Bound, at a retreat for women entrepreneurs sponsored by Startup Princess. She was lovely to chat with, very approachable and down-to-earth. I never even guessed the size of the company she and Bruce Jensen oversee. So when I was invited to learn more about the company and their commitment to storytelling, I was excited to help out this "small" startup.

Boy was I surprised to find this company is nationally well-known. Although not surprising once I saw the products they offer for capturing family stories. They have everything you need to tell a great story from chat cards and daily journals to story starters and celebrations. Then the icing on the cake! Once you have discovered a story you want to tell, they have the software to record your story with pictures and then publish it into a beautiful book.
As a treat, we were invited to choose a story from our own lives, record it and then publish it. We received story starter books to help us along the way. I received the story starter My Family intended to help children discover an record their stories. So, I decided to interview Sammi and have her write the story. I pulled out the voice recorder and opened the book and talked to her while she was eating. Probably not the easiest to understand her with a mouth full of food, but she was stationary and quite talkative. Since we just moved I thought it would be fun to record some of our memories from our home in Utah as well as her first impressions of Tennessee. These were combined with her own descriptions of our family. About Daddy she said, "Daddy's good at ducks. He just waddles and tries to catch one." We have no idea where this came from! But it'll be fun to laugh about with her when she's older. She also said he's "good at telling stories and singing songs." Which is very true. She and I had a lot of fun talking about different memories and all the members of our family.

Once I had her story, it was easy to pick pictures to illustrate what she said, except for the ducks. Then I went onto Cherish bound's website and logged in to the publishing center to put the book together. The editing software was very easy to use. I figured it all out without ever using the help function. I like that in software! I chose page layouts then added photos and text. When you go through a Cherish Bound consultant you get a personal coach to walk you through all the steps of organizing and compiling. They're wonderful.
Once I finished my book and read through it, I had Brent read it and then I submitted it for publishing. It went so smoothly. My book arrived yesterday and Sammi was so excited to sit down and read her book. She loved the pictures. As I read the questions again, she answered them again. Some answers were different, but most were the same as we had recorded in the book. When Brent came home, she told him about the book first thing then drug him off to her room so he could read it to her. What a great experience for her to have a book she helped write that is about the people and memories she loves best!
Cherish Bound didn't stop here! Their commitment to storytelling led to becoming a sponsor this year of the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival in Utah. This is a great event where storytellers from around the nation come together to entertain, educate and enlighten their audiences. I am so sad we'll miss it. But my friend Rebecka is going and will give us a full report of how she and her family enjoyed it. This year the festival runs September 3-5, 2009.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Knoxville Zoo

Wow! That is all I can say, "Wow!" The Knoxville Zoo is so huge, we've been there twice and haven't seen the whole thing. The first time we went, we saw the black bears and then headed to the left.

We saw rhinos, a red panda, and the reptile collection. We ran into a zookeeper feeding the rhinos. She was very informative, telling us about their eating and living habits. For instance, rhinos hate the water but they love the mud. The cover themselves with mud to keep away mosquitoes and UV rays. In the reptile collection we talked with a zookeeper about the Tennessee bog turtles. The breed them in captivity and then release them into the wild after a year of care. He picked up a baby turtle for us to see. It was so tiny, easily fitting in the palm of his hand. And he said they don't get much bigger.

While we saw a lot of animals and learned quite a bit from the zookeepers, we weren't really all that impressed. We knew we hadn't seen everything, but we thought we'd seen at least half of the zoo. Our favorite part, the redeeming moment, you could say, was the Wee Play Zoo. Here the girls found costumes, imaginative play areas, live bunnies and carpet to crawl on (prefect for Elli who was SO sick of the stroller). We left feeling very good about the zoo and quite happy that we had a membership since we didn't see the whole zoo.

I took the girls again this last Friday and this time we headed to the right. We walked and walked. We wandered past the elephants, giraffes, and zebras. I figured we were about done and I was ready to head back to the Wee Play Zoo for the girls to stretch their legs before driving the hour or more back to our house. We walked on to what I thought was the end only to find another huge expanse of zoo. We saw gorillas and chimpanzees, ostriches and tigers, a lion and three lionesses. I was getting tired pushing these girls around and ready for a pit stop. I finally gave up seeing everything and headed back to the play area.

Now I am very happy that we have a membership so I don't feel like we have to see the entire zoo in one trip, because we now know that's not feasible for our family. I'm also happy that we have a membership because after just two visits to the zoo, we've saved money over paying for each visit individually. Every trip from here on out is like a Christmas bonus!
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