Category Archives: faith & family

Summer Punch Reward Cards

Summer is here! YAY! I thought this would be a great time to introduce a goal card to my daughter. The basic idea behind the card is that whenever a child accomplishes a task related to the goal, they get a punch. Kindness was something that I thought would be a good focus, and I was ELATED when I found a darling goal card from My Sweet Sanity. She also has a reading and chore card… so cute!!!!

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The plan is simple. For every act of kindness, we  punch her kindness card. When the kindness card is full, she can trade it in for a special summer treat or activity on the rewards card (which will also get punched.) This prevents my daughter from choosing swimming EVERY SINGLE TIME and gives her the power of choice.  And when she randomly wants to get an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, I can simply point out to her that she needs to fill out her kindness card first. The whole object is to get my daughter thinking about showing acts of KINDNESS more frequently.

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I thought it would be fun to attach both the kindness card and the summer rewards card to a lanyard to make it more “official”. 🙂 Plus I think it might be harder to lose (hopefully!). I simply placed the cards in plastic lanyard sleeves. But you could laminate the cards and attach those to the lanyard instead.

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The lanyard also allows for the cards to be worn when we are out on the town- so I can immediately reward her with punches for good, kind choices (as long as I carry a hole puncher with me!). And I just love this How to Train Your Dragon lanyard!!

Rewards on our pass include: ice cream cone, snow cone, trip to the dollar store, pizza night with friends, family movie night, day at the park, swimming, and family campout. Feel free to download our pass or use it as a guide to help you make your own! (Just click on the image file below to download the pass).
reward cards

And we just happened to get lucky- our summer reading program is using brag tags to motivate kids to read. This is something I can easily attach to our lanyard. I love it!!!

Now some might say that giving your child a tangible reward for service or kindness is not a good idea. And I agree with that, to an extent. When a bad habit needs to be broken , or a good habit needs to be formed, I am all for doing everything and anything to ensure that habit is set securely in place. Sometimes we need to modify our way of thinking and our actions with those extrinsic things that motivate us.

Happy Summer!

10 Ways to Ponderize the Scriptures with your Family

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I knew as soon as the conference talk was given that the word “ponderize”, which means to ponder and memorize scriptures, would become a huge movement for church members. I have already been invited to join a Facebook Ponderizing group and I have seen and heard family and friends eagerly open up their scriptures to ponder and memorize. This simple little made-up word has sparked a fire in scripture study!

I have been thinking of different ways that I can share this excitement  with my family. I have a daughter who will be baptized this month and it is important for me to teach her how to learn to apply and understand scriptures. I came up with a list of 10 different ways that we could use this principle of ponderizing with our children and family… because learning scriptures can be for EVERYONE! You can pick one of these ideas or combine different ideas to come up with a unique way to study the scriptures with your family.

The Ponderizing Pail

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This would be a fun way to include all your family members in the Ponderizing process. During your next family home evening, have each member of your family write 3 (or more) of their favorite scripture verses on slips of paper. I do want to make a quick note here that quotes from modern day prophets and apostles would make great ponderizing material, too! Fold up each slip of paper and place them in your ponderizing pail. Explain to your family that each week somebody will get to pick a paper from the pail. The scripture on that paper will be the one your family will ponderize for that week. At this time you will need to explain to your kiddos what the word ponderizing means. It might be kinda fun to have them predict the definition.

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Have the youngest child choose a paper from the pail. Read the verse together as a family. Have the person who wrote that scripture explain why they picked it. Then place the scripture somewhere that everyone will see it. Throughout the week, make references to that scripture. Use specific sentence prompts such as “This scripture helped me today by...”, “I applied this scripture today by…”, or “As I was thinking about the scripture, I felt that I needed to…” It may seem silly or awkward to use prompts, but I promise you that it will teach your kids how to verbally express their feelings about the scriptures. You will be their scripture comprehension role model! At the end of the week, during your next family home evening, have a little testimony meeting allowing kids and parents to share their experiences with the scripture of the week. Then repeat the process!

The Ponderizing Picture Frame

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Choose a scripture to ponderize with your family. You may want to use the Ponderizing Pail method. It might be more beneficial for your family to take a few minutes at the beginning of your family home evenings to pray and search the scriptures together to find the verse(s) that speak to your hearts. You could even designate one person each week to choose the scripture you will be ponderizing. After choosing your scripture, write or print the verse. Place the verse in a special picture frame located somewhere your whole family can see it on a regular basis. There are SO many cute picture frames you could buy for this activity. You may decide that instead of doing just one verse as a family, you each want to choose your own. If that is the case, how fun would it be to get picture frames from the dollar store for each family member and paint and/or decorate them. This would be a great way to get kids excited about their scriptures!

Ponderizing Journal Blank Template

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You may decide that you want your kids to keep a journal of their weekly scripture. I love journals! For younger kids, it may help them to have a template to organize their scripture study. If you choose to go this route, click on the link to download the ponderizing scripture template.

At the top of the page either write or paste a copy of the scripture. Throughout the week kids can draw pictures of what the verse means to them. Older kids can write their thoughts and feelings on the verse. Maybe your child had a great experience where the scripture helped them to make a good choice. That would be a great thing to record. Place the journal pages in either a family or individual binders or journals.

The Ponderizing Family Notebook

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If your kiddos are older, you may decide that you don’t need templates. A fun way to get family members engaged in a scripture is to make a ponderizing family notebook. The scripture is written or pasted at the top of a blank notebook page. Throughout the week, family members can record their thoughts, feelings, even questions underneath the scripture.

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The benefit of this is that there is only one notebook, so everyone can see and learn from each other. You can answer each others questions or place a smiley face next to thoughts that you enjoyed reading. This is another great way to model for younger kids how to start thinking about the scriptures. And it will be a great way for those family members who may by shy to communicate their feelings.

A New Twist on a Popular Memorizing Method

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A few months ago I came across a great way to memorize scriptures at Simple Charlotte Mason. I love it! I love that you only work on one new scripture to memorize at a time, and I love the review of past scriptures. It is amazing!!!

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I was thinking about how I could take this great memorizing system and apply it to ponderizing. Since it just focuses on memorizing, take it to a deeper and more meaningful level by writing thoughts, feelings, and experiences on the back of the index card. That way you are not only focused on memorizing the scripture, but you also have a place to record  your ponderings. As you review past scriptures, take the time to read and reread the back of the card. We can so quickly forget what we have learned!

Ponderizing Podcasts, Videos, & Puppetshows

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Maybe you have a child who doesn’t like writing  (haha I know NOTHING about what that is like!) For those audio/visual learners try recording a podcast or video of your family scripture of the week! During your next family home evening, choose a scripture (either with the ponderizing pail or through searching and choosing together as a family). Record your family reading the verse. To help your children memorize the verse, you may decide to have them make up “scripture cheers” or take familiar tunes and “sing the scripture”. Once the verse is memorized, record them either saying it or performing it! At the end of the week, record each family member sharing their thoughts, promptings, experiences, etc. with the verse. If kiddos are shy or want to try a different method of sharing, have them use puppets to express their learning. Puppets would also be a great way to verbally model how we “think” while reading the scriptures.

Have a technologically minded family member take the different recordings and put them together into one video. It may take longer to use this method, but what a priceless way to remember your family during this stage… this is a wonderful future family history gem! And those visual learners will love watching and rewatching (and therefore helping them to remember) these scripture videos.

If all of this video editing sounds too complicated, just record the family reciting the verse and maybe one thought or insight they learned. You can quickly send that video clip to other family and friends who are ponderizing, too. 🙂

Color the Verse

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This is a simple way to get young kiddos involved in the ponderizing process. Type the verse using a block font such as KG Red Hand or KG Let Her Go. Print the verse and let your child color it! If you have multiple little ones, I would make sure to print enough so everybody has their own. 🙂 Place the beautifully colored verse somewhere the whole family can view and admire. Your young children will feel involved and included!

Ponderizing Pillowcase

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So this idea may seem over the top. But some of us like to do crazy things. I was thinking about how many times I do my best pondering on my pillow right before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning. I thought it would be fun to take an old pillowcase and, using a fabric marker, write the scripture reference for the weekly scripture. Older children may enjoy writing the reference themselves. Right before you lay your head down on your pillow, read the reference. See if you have the scripture memorized. Think about what the scripture means to you. Set goals for the following day based on the verse. Fall asleep each night pondering the scripture. Every week add a new scripture reference and before long you will have a pillowcase full of verses and a wonderful new habit.

Ponderizing on the Whiteboard (or Chalkboard)

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During family home evening, have family members choose a scripture to ponderize together using the Ponderizing Pail or through scripture searching together. Write the reference and complete verse on a whiteboard or chalkboard in the kitchen or another area of the home where everyone will see it regularly. Every day, erase one or more words. See if your children can still say the scripture. By the end of the week it should be memorized. To help encourage pondering of the scripture, if room permits leave space at the bottom of the board for people to write thoughts, feelings, experiences, questions, and insights about the scripture. If there is no room on the board, use colorful post it notes to place around it. That way there is plenty of space for everyone’s responses!

Ponderizing Popcorn & Pajama Party

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My daughter LOVES having family sleepovers. They are probably one of her favorite things. Once a week (or month, or year…), preferably on a Friday or Saturday night, have a special popcorn & pajama ponderizing party in your living room. Set out sleeping bags and blankets. Sit in a circle and share scripture verses that you have learned together while eating popcorn and treats. Then hold a special testimony meeting where each family member can share experiences they have had that have strengthened their relationship with Christ. Encourage them to share their testimony of the scriptures. End the night with family prayer and a family sleepover.

A great twist on this activity would be to hold the pajama party outside. Set up a tent in the backyard. A fire pit would be a great place to sit around to make yummy s’mores and share testimonies and feelings about the scriptures (girls camp anyone?). We always need s’more scripture sharing time! 🙂

 

I hope these ideas will help you as you ponderize the scriptures with your family. I think one of the most important things that you can do throughout the process is to share your thoughts, feelings, ideas, experiences, and insights with your family as much as possible. Don’t worry if it seems awkward or not eloquent- that’s not what is important. The spirit and example you are teaching your children is priceless. If you are afraid you might forget throughout your already busy and hectic day- set a timer on your phone, change carpool time to ponderizing time, or have your children remind you. If you are passionate about ponderizing, you will make it a priority.

I am so grateful for the scriptures and the guidance they have given me. I am excited to share this joy with my family!

Happy PONDERIZING!!!

STEAM Summer Camps

Happy Summer everyone! I am so excited to have lots of time to hang out with my #1 kid before she heads off to first grade (and all day school! eeks!) I like to have a lot of summer plans to avoid lots of down time (aka TV time). steam I will be honest- as a teacher mom I have been frustrated with the lack of differentiated curriculum and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) learning in our schools. So I have taken it upon myself to provide my daughter with more extensive activities based on these areas and her interests and abilities. I was introduced to Core Knowledge by my sister and a colleague and knew it was a curriculum I wanted to integrate into our activities as well. Core Knowledge is a comprehensive curriculum that builds on the knowledge of previous years. I took some units from this program, tied them in with STEAM, and came up with this summer camp program. I am really excited about it!

The basis of this program is to provide my daughter with activities in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM). Every week we will be experimenting with Science on Saturdays. There will also be a weekly Engineering Challenge. The majority of our STEAM learning however will be from learning camps we will have on Thursdays and Fridays. I have a lot of science camps planned (based on content from Core Knowledge and my daughter’s interests) as well as Art, Music, and Math camps. Each camp has different ways you can integrate STEAM. For example, the Rock Camp will not only teach kids the science behind the rock groups, but have ways to incorporate technology, engineering, art, and math into your lessons.

Here is our weekly plan:

Make Something STEAMy Monday: (art project/fun treat/iMovie/etc) centered around STEAM

Take a Trip Tuesday: a day we can take a STEAM centered field trip

Wednesday: Worksheet (I just had to sneak in one day of paper and pencil work) and work on an Engineering Challenge. I made a letter template so the challenges could be done with friends who live far away.

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Engineering Challenge idea

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STEAM Engineering Challenge Letter template

Thursday and Friday: STEAM camp

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Sample STEAM camp idea sheet

Science Saturday with Daddy

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Science Saturday ideas

I am uploading my plans on Teachers Pay Teachers. Feel free to download and let me know what you think! There are also lots of STEAM based activities that can be found in many communities. Check your local library… many libraries will have science activities that go along with their summer reading programs. I also know of communities that have “Arts in the Park” or “Science in the Park” activities. If you live in the Salt Lake area, The Leonardo Museum downtown will be opening up some children exhibits in a few weeks based on STEAM learning…. I am thrilled!!!! And if all else fails, host your own camps! Your neighbors will love you 🙂

Happy STEAMing!

Alphabet Book: Free Printable

A couple years ago I had a Book Themed Baby Shower for my sister in law. I have been getting a lot of people requesting the pdf of the ABC book I made (THANKS!) and thought I would share it with you all in a post.

This is a printable that you can use to make any type of alphabet book- its not just for baby showers! Imagine the possibilities- “The ABC’s of Our Family” with all family members picking a letter (or two) and writing a word that starts with that letter to describe their family. Wouldn’t that be such a fun family night activity? If you are a teacher you could use this pdf to make class books such as “Animal ABCs”, “ABCs of Reading (or Math, Science, any subject!)”, or “26 Reasons Our Class Shines- Our Classroom Alphabet Book”. Seriously the possibilities are endless!

Feel free to download our ABC pages– Enjoy and Happy Teaching!

8 Family Friendly Black Friday Activities

Watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with my family and I thought I would quickly post some of our non-shopping ideas for Black Friday tomorrow. I know most people love the bargains and the mad rush of running from store to store… but our little family plans on staying in our nice quiet home and will try to avoid the stores for the next few days :).  So for the past few days I have been brainstorming some different activities we could do that would not only officially kick off the Christmas season but also have fun with the “black” theme.

This is what I have come up with so far:

  1. Black Jack Friday: Instead of rolling the dice with what good deals you might be lucky enough to grab, have a game day with the family instead. Pull out all the card games/ board games, pop some popcorn, and just enjoy being together!  
  2. Black Board Friday: Take advantage of this day off from school to play school together. Have little lessons on the value of a dollar, advertising, etc for older kids- or for the little kids have a day celebrating the color black. And of course you don’t have to focus on Black Friday for your learning day- you can also use this time to reinforce/review/enhance skills your child is learning at school.
  3. Black Bag Donations: Grab a black sack (or cardboard boxes) and clean out your house with toys and clothes in good condition your children have outgrown that could be donated to those in need. I love the idea of totally switching gears and turning the shopping madness into a day of giving to others. 
  4. Black Bites: Create a menu of black foods to nibble on throughout Friday. Black licorice, black velvet cake, black berries, olives, and black rice just to name a few!
  5. Play Store: Have your kiddos set up some merchandise (aka run through the house and grab toys, books, etc), find or make some play money, grab a toy shopping cart or basket and a cash register and you are ready to go! For an extra twist have your kids make their own ads- this would be a great writing and art activity. 
  6. North Pole Breakfast: This idea has been floating around the internet for awhile. Have a special breakfast with the family to kick off the holiday season. This is the time we bring back our Elf on the Shelf (although ours is a reindeer).
  7. Decorate for Christmas! For those that decorate for Thanksgiving, Black Friday is the perfect day to set up the tree and enjoy Christmas decorations after the famous day of gratitude.
  8. Black Friday Math: Toddler Approved came up with this WONDERFUL math activity you can do with your kids using your stack of Black Friday ads. Check out her site for more information!
If you do decide to go shopping on Black Friday- be safe! And if you plan on staying home I hope this list helps you to plan a fun family day.
Happy Teaching!

20 Super Fun Holiday Events for Northern Utah

Christmas is on its way! While this is the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be very stressful. I have spent many hours scouring the web not only for good bargains on gifts but also for some fun local holiday events. As I am typing this post I have 10 tabs open with different holiday calendars. I was hoping someone else would make a great condensed list for me but alas I feel this is my Christmas responsibility to make this for you all!(Although this list from Enjoy Utah was VERY informative) And if you don’t happen to live in Northern Utah- don’t worry, maybe this list will guide you in finding activities in your community.
I am including a few Salt Lake County events that I thought some of you might enjoy!

  1. Layton City Christmas Lights starting November 25. Enjoy a free hay ride through the lights Wednesday December 11 from 6pm to 8pm.
  2. Temple Square Not only can you go see the lights, but there are several events such as Savior of the World, Mormon Tabernacle Christmas Concert, and the Christmas Devotional. Consider yourself blessed if you are able to get tickets to any of those events! November 29- December 31.
  3. North Pole Express at Heber Valley A pricey train ride but might be worth the trip if you have a train lover in your family! November 29-December 24
  4. Ogden Christmas Village Enjoy a holiday parade/opening ceremonies November 30 at 5:30 pm. If you can’t make it Saturday- don’t worry, this event is up until January 1. And visit Santa at the village Monday-Saturday nights!
  5. Weber County Winter Holiday Festival November 30 from 11am to 8pm. Enjoy holiday displays, a live nativity, music, treats, and more!
  6. Zoo Lights Visit Hogle Zoo at night for a spectacular light display! November 30- December 31
  7. Live Nativity I have never been to one before- I think this is a great way to bring in the Christmas spirit! The one I linked is December 4 from 6:00pm to 9:00pm but you can find them in most any community.
  8. Festival of Trees December 4-7 from 10:00am to 10:00pm.
  9. Holiday Open House at the Ogden Nature Center December 7, 9:00am to 4:00pm. Free admission as well as local crafts/bake sale and activities for the kids. There is also a fun educational program called Snow, Snow, Snow at the Ogden Nature Center where you can learn how animals adapt, travel, and hide in the snow on December 18 from 3:45pm to 4:15pm.
  10. French Toast with Santa on Monday December 9 from 5pm to 7pm at all Utah Kneaders. Proceeds go to Primary Children’s Hospital. (If you don’t mind spending more money Layton has a Breakfast with Santa on December 14.)
  11. Candlelight Christmas at This is The Place State Park December 9-23 Monday-Saturday evenings.
  12. Dickens Christmas Festival December 11- December 14.
  13. An Old Fashioned Family Holiday in South Ogden Chili dinner, tree lighting with the Mayor, and pics with Santa.  December 14 from 6:00pm-8:00pm.
  14. Here Comes Santa Claus Christmas concert performed by the Utah Symphony. December 17th at 7:00 pm.
  15. Santa on a Firetruck: A few cities have the privilege of watching Santa drive down the street on a firetruck. We happen to live in one of those lucky cities!
  16. Holiday TV Shows Planning on staying at home most of the holiday season? This is the list for you!
  17. Nutcracker This is put on by several ballet companies. While I plan on one day taking my daughter to the Ballet West production, we will settle for the Julie Moffitt Ballet School. We went last year and loved it.
  18. Community Plays: White Christmas, Christmas Carol, Littlest Angel at Centerville Theater, Twas the Night Before Christmas at the Ziegfeld Theater in Ogden, Forgotten Carols shown all over Utah and surrounding states, Babes in Toyland put on by the Utah Children’s Theater, and the 12 Days of Christmas at the Empress Theater in Magna just to name a few.
  19. Carriage Ride in Salt Lake or a Horse Drawn Sleigh Ride in Cache County.
  20. Peery’s Egyptian Theater So many fun events- like Brenn Hill’s Cowboy Christmas.
  21. If you are a member of the Treehouse Museum in Ogden, then you can attend the Santa’s Cookies and Milk party on December 7th or 9th.
  22. Centerville City has their Festival of Lights at Founders Park Monday December 2 with a special visit from St Nick himself!
  23. Bountiful has a Holiday Light Parade on Saturday December 7 starting at 6:00pm.
  24. Breakfast with Santa at the Clearfield Aquatic Center- fun activities for kids including an open plunge in their pools!
  25. Kaysville City has their Holiday Lighting and Electric Parade Monday December 2 at 6:00pm.
  26. Come see Santa light up the night at Farmington Station December 29 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm. Or have breakfast with Santa December 7 from 9:00am to 11:00am at the Harmons located at the Station.
Have fun planning your holiday activities this year.
As always- Happy Teaching!

Fall Bucket/Tree List

Just a quick post to show you our fall bucket list this year. I thought it would be fun to have our list on the wall so I could see all our activities. I like the idea of randomly pulling out a popsicle stick but I am too much of a planner to leave our day up to chance. 🙂

And when we complete an activity- my daughter can take the leaf off the tree and place it in a bucket! Just imagine all the teacher-ish questions I can ask her..”We just took three leaves down. How many leaves are left?” or “Are the number of leaves that are still on the tree greater or less than the number of leaves in the bucket?” and then there are all the science applications of why real leaves change color and fall… oh the educational opportunities excite my soul!

We can see our bucket list leaves falling just like the real leaves outside! And when fall is over-we can reuse the tree for our winter/spring//summer bucket lists. I just love this!!

Our tree is in our craft/school room

Happy Teaching!

Our Lego Day PLUS free Lego book template

A couple months ago my daughter and some fun playing and learning with Legos. I thought I would share with you some of our engaging educational activities!

1. Add with legos. Count the circles on top of two 2×2 lego bricks. The answer will fit on top of a flat 2×4 brick! Good hands on addition fun PLUS its easy for kids to visualize that there are multiple ways of getting one sum by just using different sizes of bricks.

2.Alphabatize lego blocks. I put little alphabet stickers on 26 legos and had my daughter make an ABC stick placing the blocks in alphabetical order.

3. Create with legos. We just had fun building dinosaur caves. This was strictly a play activity :).

4. Measure with legos! Make a “ruler” out of lego blocks and run around the house measuring in legos instead of inches.

5. And our last- and my personal favorite- activity was making our own Lego book. I scoured the web for a cute lego template and couldn’t find any. So I made my own :). And I have to say that I kinda like it!


Download the template for our printable book and have fun creating a lego book!

I hope this helps you have fun learning with legos! Happy Teaching!

Our Disneyland Adventure (with printables)


Our little family recently had the opportunity to take a family trip to Disneyland. It was the first time my daughter had the chance to go, so I wanted to make it memorable! Here are a few of the things that we did to get the most out of our Disney experience.
1. Mickey Clock Sacks: 

To make our car trip more exciting (because we all know how exciting it is to be sitting in the car for 12 hours) I decided to make special clock sacks. Each of the sacks had a different treat, activity, or dollar store toy. We got to open the sacks at the time shown on each of the bags. And I couldn’t just use a round clock face. Of course it had to be Disney-ish! So I came up with this cute little clock face:

This worked well educationally since we are working on telling time with my daughter.  I was able to find cheap disney toys at the Dollar Tree, and I used a bunch of Halloween candy that we still had.

2. Tinkerbell’s Surprise
Tinkerbell left a little gift for my daughter when we got to the hotel. I heard from an unknown source that this fairy found all the little toy surprises from the Dollar Tree and the dollar bin at Michaels. She’s a smart shopper! Having these surprises from Tinkerbell meant less money in the park buying souvenirs.

3. Disneyland Vacation Journal
I wanted my daughter to document everything about our trip… I want her to remember as much as possible! I came up with some pages for a special Disneyland Vacation Journal. This journal has space for a daily run down of events, weather report, ride recommendations, a happy face/frown face evaluation of each ride, and SO MUCH MORE. I printed these pages on card stock because I wanted the pages to be sturdy enough for me to glue ticket stubs, maps, and pictures. 
The finished product is a precious scrapbook of our entire vacation! I thought I would share our printables- just click on the image then save it to your desktop! I didn’t include the cover because there was Mickey Mouse clipart and I didn’t want to break any copyright laws.

This is a great map to use for the license plate game!

4. Homemade Autograph Book
I know Disneyland sells darling autograph books… but I wanted to make a special one just for my little girl! We were able to find a ginormous Mickey Mouse pen for a dollar at Michaels and had the characters use that to sign the book.

5. Mickey Mouse Trip Check lists
Its all about the small details. Instead of using boxes for our check lists, I used blank little mickey mouse ears. And yes I had 5 different lists! We had a Shopping List for supplies prior to our trip, a Road Trip list of things we needed to pack with easy access for our long journey, a Vacation Packing list that included the basic necessities for any California trip, a Disneyland Park Packing list, and a general “To Do” list. One of the smartest things we did was to pack a Disneyland backpack with all the park necessities prior to leaving on our vacation. We didn’t have to worry about getting anything ready for the park while we were at the hotel because it was already done!
If you want a copy, just click and save the following lists to your desktop:

Other great tips:

  • bring a lanyard with a pocket to hold your fast passes
  • don’t bend down and pick up your 5 year old the wrong way and mess up your back so you walk around like an 80 year old for the entire duration of your visit
  • bring lots of snacks! we munched on a lot of peanut butter sandwiches, fruit snacks, granola bars, and beef jerky
  • don’t forget to bring pennies and quarters for the souvenir penny pressing machines
  • plan on purchasing souvenirs the last day of your vacation- it gives your child a longer time to think about what they really want and will save you money
  • buy glow sticks and rain ponchos (a must have for Splash Mountain) from the Dollar Tree- a lot cheaper than purchasing them in the park

Happy Teaching!

Ned

I hate cancer.

The morning of October 28th we were eating breakfast at the kitchen table when my husband received a text that changed our lives. We found out that my father in law, Ned, was in the hospital. He had been acting confused and was having a difficult time speaking. My heart sunk. In the back of my mind I was hoping and praying that it was a minor stroke… it couldn’t be anything too bad, after all he only 59 years old and so healthy.

My favorite picture of Ned with my daughter

We rushed to the hospital. When I saw Ned’s wife Shirley I knew it was bad. My heart sunk even further. She encouraged us to go back into the small ER room and try to hold a conversation with him. I remember seeing his face- misshapen from brain swelling. He knew us- he answered our questions. I tried to be happy and positive but he was different and that was so hard for me to come to grips with. A few hours after we arrived, Ned was moved to a hospital room. It was in that room that we got the official diagnosis “stage 4 brain and lung cancer”.  We later learned that it was metastatic melanoma. I remember watching Ned’s face as we heard the news. The sadness was overwhelming in his expression. I watched as my stoic unemotional husband put his head in his hands and cry. Words of encouragement were whispered in between tears. Ned was given a blessing at the hospital… the only thing I remember hearing is that this was not his time to go… that he was needed here. The Lord had different plans for Ned.

The days and weeks that followed were a blur… I couldn’t believe that such a healthy, vivacious person could have cancer. I watched as cancer and the various treatments took things away from Ned- his hair, his appetite, his energy.  I researched online about metastatic melanoma and sobbed. I had come to the realization of the potential prognosis we were facing. But I was so, SO hopeful. We all were… cancer just couldn’t take our Ned away from us.

The evening of December 30th we had a family meeting. Ned and Shirley told us that he had 6 months but they were praying for a miracle. This was the first time we as a family discussed the inevitable death. It was so uncomfortable and hard. Nobody wanted this outcome.

The night we heard the prognosis

We plowed along in our cancer journey. There were good days and bad days. Days when Ned would seem more like his old self. Aaron decided he wanted to do something really special for his dad and came up with the idea to fold 1,000 paper cranes. It is said that if you do this you are granted a wish. Of course his wish was for his dad to beat this cancer.

Spending time with Ned

My husband was going to be speaking at a Linux conference in California and my daughter and I had planned to go along and play at Disneyland. I used my trip planning as therapy to help me cope with the heartache of everything that was going on with Ned.  5 days before we were supposed to leave for our trip the reality of this ugly cancer entered our unprepared hearts.

Ned had collapsed by his car the morning of February 12. Aaron told me to get to the hospital as soon as I could. I quietly cried the whole way there. I met up with Aaron at the hospital entrance and we quickly went to ER. I remember seeing Logan, Aaron’s youngest brother. I could tell by his eyes that the news was bad. We were told that it was time to say our goodbyes.  I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to someone I loved so much. Even though we knew this was the outcome of this cancer I still felt completely blindsided. Aaron was on the phone with his mom just sobbing. I heard him try to tell her to come to the hospital because his dad wasn’t going to make it. I hugged him and realized that I was going to have to be strong for him. In the middle of all this my cute little daughter was asking me when Grandpa Ned was going to wake up and tell her “hi honey”. Just when you think your heart can’t hurt anymore you find out you were so wrong… It seemed so unfair to me that my little girl would grow up and not remember this wonderful man that loved her so much.

A small miracle happened that night however… his heart stabilized. It looked like he was going to be with us for another couple months. I was so relieved but so emotionally exhausted. After debating on whether or not we should go on our trip, we decided it would be best for us to go. We needed some rejuvenation.

Playing Valentine games in the hospital waiting room with Grandma Shirley

When we got back Aaron was immediately there for his dad. He was able to work from his house twice a week. He sat next to him on the couch and watched countless episodes of family feud. I brought my Boo over as much as our schedule permitted… I wanted to be there with him. But at the same time it was still so hard for me to see him like that. One day that we came to sit with him I brought my camera and asked him to share some advice for his family. I told him that this would be the first of many videos I was planning on doing. It ended up being the only one. I had no idea at the time that he had just 12 more days with us.

March 2 was a beautiful day for us… the one great thing that comes out of these hard trials is the overwhelming generosity and the outpouring of love from others. A very special organization, Anything for a Friend, held a large fundraiser/dinner that celebrated Ned’s life. In fact I was in charge of putting together a slideshow of Ned. Every time I sat down at the computer to work on it I burst into tears. I saw so many pictures of him healthy and happy and it broke my heart because I missed that Ned so deeply. I saw in pictures how cancer had changed his appearance so quickly. I spent so many emotional nights working on that movie and I am so thankful that I had that opportunity. I felt like I was being productive and helpful and it allowed me to do something for Ned to show him how much he means to me.  It was so humbling to see so many people come out to show their love and support. My daughter told an old friend of ours that she was going to try really hard to make friends so one day she would have as many as Grandpa Ned.

Ned at his Anything For a Friend event

5 days later, March 7, we got another text that we needed to go see Ned. He was losing his speech and motor skills. When we got there I saw him sitting in a recliner in his bedroom. He was so frail.  It was so painful to watch him change as the cancer spread. Near the end of his life things we take for granted- walking across a room, talking, eating.. had become so hard for him.  After that we went up to his house every day. Aaron spent most nights up there too, since Ned needed a lot of help at night. We watched Silverado- an old western- a lot. Aaron worked hard on folding cranes. He knew we didn’t have much time.

Sunday, March 10  we had a family gathering at Ned’s house. All of Ned’s six kids were there as well as his brother,  some aunts and cousins. Aaron was able to finish the cranes and hung them up next to Ned, who acknowledged them by pointing at the finished product.

1,000 paper cranes

I remember at one moment he woke up, looked at me, and reached out his hand. I didn’t know what or who he wanted but I jumped up and came and held his hand. I was there holding his hand when his brother Rick came over. I couldn’t hold back the tears as I heard this tough man tell his younger brother “Hey buddy. Mom and Dad are waiting for you and welcoming you with open arms. You fulfilled your mission here.”

It was a very emotional and spiritual experience as we sat around Ned’s recliner and listened as some shared their love of Ned and their testimonies of eternal families. This was another moment where I listened to Aaron sob. It was a beautiful, raw emotion hearing him speak about his dad being his best friend and how much he was going to miss him. He also said that he knew his dad was going to be busy on the other side and that he knew this church was true. My daughter rushed up to whoever was crying the loudest and gave them a hug. She told us all that she wished she brought Stuffy, her stuffed dragon, because Stuffy always makes her feel better when she is crying.

Aaron was able to give his dad a blessing that night. It was touching to watch and absolutely beautiful to hear. He cried bestowing the blessings of comfort, peace, and no pain. He blessed that Ned would be alert to the end, that the departure would not be scary, and that he had nothing to worry about on the other side, or about those of us he was leaving behind. In his blessing Aaron also expressed to his dad the love we have for him and how much he was going to be missed.

Monday, March 11, Ned passed away after a courageous battle with cancer. It seems so weird that I am writing those words… like it couldn’t of really happened. I just can’t believe it. I don’t want to believe it.

We knew what the outcome of this cancer battle would be and we tried to prepare ourselves. But you are never prepared for a loss like this. After the viewing and funeral were over- and we were back at home- I realized the void that was now part of our lives. I try to fill the void with tears. Amidst all this sadness I have come to be so grateful for the wonderful memories I have of this great man. He took advantage of every opportunity- he never wasted a moment to work on a project or help out a friend. He magnified and excelled in his callings at church, especially with the scouts. He loved my daughter immensely and that meant so much to me. I am also grateful that with everything that cancer took, that it never took his mind- he was mentally there with us until the end. It also didn’t take his determination.

I know that there are still rough moments ahead of us. There will be difficult times when the ache seems unbearable. I am hoping for the time when I can go to a scout meeting and not feel like crying, or watch a grandpa play with his grandkids and not burst into tears. Until then I am reminded of the words that became a theme for Ned’s fundraiser:

Together We Can Do Hard Things
Our family right after Ned’s diagnosis

We CAN learn to cope with such a deep loss. We CAN use this experience to strengthen our testimonies and try that much harder to make those choices that will reunite us as an eternal family. Together, as a family, we can do this hard thing.

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