Category Archives: faith & family

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!


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.

Little People Nativity Scavenger Hunt

I bought this darling Little People Nativity on sale last October (as in over a year ago) and completely forgot about it. So of course when I pulled it out this year I knew I had to do something special with it. This is what I came up with:
Little People Nativity Scavenger Hunt


We started our FHE by recalling prior knowledge about why we celebrate Christmas. My daughter’s response was along the lines of “so we don’t get bored”. Yes, we needed a nativity lesson!!! After talking about why we celebrate Christmas, I told her we were going to go on a scavenger hunt to find different things that will tell us more about the story of Jesus’ birth. I had her captivated. Mission accomplished.

Each object had a corresponding scripture, song, or poem on a strip of paper. On the back of the paper I wrote where to go to find the next object.


We used the piano bench as our “base”- each time we found a piece to the Nativity we ran it there so we could act out that part in the story.

The objects were hidden in the order they appear in the story of the birth of Christ or where I thought they would appear. I loved the idea of starting at the beginning and acting out the story with the Little People.


don’t forget to have your kiddos have Mary, Joseph, and the donkey walking to Bethlehem before finding the next clue!



the Little People nativity is perfect for this- if you press on the stable it plays Away in a Manger- then you can just sing along!


so our nativity didn’t come with a shepherd, hence the cowboy playing the part. do i get points for creativity?




it just so happened that we ended our story with an animal my daughter has always wanted. it was perfect!

My daughter is absolutely, without a doubt, is IN LOVE with the Nativity story. Sure, a big part of that is because animals were involved.

She calls Bethlehem her “world” and had to take it to bed with her. I knew it was a victory when she later told me she wanted to play with her nativity instead of going to the dinosaur park ( a place that she loves very much).

I hope this helps you make the story of the nativity come alive for your kids! And of course, if you don’t have a Little People nativity, you could use one that you already have…. or print the pics on this post.


Happy Teaching and Merry Christmas!

General Conference Cups

This weekend is General Conference for my church and we are so excited! And how are we going to keep our little daughter entertained during four 2 hour sessions of spiritual speakers? Well, honestly we won’t get her to sit still for THAT long- but I thought this idea would help!

The basic idea is that every time a speaker says a word (or discusses a topic), you get a treat from the cup. I plan on filling my cups with small treats such as skittles, tootsie rolls, and other dollar store candy. I doubt that I will start with all ten cups- so we will most likely use different ones for each session. I LOVED the idea of using clear plastic cups because (a) they are CHEAP and (b) I have the advantage of taping the categories inside the cup which protects the paper and gives it a semi-professional look.The topics are things that I felt my family and I needed to hear: love, scriptures/book of mormon, family, temples, Jesus Christ, prayer, prophets, faith, and gratitude. And my daughter wanted to learn more about being kind and obeying. Yay for that topic!!! You could also add in other topics as well- such as sacrament, Holy Ghost, fasting, humility, tithing, or modesty.

This cup idea can easily be applied to other areas- you could choose a few different vocabulary words and every time you hear that word in conversation you get a treat. Or use it while watching an educational movie with key words written on the cups. Or use them during FHE while reading the lesson or talks from the Ensign.

Happy Teaching!

Tithing Box Printable

First of all, I am the BIGGEST BLOGGING slacker! Oh my heavens!!!!
Second, my husband and I substituted in my daughter’s church class today. Our lesson was on tithing, and can you believe it- I couldn’t find an easy printable box online anywhere. And we had like 3 hours until church. (I am spreading my slacking skills onto lesson preparation as well. 🙂 ) I created this simple box that I thought I would share with you all! (Just right click and save image- then enjoy!)

One word of advice- don’t mess with gluing the tabs together- save yourself time and mental sanity by just scotch taping the sides together. I promise it is so much easier!

Only problem- there is no easy way to get the tithing money out, you’ll just have to shake the box until it comes out. It’s not a perfect solution, but its an easy one!
Happy Teaching!

June 2012 Holiday Calendar

There are some fun days coming up in June! Here is a calendar with a bunch of cool and crazy holidays to celebrate with your kids and family. Just right click on the image to save it to your desktop!

The goal: print this off NOW, choose the holidays that will be fun for my family, and prepare ahead for the celebratory activities… then sit back and bask in the glory of being a fun mom!
Reality: I will be staying up late the night before to throw something together for the day. 🙂

Some crazy May holidays are coming up-
May 25: National Tap Dance Day
May 26: Blueberry Cheesecake Day
May 28: Memorial Day (Observed)
May 29: Paper Clip Day
May 30: Hole in my Bucket Day (Just the thought of hearing the song “There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza” is giving me a headache!)

Happy Teaching!

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