How to Raise a GREAT Citizen

September 14, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country…”

-President John F Kennedy

Make community service a top priority. There are numerous ways to involve your family in community service. Community service projects do not need to take an extreme amount of time or empty your pocketbook. There are wonderful websites to put you in the right direction: The Volunteer Family, The United Way, U-Can-Do, and many more. Ask your local church group, library, senior center or school if they are in need of any help.

Golden Rule Treat others with respect and dignity, the way they would like to be treated. Teach them to care and have empathy for those around them.

Following Rules Teach them to follow the rules of your home, their school and society. Make sure they know what their responsibilities are as a citizen of their country.

Environment As a family, talk about what you can do to help take care of our earth in order to leave it better than when we arrived!

Leadership Teach your children by example that sometimes it takes courage to be a leader but that you care about fighting unfair laws, improving current conditions, and seeking equality and tolerance for everyone.

Education Read stories about different cultures, community service in the news, and civil right books.  Explore with your children issues going on in your community and nation. Teach them of our wonderful forefathers who fought for our freedom.

Raise them to be PROUD to be an American!

What do you think the keys are to raise a great citizen?


September 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 


What counts for 25% of most households’ electricity consumption? Your refrigerator. So, of course, you are going to want to make sure you are running it the most efficient way that you can!

1. Be Organized–You waste time and energy with keeping the door open while trying to find something in your messy fridge. I have to admit that I am horrible with this, which is why I tidy up my fridge one day a week.  If I didn’t, it would be scary! Up to 30% of the cool air in the fridge escapes every time you open the door, which is quite a bit!  Be quick when you get something out!

2. Going on Vacation–Usually we think of going through our fridge before a vacation so nothing spoils, but it turns out the emptier the fridge, the better. You can turn down the power or even turn it off entirely.

3. Clean Yearly—By keeping the coils in the back of your fridge dust free it makes your fridge 30% more efficient!

4. Wait for Food to Cool–If you wait for the food to cool before putting it in the fridge and make sure it’s covered, it means less energy is used from the fridge to cool it!

5. Check the Door Seal– Try this great test I found online, “By putting a piece of paper in the door you can check your door’s seal! If it slips out when the door’s closed, you may need to change the seal and/or door magnets, to stop cool air from escaping.”

Now we can all get to work on checking our fridges!

Plant A Tree Together

August 14, 2009 by · 6 Comments 

I have a new favorite book I purchased from The Land of Nod. It is A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry and Marc Simont.


“Trees are beautiful. They fill up the sky. If you have a tree, you can climb up its trunk, roll in its leaves, or hang a swing from one of its limbs. Cows and babies can nap in the shade of a tree. Birds can make nests in the branches. A tree is good to have around. A tree is nice.”

My favorite illustration is the black and white one of the boy fishing surrounded by trees. He looks so relaxed and at peace surrounded by the beautiful trees. When I think of my relationship with trees a similar picture comes to mind.

You can also purchase it through

Family Activity Ideas

  • Read this book and have family drawing time where you draw your relationship with trees or a tree.
  • Go outdoors with a field guide to explore different kinds of trees and teach your children the importance of trees.
  • Spend some time drawing, reading, talking, resting, playing around the trees.
  • Find a place where you and your family can plant a tree!

The Arbor Day Foundation is a great site to do a little research and planning before having your tree family activity.

Cooking Techniques

August 5, 2009 by · 1 Comment 


You can simply and easily reduce your carbon footprint, save money on your power bill and teach your kids through example how to help the earth just by tweaking your cooking techniques a bit!

Did you know:

  • Choose the right size pan for cooking and keep the lid on for most of the cooking process to reduce energy use by up to 90%.
  • Cook in batches! Plan out your family’s meals and prepare enough for several meals. Just freeze, refrigerate or dehydrate the remaining portions. It will use up less energy and make preparing meals for your family quite a bit easier!
  • Cook several items on top of each other in a stacked steamer to get the most out of the energy you use.
  • Try one-dish meals; they are easier for you but also use about a third of the energy than cooking a meal using tons of different pans. This means you can feel good about cooking a pot of diry rice, casserole, paella, etc. and also have less cleanup!
  • Stop checking! You waste heat and energy every time you open up the stove or crockpot to take a peek.
  • Don’t preheat the oven when it’s not required. For some recipes it is critical you do this but for manyyou don’t need to.
  • Stay away from prepackaged meals. Most of the time they aren’t terribly tasty and lack nutrients and fresh ingredients. Instead have a short list of go-to meals you know you have the ingredients for and are easy to cook.

For example, in my home we like to roast a large amount of butternut squash and use some of it that day, refrigerate some for the rest of the week and freeze the rest for the remaining month. We make butternut squash ravioli, lasagna, pancakes and even layer it in a sandwich in place of cheese. This makes putting together my family’s meals so much easier and also saves a lot of energy!

Crafting for Service

July 10, 2009 by · 12 Comments 

Crafting as a family and sending your treasures off to those who really need them would be the perfect family activity this week. Even though the holidays are still over five months away, there is no better time than the present to do something good for someone else.


Here are just a few of the projects going on that I know about:

1. Mama to Mama always has wonderful projects, the most recent one being Caps to Caps-Haitian. Right now they’re on the lookout for a new project; if you have any ideas feel free to submit them!

2. If you don’t have a family that would necessarily enjoy crafting have them collect things of need from family members, friends, community members, etc. You can have your family collect books for Books for Africa or collect shoes for Green Eyes in Africa.

3. Find out what is going on around you locally. You can visit Utah Cares’ volunteer page and browse available opportunities in your area.

Our Special Place

July 1, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Travel on this road for miles and miles into the hills and mountains until the road ends.


This is where we stop to get ready for “exploring” as we call it.


Are you ready?


We listen to the animals hidden in here:


Stop and listen the sounds of this:


And when this happens…


…we dance around in it for a bit! (Unfortunately, Mom didn’t get the best picture of us dancing.)


Then we run to the car to eat our “exploring” treat:


What could be better than that?

Don’t forget to spend time together in nature today!

I will give a huge high-five to anyone who can guess the correct location of our “Secret Spot.” I want to see if it’s really all that secret!

Where is your family’s special spot in nature?

Working as a Family

June 19, 2009 by · 4 Comments 

The publication Seeing the Everday had a fabulous feature on the importance of working with your children. One of my fondest memories growing is up is spending time with my father every Saturday morning working together as a family and then playing together as a family in the afternoon. He took time every single Saturday morning to help us come together as a family and teach us the joy of working together.

seeing-the-everyday-logoHere are some wonderful things I learned from the article “Families Work” by Kathleen Slaugh Bahr and Cheri A. Loveless:

006-9~Exemplifying the Attitudes We Want Our Children to Have: They talk about the importance of honoring family work so our children will feel the same way about it.

~Refusing Technology That Interferes With Togetherness: Think about what you will lose (the joy of chopping vegetables together, talking while hand-drying dishes, etc.) with modern technology.

~Insisting Gently That Children Help: They talk about the temptation in our busy lives to do all the work ourselves and also the temptation to give children only jobs to clean up the messes they’ve made. “When you structure work this way you can shortchange yourself by minimizing the potential for growing together which comes from doing the work for and with each other.”

~Avoiding a Business Mentality at Home: We can over organize and get caught in the trap that children cannot work without motivation, supervision or receiving a payment. They say, “Rather, family work should be directed with the wisdom of a mentor who knows intimately both the task and the student, who appreciates both the limits and possibilities of any given moment.”

I have never thought of family work in this light, have you?

What have you learned from their points?

Sarah Snow’s Fresh Living

June 3, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

sarahsnowWhen we were on vacation a few weeks ago I picked up Sara Snow’s Fresh Living and read it in one day. It felt good to sit down and really dive into a book! I guess I will have to just go on another vacation if I ever want to finish a book again.

I learned a tremendous amount in this book, had many “ah ha!” moments and patted myself on the back a couple times.

For instance, Sara writes a lot about nurseries (maybe she was baby hungry while writing this book; now she would have the cutest baby!) and how to make sure they don’t have harmful chemicals. She writes about how important it is to watch what chemicals we put into, rub on, put around our new babies and that their bodies are so tiny and fragile you need to be even more aware and careful of everything.

For a healthy environment, do any redecorating, furnishing, and cleaning at least one month before you bring your baby home. If that’s impossible, let your baby sleep in a bassinet in your room while the new furnishings for her room off-gas elsewhere.

With baby #1 I painted her room right before she was born and gave the room a scrub down with an array of chemicals. Thank goodness she slept with me instead of in her room at first! And with baby #2 I knew better. She goes into even more detail about popular baby products, from baby wipes to baby powder.

The importance of factoring in the kids when deciding to go organic or not reaffirmed my decision. Sara puts it in such a great way:

All of this becomes particularly important when you recognize that kids eat, per pound of body weight, more food than adults every day. Plus their variety is limited. So when a child eats a food that contains residues, the dose they receive is much higher than the dose you or I might get from the same food. Couple that with the fact that children’s bodies don’t have the ability to metabolize chemicals as quickly or as completely as adults do, so the chemicals remain in kids longer, posing greater risks.

Sara comes off in such a caring, soft, non-judgemental teacher in this book. Her personal experiences and the way she shares how she grew up are so interesting and educational. I cannot wait till she writes another book. This is definitely one you need to check out!

Teaching Gratitude

April 27, 2009 by · 6 Comments 


united-way-color-8The number one way my parents taught us gratitude was by volunteering for our community. We volunteered as a family doing everything from Sub for Santa to cleaning up homes after a flood.

If your children are old enough to join (or start!) a Community Service Club then sign them up! In different schools I participated in various activities such as organizing an Easter egg hunt for orphanages and throwing a Halloween bash for the children at a battered women’s shelter.

One year we were having a hard time deciding with whom to spend Thanksgiving so instead of arguing about it, I signed us up to help with Thanksgiving dinner at a whole homeless shelter. (It was more work than I had planned, and I was not the best cook back then so I should probably host a re-do when my kids are older!)

My children are too young to help with most of these activities but not too young for some of these ideas:

  • Have your children go through their toys and donate them to a shelter.
  • Host a huge birthday party and suggest they give their presents to charity.
  • Teach them DAILY gratitude whether you do it through prayer, around the dinner table or right before bed. Get your children in the habit of sshowing gratitude for the people and things around them on a daily basis.
  • Thank your children! It will teach them to be polite, make them feel appreciated and they will follow your example and thank others.
  • Help them write thank-you notes. I was a little scared of my Grandmother…Whenever the phone rang and it was Grandma calling, my first thought was, “Crap, did I forget to send a thank-you note to Grandma for something?” It was one of her biggest pet peeves. Always send a handwritten thank-you note!Amanda Blake Soule, author of The Creative Family, gave a great tip for thank-you cards for those with young children: Sit down one day with blank card stock, have them decorate the fronts and use that as your stationary for thank-you cards. When your child is old enough, have him join in helping you decide what to write inside the card.
  • Focus on one alphabet letter a day and have your child color a picture of something she is thankful for that begins with that letter. Use a wire or fishing line and display each one!

Here are my favorite resources for those of you who live in Utah for finding volunteer events:

United Way of Utah County

United Way of Salt Lake

Helping to End Childhood Hunger

April 22, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

The following post is an interview I did with 10-year-old Katie, who is sharing with us her experience of helping end childhood hunger. She wanted to share this in hopes you would follow in her footsteps using her fantastic ideas. Be sure to give her a warm welcome; she is an amazing young lady!

How did you first get involved in the fight against childhood hunger?

I first got involved with the fight against hunger when I received my cabbage seedling from a third-grade cabbage program with Bonnie Plants. I planted my seedling, cared for it and it grew and grew and grew.  When it was done growing it weighed 40 pounds.  It was huge!  My mom called Fields to Families and they helped us find a perfect home for my cabbage: Tri County Family Ministries.  I brought it there and it fed 275 people.  They let me serve my cabbage and it was so great to see what my cabbage did.  People thanked me and it made me feel so good.  For that one day I made a big difference in the lives of 275 people and I was only 9 years old.  I had the idea that I could do more and help more people.

Can you tell us more about your fundraising efforts and garden?

I found a very creative way to launch my dream and start  gardens. I entered the Amazing Kids! Launch My Dream! t-shirt design contest. You can see my cute t-shirt design at Meri’s site, The profits I get from my shirt go towards the fight against hunger (10%). Amazing Kids! also gets 10% to help other kids launch their dream.

What were some of the first steps you took to work towards your dream?

My garden originated in May of ‘08. We had all sort of plants. But the biggest was my cabbage! It stood out with its soaring cage around it to protect it from wild animals.

How have others helped your work towards your goal?

So many people helped me. Fields to Families found the right soup kitchen, which started my dream, and now they are helping me become a Master Gardener. Meri from VeryMeri has helped by selling my shirt to raise money. Amazing Kids! selected me as the winner and are helping to launch my dream also. My family helps me every day by encouraging me and my school has been great by helping me start a garden.

What is your inspiration? Have others around you inspired you?

I was inspired by seeing how many people don’t have food to eat.  My parents always told me not to waste food but I didn’t really understand until I went to Tri County Family Ministries.  Now I see the news at night and there are even more people who need food because they have lost jobs.  If I can help even a few of them it will be great.  I hope when other kids see what I have done that they will help too.

What are your plans for the future?

I hope in the future to have lots of gardens that can grow food for thousands of people. I hope lots of people will buy my ‘No Hungry Kids’ shirt so I can help fund the gardens.  The shirts are also a great way to spread the word.  It would also be great if one kid from each state would agree to start a vegetable garden and donate the harvest to their local soup kitchen.  Together would could make  a huge difference in the fight against hunger.

How can others help you with your current projects?

I would love to have other people help with my dream and it is so easy and fun.  If you have a spot in your backyard you can start a garden, or if you don’t have a spot in your yard you can use planters to grow vegetables.  You can start with seeds or seedlings from a garden center and then water your plants and care for them.  When your vegetables are ready to harvest you can locate a soup kitchen to donate your food.  It is a great project for the whole family; my little brother is helping me now with our garden at home.

If you could give advice to another youth about completing their goal to help others what would it be?

I don’t think it matters how young you are; if you have an idea find someone who will listen to you and don’t give up until you do.  My family, my school, Amazing Kids, my friends and Meri from VeryMeri have all supported me and my dream.   Hard work pays off and there isn’t anything you can’t do if you try.

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