June 27, 2016

Summer Bucket List: Tracy Aviary

Ready or not, it's summer. Your kids are home, all day long.  We're about a month in-- are you out of stuff to do yet?   If your in the Salt Lake County area, I've got the solution to your problem: Tracy Aviary.  The babies and I got a chance to check it out recently, and we had a blast.  

One of the things that I love about Tracy Aviary, is that all of my children love it.  This was the first time for my littles, but I have taken my older children several times and everyone always has a blast. There is a sand pit and water tables to keep the little ones entertained, by my older kids love going even though they've outgrown those particular features. They love to see the birds and learn their names and where they're from. 

While there, we were able to visit the new exhibit, Treasures of the Rainforest, which I had never seen. It was beautiful. I wish that we had been able to spend a little extra time there, but we were given the opportunity to release Ladybugs, which I absolutely loved, as pictured above, the two year old did not.  

 The biggest highlight of the day was the Amazon Adventure.  We were each given a cup of food for the birds and they would fly down and land on the cups.  The babies thought that this was the coolest thing to ever happen to them.  

So, the next time that the kids announce for the millionth time that they are bored, consider Tracy Aviary as a potential cure. 

GIVEAWAY:  Tracy Aviary has generously given me 4 free tickets to give away to one of my readers.  Leave a comment below to be entered.  

May 23, 2016

What NOT to Do on a Road Trip with Kids

After 13 years of being a mother and six kids, I kind of feel like I have a handle on the whole road trip thing.  We have family in Southern California and drive down there at least once a year, and usually twice and I have learned a thing or two about making a ten hour drive. (If we're lucky. . .)

A few years ago I decided to go frugal/green. Which for us meant reusable sandwich boxes, Tupperware instead of sandwich bags, etc. And I thought it would be a good idea to carry this over into road trips. It wasn't. It is a pain and a half to find all the sandwich boxes upon arrival and make sure they get washed so the leftover crusts don't become a giant mess of white fuzz. Or make sure that everyone who had milk in their washable cold cups dumps out any leftovers so I don't get any curdled surprises. We still totally do reuseable stuff for school lunches, but NOT the car. Especially finger foods. 
Have you seen this super popular idea floating around Pinterest? Don't do it. Sure, it's cute and clever but how often is cute and clever really practical? Let me put it like this: imagine you are a couple hours into your ten hour road trip. Everything seems fine. Your four year old asks for a snack, so you hand her this giant, meticulously divided box of every snack she could dream of. She's thrilled. She can't contain her excitement. Excitement that manifests itself in bouncing legs exaggerated hand gestures. She is in possession of this box approximately two minutes when you hear a sound that makes your heart drop faster than the entire Lego bin being dumped on the floor: the box is upside down on the floor of your car, and all your work, not to mention all the snacks that were supposed to keep her happy for the next 8 hours, are in a colorful cascade down the car seats and floor. This, my friends, is why individual snack sized baggies are the way to go. 

There are in my experience exactly three exceptions to the disposable rule:
1. Sippy cups for baby/toddler. When there's only that to deal with, not impossible.

2. These ingenious snack cups for baby. Seriously, whoever invented these needs some kind of reward.
3. Water bottles.  Everyone has their own water bottles and they only ever have water in them.

We do sack breakfasts and lunches. Brown paper bags, everything in baggies that can be thrown away when we stop for gas. And we do. Husband fills up the car while I rally the troops to find all garbage that can be thrown away. It keeps things slightly neater.


I'm sure you've seen the dollar store present idea. You know, buy a bunch of stuff and wrap it and then every so often give your kids a present. Great idea, right?? Couple of problems with this one. First, wrapping paper. The last thing you need on a road trip is more garbage in your car. Second problem is expense. If you have one kid, no big deal. If you have six, you can see where I'm going with this, right? My solution: if you have advanced notice, I'm talking months, that you will be taking a trip, gather up a few toys around your house. Some books, a few hot wheels, anything small that is conducive to playing while sitting strapped in a car. Put them all in a box and pull them back out before the trip. For kids eight and younger this works like a charm. If you have a DVD player, you can do this with movies too. It's practically as good as getting something new, but it's totally free. And when you're spending that much on gas, free is good.

What I do is make all the older kids a travel binder and refill as needed each trip we take. There are so many road trip printables out there that I never run out. License plate bingo has been incredibly popular with my kids. Plus, I can tailor it to each kid. My little boys get lots of Pokemon coloring pages, easy word searches and dot to dots. The older girls get crosswords, Sudoku and Would you Rather? questions. And everyone gets lots of blank paper to write or draw on.

Don't Rule Anything Out!!!
Never say never.  It's the one constant in parenting. Never say never. You will, I guarantee, eat your words.  DVD players for the car are a bit of a hot topic.  You want to be the good parent who has meaningful conversations with your kids. The parent that plays I SPY and trivia games. And that is wonderful. That is admirable. But, somewhere around hour seven (or sooner), you might just need to rest your voice. And you might just REALLY need your kids to rest their voices.  Sometimes an audio book will do it.  And sometimes it takes the big guns.  Keep an open mind when it comes to road trip entertainment. We love Brain Quest. We love the alphabet game, and license plate bingo but we would not have survived the many, many trips that we have made to Southern California without our travel DVD players.  

As soon as my kids are old enough to walk and talk and open their own drawers, they help with the packing. Do you know how long it would take me to pack for six kids by myself? Everyone gets a list of things that they need, they pack and then I have final approval. That way I only spend my time double checking to make sure that the four pairs of shorts that they chose will actually match the four shirts, and that the underwear they threw in there is clean.

road trips, road trip with kids, packing for kids, packing tips

Everyone has seen the packing outfits in ziploc bags, and while this might be a great idea for kids maybe four and under, once they get a little bigger, so do their clothes and trying to fit one outfit in a ziploc is way more trouble than it's worth. Not to mention, this method requires one of everything for each day, and we simply don't have enough room to pack a full change of clothing for every single day that we will be gone. Laundry gets done halfway through our vacation.  But, by having kids pick their own clothes, you know that they will wear what the chose. No kid is going to go for style over comfort. 

What are your favorite road trip tips?   Where will you use them this summer?

May 16, 2016

Summer Plans: Natural History Museum of Utah

You all know the song, right?

There's 104 days of summer vacation, 
And school comes along just to end it. 
So the annual problem of our generation
Is finding a good way to spend it. 

Summer is coming. So unless you have a couple of genius inventors that live at your house, you have to find something to do, right? Because otherwise, you've either got a destroyed house with kids running wild, or zombiefied kids zoned out in front of the TV. It took a while for me to get a good system down. We started with a summer bucket list, which kind of worked.  From there, I came up with a perfectly unreal schedule for each and every day, which totally bombed.  Then a reward system, then a chore system, and then, about two years ago, I struck gold.

A notebook. With our entire summer in it. This is as much for their sanity as it is for mine. This notebook has our summer chore system.  Our (much more reasonable and flexible) daily schedule. Lists of projects that need to be done this summer.  Lists of books that need to be read this summer. Lists of things to do BEFORE any electronics go on.  And a list of places to go this summer.
nhmu free days, nhmu, rio tinto center, utah dinosaurs

kids museum utah, hands on museum utah, things to do in utah

High on that list is the Natural History Museum of Utah. I want to write 'New' in front of that, but it's been open for five or six years now, so new hardly describes it. I had the chance to take my two youngest a few weeks ago, and we loved it.  No, seriously, my two year old loved it.  That's not to say that your 12 year old won't love it, because I'm pretty sure that there is something for everyone there.  There are hands on exhibits everywhere. There are several rooms dedicated solely to games for younger kids.  There are interactive exhibits on flooding (WATER!!), earthquakes and cells.  It is fantastic.  And, they just opened up a new exhibit that I'm excited to see, the Genome: Unlocking life's code.
nhmu summer camps, natural history museum of utah, dinosaur museum utah

This will definitely be one place we will visit this summer.  Want to check it out?  Well, the museum has given me four passes.  Add this to your summer list, and leave a comment below for a chance to win.
Want extra entries?
Tell me what you do to keep your summer under control in a comment.
Best books for 12-13 year old girls? Leave a comment.
Your favorite thing to do with kids in the summer. Leave a comment.
museum at university of utah, bonneville shoreline trailhead

Contest will close Friday, May 20 at 5:00pm.  Good luck!!
And hey, if you lose, the Natural History Museum sponsors several free days a year. Mark your calendar for August 22 and get more info here.

February 8, 2016

Cover Reveal!

There are a few things in life that I have always wanted to do.  Being a mom was on the top of the list. Going to college was another one.  Europe is up there, but has yet to be seen, also New York City. This year I get to check something huge off of my list: a book that I wrote will be published!
A few months ago, I got a very exciting email.   My name would finally be on the cover of a book!! Cedar Fort, a Utah based publishing company, has chosen to publish my book, Dear Jane.
dear jane cover, dear jane by rachel ward

Before the mission, Quinn’s future was uncomplicated, straightforward and involved a wedding. Now, eighteen months later she is without a fiancee, without a job and without a direction. Slowly, things begin to fall into place, maybe not the way she would like, and definitely not the way she imagined, but after much trial and error Quinn creates a new path. One that will open her eyes and change her life.

Dear Jane will be released in August of 2016!

October 19, 2015

7 Ways Going Green will Save You Money!

saving money, save money, thrifty life, thrifty habit,

You would be surprised how frugal going green can be. There’s a pun here somewhere, but I can’t seem to put my finger on it.  Here’s a list of a couple things that we have done around our house to go green AND save green! (There it is.)

  1. Ditch Paper Towels: Okay, so we still have paper towels for the GROSSEST messes that need to go directly into the garbage, but for everything else, we use rags or sponges.  
  2. Cloth napkins:  With six kids we go through lots and lots of napkins. The best thing I ever did was hem a bunch of fabric scraps and turn them into napkins. One more load of laundry a week is worth it.
  3. Reusable dryer sheets:  Another way to use up those fabric scraps, but this time, you don’t have to hem them. Get your scraps, soak them in fabric softener and hang them to dry.  Throw one into the dryer with every load.  Each sheet should do 15-20 loads. They’ll gradually lose their stiffness and you can kind of gage when they become less effective and just repeat the process.
  4. Jars instead of zip top bags: Jars are great for leftovers, for veggie dip, and for storage. Rather than pouring out your inconvenient bag of chia seeds into a zip top, use a jar for storage.  
  5. Get energy efficient: If you live in a cold climate, or even a hot one, this one can be really effective. Make sure your furnace or AC can keep your house comfortable without having to do extra work.  Try a reusable filter that can be cleaned every so often, rather than buying them every couple of months.  Make sure that any drafts are blocked to keep the expensive air in.  Open the windows when you can.  Insulate outlet covers.  Recaulk your windows. Your utilities bill will thank you.
  6. Compost: If you garden, this is a great way to keep your soil healthy without having to purchase fertilizer. Keep a bucket under your sink for food scraps.  Everything but meat and dairy can be composted.  Just mix it in with green matter, grass and leaves, and brown matter, like shredded paper, and turn it often.  It is great for productive gardens.
  7. Walk: if it’s within walking distance, don’t drive.  You’ll save money on gas, help keep the air clean and get a little exercise.

Did I miss anything? Let me know! I'd love to save more money too!

October 15, 2015

Can I Freeze That?

can I freeze that, safe to freeze, food that I can freeze

We have all had those days.  There’s a soccer game, piano lessons, a book report due tomorrow and the school choir concert. There is absolutely no time to make dinner, not to mention energy.  Wouldn’t it be great if you could just pull something out of the freezer and stick it into the oven, instead of stopping for expensive takeout?  Freezer cooking is a great money saver. It does require a time commitment in advance, but it pays off dividends on the days you want to pull your hair out.

There are dozens and dozens of websites and blog posts out there devoted to freezer cooking.  Most of them recommend choosing three or four meals to make all at once and doubling or tripling them. My advice to you is this: don’t double or triple until you’ve made, frozen and cooked it.  Some meals don’t freeze well, some meals don’t taste quite the same after you have frozen them and some recipes just won’t suit your tastes at all.  To start, find a few recipes that look good to you, make it, freeze it and see if you like it.   

In addition to freezing entire meals, there are dozens of things that can be frozen to save money.  When shredded cheese goes on sale, stock up and freeze it!  (Just make sure it’s shredded. If you’re buying blocks, shred it first.) When fruit is in season and cheap, buy a bunch and freeze it.  Berries can be frozen without any kind of prep other than washing.  Peaches should be blanched, bananas should be peeled.  Grapes can be frozen, but eat them frozen, they don’t thaw well.  They do, however, make good ice cubes that don’t water down your drinks.  Mango needs to be peeled, pineapple needs to be cut, strawberries need to be hulled.  Freeze apples to use in pies or applesauce.  

Did you know you can even freeze milk?  Check out the list for other ideas:
Cooked Rice
Cookie Dough
Bread Dough (pizza, rolls, loaves)
Cooked Bread
Cooked pasta
Fresh Peas
Mashed potatoes
Chili  (Don’t freeze milk based soups, soups with celery)
Chicken Broth
Breakfast burritos
Fruit Juice
Onions (chopped)
Chilies (chopped)
Peppers (chopped)
Eggs (out of the shell)
Cooked chicken
Leftover Ham (chopped works best)
chopped steak
Cooked ground beef
Lime and Lemon Juice (freeze it in ice cubes to keep it pre-portioned)
Fresh garlic (also in ice cube trays. Pebble ice trays are perfect)
Buttermilk (ice cubes)
Whipping Cream (Ice cubes)

Corn on the Cob
Cooked Pumpkin

October 12, 2015

How to Make Meal Planning Work for You!

meal planning tips, eat at home,

So, we're buying a house. Which means it's time to tighten down the wallet, so I'm busting out all of my best money saving methods once again and I thought I might share.

One of the best ways to save money is by eating at home. But there are days when 5:00 rolls around and I still don't know what we're having for dinner, and all of a sudden Little Caesar's is sounding pretty good. But, if I have put together a meal plan for at least the week, the chances of me running out to pick something up at the last minute drop dramatically. It took several years and half a dozen failed attempts to get down a meal planning rhythm.  But all that time and effort was worth it. Today, I sit down every other week and plan out the next two, write up a shopping list and by doing that, I only have to go to the grocery store twice a month. 
Here are a couple of things that I learned over the course of my trial and error.
  1. Shop your pantry first. Go through your fridge and freezer to see what needs to be used up.  Go through your pantry to see what you already have.  Then make the shopping list.
  2. Check the weekly ads.  Super awesome sale on chicken?  Use that in your menu.  Pasta for a dollar? Lasagna it is!
  3. Don’t forget about leftovers.  It you’re making something like teriyaki chicken and rice, make a little extra rice and use it in a casserole that calls for already cooked rice the next day.  Or get creative.  How can you use up that italian chicken that was leftover?  Could you make a pasta salad from the spaghetti that didn’t get eaten?
  4. Take into account your schedule.  Don’t plan on making that long and complicated meal on the night that you have to be at a PTA meeting and your kids have a baseball game and a dance recital.  Save the freezer meals or sandwiches for those nights.  Granted, things are always going to pop up, but don’t start the week by shooting yourself in the foot.
  5. Keep your menu where you can see it.  Some people like to keep it on a bulletin board in their kitchen. I find that the less time that my children know what I’m making for dinner, the less amount of time they have to complain about it.  I keep my menu on the calendar on my phone.  It’s easy to access and almost always at hand. Plus, I set reminders for myself, which really come in handy when I'm planning a crock pot meal.
  6. Don't try a new recipe every night. You want to save the new stuff for a slow night, when you have time to fix mistakes. I usually throw a new recipe into the mix about once a week and that's plenty.
  7. PINTEREST!! Keep a board of recipes that you have tried and loved. You can also do this the old fashioned way, with a notebook or a recipe box, but Pinterest is my favorite way to do it. It's easy to refer to when you're putting the next couple of weeks together, and easy to add to when you do try a new recipe and it's delicious!

Menu planning has a direct effect on my grocery shopping. It cuts down dramatically on the last second runs to the grocery store, when I inevitably spend more than I need to and walk out with ice cream or cookies.  By menu planning, my impulse purchases are limited to twice a month, and when I’m buying the store and running out of room in the cart, I’m less inclined to throw something extra in. One more thing that I’m sure you have heard before, but is oh so true, don’t, I repeat, DON’T go shopping hungry. You will spend more money, you will buy things that you don’t need and you will regret it after lunch.

Do you have any tried and true meal planning tips that I missed? Leave them in the comments below, I would love to hear about it!

May 11, 2015

Summer Reading List: First Grade

first grade, reading list, summer reading, summer reading program

For my six year old, I've tried to put together a list of books that appeal to him, both to read and to have read to him. I've tried to make a good mix of things that he will like to read on his level and things that he will sit still and listen to.

summer reading list

Go, Dog, Go

Interrupting Chicken

summer reading list

There are No Cats in This Book

There are Cats in This Book

summer reading list

The Cat in the Hat

Green Eggs and Ham
summer reading list first Grade

elephant and piggie summer reading

I Love My New Toy (and really all Elephant and Piggie books)

Scaredy Squirrel

Summer reading list first grade

Click, Clack, Splash


summer reading list

What if You Had Animal Teeth 

Mike Mulligan and More 

summer reading list

I am an Artist 

Do you have any favorite First Grade Readers that I've missed?  I would love more suggestions!  
Happy Reading!

*all images via Amazon

June 27, 2014

Just a Small Town Girl

I moved to Rexburg Idaho when I was 18 and small town life caught me off guard. It sank into my bones until I didn't want anything else.   I spend my daydreams on land and skies and stars, rows of fruit trees and my children running barefoot through the garden.  However, I'm married to a man whose chosen career path and aversion to commute keeps us tethered to cities.  We currently sit firmly in suburbia, with neighbors closing in on all sides and a backyard the size of a postage stamp.

And I find myself with a new affection for my grandpa. He wanted, all his life, to leave the the cities, the suburbs, and move out to a small town away from everything else. My Grandma, however, wouldn't have it. They lived their whole lives only a few miles from where they grew up, with homes and churches and shopping centers popping up all around them.

I think, though, it must have been more than just a dream. It must have been in his blood, this need for open spaces. His son, my uncle, moved his family to a tiny town in Southern Utah and relished every minute of it spending his days exploring the nearby mountains and caves and his nights camping under the stars.

I like to think that someday I'll get my wish.  I'll find a way to move away from it all, somewhere I can fall asleep to the sound of the wind in the trees and not the sirens.  Somewhere that the air smells like sage and pine and soil, instead of exhaust.  Some where I can sit outside and see the horizon, and not just the houses surrounding me on all sides.  But until then, I'll just be here, longing for clear night skies and complete quiet.

June 25, 2014

The First Stone

I found this comment by Jodie on the Mercy River blog, and it sums up my thoughts of the past few days better than I can articulate. 
"This morning I woke to see the post about Kate Kelly being excommunicated passed around and liked over 3400 times (and still counting). I started to think about how many times I click “Like” on a post and why I do it, and the meaning behind it. And I thought to myself do I have those reasons to click “Like” on this post?
I have followed this case with an open heart and open mind. And even though I have my own beliefs in how this should be conducted, I do however have a strong issue with what we are all doing now. To “Like” something (specifically in the FB context) is to agree with a portion of the comments or the article, or even photos posted. Why would we “Like” any of this, especially those of us who call ourselves LDS?
We have a lady who, regardless of rhyme or reason, has been excommunicated. And I can not help but be brought to the scriptures and think about John 8:7 where it states “He who is without sin, cast the first stone."  Are we saying we are each without sin? Isn’t clicking “Like” right now kinda like throwing a stone?
Are we saying that we “Like” that she has been excommunicated because that’s what she had coming to her? Or that we “Like” the councils decision in this specific instance, or that we “Like” that a stand has been taken? Either way what is there to actually “Like” right now?
I have been raised in this gospel for most of my life, and one of the teachings I have learned is that the Atonement and Love of Christ applies to everyone. I do not for a minute believe that those bishops, councilmen and even our Prophet and and the members of his quorums are sitting there today thinking to themselves that they “Like” this situation, or “Like” that this daughter of God has been excommunicated.
So as someone who is raising children and who proudly teaches on a sunday will stand up today in front of many who will read and say. I do NOT “Like” any of this situation, especially its outcome. And I do not feel that we are being any better people by “Like”ing it."

Thank you, Jodie. Whoever you are. 

Copyright Trapped Between a Scream and a Hug

Meaning all content on this blog is mine. So you better not steal it. Seriously.