Friday, July 30, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

Fitness DVD Review! Dancing with the Stars: Dance off the Pounds

If you watch the show and want to shed some pounds and tone up that body....this is the best DWTS DVD yet (they are all pretty good). This 45-min workout includes three dances...the three most energetic, calorie-burning ballroom categories: swing, jive, and the quickstep.

The DVD is broken up into four segments (the three dances and a cool down). You can do each section individually or mix them up for a full workout. You can also do each section with or without verbal cuing. Each section builds up simple choreography into a combination that is repeated several times. The instructors, Kym, Lacey, and Dimitri, all teach the moves fairly clearly and repeat each movement several times before slowly adding up to the entire combination.

Although it is pretty beginner-friendly, they do not provide specific modifications to make the workout less or more intense. Additionally, the cool down stretches are not held long enough to properly stretch each muscle group. So, if you are new to dancing or fitness, you may want to start with one dance at a time and build up to the complete 45 mins (ALWAYS cool down and stretch with each workout).

This is a pretty fun and effective workout. I would recommend you check it out!
*The Champaign Library carries this title!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


If I had my child to raise all over again,
I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later.
I'd finger paint more, and point the finger less.
I would do less correcting and more connecting.
I'd take my eyes of my watch, and watch with my eyes.
I'd take more hikes and fly more kites.
I'd stop playing serious and seriously play.
I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.
I'd do more hugging and less tugging.

--Diane Loomans, from "If I'd have my child to raise all over again."

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

5 ideas under $5 to break through the summer boredom!

Have you hit that point yet? The kids have watched every DVD you own, read each book, can't think of anything else to destroy or dismantle, they've eaten every morsel in the cupboards?

Here's some things to do to finish up the summer!

1. Water/Pool noodles! They are on sale now and cheap anyways. We don't have a pool but our noodles have become anything from a tightwire, swords, fences, massage tools, belts....

2. Package of plastic cups! They can stack them, count them, have a tea party with, tape them up!

3. A pair of scissors! Give them the recycling papers and let them go! Ask them to cut the grass!

4. $5! Give your kids a couple bucks and take them to Walgreens and let them get whatever they want.

5. Homemade playdough! Its cheap, its fun, and its is so much better than store-bought!
* 1 cup salt
* 2 cup flour
* 2 tablespoon cream of tartar
* 2 tablespoon oil
* 2 cup water
* food coloring, kool-aid, jello, or extract
Combine all ingredients in medium pot. Heat over med-low heat and stir until ball forms. Dump out onto counter/cutting board dusted with floor. Allow to cool 10mins then kneed until smooth (dust with floor if sticky). Leave out until completely cool. Store in air tight container.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guidance and Discipline

One of our local news sources posted a topic for discussion on its facebook page yesterday.

YOUR TURN: Research shows that putting your child into "time out" can hurt them down the road. Instead, parents are urged to coach children through arguments. This will teach kids how to talk through problems and help relationships. What do you think? How do you get your kids to get along?

The 56 comments that followed basically concluded that not only should very punitive time-outs be used to control our children but we all should really just beat children to get them to behave appropriately.

I was shocked, to say the the least. As I read comment after comment, I got more angry. At one point, I thought, maybe I missed something and this is a joke or a test of my profession and parenting. Not one comment suggested anything else. Although I did resist, I had to comment as the voice of reason:

"honestly, I am SHOCKED by these comments. I am a parent and teacher I never use time out. I help kids learn about their emotions and how to express them, give them the tools to cope with themselves and others, and know when to ask for help. Each child is different and needs different things to deal with the world around them."

This, of course, was followed by lots of rude comments that that was ridiculous. My favorite was one person said that the only reason I don't hit my students is because the government doesn't allow me too. I am staying out of it now but I will continue here.

This is a very important issue to understand as a parent and a professional who works with any other human being, really. Actually, I don't even like to use the word 'discipline'. It gives off a very negative and punishing vibe. It also is often limited to isolated, reactive incidents. I do not discipline my children. Just as my course in college did, I prefer 'guidance.' Think about it...everything we, as adults, do guide the children into making their decisions. We are their guides in this strange world they live in, especially as they discover new things and relationships.

I am extremely proactive and emotion-based in my guidance with children. I also try to help them internalize the behavior so that children really make clear connections between thoughts, actions, and consequences (whether positive or negative). I think about it as giving them a tool box or magic kit. I talk, talk, and talk to children about everything and anything including emotions. I always find it interesting that children will know their ABC's but can't identify their own basic feelings. We learn about their own emotions and how to read others' emotions throughout the day (not just when an incident is happening). Once one can identify how they are feeling, you can give them to tools to cope with that emotion.

One of these tools is 'time out'. But not the 'sit in a corner with your head between your legs for an inappropriate amount of time time-out' but a break. This is an extremely useful tool for all ages....walk away, take a breathe, decide what you need to move on, ask for what you need.

Another tool is simple communication...if you are angry with someone, tell them. If you want something, ask for it. If you are happy, let someone know why.

Finally, let children know that things might not always go the way they want. If they ask for a toy, the other child can say no. You may have to wait awhile for a turn. Mom might not let you have another cookie. It might rain and you can't go to the pool. These events might make you angry or disappointed but that is the way it is right now. Give them ideas on things to do to feel better when disappointment sets in (read, draw, jump up and down, run around the house, playdough, watch your favorite show, listen to music....).

You also need to be role model. Use this method for yourself. You will hear me say the oddest things sometimes like "I really don't like when you lick my leg, it makes me feel gross." Or "I need a minute alone to feel better."

I have worked with a lot of children. A lot of different children including those with severe behavior disorders, autism, sensory integration, and children of all ages. Different children need different things to understand themselves and need different tricks in their hats to feel right. But, this works, it really does. This will empower children and make them better adults later in the life.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


I attempted to get some time outside the house without kids...and I did it!

Inception (rated PG-13, 2hr 28min)
First of all, this is a long movie and there really isn't a break in story or action to go to the bathroom, so avoid the extra large tub of beverage. Secondly, make sure to get there on time, you need to see the first second to the last second of this film.

Honestly, I don't even know how to explain this film. Many critics have described it as a heist film (a genre I love) but it is really a lot more. It gets very psychological and philosophical. Leo DiCaprio leads a team including the adorable Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Juno's Ellen Page to, not really steal anything, but plant something in order to satisfy their employer played by Ken Watanbe. However, unlike any other story like it, the action has to take place in people's dreams.

The audience is given a crash course in extraction (stealing one's secrets by going to the source, their brain) and dreams. This is conveniently done through the new recruit, Page. We also slowly learn about DiCaprio's past. It is very complex but I think I stayed with most of the details and layers. Christopher Nolan (who writes, directs, and produces this film as well as Memento, Insomnia, The Prestige, and the newest Batman series) really worked hard on this. Although way out of the box for most of us, he makes it understandable and intriguing.

The acting is on point (including some of Nolan's favorites, Michael Caine and Cillian Murphy). The special effects are really fantastic. They aren't super crazy but fun to watch. I loved the play with gravity.

I don't want to say much more. But I will say that this is a fantastic departure from the usual family/kid films I watch. It is also a film that I want to watch again, and read about, and learn about. I want to figure it out. Christopher Nolan is quickly becoming one of my favorite writers/directors.

I would definitely check out (big screen and/or little).

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Fitness Friday!!!

For me, there is nothing more boring than walking on the treadmill or going for a run outside on my own. I am a social being and I need people around me when I sweat!
So, my fitness tip for you this week is...

***Find a buddy to exercise with!
It has long-been advised to find someone to workout with. This helps you hold accountability for each other. You can set goals for each other such as a local 5K. But more importantly you have someone to gossip with. You could even start a facebook group! Keep track of your friends activities.

***Check out group fitness classes!
I, of course, love classes. It is why we joined The Fitness Center so long ago and now teach classes myself. It is so much fun to workout with other people! Plus, it is great to turn off your brain for an hour and let someone else tell you what to do. You can laugh together, moan together, and get sweaty and smelly together! But also you can meet others who have similar fitness goals and even make some amazing friends. I feel like I am a part of each person's fitness journey as well as all the members being part of mine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

We all scream for ice cream!

I got an ice cream maker for my mixer last year. I made some good (and not so good) batches of ice cream. I tend to forget about it in the winter but since summer hit, it just stays in our freezer ready for action at any point.

The favorite this year has been Chocolate with Tart Cherries and Almonds (altered from You can make this in the winter as a chocolate pudding.
1 3/4 cups half and half
3/4 cup whipping cream
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 cup light corn syrup
4 large egg yolks
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate or semisweet chocolate, chopped, melted
1 cup frozen tart cherries
1/4 cup cocoa-covered almonds, chopped
Dark Chocolate Ice Cream Recipe at

Combine half and half, cream and cocoa powder in heavy medium saucepan. Stir sugar, corn syrup and yolks in medium bowl. Bring cream mixture to simmer. Gradually stir cream mixture into egg mixture. Return mixture to saucepan.

Using wooden or rubber spatula, stir custard over medium-low heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spatula when finger is drawn across, about 10 minutes (do not boil). Strain through fine sieve if necessary. Transfer custard to large bowl. Whisk in melted chocolate. Cover and refrigerate custard until cold.

Process mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Fold in cherries and almonds. Transfer to container and freeze. Scoop into bowls and serve.

This week Recipezaar is featuring ice cream recipes. I love the cinnamon!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Reading

Our 6yo learned to read this past year in kindergarten. For him, and everyone else, it is important to continue to read regularly to keep up one's reading skills. Unfortunately, my son doesn't like to read and only really shows interest in playing video games. I've tried a lot of strategies but I've only found two that have worked.

1. Allow him to pick out books about Star Wars, superheros, and video games (despite the poor quality of the books themselves).

2. For every minute of reading he does each day, he gets to play a minute of video games (e.g. 20mins of reading=20mins of gaming). This has been pretty successful thus far. He has timer that counts up the time he is reading and then can count down as he plays games. (and the 4yo has caught on too!)

If you have any other tips on how to get non-readers to want to read, let me know!

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Toy Story 3

Toy Story 3, rated G, 1hr 45min

I have a very special spot in my heart for Woody and Buzz, not to mention Jesse and Potato Head. I have absolutely loved the first two installments of this trilogy. We are on our second set of DVD's. We have much loved Woody and Buzz dolls (several Buzz's) as well as most of the other characters, a memory game, and a worn-down Buzz costume. This connection to these characters made this last movie very special.

I took all three kids to see it in 2D. The animation is still amazing and beautiful. The usual suspects are all present with the exception of Little Bo Peep. The story takes place as Andy is packing for college and must decide what items to bring to college, store in the attic, donate, or throw away. After some confusion, the group of toys ends up at a local daycare that happens to be ruled by a cute and cuddly yet commanding teddy bear, Lotso. Similar to Stinky Pete, he has been loved and forgotten and misunderstands his original owner's intentions and this leads to a bitter life. Of course, Andy's toys need to find away to escape the daycare and find their rightful place.

My favorite new character is, of course, Ken. Brilliant is all I have to say. And Potato Head delivers with some hilarious dialogue and action. I also liked seeing more of Andy in this film.

My 4yo really loved Buzz's new skills and the 6yo loved the spy aspect of the plot.

This movie is tremendously touching. Because we have invested 15years into these characters, we care so much for them and really feel the joy, pain, and fear with them. I cried, and cried, and cried the last 30mins. The last scene of the film is so perfect. Pixar hasn't gone wrong yet on bringing stories we can all relate to at any age and making us reflect on our own lives. You can believe some toys got some special love when we got home.

I recommend everyone who has owned a toy should see this movie. We didn't pay the extra cash for 3D and didn't feel like I missed anything. I loved it on the big screen but I plan to purchase the DVD as soon as it is available as well. I can't wait to see it again.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer Randomness

Our summer has been busy and hot...really hot.

Every summer I try to prepare for the huge, temporary change in our lives. But I never seem to stock enough food in the house, keep the dishes done, or floors cleaned. I also can't escape "I'm bored! I have nothing to do." Apparently, all the toys, books, movies, and games in our house are useless (should I give them all away?). And with three kids, finding time to head to the pool, a movie, or the library in between art class, softball practice, gymnastics, and work is trying.

Overall, we have been doing pretty well. Some fights, tears but lots of laughter and fun as well.

It has also been the summer of broken dreams of the an old house...AC is dead, oven is on the fritz, the car battery got angry after a cross country vacation, and now the coffeemaker is out too. Thanks for the tax refund to get us through these trying times!

Finally, our annual mystery squash has appeared again. I will post a photo as soon as one is big enough so we can all guess. Each year for the past three years, we get some fabulous growth out of our compost but it is always different and unlike anything we put in the compost.