Friday, June 28, 2013

Independence Day Trivia Facts for Kids

Posted by Devin:

Sooooo.... I am a bit of a nerd. I LOVE trivia. When we take trips to our family cabin, I force Jake to ask me the questions on the Trivial Pursuit cards stored in the game chest. Not Jake's favorite thing to do, but I can't get him to actually play the game with me so it's the next best thing. Tara knows all about this as I made her and Seth participate in this activity the last time we all went to the cabin together (hopefully they will come back with us someday). She loves to kid me about my random (and seemingly useless) knowledge.
Hand-in-hand with my trivia love, is my interest in history. I love me a good PBS documentary or historical novel (is my nerd-level sky rocketing now?). A few years back I read David McCullough's 1776 and was blown away by the amazing events of the American Revolution. So much of that book stuck in my head and I can not believe what a miraculous event the formation of our great country truly was. If you have not read it, I highly recommend you give it a try.
As Independence Day approaches, I decided I wanted to share some of the cool facts surrounding the events of that time with my children. I want them to have something inspiring to reflect on when they see those beautiful fireworks exploding in the sky this year. So here is the sheet of "10 Amazing Facts for the 4th of July" that I put together for them. I hope everyone has a safe and blessed holiday all across this beautiful nation! 

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Brownie Trifle

Posted By Tara

This is by far one of my favorite recipes. A good friend named Sara gave this to me almost 6 years ago. I just love the creaminess of this dessert with a little crunch from the toffee. When I was a kid, I hated toffee. I feel like its a grown-up candy. Well, now that I'm an adult I can't get enough of it! Anytime we go out for dessert I cover my fro-yo or ice cream in Heath chips. 

First bake your brownies according to the box. 

Follow the directions on the box for vanilla pudding and white chocolate pudding. It takes like 5 minutes for it to set! 
Vanilla Pudding

White Chocolate Pudding

Step 1: Crumble brownie at bottom of trifle bowl.  

 Step 2: Layer the vanilla pudding and then the white chocolate pudding.

Step 3: Follow with the cool whip.

Step 4: Top with heath, then repeat another 2 times. 

1 box  brownie mix
1 pck of vanilla instant pudding (small pck.)
1 pck. of white chocolate instant pudding (small pck.)
1 container (8oz. or larger) of Cool Whip, thawed

1 pck. of Heath toffee bits (find them by chocolate chips; I prefer the chocolate covered ones but you can use either)


Bake one brownie mix in 9x13 inch pan; cool

Mix vanilla instant pudding and chocolate instant pudding (separately) according to directions on box; Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes until set.

Crumble 1/2 of brownie in bottom of trifle bowl or other container; spoon 1/2 chocolate pudding over brownie; then spread 1/2 of vanilla pudding over chocolate pudding; spread with cool whip, then sprinkle toffee bits.  Repeat layers ending with toffee bits.  Refrigerate overnight or several hours.


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Monday, June 24, 2013

Being a Mother of 5: Be the BEST you can Be!

Posted by Tara

Do you ever lay in bed at night and recall all the things that went on during the day? I do. I also think about how I was as a mother that day. Did I get angry? Did I hug all of them? Did I comfort them when needed? All of my kids are pretty close in age. The ages are 8,7,5,4, and 20 months. For the first 7 years of marriage I was pregnant every year except for one. It was very tiring but I wouldn't change it. Was it hard having 3 under 2 1/2 years .... Yes. Was is expensive having 3 in diapers... Yes. But I would go back and do it again. Why you ask? They are all such buddies. Nothing brings me more joy than hearing my children giggling together and enjoying each other. 
Each child is so different. Some are more emotional than the others, some are quiet while others are chatter boxes. I love how each of them have their own personality. Which means I need to be a different parent to each. I remember while taking Psychology in college, my professor told us that each of us had different parents then our siblings. It was before I had children of my own, so I didn't understand. But now as an adult, I understand that I can't approach each child the same, because all of them are unique. 
People often ask me "How do you do it?" with 5 kids. How do I grocery shop, or run errands by myself with all of them. I'm not going to lie, I've been that woman in the grocery store with the screaming child, or restaurant with the rambunctious kids. It can be embarrassing, but why? Hasn't every mother experienced this at some point? I know that when I see a mother struggling to calm a crying baby in the store, I want to go help them, or tell them what a great job they are doing. There is a quote that I like to look at often its by Jeffery R. Holland. "If you try your best to be the best parent you can be, you will have done all that a human being can do and all that God expects you to do." This quote reminds me, no matter how hard I try I will never be that perfect parent. I just need to remember to be the BEST I can be and know that is all that is required of me. I hope all those moms out there can relate to what I'm saying, and those who have yet to experience motherhood can take what they need from this post. Be the BEST you can be!

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Race Training With Your Kid!

Posted by Devin

This past spring Jake and I had the most fun and rewarding experience: We trained with our second son, Caden (7 years old), for a 5K.

During the last school year, we told our three oldest boys that instead of playing all three of the sports they usually participate in, they needed to pick 2. Our lives had become a bit too hectic and three boys playing three sports, all on different teams with different practice and game times, was more than we felt we could handle at the time. As it turned out, Caden was the only one who did not choose to play baseball, leaving him quite bored during the spring season. Caden has always had a natural aptitude for running (I call him my "loper") and Jake and I love to run and participate in races. We decided to see if he would like to train for a race. His answer was a very strong "Yes!"

Here is how we approached Caden's training:

1. Start slow and see what he is capable of doing. The first time I ran with Caden, we decided to try to run for 5 minutes straight at a nice easy gait (about a 12 minute mile pace). I made sure to observe whether this was easy or difficult for him so I could set the rest of our training accordingly.

2. Set realistic goals and then try to improve them. Once I knew that Caden could finish 5 minutes at a comfortable jog with little difficulty, we began to set new goals each time we'd run. "Let's see if we can run for 10 minutes without stopping." "Let's see if we can run 1/2 a mile in 5 minutes." Whenever we would meet one of these goals, we would then set a slightly longer or faster goal the next time. After a few weeks of this we developed a very specific, 4-week training plan for his 5K. Here it is:
3. Push him, but know when to ease up. It is natural for us to want to quit when our bodies begin to feel uncomfortable. I have learned through my own personal training that uncomfortable does not mean dying (although sometimes it may feel like it) and it is only when I'm pretty "uncomfortable" that I make my biggest strides and improvements. I knew that training with a kid, this line between uncomfortable and really needing to stop would be a bit tricky. If Caden would say that he wanted to stop, I would suggest to him that we could go a bit further. He was usually fine with this and had no trouble making it to the next goal. However, there were a few times that he insisted and so we'd walk! We were still moving, not letting our heart rates completely drop, but Caden could catch his breath. We'd drink our water and chat and when he said he was ready, we'd start again! 

4. Find convenient times to train. Our training runs lasted between 5 and 30 minutes. Since it was baseball season, Caden and I would run in circles around the fields where his brothers were practicing or during warm-ups before their games. These were the best times for us. Once we'd get home I'd be swamped with cooking, taking care of little brothers, cleaning up messes... Caden was busy with homework and chores... Finding times that didn't interrupt our daily schedule was pretty crucial to making sure we got the training done. Jake and Caden usually ran together early on Saturday mornings, the best time for my hard working husband. Make sure to schedule it where it fits or it will probably get pushed aside.

5. Keep it fun. The most important part. I really wanted this to be a bonding experience with Caden, our time to hang out and talk and have some fun. I did NOT want to be some crazy Mommy yelling at their kid and pushing them to "Go! Go! Go!" while their red-faced child secretly wishes their wacko parent would get lost. Or anything even remotely close to that. Make sure to keep it fun and remember that the actual training comes second. I was really a bit surprised by just HOW MUCH we both loved training together! In an active family with 4 boys, one on one time can sometimes be hard to find. I think my favorite part of all of this was just talking with Caden as we ran and hearing all of the funny and interesting things he had to say. And with Caden, it really didn't matter if he was a bit out of breath, he just kept talking! Lol! It's great for the lungs. ;)  

As it turned out, Caden was not able to participate in the 5K that we had trained for due to family scheduling conflicts. Since we live in AZ, opportunities for another 5K are few and far between until the fall. We have decided to pick up the training again then and find another 5K that he can compete in. I will keep you all posted when he finishes!

Although Caden missed his 5K, we did sign him up to compete in a local Kids Race that was a little over a mile long. I told Caden before he raced "When they say GO those other kids are going to fly out of there at the speed of light! Just remember your training and run at your usual pace, don't worry about everyone else." Sure enough, that's exactly what happened!

Caden followed my advice perfectly. He told me afterward, "I was almost in last place at the beginning! But I just kept my pace and one after another I passed everyone!" Caden ended up coming in 4th Place against quite a few kids, many of whom were older than him. He won a race shirt and a free pizza at one of our favorite pizza places (where we immediately went to celebrate). Caden was so proud. What an amazing experience of hard work and accomplishment this proved to be for our little 7 year-old. And what a cherished memory for his parents.

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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Easy 5 Minute Mexican Salsa

Posted by Tara

Salsa is something I am good at. I love making all different kinds of salsa. Chips and salsa is a staple in the Carroll home. If any of us want a snack, it never fails that the chips and salsa get pulled out! This recipe comes from my Dad's side of the family and is a household favorite because of how simple it is. No blender, no dicing! It's that easy!!

Here are my ingredients.

First I pour the tomato sauce in a bowl.

Then I add my water. You are probably thinking "Why WATER?" It thins the tomato sauce out into a more restaurant texture salsa. I add all the seasonings and STIR. I'm telling ya,this recipe is just too easy!!



1 -8oz can of Hunts Tomato Sauce
2/3 cup water
1/2 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 tsp crushed red pepper (less if you don't like spicy)

Combine all ingredients and enjoy with chips or in tacos! 

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Monday, June 17, 2013

DIY Anchor Tees for the 4th of July!

Posted by Devin

Looking for cute shirts for the kiddos this 4th of July? These patriotic anchor tees are SUPER easy and quick to make thanks to my favorite crafting product: Heat N' Bond! (Click here for my last Heat N' Bond craft.)

What You Need:
-t-shirt in red, white or blue (found mine at Walmart for $3.47 each)
-patriotic fabric (very small amount needed, I purchase 12" for 4 shirts at the price of $1.81 and had plenty left over)
-anchor stencil (click here for printable stencil)
-Heat N' Bond (available at most craft and fabric stores)

Step 1. Print and cut out the anchor stencil. Cut off a piece of Heat N' Bond large enough to cover the stencil. Easy!

Step 2. Iron your piece of Heat N' Bond onto the back of your patriotic fabric, paper side up. Follow directions on Heat N' Bond packaging (basically just press and hold over each section for 2 seconds).

Step 3. Trace your stencil onto the Heat N' Bond paper and cut out your anchor.

Step 4.  Peel the paper off of the back of the anchor, place it on your t-shirt fabric side-up, and iron on according to Heat N' Bond package directions (just press and hold over each section for 8 seconds).

That's it! I made all 4 shirts for my boys in about an hour (that's WITH them asking me for drinks and snacks and who knows what else every 5 seconds). If you have a sewing machine, you may decide to run a stitch around the edges of the anchors: it will last forever then and look even cuter than it already does! (Note: Mine have been through the washing machine and dryer and they held up great! I do suggest laundering them inside out.) 

These 4 boys are ready for the 4th! Happy Independence Day!


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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Keeping It Neat: 5 Tips for a Tidy Home

Posted by Devin
Let me first say that I do not have it all together yet when it comes to running my household. Does anyone? The ironing gets piled up, there is dust on my shelves, the floors usually need mopping (again), and my windows receive a washing about once every 6 months, to name a few things. My house may not always be immaculately clean, BUT I do keep a very tidy home. And I find that keeping a tidy home makes it a whole lot easier to attempt to keep a clean one.

My need to keep things neat comes from my OCD nature and strong dislike of clutter. I wish I had the same compulsion over dust, but if I did I may never sit down again since I live in a dust bowl desert! But really, if things start to get pretty messy I feel like I am going to crawl out of my skin! So how does a mother of 4 boys suffering from this "tidy freak condition" manage to keep her sanity without smothering her children? Here are my rules I follow:

1. A Place for Everything. I know, I know... Duh, like we haven't heard that before?! But making sure that everything has a place it belongs is absolutely key to organization. When my husband and I were first married, he would come home everyday with notes and business cards and tons of little papers that he needed to keep for one reason or another. He would toss them wherever and didn't like it when I messed with them (for good reason, because I usually chucked them in the trash). Uh-oh, here was our first run-in with my OCD-side. I finally told him I just could not live with tiny papers everywhere, I might die. I gave him a basket, kindly asked him to put everything in the basket, and promised I wouldn't touch any of it as long as it was in said basket. Problem solved and our little apartment went back to being my tidy sanctuary (and our happy love nest)!

Since then, this motto has continued to serve us well. As our family's grown and we've accumulated more "stuff" I have always tried to make sure that things have a place they belong. Baskets, toy containers, hooks, drawer organizers, and adequate closet systems all come in handy when working on finding homes for everything. Figure out where things belong and make sure when you buy new things to find a designated place for them too!

2. Everything in It's Place: The Stuff Shuffle. So the other half of rule #1. Having a place to put everything doesn't really help if nothing is ever where it belongs, right? Here's how the "stuff shuffle" works. When you are going from one room to another, look around and see what "stuff" is lying about that belongs in the room you are heading to. Then pick it up, take it with you, and put it away. Sounds simple, right? It is! But it makes a really big difference! If Cash needs a diaper change, I scan the living room to see what needs to be taken back to his room on our way. Then after I'm done changing his diaper, I scan his bedroom to see what needs to go back to the living room, and so on and so forth. Never go from one room to another without taking some things with you that need to be put away. (Thank you, Olga, for telling me this trick when I was a new mom. It has since become a habit and a very valuable one in my pursuit of tidiness!)

3. One Mess at a Time. My very favorite rule for my boys. I'm sure everyone has seen those signs that read "Please excuse the mess, my children are making memories." Of course, being who I am, that sign makes my skin start crawling, then I have visions of a home that looks like a landfill fell on top of it with crazy monkey children in rags swinging from vines through the living room, and THEN it makes me feel guilty about my need for neat and I start to fear that I am stifling my kids. My solution: one mess at a time. If the kids are playing in their room they can play with and get out whatever they like, the room can get as messy as their hearts desire. But before they can move on to the living room toy baskets or the office for craft time or the garage to play with their bikes and scooters, they have to clean up their rooms. This is the rule for whatever area they are playing in and whatever mess they are currently making. You can't start a new mess until the last one is cleaned up!

I know that kids need to be kids and they need to play. Of course. But it's also good to teach them to clean up after themselves and have some responsibility over the state of our home. Kids need playtime, but I also think they thrive in a "house of order."

Here's Cash making, let's be honest, not a very big mess. You just can't get a kid to make a decent mess when you're ready to take a picture for a blog post!

4. Do Not Go To Bed With a Messy Kitchen. I am a very strict follower of this rule. My husband told me he can count on one hand how many times I have gone to bed with a messy kitchen since we've been married. Again, visions of bugs and ants invading the kitchen because I left dirty dishes or food on the counter haunt me and I can't sleep until it's clean. I know, I have a bit of a problem. ;) BUT... the 15-20 minutes I spend loading the dishwasher, washing the pots/pans, putting leftovers away, wiping the counters, and sweeping the floor REALLY REALLY pay off the next day when everything starts all over again. I hate waking up and knowing I am already behind in the day's tasks. Clean your kitchen before you go to bed and start the next day right!

5. End of the Day Sweep. Last but not least, my end of the day sweep. When it is time to put the kids to bed, I make sure that they have followed rule #3 and that all messes are put away before we have prayers. Then we follow Rule #2 and "shuffle" any left over items to their rooms as we go to kiss and tuck them in. Once they are in bed, I quickly scan the house and make sure that everything is back in order with nothing left lying about. If we've done a good job following the other rules throughout the day, this is usually just a 5 minute or less task of putting a few odds and ends away.

And that, my friends, is how this OCD mother keeps her sanity and her home in working order. It may not be for everyone, but I hope atleast one of these rules make it a bit easier for you to keep some order amidst the chaos of kiddos. We mommies have to band together. After all, the kids are usually faster and more effective at destroying than we are at trying to keep up! Good luck ladies!

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Road Trip "I Spy" Printables for Kids

Posted By Tara

This past weekend me and my family made a trip to St. George. Well, to make a long story short, this trip was the longest weekend trip I have ever been on. As soon as we left, the kids came down with a stomach bug and puked for the entire 8 hours that we drove. Crummy! We had a great time once we got there and kids started feeling better. 

We went to Zions National Park on Saturday and hiked in the creek with the kids. It was perfect for kids! I was amazed by the beauty in Zions. I loved all the red rock and green trees. The water was clear and perfect in temperature.  

On the drive home, the kids were burnt out on watching the DVD player, and were completely bored. All I heard was "Are we almost home?" "How much longer?" "I'm bored". I had brought them some books, but they read them all on the way up there. That is when I came up with this printable. I will now print this before EVERY road trip. On this printable it has a list of things to spy while on the road. Hand them this printable and a pencil and they are good to go! Click here for the big kid version and here for the little kid version (pictures for non-readers) or on the images below to print.

Big Kid Version:
 Little Kid Version:

Devin thought it would be a good idea to do an Alphabet Game printable for road trips also. My kids love playing the alphabet game! For the Alphabet Printable click here or on the image below.
I hope that this will help in future vacations with kids and also quick road trips. Happy "I Spying"!!

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