Friday, August 27, 2010

Visiting Roger Williams Park Playground on Family Fun Friday

100 Free (or Almost) Free Summer Family 
Fun Activities
: #22. Visit each of your local parks
and decide which one is best.

We haven't gone to all of our local parks this summer but we did make a trip to one we seldom visit - Roger Williams Park Playground.  It's a little farther away than our normal parks, much bigger, and usually very crowded.

The park has 3 huge play structures designed for different skills and abilities.  Of course Sam didn't think he should be stuck on the baby structure.

Sam has recently developed a love for slides.  He thought this one was a lot of fun. 

Ellie thought the baby tunnel was a lot of fun.

Sam did, too. They both crawled in and climbed on the tunnel.

Will and Ben recognized Mr. Potatohead and enjoyed climbing on him.

Everyone declared Roger Williams Park Playground to be a lot of fun.  If they always leave so peacefully we might play there more often.

What is your family's favorite playground and why?

Visit Fun Mom Friday at Please Pass the Salt for more family fun ideas.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Climbing Trees on Family Fun Friday

Family Fun Activities:  #68. Climb a tree.

I loved climbing trees as a kid and so do my children.  There's just something exciting about stretching to reach that next branch.  It's also magical to sit high up, looking down on everyone and everything that usually looks down on you.

I highly recommend you allow you kids to climb trees.  It's good for their development.  I promise. 

Will hangs by one hand!  Wish I had that kind of arm strength.

Ben joins the monkey action.

See, it's not that high.  The perfect climbing tree with low branches.

Yes, I set the baby in the tree.
The branches crossed and made a perfect seat for him.

My four monkeys in a tree.
Did you climb trees as a kid?  Do your children climb trees?

Visit Fun Mom Friday at Please Pass the Salt for more family fun ideas.

Disclaimer:  If you let your kids climb trees as a result of this post and one falls out and gets hurt, I am in no way liable.  :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Inspirational Weight Loss Books (part 2)

As I mentioned in this post, I am externally motivated a good deal of the time.  That's why when I'm making changes in my life I like to hear from people who've made similar changes or are experts on the topic.

This summer I've been making changes in my diet and exercise (in case you haven't noticed).  So I've been reading books about weight loss and fitness.

I found Fat Chance: Losing the Weight, Gaining My Worth by Julie Hadden (Guideposts Books, 2009) at my local library.  I'm so glad I did!

Julie Hadden, a contestant on The Biggest Loser Season 4, lost almost 100 pounds and has kept it off.  In her book, Julie describes how she became obese, her experiences on The Biggest Loser, and her life after reality television.

Julie shares about her childhood as a chubby little girl and tells how she struggled with weight all of her life.  An added factor to her battle has been a diagnosis of Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS).  After the birth of her first son, Julie's weight began to increase until she felt hopeless and helpless.

There was much about Julie's story that I relate to.  The life-long struggle with weight.  Being a stay-at-home mom.  And being a Christian.  Part of why I like this book so much is that Julie credits her success on The Biggest Loser, and her current life, to God.  She unashamedly talks about how God got her attention during the reality show and made her faith very real.

For Julie, church attendance and moral living is no longer about checking off a report card.  It's about knowing Jesus and following him.  It's about finding your worth and value not in the number on the scale but in the one who created you.

That's a story I can relate to and recommend to all my friends!  If you struggle with your weight or your self-esteem or know someone who does, I highly recommend you read Fat Chance.  I felt inspired and challenged by Julie and hope I get a chance to hear her speak some day.

What books have inspired you to make changes and improve your health?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Inspirational Weight Loss Books (part 1)

In my journey to be a healthier me I have learned that I am EXTREMELY externally motivated.  So when I discovered my local library had a couple of Biggest Loser autobiographies I decided to see if they could provide as much inspiration and motivation as the show gave me.

The first book I read was Believe It, Be It:  How Being The Biggest Loser Won Me Back My Life by Ali Vincent (Rodale, 2009).

Ali Vincent is the first woman to win The Biggest Loser.  Her book describes how she became an obese woman, how she became a contestant on the reality show, and how she became the winner.

I appreciate Ali's honesty about her tumultuous childhood and the negative impact it had on her.  I also respect the blood, sweat and tears she put into winning her season of Biggest Loser (which I haven't watched) and maintaining her current weight and fitness level.  But the book didn't inspire me very much.

In fact, it left me feeling somewhat dissatisfied.  Oh, don't get me wrong!  I'm motivated to work hard and eat right after reading Ali's story.  It's just that I didn't really connect with her life experience.  My childhood was a walk in the park compared to hers.  I am married with 4 children while she has always been single and has no kids.  I have a faith that influences every aspect of my life and Ali (at least by my understanding from the book) walked away from her childhood Mormon faith and doesn't practice any religion today.

I'm having a hard time putting my finger on my dissatisfaction with the book.  I think it stems from the differences in our world views.  As a Christian I believe Jesus is my strength and helps me achieve everything good in my life.  Alli doesn't share that belief so she takes credit for her amazing transformation.  Please don't misunderstand me.  Jesus didn't do the sit-ups for her or eat the salads instead of pizza.  But so much focus on "I, I, I" just seemed kind of empty to me.

That being said my recommendation for this book is eh.  Maybe you will glean a few tips and come away from it more inspired than I did.  I don't regret reading it but I won't be buying the book or telling friends that they just HAVE to read it.

Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you about a weight loss book that DOES inspire me.

Are you familiar with Alli's story?  Did you watch her win?  What weight loss books have inspired you?

Friday, August 13, 2010

Picnic at the Park on Family Fun Friday

The best fun is usually free.

The kids and I recently tested that premise with a visit to Roger Williams Park in Providence.

After 7 years as a mom I've learned to keep picnics simple.  I make peanut butter and honey sandwiches and cut them into quarters. 

The quarters are more manageable for little hands.  The honey soaks into the bread so it isn't messy like jelly.

We also take our re-usable water bottles, a container of baby carrots, and napkins.  This time we shared some leftover fruit salad but usually I cut up apples for us.

After we finished eating we explored the park a little.  The kids wanted to play around the Temple of Music.

Sam does his hardest to stay with the "big kids" but his little legs just aren't as fast as theirs.

I think Ellie agrees that the best fun can be free!

Visit Fun Mom Friday at Please Pass the Salt for more family fun ideas.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Remodeling Our Bathroom

We are just having tons of fun at the Stephanie's Mommy Brain house {read that again with strong sarcasm}.  We are hoping to put our house up for sale in a month or two so we've been feverishly doing house projects.

First, we painted the boys' bedroom.  Then we painted and installed a closet system in our hall linen closet.  And now we've (and by 'we' I really mean Hubby) pulled everything out of our half bathroom and are in the process of filling holes, replacing the vinyl, replacing the toilet and sink and painting.

My poor husband is soooo tired.

Here's a peak at all the work he's been doing.

Before the Demolition

Inspired by Destruction House on DIY

Demolition Ben

I pulled off 95% of the incredibly ugly paneling.

Ellie helped carry the paneling out to the dumpster.

A not-so-clean slate to work with.
After 7 years of living with an incredibly ugly bathroom I'm finally going to get a beautiful one.  Just in time to sell it to someone else.

Have you ever remodeled a bathroom?  How'd it go?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Biggest Loser BOOK Recommendation

My friend, Carrie, got me hooked on Biggest Loser this spring.  I loved watching the contestants push themselves and learn to make better food and fitness choices.

Watching the show motivated ME to make better choices.  When I first started watching I weighed 25-30 pounds more than is healthy for my body.  As I watched the contestants struggle to lose hundreds of pounds the thought struck me that they didn't get that way overnight.  It started with an extra 20 and just snowballed from there.

I am determined NOT to let my weight snowball but to get rid of my extra pounds and strengthen my body.

I'm thrilled to report that since June 1 I've lost 9+ pounds.  (The plus is because my scale today said I've lost 11 pounds but my husband won't let me count it until our "official" weigh-in on Sunday morning.)

As a fan of the show it made sense for me to look at the books that are being marketed by the show.  I found almost ALL of them through my local library.  My husband laughed at me for checking them all out but they each have a different slant.  Some are more focused on exercises, others on nutrition, others on trainers' tips and others on contestants' tips.

Rather than review them all, I'll just tell you about my 4 favorites.

This book gives a general overview of losing weight and getting healthy.  I liked it the best because it had the fewest contestant tips.  

My favorite section describes the "4-3-2-1 Biggest Loser [Food] Pyramid" and explains how many servings you should have, what a serving looks like, and why you body needs that type of food.

The Biggest Loser Simple Swaps.  Rodale Books, 2009.

A fabulous guide to help you make more nutritious choices without feeling deprived of your favorite foods!

My favorite tip is "Swap bacon for Canadian bacon.  Compared with traditional bacon strips, Canadian bacon has 35 percent less sodium, 65 percent fewer calories, and 75 percent less fat.  And it's just as delicious.  Enough said." (page 73)

As a Southern girl I like bacon.  A lot.  After I cook the bacon I like to use the grease to make milk gravy, which is then poured over homemade biscuits.  YUM!  In fact, I craved this meal constantly when I was pregnant with Samuel  (which accounts for about 10 of my husbands extra pounds).

I've made the switch to Canadian bacon.  It's more expensive than regular bacon but it's worth it.  And I've also dropped the biscuits and gravy - at least for now.

The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook. Rodale Books, 2008.

For the most part these are budget-friendly and family-friendly meals.  I haven't tried any of the recipes because my children aren't very adventurous.

But the recipes look delicious and simple.  And NORMAL.  I hate it when a diet cookbook uses crazy ingredients that I would never use in real life.

If you are looking for a new cookbook, I highly recommend this one.

The Biggest Loser Fitness Program.  Rodale Books, 2007.

This book uses pictures and written descriptions to educate you on different exercises.  It also includes several beginner, intermediate, and advanced routines.

I have not used the routines because I am using 30 Day Shred (link to my review) and various Biggest Loser workout DVDs.  But I have found this book helpful.

One of my frustrations with the DVDs is that the trainers don't slowly walk you through the proper form of each exercise.  This book picks up where the trainers leave off.

If you are looking for books to use as resources for nutrition, exercise and recipes I highly recommend these four.

Do you have a favorite nutrition or fitness book?

Monday, August 9, 2010

Women's Ministry in the Local Church (book giveaway)

Women's Ministry in the Local Church by J. Lignon Duncan and Susan Hunt.  Crossway Books, 2006.

In September, I will be participating in a book review/ discussion panel with 3 other bloggers at Offering Hospitality.

I have only read the introduction but am already excited and challenged by this book.  I hope you will read along with us and share you responses in the comments at Offering Hospitality!

One way you can read along with us is by winning the copy graciously donated by Crossway Books.  Go to Offering Hospitality HERE, comment and you're entered in the drawing.

To make sure there is no confusion, I am closing the comments on this post.  Good luck!!

Disclosure:  My copy of Women's Ministry in the Local Church was provided by Crossway Books.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Playing at a School Playground on Family Fun Friday

#23. Play at a school playground.

A short walk from our house brings you to a local elementary school with a great playground.  In fact, if my children attended public school instead of home school that's where they would go.  Since they aren't playing there every day for recess, they think walking over after school is out and during the summer is a great idea.

Ellie hangs while the boys and Daddy play baseball in the field.

Sam doesn't care that the bat and T are almost as tall as he is.

My climbing girl is why they invented skorts!

How cool is this 3 person slide?!

Does you family use a school playground during the summer?  Is it where your children attend school?

Visit Fun Mom Friday at Please Pass the Salt for more family fun ideas.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Ultimate Turkey Sandwich Recipe

Since June 1st I've been on a mission to lose at least 20 pounds.  Exercise alone wasn't giving me the results I wanted so I made a few changes to my diet.

One of those changes was to swap my usual lunch of peanut butter and jelly sandwich for The Ultimate Turkey Sandwich.  (It even holds up well to pack for picnics at the park with my kids.)

1 slice of whole wheat bread, toasted
1 slice of Land O Lakes Provolone cheese
3 slices of Oscar Mayer Cracked Black Pepper Deli Turkey
1 - 2 slices of Tomato
1 leaf of Green Leaf Lettuce
1 tsp. Mustard

After toasting, slice bread in half.  Spread mustard on both bread pieces.  Stack remaining ingredients on one piece of toasted bread and top with the other piece.


I'm no dietitian but I think this sandwich contains 230 calories (not counting the tomato and lettuce).  It also counts as 1 grain, 1.5 protein, and .5 vegetable servings.

Visit Offering Hospitality's Recipe Swap for more lunch ideas.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart.  Little, Brown Books, 2008.

Carrie at Reading to Know has gone on, and on, and on about the awesomeness of The Mysterious Benedict Society.

So when I found a copy for less than $2 at a home school used curriculum/book sale I laughed out loud and clapped my hands.  I knew that I had to take that book home and see what all the fuss was about.

Well, as usual, Carrie was spot on in her review!

The story is about 4 very unique children who use their talents to solve a mystery and save the world.  And that's all I'm going to tell you for fear that I'll give away too much.

I'll just say it's a great story.  Very entertaining.  Clean with nothing to make me cringe.  And I read it in a day and a half.  I rarely read a book that quickly these days due to the 4 little people that live in my home and demand most of my attention.

So, you should read it.  As soon as possible.  I have not read this book with my kids or handed it over to them.  I think the suspense and tension of the mystery would be a little to much for them right now.  But I think a 10-12 year old would have no problems with this story. 

Thanks, Carrie, for recommending another great book!

For more books read because of recommendations visit I Read It! at 5 Minutes for Books.

Attending a WNBA Connecticut Sun Game with my family.

I am on a mission this summer to have a lot of fun and create new family memories.  So when One2One Network asked if I wanted to attend a WNBA game I enthusiastically said yes!

This was our first time to attend a WNBA game and the ladies of the Connecticut Sun (and Atlanta Dream) did not disappoint.  They traded the lead back and forth through the whole game, which made for a lot of excitement and tense moments for my 7 year old.

We cheered like crazy when the Suns made a basket and felt disappointed when they missed.  Well, some of us did.  A couple of our group were mostly fascinated by the popcorn but they're so cute we won't hold it against them.

In the end, the Suns pulled out the victory and we cheered wildly.

Overall, we had a great time!  The Mohegan Sun Arena is fairly small so even the "nosebleed" seats give you a great view of the action.  The mascot and announcer had lots of entertaining activities during timeouts and halftime.  And the women of the WNBA played an exciting game of basketball!!

If you are interested in attending a Connecticut Suns game go here and enter WNBABLOG to purchase tickets at a great discount.  If you aren't in New England, you can still use the discount for your local team by visiting here and entering the same code.

Thank you One2One Network, WNBA, and Connecticut Sun for providing a fun new memory for my family!

Disclosure:  To help me write this review, I was provided 6 free tickets to a Connecticut Sun game.  I was also given several free t-shirts with the team logo.

Note:  The basketball game was a LOT of fun.  However, the CT Sun play at the Mohegan Sun Arena.  The only way we could find to get to the arena was to walk around the outskirts of the casino floor.  While we there was a half wall separating us from the gambling, it was within view.  We have chosen not to gamble and it makes me uncomfortable to expose my children to that environment.  This is my only reservation about the whole experience.
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