Archive for Family Fun

A Sugar Challenge for Kids

The last in my series of sugar posts (at least for a while) this one targets where change might be needed most…a sugar challenge for kids!

Seems these days kids are made of more sugar than spice. This MSN article says that average Americans eat 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, and teens eat 34! This article on child sugar addiction cites an AHA study that children as young as 1 exceed daily recommendations, typically consuming 12 teaspoons of sugar a day. What?!

Where are they getting it?

sugary snacksSome of the most common sources of sugar for kids:

  • beverages (sodas, sports drinks, juices that aren’t 100% fruit)
  • breakfast cereal (for fun, check this slide show for the worst offenders.)
  • Fruit snacks, Candy (yes, I lumped those together!)
  • Desserts, Cookies, Ice cream, etc.

Keep an eye out for hidden sugars in other favorite “kid foods”:

applesauce, dried fruit, popcorn, yogurt, instant oatmeal, trail mix, pasta sauce, canned fruit, jams, etc.

reboot a sugar mouthWhat to do?

Most parents, would agree it is our job to feed our kids healthy foods. By extension, have we failed them if we raise them to crave artificial levels of sweet? What if you could take your child’s name of the long roster of sugar addicts? Training kids to like natural flavors, subtle sweetness, and a variety of whole foods might be one of the greatest gifts we can give them.

If you have done a sugar fast of your own, you know what withdrawals can feel like. How on earth do you get your kids on board?

  1. Talk openly about how harmful sugar is in our bodies. Don’t sugar coat it.
  2. Ask them for ideas. Kids are creative. They will think of ways to cut down or what to replace sugar with.
  3. Issue a challenge….a double dare, if you will. What kid won’t rise to a dare? Here is what we did in my home.

double dare your family to take the sugar challenge!Family Challenge: No Sugar for One Week.

I know I advocate 2 weeks in an adult sugar fast, but one week is a great length of time for kids. It feels long to them, but is easy enough to visualize. You can always extend if you think your kids are up for it.

The idea is simple, no sweets for a week.  With four kids ages 2-8 (the first time), we did a formal challenge, with rules and incentives.  See if it gives you any ideas…

Psych Up

Any mom who has survived potty training can tell you it is all about enthusiasm. Just like you may have cheered in a public restroom when your toddler finally did the deed, be prepared to be your kids’ biggest fan.  If they hear you complaining about missing sugar, will they stay on board?  Get your head into the game before you pitch this at the kids.  Be prepared to celebrate the successes! Pour on the praises! Be the sweet they are missing.


Prep is much the same as for an adult sugar fast. See my 12 tips for sugar fasting. With kids, you want to be even more proactive, leaving less to willpower.  Have healthy snacks ready after school.  Be ready to pack healthy home lunches for school. Focus on variety, make sure they don’t feel like they are “missing out.”

no sugar? Eat broccoli

We didn’t even know Zaida would eat broccoli until she chose it as part of her healthy meal.

Try new things. The day before we kicked off our sugar fast, I pulled out all my healthy cookbooks and magazines and spread them on the floor and let each kid pick a meal they wanted to try. It was fun to see the variety they chose on their own.  I scheduled the week’s meals incorporating their recipes, and let them help make it. Instead of bemoaning the sugar they missed out on, they were bragging about the meal “they” cooked for the family (as if I had nothing to do with it.)  This served a two-fold purpose: distracting them from the changes we were experiencing, and helping them (and me) see that healthy food can be fun.

Set the Rules.

If they can memorize all the rules of Monopoly, complete with the homemade free parking clause, they can keep track of some simple rules (and even help make them!):

No sugar, No soda, no sweet cereals, no candy. No chocolate milk at school.

Establish Incentives:

The Big Prize:

Nickel!Here in Utah we have nickel arcades—Nickelmania or Nickelcade. Depending on where you live, you may have to adjust and choose another arcade.  I suggest you pre-purchase the booty. For example, if Chuck E Cheese (I hate that place) is your destination, go there and purchase a load of tokens ahead of time. Use coupons, pull out all the mommy tricks; you want to dazzle them! I loaded on rolls of nickels beforehand and put them out so the kids could see them.

Along the way:

nickels...sugarless currencyWe hung a bag with each kids name on it on the fire place (stocking style!) and put 20 nickels in it to get them drooling. As the week goes on, they report their progress. They earn nickels for sticking to the plan. I even purchased candy off them for nickels. The kids would bring home fun size candy bars or tootsie rolls, even cupcakes from school and eagerly cash them in for Thomas Jeffersons.
If they cheat, you remove nickels from their bag. I would say one nickel for each infraction. As it was, we didn’t have to use this feature!

Bonus: Enjoy Inflation!
Suddenly nickels were the hot item in the house. I am not kidding. My kids aren’t the most motivated at times. There are days you could light their back pockets on fire and they may or may not get up to put the flames out; but attach a nickel to any deed, and suddenly they are unstoppable. Shea came home to a super clean house one day (shocker!) and I had to confess I hired help. “Really? How much did you spend?” “Well,” I explained, “the bathrooms cost me a nickel each. The laundry, a nickel per kid per load. The dishes….” you get the idea. My house sparkled for about 85 cents in cold hard 5-pieces. (Please don’t report me.) Sigh, I miss the nickel days.

facebook like signTake it over the top with social media:

Use Facebook! The first time we did this sugar challenge, it was such a ground breaking concept (wait mom, is that even possible?) that I wanted to do something really big. I posted on Facebook about our upcoming challenge and invited any of our friends to sponsor the kids…put a buck in the pot for each kid who didn’t cheat at all NOT EVEN ONCE. We ended up with an extra 12 bucks per kid, a fortune to them! It was also fun for them to see the support come in from aunts across the country, and even friends from Down Under. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to make this a habit, but I can’t think of a better bonus to kick off a sugar challenge…support and cash? Any kids dream come true!

Here is my FB post from January 30, 2012:

For family night tonight, we are kicking off a 7 day no sugar challenge. The kids are excited, as of now. (But then they are still high from their last fix.) Grandpa is kicking in 1 big buck for each kid who makes it. Anyone else want to sponsor this impossible task? I am doubting you will have to pay up, but the prospect is exciting!!!

 I posted periodic updates like this one on January 31:
Day one of no sugar with kids 2, 6, 7,and 8 years old is over. They are all wearing their reminder bracelets.  No cheats yet but some close calls. Zaida emphatically tried to convince me that there is no sugar in Airheads at the store today. Tayler almost sold her soul for a snickers but hung on. I love seeing them try hard!
and this final post made me laugh. Shea is never ornery, so seeing the sugar challenge irritate DAD of everyone was pretty funny….
Feb 6: Last day of the no sugar challenge. Seriously amazed that my kids have endured! The most surprising aspect of this challenge were the sugar withdrawals that made someone grumpy. And I don’t mean me. And I don’t mean the kids.

Just Do it!

All aboard! This is a team sport. Mom, dad, everyone.  Pick your dates. Get prepped. Do it.  Stay engaged and have a good time!  Try to laugh off the hard moments, and keep spirits up!

Sugar challenge gets 2 thumbs upSo how did it go?

The kids surprised me with their dedication to the cause. They would come home from school and triumphantly tell me about turning down a jolly rancher or choosing “white” instead of chocolate milk. Some of them earned accolades from their teachers who were amazed any kid would refuse a sugary handout. Some of them were a little high on the attention they got from friends dumbfounded by their bravery: “I can’t believe you are doing this, I would DIE!”
Even Zaida, who was only 2 1/2 at the time, would wake up and say “Is we eating sugah today mommy?” “No honey.” “Oh, okay.”

They loved our sugarless treats and snacks.  Watermelon was a huge hit.  Oranges tasted like candy.  They still ask me to make my homemade trail mix and ants on a log…never before heard of!
There were hard moments. On the day before our big finish, a kind and unknowing neighbor brought us over a homemade blueberry cobbler. Shea came home from a meeting to find his wife and kids circled around a pyrex dish staring, possibly drooling, intently. We agreed to save it for our end celebration, but no fruit dish was ever so ogled since Chiquita banana first donned ruffles.

Pay Day: KaChing!

The day we went to Nickelcade was so, well, sweet. The kids were triumphantly holding their bulging bags of nickels and swapping war stories. I can’t remember having more fun at a dirty low-end arcade in all my life. They pooled tickets and bought prizes together. They laughed and there was no fighting! It was miraculous! After, they made plans for the jackpots they had earned from their sponsors. The enthusiasm was electric. We spent all in all maybe 25 dollars in admissions and nickels. That was the best 25 ever spent!

kids eating watermelon after a successful sugar challengeThe Aftermath

Are we a sugar free family now? No. But the week challenge did a lot to raise awareness and overall we consume much less. Even the kids decided they liked how they felt off sugar and will pass on candy unless it is an absolute favorite. I noticed their moods were more stable and their attitudes were sweeter. The very next day after eating cobbler and a few celebratory confections they were bouncing off the walls and squabbling once again. It was pronounced enough for me to wish we were sugar free 100%!
On occasion, the kids will actually ask me if we can do another sugar free week challenge. We did one by request a couple weeks after Halloween. They even asked to extend it to a two week challenge! Can’t argue with that! The week sugar fast was worth it in so many ways. We give it 2 thumbs up and wish you sweet success!

Modifying for older kids:

If arcades with mom and dad aren’t floating their boats anymore, ditch the tokens and go for an all or nothing. An Amusement park? A new skateboard? Take your budget into a pass for 3 cheatsaccount and get creative. I did a week long no sugar challenge with my youth group at church. 14-15 year old young women: it was easy to pick an incentive….homemade spa night complete with eye brow waxing, mani/pedis and chick flicks!

I offered each girl 3 cheats. Because it was associated with a church lesson, I handed them out 3 “sweet forgiveness” cards.  The challenge was totally voluntary.  Most of the girls at least tried it.  About 50% of the girls completed it.  That is pretty impressive!  Overall, it was a great way to open up discussion and awareness.

Teaching kids to choose the apple over the chocolate barWhatever you do, it is worth the time to promote consciousness and educate your kids food choices. Imagine the advantages they will have in life if they learn early on to curb the sugar habit! I wish I could go back in time and tell my teenage fast food working self to sever the line to the Dr Pepper tap and make eat healthy instead!

Kids are surprising. They can do it. They may even help you do it.


Don’t forget to share your ideas and stories with us!

All My Tomorrows: an anniversary tribute

Caution: contains amorous amateur poetry. You've been warned!

It is that time again, the annual celebration of the day Shea picked me!  If you can’t get enough of us, check out last year’s post. The big ten years!

Love is a dream builderNow we celebrate eleven years. I guess this is officially more than a fling.  He is undoubtedly my soulmate.  Never had I met a man who I could be 100% myself with…potty mouth, good intentions and all.  I still marvel at how much he loves me.  Shea is behind everything I do. Little Purple Barn simply would not exist without him. He lets me dream and never shuts me down (unless perhaps heavy lifting or public nudity are involved.)  I just can’t express my depths of gratitude for my custom fit husband!  I hope every day to make him as happy as he makes me (and some mornings, I simply set out to irritate him because it is fun.)

In case I didn’t gag you yet with sick sweet sentiments, I decided to post the lyrics to a song I wrote for my sweetheart while engaged.  I used to belt it out on the I-15 as I eagerly sped home in my 1989 Ford Tempo to see him.  Now, we sing it every year on our anniversary (we are talking shower quality, not performance grade.) This year, I am teaching it to the kids so they can serenade him.  The lyrics may not be the smoothest (though Sarah McLachlan or Kelly Clarkson, you are still welcome to steal them when you most certainly read this) but they are sincere and still the way I feel about my man…

Wedding song for Shea

Happy anniversaryHappy Anniversary M’Lover!

Here’s to another decade together. (It will take longer than that for you to finish the honey-do list I have in my head!! bwa ha ha) And brace yourself, Shea: when you get home from work today, I look forward to grossing the kids out with some good old-fashioned, enthusiastic PDA.

Trader Joe’s opens in SLC: I lived to tell the tale!

I just got back from Trader Joe’s. As I type this, I am trying not to get tzatziki sauce on my keyboard. This would not be a notable event if I didn’t live in SALT LAKE CITY!!! That’s right, Trader Joe’s is finally here!

Grand opening of Trader Joe's SLC

Trader Joe’s needs traffic cops!

We experienced it all, the hawaiian shirts, the ringing bells, the friendly–though frazzled–staff.  We stood in line for 5 minutes for a bite of their “famous” mandarin chicken (which I had never heard of).  We got a free Trader Joe’s reusable shopping tote.  As they gave them to everyone, I don’t know why they had to yell “free bag” with every check out. (It sounded like Cafe Rio in there!)

We arrived at noon, 4 hours after opening, and they were already out of some notable items, like the fabled peppermint Jo Jos. But overall I was impressed at the abundance and variety on the shelves.

???? I may need to investigate.

There was no one as excited as I to be there. Trader Joe’s has an awesome product line.  Their prices are pretty good, considering they specialize in organic and fair trade ingredients. They have a wide range of healthier alternatives to “mainstream” junk food.  All products in the Trader Joe’s Label promise no GMOs, no added trans fat, no MSG, and no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.  Not too shabby these days!  They also carefully label Vegan, Vegetarian, and Gluten Free items.  No, not everything there is good for you. Not by a long shot. But if you are going to splurge, why not splurge on some dark chocolate pomegranate seeds or some sweet potato chips?  And where else can you find roughly one million varieties of hummus?

I love the Trader Joe’s atmosphere.  The cedar plank walls and raffia trim.  The bright Hawaiian accents.  Whoever this Trader Joe guy is, he has an impressive presence.  You almost want to try bartering your first born at the checkstand (their dried fruit selection is worth it.)

Fill your cart with goodies, they are going fast!

As for attending the day opening, if you go wear your running shoes because you will need to be able to dart in and out of traffic…in the parking lot and in the store!  Most people came expecting such and were courteous and patient. Some to a fault. One older gentleman who insisted on letting every lady with a kid in her cart go ahead of him will probably still be there tomorrow.  I felt bad for one exasperated twenty something who yelled across the piles of produce to a friend “I had no idea what Trader Joe’s was, this is insane! Why are we here just for food?!”  For the most part, you learned to navigate slowly, watch your peripheral for treasures to snag, and try not to hit any arms sporadically popping out in front of your face to grab a bottle of pasta sauce or organic dog food.

It was fun to see the mix of people at the “event” as well. The promise of organic pop culture brought some of Salt Lake’s snobbiest, while the hope of grand opening deals and healthy snacks enticed droves of mommy carts, the ones piled with the flailing arms of children, expeditiously maneuvering the mob before the good behavior melted.  I had to laugh at the adults grumbling as they waited in line for a free sample of apple cider and a minuscule cookie with sprinkles. Oh I am sorry, did you not realize free samples attract kids in herds?

Only Trader Joe’s could get a kid this excited about brussel sprouts!

My favorite encounter happened outside, in the parking lot. As I navigated my brood through the frogger-like-scene, I saw a man loading a kid in a carseat (I couldn’t see the kid, just the designer carseat he was wrestling with).  What caught my eye (I have mommy laser vision, you see) was the expensive pacifier on the ground by his tire.  Have you ever lost a binky? Then you understand the precarious situation.  I decided to be heroic and pick it up for him.  “Excuse me, is this yours? It was in front of your car.”  He looked up from his tangle of car straps and looked at me, then at the binky. An expression of disgust on his face he said, “No. My daughter is TWO and she has NEVER used one of THOSE” (as if I was holding a joint.)  “Oh, sorry, I was just trying to be helpful.” At this point he saw the kids standing behind me–4 of my own and a extra friend–and said incredulously, “Whoa, are those kids all yours? Your uterus must be enormous.”  “Yes sir, approximately the size of a warehouse. Have a nice day.”  I walked off feeling just full of warm fuzzies.

This one has my name on it

Snotty encounter aside, it was a great day.  I came home with some high class munchables to share at a party tonight, and some quality chocolate to stash in my treat drawer…the perfect remedy for an over-extended uterus.

I can’t wait to go back again…in a few weeks perhaps.  And oh yeah, my sister can stop mailing me Trader Joe treats for Christmas. (Or not, you can’t have too many of those chocolate dipped cacao nibs!)

Happy Trading!

Whitakers at Trader Joe's

Catching Crawdads: Foraging gets Frisky

You may have noticed we Whitakers like to eat.  A lot. So much, we started a mini farm in our back yard to keep the food flowing. In addition to our home goat dairy, rabbitry for meat, and our 22 egg layers, I have started researching foraging.  It started with greens.  At first, eating dandelions was both for health benefits and also for spite, as if eating them would scare them out of our yard.  But then I began seeing more and more possibilities.  There are people out there who literally get all their greens on their morning stroll.  People that forage fruit from front lawns and call it a “clean up service.”  Apparently, if you look around, there is enough free food available to keep our paleolithic ancestors smacking their lips.

If you have fished, you have foraged. Nothing better than lake trout grilled over the fire! If you have gone mushrooming, you are a pro at foraging. (That is on my bucket list, by the way.)  If you are a hunter–not just a trophy hunter, but a freezer full of venison hunter–I salute you.   Damon has explored the culinary possibilities of worms and said he is not opposed to raising other bugs.  We ate a “wild” rabbit we caught in the process of obliterating our garden. On a similar note, I might be persuaded to eat gopher, if we could ever catch one of the evil critters.  Foraging intrigues me (and not just flora and fauna I am mad at.)

So when my hubby came home from an evening in the canyon with a surprise for me, I was elated.  No, he didn’t pick wildflowers.  I had stayed home with a sick kid while Shea ventured up East canyon for a family party.  It was late when Shea came trudging in with 3 worn out and mud covered children.  Usually, he would be exhausted too from a night outnumbered by kids, but the mud couldn’t hide the boyish grin on his face as he held up a plastic bucket like a trophy.  I noticed the peculiar movement of the mass right away.  Then the swampy smell hit me. They were beautiful.  Crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs…a rose by any other name. 

I was seriously thrilled on a late Saturday night to realize that I would not have to worry about Sunday dinner. Shea, the formidable forager, had brought home a feast!

Well, one of these critters is cute.

If you have never caught crawdads, grab a bucket and enlist your little ones; it is an adventure.  They thrive in still water, like a slow moving stream or the edge of a reservoir or lake.  Find a comfortable spot on a shoreline, you may be there awhile.  You have to wait till dusk, when crawdads are most active.  You need some premium bait. Hot dogs, for example, will not do the trick. But chicken necks…irresistible!   The easiest way is to tie your bait to a long string and throw it from shore as far as you can. Then you wait. Pull your string in slowly, inch at a time with long pauses in between.  The little buggers will clamp onto the meat, and hang on tight right up to the point where you can bend down and scoop them up.  Slow and steady is the key.  Grab them by the thorax and you will be most likely to avoid a pinch (there has to be some risk involved or where is the fun?) Put them in a bucket of water and go get some more!

Anyway, this was by far the biggest haul ever made by my tribe.  There were easily 75 or so of them. The largest crawdad filled my whole hand.

Cooking them is really a breeze. I was wishing I had corn on the cob and some kielbasa so we could do it Southern style.  But you make do. We whipped up some garlic butter and got the pot boiling.

Bring salt water to a rolling boil. Gently drop crawdads in, 5 or 6 at a time. Boil 12-14 minutes. Repeat with next batch.

The kids were so proud and excited, like warriors after a hunt. They have always wanted to do a lobster boil. This is probably as close as we will get. Damon wanted to see if they really turned red. They do. Becca wondered if the crawdads would scream.  They didn’t.  Even Tayler, our princess, was captivated.  I have never had so many helpers at dinner time.

Here’s a diet plan for you…each bite is a workout!

Half the fun of eating is the process of cracking into them.  The kids felt as though they had license to play with their food. There were lots of laughs and jokes as we tried to demonstrate the best way to open the claws and tails.  And did they eat them? Yes!  You probably aren’t surprised that Damon and Shea, my “garbagemen,” devoured their dinners.  But even my girls were eager to try it. All but Zaida, who refuses anything that didn’t come in a box.  Sigh.  But she enjoyed opening them up and handing her spoils over to daddy.  All in all, it was a fun, different dinner.  The kids felt like mighty adventurers and crawdads taste infinitely better than dandelions.

A couple of our dinner guests.

We enjoyed ourselves so much, I read up on crawdad farming.  No, it won’t be added to the purple barn lineup anytime soon, but we do dream of an aquatic addition sometime in the future.  Some of you will think this is interesting, some of you have done this before as kids, and others will be horrified.  I am getting used to the mixed responses. But even as I write this, I am bracing for our next adventure in eating….goat.  See you next time!

It’s A Walking Dead Man’s Party: Friday the 13th at our house.

At our house, we can be a little morbid. I know this. Some kids are scared of the dark or get nightmares from scary movies. My kids, they were raised on spooky flicks.  In fact, I almost had Tayler in a movie theater. Not really, but when I saw Darkness Falls while 9 months pregnant, I swear I almost went into labor. Intense.

When Damon was in preschool, the teacher raised concern that when they drew clowns, he drew a monster clown with fangs and claws. I feigned surprise as Damon proudly showed his rendition of “Killer Klowns from Outerspace.”  A classic at the Whitaker home.  Halloween is our gory glory.  We laugh where others fear…or vomit.  My kids are going to be demented like me.  I daresay they ARE the things that go bump in the night.

Shea’s birthday invitation. “Drop in or Drop Dead”

When Friday the 13th rolls around, I automatically know I have plans. They include the same group of people and roughly the same agenda: scary movies, awesome eats. (Tonight we have plans to watch as many movies as we can stay up for while feasting Zombie style on BBQ spare ribs. I can’t wait!) But earlier this year something rare and amazing happened: my favorite day fell on my favorite person’s birthday.  So it was that to celebrate my hubby Shea’s 33rd year of life, we all had a party to die for.  January the 13th, a freaky friday like no other, will live on in lore.

I was inspired by Charity’s posts of plaid and tweed and required, for the first time ever, a dress code. Anything zombie. The deader the better.  Damon (or Daemon?) was great in a shredded white tailed tuxedo top and his, umm, bloody nub. Even Zaida (3) got into the action. She couldn’t wait for the “Jombie” party and asks me every day when we get to be Jombies again.

Birthday Boy with his Morbid Mama

Zaida’s best impression of a “Jombie”

Tayler and Damon in various stages of decomposure.

And by far my favorite picture is Bruce McClellan with my kids. Now Brucie was responsible for my training, growing up, in all things gruesome. He personally made sure I knew the classics, like Nosferatu and Frankenstein and continued with B-grade flicks like “Attack of the Killer Shrews” and “Them.”  He took me to every haunted house in the valley and shared his ghost hunting skills.  I thank/blame him for my corruption.  Now he is working on the next generation.  Love that man.

hmmm…I swear those ghosts in the back weren’t there when I took the picture!

Edibles: Gruesome Deliciousness is one of my favorite pass times. Go ahead, ask me for my recipe for meat rats [meatloaf shaped like rats with gooey red cheesy guts complete with lunch meat ears (they shrivel just right) and a beef jerky tail]. Or maybe you want my monster mashed potatoes: they look like a heaping scoop of guts on your plate but they taste great! This night featured classic finger foods and, in pure zombie decadence, a giant chocolate brain cake.

Spinach Artichoke Intestines…a big hit!

The Birthday Cake

The main event was a zombie walk.  We had a fog machine and strobe and hosted a zombie parade in the front yard. Oh, if I only knew how to get the footage off my outdated camera onto the computer! But imagine an episode of “Walking Dead” in my front yard.  The twitching, ambling, empty stare of my most beloved friends and family make me absolutely giddy.  The parade of the underage undead was probably my favorite part.  Really warms a mother’s heart to see the kids get so into their roles.

So what are you doing tonight? May I suggest you get in touch with your dark side?  Explore the horror?  Gather your loved ones and make it a movie night macabre.  I recommend Monster House or Ghost Busters for beginners.  Walking Dead for the more advanced.  Way more advanced.

Each Friday the 13h, I encourage my kids to fully express their gruesomeness in the hopes that for the rest of the year, we can walk more nobly in the land of the living.  Cheers!

Ten Year Tribute: Happy Anniversary to my Jr High Sweetheart

Today is my anniversary. Ten years ago we sealed the deal on a plan I hatched long ago. I still wonder if Shea knows what hit him.

It started in a galaxy far, far away. Junior High.  Erika described it this way, “…it was pretty much just the worst of times.  After all, it was Jr. High School.  As a matter of fact, the best thing to come out of  those years of awkwardness, orthodontia, and grunge fashion might just be this blog.”  In my mind, the blog is the second best thing.  Somehow, amid the painful inelegance and dental subjugation, I managed to fall head over heels (and not just because of my baggy pants) for the tall, handsome new guy in town. (It’s okay, my plaid flannel hid the fact that my pants were low riding).  Ahh yes…1993.

There is no psycho stalker alive that can match the stealth and perseverance of a twitterpated teenage girl.  Within days of school starting, I knew his locker and when he frequented, his class schedule, who he hung with, and even the route he took to which classes and when. All this intel was carefully integrated to insure that I “bumped” into him as often as possible.  He had first period science with me.  I worked behind the scenes, playing TA duty and buying off others by doing their homework to eventually get the seating chart arranged to sit Mr. Whitaker right behind me.  There I continued to mercilessly seduce him with extreme tactics like Reeses Peanut Butter Cups and handholding games like “Mercy” and “Slaps.”  Ahh, the pain was worth it.

For all my passive aggressive scheming, I came to be really good friends with Shea.  I was too self-conscious and awkward to ever bust a real move, but I was happy to claim him among my best friends. I wonder if he ever suspected that Mrs. Kristin Whitaker was written all over my journal.  Life was smooth until the cruel hand of fate intervened.  Ever changing school boundaries would heartlessly tear us apart. It was so Capulet and Montague…I was slated to be a Bountiful High Brave while my love-object would be a Viewmont Viking along with Erika, Charity, and 95% of the rest of our school.  The injustice! The tragedy!  While all other ninth graders rejoiced as the last day of school approached, I mourned inwardly with all the intensity of a 15-year-old girl.  My life was over.  Our relationship surely would not survive without the carefully planned accidental rendezvous in the hallways, without the notes I passed in English class to remind him of my existence, without the bribery of confections and bubblegum I offered in science class. It was surely over.  He would be swept away by hundreds of adoring, beautiful Viking women and I would be a lonely Brave.  I wish I could go back and tell myself then what I know now!

I have only two pictures existing from those days.  First, this is us signing yearbooks on the last day of Jr. High. I am sure I wrote something charming and friendly, encoding a deep and unending love and perhaps a phone number into my scribbles.  And what did my Prince Charming write in mine? I breathlessly ran to a quiet corner alone to find out…

“Dear Kristin, you always were the strong silent type…but enough about your farts. Have a great summer! Shea”

Second, is a picture from ninth grade Lagoon Day. I was thrilled Shea opted to wander the amusement park with me and my girls (you’ll notice Erika sitting/ screaming next to me) but still didn’t have the gumption to sit next to him. I could move heaven and earth to arrange our proximity, but couldn’t be so direct as to actually sit by him!  Funny. I have since overcome that.

High school was not as tragic as I had feared. Shea and I stayed in touch for a while.  I used to ride my bike to his house to listen to these really cool things called CDs, a new musical novelty.  Shea actually asked me out on his sixteenth birthday and I was privileged to be his first date. Be still my heart!  Here is a picture.

be cool, Kristin; just be cool.

Can you tell my heart is in my throat and I can hardly breathe? Of course not, I was too smooth for that in my borrowed black suede vest. We went to Desert Star Playhouse and ate pizza.  For our ten-year, we are revisiting the theater.  Hopefully I will get more action afterwards.

We went to a few dances and sports events. When our rival teams played, he would come sit on the Brave side with me and I thought he was so, err, brave.  I mean, I had to sit on the bleachers with the pep band–I was on drumline–he willingly ventured there!

Shea even took me to prom. I think the pictures say it all.

Don’t think I ever told him he slammed my hair in the door.

We made some amazing memories and were pretty close in those days, but still the man would take another 8 years to kiss me. I was tortured by that then, but now I have the supreme satisfaction of torturing him.  Somehow through the drama of high school, we gradually lost touch.  In retrospect it was all for the better. By the time I ran into him at the airport 4 years later, I was done playing games and ready to play for keeps. Oh, and we both had our braces off.

The second I saw him again, the sparks flew. I picture myself suave and mysterious as Mr. Whitaker approached me that day. My mom, who witnessed the encounter, said my jaw was on the floor and I mumbled incoherently. I think I had a stellar line on board like, “wow, how tall are you now?”  Somehow, Shea called and asked me out anyway and the rest is history.  Five months after that we were married. Ten years later we are living it up on our half-acre with 4 children, 2 hopefully pregnant goats, 3 rabbits, 12 chickens, 2 barn cats, and a frozen worm farm (oops).

Our engagement photo. No more baggy jeans and Doc Martin knock offs! We’ve come a long way!

I remember sitting on the beach the night before our wedding. We watched the moon rise over the waves and reminisced about our history.  I laid my head on his shoulder and wonder how it could get any better.  Funny, I do the same thing now.

In Junior High, I could barely manage the words “yes I like Shea. Yes, I LIKE like Shea” to my closest friends. But now I can proclaim to all Blog-dom…”I love Shea Whitaker!” He makes me laugh till I hurt, he catches my tears, he tolerates my downtimes and he builds my dreams. It is also a bonus to be helplessly attracted to my best friend.  I’ve had ten years to wonder how I got so lucky and forever to live it up!

At dinner the other day, while Shea was out, Becca (5) randomly piped up, “Mom I am so glad you married Daddy. If not you would still be walking up and down the streets saying, ‘Will you marry me? Will you marry me? Will somebody PLEASE marry me?!!!” Wow, thank you Shea for sparing me that fate!

Happy Ten Years!

Peace, Love, Carpenters…deflecting a tantrum with song

Am I the only mom who wants to push pause and walk away from my kids sometimes?

What I don’t know about parenting is astounding.  The challenges are constant.  Lately, Shea and I have been praying, begging, discussing, strategizing, and endlessly pleading for ways to deal with a particular recurring behavior in our home: tantruming. That is not even the exact word for what happens. I don’t want to name names, because Damon (7) would feel bad in twenty years when I read this at his wedding, but one of our children is driving us crazy.

I have mentioned before that Damon is shy, thoughtful, smart, witty, and sensitive. But take that last adjective and multiply to the nth degree, and that is where the meltdowns occur.
When he gets upset, offended, discouraged, or contradicted he can dissolve into tears faster than Julia Child on an onion rampage. And for some reason, when his eyes are dripping, his ears disconnect and you can neither reason nor comfort the man child. He can pout for lengths of time that would impress Guinness Book editors and sometimes the crying is accompanied by flailing and grunting. It is seriously intense and unnervingly frequent.
It can happy instantly–anytime, anywhere.  You have to be so careful not to trigger a meltdown. You even have to watch how you structure your sentences.  For example, if Damon asks for ice cream and you intend to say, “No, you can’t have ice cream right now, but after dinner you can have a 6 scoop extravaganza on a sprinkled waffle cone with cherries and sparklers on top” he will be on the floor in tears before you reach the comma in your sentence and his brain just locks down so that finishing the good news would be futile.

I am sure some of you reading this are abounding with sound, proven parenting strategies to help us. We have tried so many approaches, and to be honest, we usually try one or two techniques before reverting to yelling at him in our own parental version of a tantrum. As you can guess, not too effective. It is so hard to be patient the billionth time a behavior occurs!

So the other day, I was fixing dinner and Shea had just arrived home; the cycle of meltdown had already begun. I can’t even remember what set him off, but Damon was being obstinate and pouting in a corner of the family room, huddled and grunting his whiny “uhhhh” anytime we tried to coax him out. The stage was set for a scene rehearsed hundreds of times, one that always ended in frustration and resentment. But this time something else happened.  Be it inspiration or temporary insanity, what burst from my mouth was not a reprimand but an off-key musical querie:

Hey Damon…Why do birds suddenly appear…every time….you are near? Just like me, they long to be CLOSE TO YOOOoooooouuuuuu. (close to you).

Karen probably rolled over in her grave if she heard our rendition.

To my surprise, Shea didn’t miss a beat but jumped right in with the appropriate echoes and asynchronous harmonies to go with my over-dramatized, off key melody. By the time we hit the “Waaaaa aa aa aa aaaaahhhh close to you’s” we were full out broadway quality, or at least enthusiasm.  The volume could have carried halfway down the block.  Passing neighbors probably stared at our house and quickened their step.

Damon at first reacted with shock. Then his firm downward scowl began to twitch at the edges. His expression changed.  His eyes always start smiling before his face catches up. Then he crumbled. Laughter replaced protests and all the other kids were dancing around. Shea and I looked at each other and just laughed.  We both sing pretty horribly (shea is far less tragic than I), but that only made the scene more entertaining.  Instead of a yelling match followed by a chaotic dinner, we had a light hearted family meal with cheerful banter.  Thank you Karen Carpenter.

Where did that come from? I don’t know. I can’t remember the last time I even heard that song. But I think shouting matches might be replaced with cheesy serenades more often.  Hey, we are desperate enough to try anything. My favorite is when my little Becca (5) asked if I wrote that song. “Why yes, yes I did. Your dad and I just came up with that” and I left her there standing in awe. It is fun to be me sometimes.

On a more positive note (do you get anymore positive than a Carpenter’s song?), I have to show you Damon’s Halloween costume. It was instant crackup to anyone he approached. It was all his idea, which makes it funnier. Here you go:

Wise beyond his 7 years. heh heh

The best part is, we shaved him Saturday night for a neighborhood Trunk or Treat, but he had to keep the ‘do until Monday for the actual holiday. So yeah, he wore that to church. I told Shea he should have taken him to high priests (the class for, um, more mature men in the ward) but Damon proudly wore it to primary. Love that kid. When he is not an impenetrable, illogical ball of tears and tantrum, he is pretty charming.


Not Your Normal Photo Shoot

But then, do I do anything normal?

Shea and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary at the end of the year. I wanted to commemorate ten years of awesome with a photo shoot that would show some, um, personality.  Shea balked a bit about having to get fitted for a tux and maybe questioned my sanity as I had him move heavy planters while I scraped chicken poop. But as it turned out, we had the time of our lives taking photos. It was like our wedding day, but with more animals.  Thanks to my amazing sis in law, Sandy Whitaker, for making this possible!

Purple Barn in all its glory!

Whitaker Gothic.

You try keeping a straight face.

Usually the hardest part of a photo shoot is getting Shea to smile. The goats posed new challenges.  Here is my favorite blooper:

Shea is not mad, just exerting great force. Goats are stubborn!

Another  new challenge: having your dress munched on:

We love our babies. I didn’t actually mean to get lip contact here. Creepy because goat lips feel like people lips (bet you didn’t know that)

Wrangling animals in formal wear can be tiring.

Think we will call it a night.

Let’s go roll, roll, roll in ze hay!

Seriously good times.  Thanks Shea, for putting up with my crazy ideas and always making my dreams come true.  Here’s to ten more years baby!!

P.S. In case you wonder, we do take traditional family pictures also. As a bonus, here is a family shot we took the week before. And here is a link to Sandy’s photography FB page. She really is awesome. You should see her wrangle chickens with a camera in one hand!

99 New things I tried this year.

So, this is officially the 99th post on Whereverthere.  How bout that?  To commemorate, I made a list of 99 things I have tried in 2011 for the first time.  It was a challenge.  I wonder if it is possible to keep up the momentum and try 100 new things every year.  I tried not to list individual foods or every person I met, that would be too easy.  What are some new things you have tried?

Here we go:

99 things in 2011

  1. Blogged.
  2. Bought a camera so I could blog.
  3. Owned, held, or otherwise had any contact with a chicken
  4. Cleaned chicken poop out of my van
  5. Ate farm fresh eggs
  6. Tried straight, raw goat milk
  7. Became a regular shopper at Cal-Ranch and IFA farm stores
  8. Watched Shea baptize my daughter…my oldest turned 8 this year (the age LDS children are baptized) and I was touched and surprised by her understanding and her heart.
  9. Gathered in one place with all my siblings and cousins as adults. (It was supposed to be for my Grandpa’s surprise birthday, but his funeral arrived first.)
  10. Ate raspberries from my own patch.
  11. Wore the bottoms off my favorite snakeskin Doc Martens. I thought those things were eternal.
  12. Grew tomatillos
  13. Grew more than 5 tomatoes. Way more.
  14. Installed stock fencing.
  15. Saw a gopher up close and personal, and waged war on their sorry species.

    #15 the enemy is among us

  16. Dyed a goat beard pink
  17. Started a worm farm
  18. Potty trained the last of my 4 kids, making me diaper free for the first time in 8 years!!!
  19. Milked a goat. Actually became good at it.
  20. Skyped…I know, I am behind the times
  21. Took a Mom & Me swimming class with Zaida
  22. Woke up to the sound of my own rooster. Wished it had a snooze bar.
  23. Ran/speed walked a 5K: the dirty dash. It should count as 5 items, because I have never done a 1K
  24. Started a garden…in my house! Had fun sprouting over 100 plants from 20 different species.
  25. Made homemade jerky…it was gone way too fast
  26. Shaved a goat’s butt
  27. Designed a logo


  28. Ate 2 large pizzas in a pizza eating contest against Shea and 10 teenage boys. Shea ate 3.  I came in second. Didn’t know I could do that.
  29. Though I wouldn’t say I hate cats, we have never been friends until I needed a mouser for our farm. We now own a cat that doesn’t chase mice, but I LOVE her.
  30. Raised chickens in a window well
  31. Cleaned up after baby goats were born. (Can’t say I delivered them, as the process was pretty well automated.)
  32. Went rock hounding in the desert with the kids…found apache tears and chiseled out lemon opals.
  33. I Fly indoor skydiving. Wahoo!
  34. Learned to make wheat bread with no white flour in it
  35. Offered testimony before city council. Scared me to death. Worth it though, as the animal zoning law was changed in our favor, allowing us more than double the animals we could have when we first moved in.
  36. Had the all-you-can-eat French toast breakfast at Kneaders.  Life changing.
  37. Posted an ad that said “Kids for Sale.”  Sold off our extra goats.
  38. Mucked out the goat shed, discovering the most powerful stink on the planet.  Even now, “I’m a survivor” by Destiny’s Child plays in my head when I think of it. Ew.
  39. Roofed a barn. First time roofing anything. Thumbs still intact.

    #39 Wearing my princess of power shirt for luck.

  40. Got my first new, not hand me down, computer.  Shea pulled my 27” apple mac out of the box and I asked where the rest of it was.  I couldn’t comprehend no tower.  Blink Blink
  41. Perfected the art of noodle-less veggie lasagna.
  42. Temporarily ran a petting zoo…that’s what it felt like after the baby goats were born.
  43. Learned that Jackass penguins are a real thing. This is only significant because it is the first argument I ever lost against a 6-year-old. Surely won’t be the last.
  44. Bred rabbits. (why do they say that? They do it themselves. I pretty much just matchmade)
  45. Wired a ceiling fan all by myself.
  46. Painted a fireplace
  47. Gave a goat a beer. Had goaty beer foam blown back in my face.
  48. Skinned and cleaned rabbits.
  49. Tried Bodyrocking…interval training on the internet…and got hooked. Will post more on that later.
  50. Taught a Sunday school class of only boys; first time I have been around that many teenage guys since high school drumline!
  51. Gave up Dr Pepper….for a record 6 months so far!  My heart still pines!
  52. Tried Spirulina crunchies, aka freeze dried algae, and loved it.
  53. Had sushi in San Diego with my dad. I have been trying to get him to go for sushi with me for years!
  54. Started juicing and drinking green smoothies regularly.
  55. Styled my hair in a beehive. Talk about back combing!
  56. Learned I look like Peg Bundy when I take my hair out of a beehive.
  57. Put a feather boa on one goat and a bow tie on the other. Had to dress them up for family pics!
  58. Ate raw food for a month.  Eating only raw food for even a day was a first!
  59. Began teaching myself web design.  Online tutorials, manuals, and trial and error. Mostly error. Thanks Dean Householder, Internet guru, for bailing me out several times!
  60. Tiled a backsplash.
  61. Stopped going to the gym. Haven’t been all year. Not once. That is a first in a long, long time.
  62. Dug for trilobites in Delta, UT with the kiddos. Actually found some!

    #62 prehistoric fun with the kids

  63. Took online courses from  I can now bumble my way around Photoshop and Illustrator.  Hope to take more.
  64. Painted a barn…purple.
  65. Baked a goat cheese cake.  Never used goat cheese in anything desserty before.
  66. Looked in my deep freezer and found that 75% of everything in there…meat, veggies, and fruit…was grown in my own yard. Yay!
  67. Painted over a cockroach. (Not at my house, at an apt renovation I was helping with.) ew.
  68. Took my goats for a walk. Thanks to the Bach family for loaning me a couple of dog leashes.  (blog post soon)
  69. Went on a field trip with my 2nd grader.  Found out I need to get babysitters and do that more often.
  70. Broke a piñata in the rain…don’t do that, it ruins the candy.
  71. Ate a bacon maple sundae.
  72. Bought a walker. Fortunately I don’t need it to walk, I use it for dips and reverse push ups.
  73. Went three months in a row without my back going out.  That is HUGE for me.
  74. Cleaned up graffiti.
  75. Sampled chocolates from around the world and offered my “expert” chocolate opinion to a friend developing a chocolate supplement.  Nice to use my lifelong appreciation of cocoa for good.
  76. Took my kids to natural hot pots in Delta. Thankful there weren’t any nudists there at the time.
  77. Dyed my three-year-old’s hair red. It was supposed to be pink and supposed to be temporary. Oops.
  78. Read The Shack by Wm. Paul Young. Cried my eyes out. Bought 10 copies of it to


    share with friends.

  79. Sent my third kid to kindergarten and teared up for the first time.  Maybe things were so crazy with the other two that I didn’t have time to be sentimental, but watching Becca leave for school was bittersweet.
  80. Downloaded my Facebook history and read through my status updates for the last 3 years. Turns out, I am pretty sarcastic. Shocking.
  81. Filmed my kids eating worms.  This is not the first time (or last time) they have done this, just the first time I filmed it.
  82. Haven’t watched TV all year.  Never hooked ours up. Hardly have time for movies either.
  83. Left all my kids home while I went to San Diego for 7 whole days. Thanks to everyone who helped make that possible. That is the longest I have been without my babies.
  84. Dumpster dived in Salem to get the massive amounts of newspaper I used in my

    #84 These boots were made for…climbing in and out of trash bins.

    garden boxes. Not the first time I dumpster dived, just first time in Salem.

  85. Read how to sex bunnies. Had someone demonstrate how to sex bunnies. Still can’t tell a boy bunny from a girl bunny if they aren’t fully grown.
  86. Got stuck in fencing and stranded in the snow for nearly an hour.
  87. Dabbled as a real estate agent…showed some houses, wrote some contracts.
  88. Tried to build a rabbit hutch. Bought a used one on KSL Classifieds instead.
  89. Landed at my ideal weight and maintained it…so far.
  90. Met Charity’s awesome hubby. So fun they were able to drop by! Hadn’t seen Charity since Jr. High!
  91. Shared dark chocolate goat milk sorbet with Erika. Hadn’t seen her since college. Good times!
  92. Became addicted to documentaries.  Sigh. I used to make fun of people like me.
  93. Tried to teach my 5-year-old daughter how to pee in the great outdoors. Got peed on.
  94. Showered in ice-cold outdoor showers. Thought I would die.  (Next dirty dash I run, I will pay for the hot water!)
  95. Tried formal wear on at a scratch and dent/surplus store. Nothing like ball gowns in the same building as bargain brand tuna and dental floss.
  96. Launched three different websites, not counting blogs.
  97. Invented peach-chia leather.  Followed by plum-chia leather. Chia and fruit leather, the next big thing I tell you!
  98. Tried to make a list of 99 new things I did this year.
  99. Ran out of things to say.

If you can’t stand the heat…stay out of my kitchen!

Erika had the brilliant idea to take y’all on a house tour of our abodes one room at a time. (You’ll find Erika to be the brains behind much of this blog, Charity is the beauty, and I am the….hmm…farm smell,)  You may have caught Charity’s inspired manipulation of color and space in the tour of her office.  It is beautiful. That is where Charity does her mind-blowing business of weaving words into masterpieces.  The room I do most of my business in?  My kitchen. It is not very big, not too modern, and rarely completely clean…but it is mine and I work it hard.  Something is always brewing, drying, baking, bubbling or even growing in there.

Design is not my forte. I am, sadly, more stuck in functional mode than I am in aesthetic. But, I am pretty proud of how my kitchen turned out, considering where it started.  When we bought the house, the kitchen was all white with poo brown cupboards.  There is no other word for it, sorry.  With no budget to work with (as seems always to be the case with my projects), it became a challenge to make my most used room a comfortable, bright space instead of a cubicle with prison ambiance.  Voila!

With the help of my decorating guru/partner in crime, Hope Carlson, we overhauled the cupboards.  I think my choice of blue scared a few people, but after adding trim and knobs and then treating it with a dark stain, the wood went from smurfy to serene.  The creamy white on the bottom balances things out.  Magically, when we changed the color scheme, the salmon pink, scarred and stained countertop/nightmare melted away into the scenery.  I hope to replace them someday (ahh, the mythically funded someday), but for now they will do.

Throw in a few personal touches, and I have a high functioning kitchen that multitasks almost as much as I do.  By the sink, you see some of my signature staples, a leopard skin toaster–one of my most beloved wedding gifts–and my chia jar and fresh basil.  Also out on the counter are my champion juicer and fresh produce.  The tomatoes you see are the beginnings of harvest time from my garden.  Joy!

A recent touch is the addition of my Grandpa’s wheat grinder.  I like the look of it so I leave it out on the counter.  Since he passed (the last of my grandparents!), I have been especially nostalgic.  It reminds me of him and his whole-wheat lifestyle.  I saw it in his kitchen every time I went to visit and now it overlooks my attempts to cook half as well as my grandma.  That brings me to my grains.  I love soaking, sprouting and baking with whole grains.  I also like the look and assortment of hearty goodnesses I try to incorporate in our diet.  When I conquer a new healthy food, I call it a friend. I have not made friends with all those grains yet, but I am getting closer.   To keep my friends close, I turned a cupboard into a shelf space.

Features my kitchen doesn’t have: no double oven, no overhead hanging pot storage like everyone seems to have in the movies, no island, and it is not any kind of self cleaning. (When they invent a self cleaning kitchen, I am first in line!)  I do love my kitchen. It may not be much, but when I enter this space, I am the queen sovereign unchallenged ruler supreme.  Can’t complain about that!


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