Learn Something New

Life Goes On

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.” – Robert Frost

What I want to write about today is simple – why holding a grudge is holding you back. Why? Because so many of us have not yet learned that life goes on.

I have a theory about grudges. If you continue to read my blog, you’ll learn that I have a lot of theories – probably due to the inner dialogue that is constantly going on in my head. I’m a contemplative individual, I guess. First, let me tell you that I am terrified of confrontation. Because of this fear, I do everything in my power to stay on good terms with my friends. However, occasionally it doesn’t work, and I get offended by something that someone has said or done. I’m human.

My plan of action when this happens is to simply let it go. I assume that they had the best intentions, convince myself that no offense was intended, and move on with my life. If, for whatever reason, it has been several days and I still cannot move on, then I will bring it up with the person and work it out. I would estimate that 99.7% of the time when someone is offended, the “offender” meant no offense. 90% of the time, the “offender” either didn’t know they offended anyone or don’t remember the conversation at all. Okay, so my numbers are not exactly scientific, but I still feel that they have merit. Surely all of us have had someone in our life tell us they were offended by something we said or did, and we had no idea they were offended. It happens all the time.

But holding a grudge hurts only the person who is harboring bad feelings. Holding a grudge is a waste of memory. Oprah Winfrey said, “Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.” I love that. Forgiving someone is a way of showing that you can let go of the past. Forgiving someone shows that you know the past can’t be changed and that you won’t let it hold you down.

So don’t waste your time or your emotions or your memory on harboring grudges. You are better than that. You can accomplish so much more in your life by letting go of the burden of others’ past mistakes. Chances are, there are others who are trying to forgive you for your mistakes, too – and wouldn’t you rather have everyone forgive and forget the things you’ve done wrong? Give others – and yourself – the courtesy of allowing life to move on.

I’ll just leave you with one final thought to ponder:

“The friend who holds your hand and says the wrong thing is made of dearer stuff than the one who stays away.” – Barbara Kingsolver

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Workout Greenie

Triumph

Though I’ve been physically active my whole life, I’ve never worked out. Before this week, I’m not sure I’d even stepped foot inside a gym, except perhaps for swimming. Even my bucket list doesn’t include finishing a workout program – learning to golf, sure. Learning to snowboard? Absolutely. Wakeboarding, snowshoeing, riding a tandem bicycle, and even biking 25 miles have all made it onto the bucket list. But I’ve never had any interest in working out.

So when my new roommate asked me to do P90X with her at 5:30 a.m. for 90 days, of course I answered with an excited “Sure!” Why, you ask? Because I’m insane.

P90X, also known as Beach Body, is an intense 90-day workout. The workouts range from 45 min. to 1 1/2 hrs. long and are designed specifically to kill you. Actually, they are designed to tone your muscles, improve your strength, and improve your balance. To some extent, you have control over how intense your workout is, but believe you me, it is not easy for newbies to the workout scene. It’s 6 workouts a week for 13 weeks, and we have elected to use Sunday as our rest day each week. We’re doing the P90X Lean schedule, which uses the same workouts as the Classic schedule but in a different order and with more emphasis on cardio. I think the idea is to tone your muscles without bulking up.

This morning my roommate and I finished workout number 9, and I tore off a link of the paper chain our friend made for us. That sound of paper ripping is surprisingly satisfying.

Don't be fooled - this thing is huge right now.

Don’t be fooled – this thing is huge right now.

My first week (last week) was rough. Once I made peace with the fact that my muscles would feel sore all the time (I’ve been told that this goes away at week 3), the workouts became enjoyable. The hardest part has actually been getting up in the mornings – which is why we’re using the buddy system and working out together. I am not a morning person. Side note: my roommate has been working out her whole life. We’ve been friends for two years, and she has accepted that if she wants to exercise with me, it has to be something like hiking or biking. I think we were both surprised when I accepted her offer to do P90X together.

I successfully completed the first three days of intense push-ups, cardio, and weight lifting. Then, in a cruel twist of fate, yoga made me nauseated. After some brief research (courtesy of Google), I discovered that this is really common with yoga beginners. It can be caused by stretching the vagus nerve – in the back of your neck – the wrong way (i.e., looking up when you’re supposed to be looking down). Since I was looking up to see the positions, it makes sense. Tomorrow is yoga attempt #2. We’ll see if goes better this time.

Yesterday, I was excited when I realized that I wasn’t sore at all. My hamstrings were a little tight when I moved in certain positions, but that was it. No sore back, no sore abs, no wanting to shoot myself in the foot. I was stoked. Then last night, I went ice skating with my boyfriend.

Activities like ice skating and rollerblading have never been particularly difficult for me. I can’t do anything special on skates, but I can stay up and at least look semi-graceful doing it. But last night, the front tip of my blade caught the ice, and I went down. Hard. It happened so fast that I didn’t realize what was going on until I was lying face down on the cold, hard, unforgiving ice. At that moment, I realized that my attempt to catch myself with my hands had been futile, as evidenced by the fact that my arms were sprawled out across the ice above my head, in true face-planting fashion. I seriously wish someone had been recording it.

The trouble is, it HURT. My right knee and left hip must have taken most of the blow because both of them feel like someone beat me with a baseball bat. How I managed to injure my right knee and left hip is beyond me…maybe yoga is increasing my flexibility, after all 😉 The good news is that the damage is surface-level – nothing is broken or torn. I actually fell two more times after that first painful fall, both due to trying to compensate for my throbbing knee. On the third and final fall, my boyfriend tried to turn around to help me up and ended up falling about 6 feet away from me. Hopefully we were at least entertaining for the other ice skaters 🙂 We gave up after only about 1/2 hour of ice skating and opted for watching Once Upon a Time at his apartment instead.

My roommate has informed me that I am not allowed to go ice skating again until January, after we have finished P90X. I guess she doesn’t want to lose her workout buddy, as gimpy as I may be 🙂

How I FEEL working out in the mornings

How I FEEL working out in the mornings

How I LOOK working out in the mornings

How I LOOK working out in the mornings

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Quirks and Confessions

For years I have been telling people that I get quirkier the longer they know me – and it’s true. I have strange quirks and unusual backstories that make for interesting topics when they randomly come up in conversation. I have compiled a short list of some of my favorites, all of which I am more than happy to laugh about. So here you go – 12 confessions and quirks from my life story. Enjoy!

1. The hidden talent
I have a talent for falling asleep anywhere. I’ve slept in nearly every building on my university campus, in cars, buses, and boats, on couches and hard chairs and stools, in libraries and in crowded airports. The most impressive feat was falling asleep while playing my trombone.

2. The inexperienced chef
It took at least three–and as many as five–tries before I correctly cooked macaroni and cheese. For the record, drain the water before adding the cheese powder. It works better that way, and you won’t spend the next 1/2 hour grating real cheddar cheese…

3. The hopeful innocence
I didn’t know reindeer were real animals until I was about 21. No, seriously. When my childhood hopes and dreams of magical people were dashed, they took reindeer with them. And then I saw one.

4. The OCD tendencies #1
I fold all of my candy wrappers before throwing them away. This is an extra strange quirk because it seems to rub off on people who spend a lot of time with me. Why several different people would pick up that one OCD habit when they have about 20 to choose from is beyond me…

5. The OCD tendencies #2
I have to wear earrings every single day. If I don’t, I am constantly aware of my naked earlobes (not embarrassed by them, but just a little distracted and annoyed). I remember calling my roommate once because I was on my way to campus for the day and realized I hadn’t put earrings in. She brought a pair to me so that I wouldn’t have to be aware of my lack of earrings all day. Had she not been available, I likely would have bought some at the Bookstore.

6. The drowning rat
I’m a terrible swimmer. I had a recent conversation with a friend of mine that went something like this:
Me: “I almost drowned in a wave pool once.”
Friend: “Really? How old were you?”
Me: “About…24.”
But the important part is that I haven’t drowned. Yet.

7. The naivete
I’ve never seen Inception, Rocky, The Dark Knight Rises, Jaws, any R-rated movie (Braveheart, The Godfather, Matrix, Schindler’s List…), and a host of other you-haven’t-lived-until-you’ve-seen-this type of movies. If half the world quotes it regularly, chances are, I’m out of the loop. My friends often give me the all-too-familiar look that asks, “Have you been living under a rock?” Conversely, I have seen just about every Disney movie under the sun.

8. The nickname
My college roommates from my freshman year all lovingly call me “Fat Katie.” It stems from a silly moment when my books and papers were taking up the entire couch (hooray for research papers)…but the name stuck. The friend who still frequently uses it has actually shortened the nickname to just “Fat.” And yes, I will answer to it.

9. The propensity for addiction
I’m avoiding Pinterest and Dr. Who like the plague because I know they will suck my life away. (And you’re suddenly realizing how much they’ve sucked your life away. Admit it.)

10. The fantasy nerd
I have a strange fascination for mythical creatures. My life history is littered with youth fiction fantasy novels and TV episodes of shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Wizards of Waverly Place. The fascination (combined with a love of bats) earned me the nickname “Gothic Mormon” once, which is hilarious because I’m not gothic at all – I’m not even cool enough to shorten it to “goth” without feeling a tiny bit out of line.

11. The stubborn personality
It took five separate boating trips before I got up on waterskis for the first time. I never know if I should be embarrassed that I didn’t pick it up sooner, or proud of myself for persevering. Call it an innate stubbornness if you’d like – but it occasionally has its uses for things like learning awesome new skills 🙂

12. The predictably clumsy one
I broke two toes on my left foot by walking into a cinder block. Twice. The fateful incident happened about 30 seconds after saying, “I’m going to break a toe on that.”

 

Charles M. Schultz (creator of Peanuts) said, “If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself.”

What quirks and confessions do you have? Can you laugh about them?

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The Tale of a Honey Bee

I sit at the front desk in my office, facing large glass double doors. Just outside the front doors are flowers and bushes that attract honey bees and hummingbirds. I love watching them through the window throughout the day.

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This morning, however, I heard a buzzing sound and noticed that a honey bee had been trapped inside. He was flying against the glass door on the right, frantically trying to get out. In an attempt to rescue him, I walked over to the door and discovered that it was locked. So I opened the door on the left instead. This poor little honey bee wouldn’t leave the door he was at to fly to the open door. His escape was a mere two feet to his left, and he didn’t know it was there.

I tried to move him to the left using a business card, but he flew away from my business card and went straight back to flying against the door. Exasperated, I propped the left door open with a rock and went back to my desk. By now, I was completely invested in the fate of my little honey bee. I watched.

He flew closer to the ground – always against that door – and then suddenly he was hovering a couple inches above the floor without moving around. Confused, I walked over, only to discover that my little friend had been wrapped in a spider web, with the spider crawling toward him. I panicked, grabbed my business card again, moved the spider away, gently brushed some of the spider webs off the bee, and then picked the bee up and carried him outside through the door that had been open to him the whole time.

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This little honey bee has been on my mind all day, and I have learned a couple of very valuable lessons.

As I watched him fight against that door, which would never open for him, I pictured myself stuck against my own doors throughout life – bad habits, sins, dead-end jobs or relationships, activities that have wasted my time away – any situation where I am no longer moving forward toward my goals.

How often are we so stuck that we cannot see the open door two feet away?

And then, to my dismay, when he didn’t move away from that door, he found himself trapped. He was no longer in control of his situation, or his life, for that matter. Had I not interfered, he would have died there.

But here comes the second valuable lesson: I did interfere. I found myself in the position of a rescuer (albeit a frantic one). Despite my frustrations when he wouldn’t fly in the direction I wanted him to move, my love for that gentle little honey bee – small and insignificant as he might seem – would not allow me to sit back and watch him die. And I thought of my Savior and His ministering angels interfering in my life when I have simply lost control.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “My beloved brothers and sisters, I testify of angels, both the heavenly and the mortal kind. In doing so I am testifying that God never leaves us alone, never leaves us unaided in the challenges that we face. …On occasions, global or personal, we may feel we are distanced from God, shut out from heaven, lost, alone in dark and dreary places. Often enough that distress can be of our own making, but even then the Father of us all is watching and assisting. And always there are those angels who come and go all around us, seen and unseen, known and unknown, mortal and immortal.”

My question for you today: Against what closed doors are you flying?

I challenge you to examine your life. Look for those bad habits, those unnecessary ruts, those sins that are holding you back. Then move away from them! When one door closes, another one opens. We just have to be brave enough to move so that we can see the open door.

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The Fruit Snack Theory

During my college days, I moved several times, prompting me to attend different congregations for church (in my church, geographical boundaries determine which congregation – or “ward” – you’re supposed to attend). At the beginning of each semester, I would try to make new friends in my ward. As I left for church each Sunday morning, I always put a few pieces of candy in my bag so that I would have something to snack on.

candy

One Sunday, a thought occurred to me while sitting in church: What if I sit by someone new and offer them a piece of candy? I thought it was brilliant. The first attempt went something like this:

Me: Hi, my name’s Katie!
Potential new friend #1: Oh, hi! I’m _______.
Me: It’s great to meet you! Would you like some Starburst?
Potential new friend #1: Oh, no thank you.

I tried again. The second attempt went something like this:

Me: Hi, I’m Katie!
Potential new friend #2: I’m __________.
Me: Oh, it’s so nice to meet you! Would you like some chocolate?
Potential new friend #2: I really shouldn’t, but thanks anyway.

I was devastated. It turned out that my brilliant new plan wasn’t so brilliant after all. Apparently it’s fairly easy for people to turn down candy, especially if they’re athletic or on a diet or not particularly hungry or think that candy doesn’t sound good in the morning…the list goes on.

A few weeks later, I had packed fruit snacks in my bag instead of candy. I decided to give fruit snacks a try. I offered them over and over again in the following weeks. And you know what? Not one person turned me down. I made a lot of new friends with very little effort and a great, casual icebreaker. Plus, we usually had a good laugh over the fact that a 20-something year old was carrying fruit snacks around in the first place.

Spongebob Fruit Snacks

You see, people who turn down candy don’t turn down fruit snacks, even though the sugar content is almost the same.

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I have had even better luck with fruit snack brands like Black Forest, Mott’s, and Welch’s because they advertise that they contain real fruit, giving the appearance that they are healthier. Also, when trying to make new friends in the morning, fruit snacks simply sound better than candy. It’s a great way to meet new people!

There you have it, my Fruit Snack Theory. Give it a try!

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10 Life Lessons I Learned from Kids’ Shows

As I struggle through my first few years of adulthood and what I have dubbed my “quarter-life crisis,” I have come to realize how many valuable life lessons can be found in television shows and movies that were written specifically for the pint-sized people in this world 🙂  I hope to shed a little light on some lessons that are taught to children but are beneficial for adults, too.

1. Knowledge comes one step at a time

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This is an interesting, sort of hidden lesson from every episode of Sesame Street. The beloved series began airing back in 1969 and has affected generations of children over the years. I don’t think I watched very much TV as a child (I certainly have many memories of playing with my family and being outside), but I do remember watching Sesame Street before afternoon kindergarten, and I assume I watched it when I was younger than that. Sesame Street takes an interesting approach to teaching by focusing on just one letter and one number per day. Short, sweet, and simple. Children don’t just see the letter and number once and then move on; instead, they are exposed to the number and letter repeatedly, adding associated words, counting games (don’t forget Count von Count cheerfully and dramatically saying, “One! Ah ha ha! Two! Ah ha ha!”), and songs. The next episode does the same thing, but this time with a different “Letter of the Day” and “Number of the Day.” As an adult (and maybe as a child, too), I have the tendency to pick something I want to learn, and then I want to be good at it immediately – not because I think the new skill is simple, but because I don’t have the patience and perseverance to take it one step at a time. Think how much more I could accomplish in my life if I set short, attainable goals that ultimately lead to a life of fulfilled ambitions and successful pursuits!

2. Seize the day

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There’s a song in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood that is quite possibly the happiest little song I know. It’s called, “This is Just the Day,” and it goes like this:

If you’ve got an hour,
Now’s the time to share it.
If you’ve got a flower,
Wear it.
This is just the day.


If you’ve got a plan,
Now’s the time to try it.
If you’ve got an airplane,
Fly it.
This is just the day.


It’s the day for seeing all there is to see.
It’s the day for being just you, just me.


If you’ve got a smile,
Now’s the time to show it.
If you’ve got a horn,
Then blow it.
It’s the minute to begin it.
This is just the day.

To top it off, it has this jazzy little background track. Check it out here.

3. Love people who are different

9-Story-Arthur-Couch
The PBS show Arthur has always been one of my favorites. The beloved and calm aardvark, Arthur, is surrounded by a myriad of interesting characters. His friends include a science genius (the “Brain”), a tomboy who doesn’t mind getting dirty (Francine), a class clown (Buster), a dramatic and spoiled rich girl (Muffy), a bully who has been held back a grade (Binky), a poetry buff (Fern), a world traveler who is into martial arts (Sue Ellen), a shy boy who talks more through his ventriloquist dummy than through his own mouth (George), and a yoga-loving, fortune-telling eccentric (Prunella). Similar scenarios can be found in shows like Recess, Phineas and Ferb, Garfield & Friends, Dragontales, and My Little Pony. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are extremes of four very different personalities. I think writers try to create unique characters so that every child can relate to at least one of them. But the underlying message is clear: you can be different from your friends and still have great adventures together. After all, wouldn’t life be boring if everyone were exactly the same?

4. Make room for everybody

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Do you remember The Muppet Movie? Released in 1979, the film starts with Kermit alone in a swamp, singing his classic Rainbow Connection. Then his journey begins, and he meets all of our favorite muppets as he travels to Hollywood to make a name for himself. His first new friend is Fozzie Bear, and the two of them borrow Fozzie’s uncle’s Studebaker (while his uncle is hibernating) to get to Hollywood. As the story continues, they pick up more and more new friends, and eventually end up trading in the Studebaker for a station wagon so that they can fit everybody. I love the lesson this teaches, as the characters create room for their new friends, rather than telling the newcomers that there simply isn’t enough space for them. One of my favorite parts of the movie is the song entitled Movin’ Right Along. You can watch it here, if you’d like. During the song, Kermit and Fozzie drive past Big Bird, who is walking down the street. They ask if he wants to join them (somewhat concerned that he is simply too big to fit in the Studebaker), and he tells them he’s not going to Hollywood because he’s trying to make a name for himself in public television. Despite his size, they still offered him a ride!

5. Sometimes the best part of an adventure is arriving home again

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Here’s a classic from Sesame Street. Read the lyrics to Ernie’s I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon:

Well, I’d like to visit the moon
On a rocket ship high in the air
Yes, I’d like to visit the moon
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I might like it for one afternoon
I don’t want to live on the moon

I’d like to travel under the sea
I could meet all the fish everywhere
Yes, I’d travel under the sea
But I don’t think I’d like to live there
I might stay for a day there if I had my wish
But there’s not much to do when your friends are all fish
And an oyster and clam aren’t real family
So I don’t want to live in the sea

I’d like to visit the jungle, hear the lions roar
Go back in time and meet a dinosaur
There’s so many strange places I’d like to be
But none of them permanently

So if I should visit the moon
Well, I’ll dance on a moonbeam and then
I will make a wish on a star
And I’ll wish I was home once again

Though I’d like to look down at the earth from above
I would miss all the places and people I love
So although I may go I’ll be coming home soon
‘Cause I don’t want to live on the moon
No, I don’t want to live on the moon

Through all my adventures and travels, I have thought of this song many times. I think it’s important to have a home base to return to – a place where you belong at the end of the day.

If you’d like to listen to the song, you can do so here.

6. The first step to ending your fear is to increase your understanding

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My example comes from Monsters, Inc., which tells the story of monsters who gain their city’s energy (electricity, if you will) by scaring children and collecting their screams (an ingenious storyline, by the way), but who are actually terrified of the children they scare each night. When Mike and Sulley end up with a small human girl (“Boo”) in their care, they are more afraid of her than she is of them. In fact, Boo seems to think Sulley is a big, fuzzy teddy bear. As the tale progresses, they learn that there isn’t anything dangerous about her, after all. As their understanding of human children increases, their fear subsides.

Humans–and monsters, apparently–are afraid of the unknown. Thus, the secret first step to being brave: increase your understanding.

7. You are always connected to those you love the most

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This is another one of my favorites. In the 1986 animated movie An American Tail, a family of mice takes a long journey from Russia to America to escape cats. On the trip, the son, Fievel, is separated from the rest of the family. In a heartwarming moment, while looking at the stars, Fievel sings the song Somewhere Out There and is joined by his sister Tanya, who is singing the duet from far away while also gazing at the night sky. These are the beautiful lyrics that have always stuck with me:

Somewhere out there,
Beneath the pale moonlight,
Someone’s thinking of me 
And loving me tonight.

Somewhere out there,
Someone’s saying a prayer
That we’ll find one another 
In that big somewhere out there.

And even though I know how very far apart we are,
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star,
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby,
It helps to think we’re sleeping underneath the same big sky!

Somewhere out there,
If love can see us through,
Then we’ll be together 
Somewhere out there,
Out where dreams
Come true

You can watch the whole touching scene here. So the next time you feel far away from those you love, remember that you are sleeping underneath the same big sky. And chances are, they’re thinking about you, too.

8. The best understanding comes when you change your perspective

01b81751-b6ae-4a56-af70-9457002c2029Do you remember The Magic School Bus? Ms. Frizzle takes her small class on many adventures, as her magic school bus changes into a submarine, an insect, a spaceship, an airplane, and more to accommodate their rides through the ocean, space, and even the human body. The bus changes shapes and sizes so that the kids learn about the human body by being in it. They learn about space by flying through it and landing on planets. They learn about plants by traveling through the stem of a flower. And the children learn quickly because Ms. Frizzle understands something most of us don’t: changing your perspective is the best way to understand. It’s an important lesson that applies to real-life situations – even after we’ve graduated from elementary school science class.

Also worth mentioning: In each episode of The Magic School Bus, Ms. Frizzle tells her class, “Take chances, make mistakes, get messy!” It’s a great little piece of advice for how we ought to live our lives.

9. Use your imagination
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Children’s television, movies, and books are phenomenal at teaching this lesson (As an avid reader, I actually find myself reading youth fiction 90% of the time because of the imaginative plots). As adults, we transition from “imagination” to things like “creativity” and “innovation” – traits that are invaluable to employers and clients alike. And yet, how often do we hear adults talk about using their imagination? How quick we are to forget the important lessons of our childhood play. Watch Sesame Street’s It’s A Circle. I especially love the “argument” Bert and Ernie have at the end of the song. The whole world could use a little lesson on loving people despite having different views, don’t you think?

10. Don’t hide your talents

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Disney Channel’s Phineas and Ferb is only a few years old (began in 2007), but it is creative and witty, and I have enjoyed watching it as an adult. The two main characters, Phineas and Ferb, are young boys who are step-brothers. They are geniuses who want to make the most of each day of summer vacation by creating an outrageous adventure for themselves and their friends. Each day, they do something impossible for two kids their age: build a roller coaster through the city, create a beach in their backyard, travel to Mars, etch their sister Candace’s face into Mount Rushmore, etc. Candace is always trying to get them “busted” by their parents, but at the end of each episode, something equally outrageous happens, and the whole contraption they’ve built throughout the day disappears just before their parents see it. Candace is convinced that her brothers purposely hide their evidence–but being good, honest boys, they aren’t trying to hide anything. In fact, a repeated line in the show (by various strangers) says, “Aren’t you kids a little young to be _____?” (fill in the blank with whatever impressive feat they’re accomplishing). Phineas always replies, “Why, yes. Yes, we are.” and continues working on his project. He and Ferb are unashamed of their talents. They are open, honest, creative, friendly, extremely intelligent, and humble to boot! They are great role models for kids and teach the all-too-valuable lesson of excelling in whatever you do without hiding those talents.

 

Do you have any to add? What life lessons have you learned from shows written for children? Let’s not forget books, games, and personal experiences with children, as well! We have so much to learn from the smallest, most innocent members of the human race.

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S’more of what?

No movie scene about s’mores is quite as good as this one from Sandlot.

Ham: Hey, Smalls, you wanna s’more?
Smalls: Some more of what?
Ham: No, do you wanna s’more?
Smalls: I haven’t had anything yet, so how can I have some more of nothing?
Ham: You’re killing me Smalls!

As the weather warms up, sitting around campfires with my friends is becoming more frequent, and thus, so is my consumption of delicious, gooey marshmallows. Then I got to thinking, What exactly is a marshmallow?

The funniest thing is that during my research, I found this really detailed study guide all about marshmallows: http://www.enotes.com/marshmallow-reference/marshmallow.  If you don’t want to read all that (and who could blame you?), I’ll summarize the parts that I found especially interesting.

1. The first marshmallows came from a plant. Originally, they came from the marsh mallow (Althaea officinalis) plant, which is an herb used to soothe sore throats. They would make marshmallows by boiling the root pulp of the plant with sugar until it thickened. Then they would strain and cool the mixture.

2. The Egyptians used it as candy. As far back as 2000 B.C., Egyptians mixed the root with honey, and it was a treat only given to gods and royalty.

3. The marsh mallow root has medicinal qualities. Uses include a laxative, a poultice to treat inflammation, treating chest pains, soothing sore throats and coughs, and as an ointment. Despite these many uses, the root was only used on an individual scale and wasn’t mass-produced. Until the mid-19th century, only the wealthy tasted even the candy.

4. Modern-day marshmallows came from France. Turns out the French have done something to benefit all of us – they created marshmallows! However, the original process was expensive and took a long time to create each marshmallow because they used a candy mold for each individual marshmallow. The marsh mallow root sap was used to hold together the egg whites, corn syrup, and water.

5. Marshmallows were mass-produced with the introduction of the starch mogul system. I think “mogul” might be one of my favorite words (even though I always roll through moguls when skiing). Anyway…the new system, invented in about 1900, included a machine that automatically filled molds and then compressed them. Marshmallows were then mass-produced and sold as penny candy.

6. History of the marshmallow in the U.S. In 1955, there were about 35 manufacturers of marshmallows in the United States. Now, there are only three. They use a process called the extrusion process, which has lessened manufacturing time to about 1 hour to make a batch of marshmallows.

7. Basic ingredients of a marshmallow. So what is a marshmallow? The basic ingredients are corn syrup, sugar, dextrose, corn starch, modified food starch, gum, water, gelatin, and/or whipped egg whites. In a nutshell? Sugar and something to make it stick together 🙂

You can make your own marshmallows at home! I haven’t tried it yet, but here are a few different sites that give recipes:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2010/12/how-to-make-marshmallows.html
http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2009/06/springy-fluffy-marshmallows/
http://candy.about.com/od/marshmallowrecipes/ss/sbs_marshmallow.htm

Doesn’t seem too hard! But maybe a little messy. If you try making them, let me know how it goes! Happy s’more roasting!

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What’s in a Name?

Ready to learn something new? In Iceland, the government has published an official list of acceptable first names. Parents can either choose from the list or make a request for an exception. If it doesn’t follow the naming guidelines, it will be rejected, and the parents will have to choose something else. Names must only contain letters in the Icelandic alphabet and must fit grammatically with the language or they will be automatically rejected.

Here is an interesting article about a girl in Iceland whose name, though quite normal (Blaer), wasn’t on the list, but the mistake wasn’t caught. At age 15, she is still fighting for legal acceptance of the name she has used her whole life.

http://news.yahoo.com/icelandic-girl-fights-her-own-name-074758814.html

This concept is really foreign for Americans. We have celebrities naming their children things like Moxie Crimefighter, Pilot Inspektor, Kal-El, Buddy Bear Maurice, and Zuma Nesta Rock (no joke–these are all real). Perhaps the naming committee isn’t such a bad idea. Even my own family has its share of made-up baby names, though at least they are easy to pronounce and are not nearly as bizarre as the examples I just gave.

Here are some other countries that have baby naming laws (see article here):

Germany: You must be able to tell the gender by the first name, and the name cannot negatively affect the child.

Sweden: The law was originally created to prevent non-nobles from using noble names. It has since changed to protect children from names that cause offense or discomfort for the person with the name, or that are “not suitable” as a first name for some obvious reason.

Japan: A list of several thousand “name kanji” and “commonly used characters” contains characters that can be used for first names. Each person receives one given name and one surname, and it must be obvious which is which, regardless of the order in which they are written.

Denmark: Similar to Iceland, Denmark has a list of 7,000 approved names that parents must choose from. Names must indicate gender, last names cannot be used as a first name, and unusual names may be rejected. Denmark officials reject 15-20% of name exception requests that they receive each year.

New Zealand: Names cannot cause offense, be unreasonably long, or resemble an official title or rank.

China: Though parents can technically choose the name, a new law requires Chinese characters that can be scanned into the computer system on national identification cards. Of 70,000 characters, only about 13,000 can be represented on the computer. Numbers and non-Chinese characters are also not allowed.

What do you think? Is it a basic human right to be able to name your children whatever you want? Or is it wise to save children from possible ridicule and other name-related difficulties?

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Movie Manor

Alright, this one is awesome. I learned this morning that there is a hotel in Colorado that is built so that all of the rooms have a window facing a drive-in movie screen outside. During the summer months, they play a movie each night (I imagine it’s two movies back-to-back, like a typical drive-in) and stream the sound into the hotel rooms.

It looks like this:

air

COMONmovie_0127edit

The hotel is the Best Western Movie Manor in Monte Vista, Colorado. Here is the website: http://bestwesterncolorado.com/hotels/best-western-movie-manor

Friends–I’m thinking a road trip is in order 🙂

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Re: Messages or Medicine?

A thought related to my post Messages or Medicine?

A friend, after reading my blog, pointed out the connection between Moses’ staff and serpent and the medical symbol. I’m a little ashamed I have never made the connection, but I feel it is also a story that deserves to be told (as an alternative to the Rod of Asclepius).

This one comes from the Bible, in Numbers 21. The Israelites, while wandering in the wilderness, are plagued by fiery serpents with poisonous, deadly venom. Moses prays in behalf of the Israelites, and then, as instructed by the Lord, he makes a serpent of brass and puts it on a pole. He then tells the Israelites that to be healed from the bite of the fiery serpents, they need only look at the brass serpent on the pole.

The New Testament, in John 3, adds another perspective by teaching that the serpent is a symbol of Jesus Christ. John 3:14-16 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Thus, the medical symbol becomes a symbol not of Asclepius the healer but of Jesus Christ the Healer.

As I have studied world religions, these types of connections dominate the stories, traditions, and legends taught by various cultures. They have differences (mostly, I believe, due to passing the stories down verbally before they were ever written), but the similarities are astounding. This is not to lessen the truth of them–as I personally believe the Bible story to be true–it’s just interesting that they seem to sprout from one common thread.

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